Late rabbi's Bible is 'wonderful, dramatic'


The first translation of the New Testament by a rabbi has been published - though sadly its translator did not live to celebrate his achievement.

Rabbi Sidney Brichto, who died in January 2009, completed the work just four days before he was taken ill.

Over the course of ten years, he also produced several volumes of the Hebrew Bible, including the books of the Torah in a modern English version.

The former vice-president of the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues was keen to find a new readership for what he often referred to as "the best-seller least read".

His wife Cathryn said at last week's launch: "It wasn't that he was particularly spiritual or devout but that he felt it was perhaps the greatest work of literature ever written. He was upset that many people... ignored it."

He embarked on his translation, named The People's Bible, she said, "to enable people to enjoy it in the way he did".

Daniel Johnson, the editor of Standpoint magazine, described the new version of the New Testament as a "wonderfully readable, enjoyable and dramatic" book.

"We live in a very secular world and it's an uphill struggle to get people to take any notice of the deep moral teachings which are embodied in these books," he said.

Speaking as a Catholic, he said: "One of the things Sidney did was to force Christians to read their holy book, by making it so readable they couldn't say no."

Active in interfaith dialogue, Rabbi Brichto believed that the Jewish roots of Christianity should be understood by both Jews and Christians. He once said of the New Testament, "I don't believe we should distance ourselves from the works of Jewish boys."

His friend of more than 60 years, Rabbi Frank Hellner, said; "There was something about the character of Paul that intrigued him, not so much Paul the Christian, but Paul the Jew - Saul of Tarsus."

The translation is subtitled "The struggle between St Peter and St Paul for the future of mankind". Its publication was aided by both the Israel Diaspora Trust - of which Rabbi Brichto was the founding director - and the Rothschild Foundation Europe.

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