Celebrated Israeli Messianic Jewish artist Elhanan ben-Avraham recently announced the completion and release of a project he has been working on for years – an illustrated English and Hebrew version of the Bible.
Filled with his own original artwork and recent scholarship, The Jerusalem Illustrated Bible gives readers a fresh and spiritually renewing look at the Word of God, the illustrations bringing to life the stories of the Bible, and drawing the reader into the texts.
Born in 1945, Elhanan ben-Avraham is a professional artist, poet, and writer who moved to Israel in 1979. He has served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), taught the Bible internationally, produced a series of Biblical greeting cards, published six books of poetry and painted two large Biblical murals in Jerusalem, among many other works. The Jerusalem Illustrated Bible is his most recent achievement.
Today, Elhanan and his wife Julie live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah. He recently spent some time with Kehila News Israel to talk about the Bible project in greater detail and provide some background as to how it came to fruition.
“Several years ago, I went through a life-threatening illness from which I emerged healed,” he explained. “At that time, it suddenly dawned on me that after more than 40 years of work, I had produced enough artwork to publish an illustrated Bible.”
Elhanan calls himself an artist in the order of Bezalel – called to steward his creative talent in order to develop meaningful contexts for others to encounter the Living God.
Upon recovering, he immediately presented the idea of an illustrated Bible to the Israel Bible Society, located in Jerusalem. He offered to contribute his artwork at no cost other than a Levitical tithe from any sales revenue, and it was agreed upon that he was to be the designated director of the project.
“I enjoyed working together with Victor Kalisher and the team at the Bible Society in Israel, as well as the board of the NASB (New American Standard Bible) committee. The cooperation was a joy.”
Published at the end of 2019 – shortly before the global COVID-19 pandemic– production took four years to complete. Elhanan is quite pleased with the result and believes that its purpose has been achieved. In fact, he never doubted that this Bible would be a blessing to many individuals, families and congregations.
“As a descendant of the Levitical priesthood, I feel very honored to be a part of this project,” he shared. “This Bible is highly accurate and meets a high standard of quality,” he continued with conviction. “It’s a family heirloom to be enjoyed and worthy to be passed down to the generations, all to the glory of God. May His Word indeed go forth from Jerusalem.”
Elhanan’s daughter Tamar lives in Israel with her husband Yoel and three daughters. “Growing up I remember my father admiring God’s creation all around us. Somehow, he was able to create that beauty through art on his own canvas. This Bible is God’s word in art and such a joy to share with my own children.”
The 2,200-page Jerusalem Illustrated Bible contains both the Old and New Testaments, with a restoration of original Hebrew names and meanings, in addition to nearly 250 stunning original works of art.
According to Elhanan, this is the first illustrated complete family Bible to be produced by a Jewish person living in the Land of Israel. In fact, it’s the first undertaking of its kind since the Gustav Dore classic La Grande Bible de Tours, issued in 1866.
Elhanan continued, “Just as the earlier period was termed The Reformation, we are now in the period to be known as The Restoration: restoration of the Land and restoration of the Jewish people to their Land after 2000 years, and the restoration of the King of the Jews to His own people Israel. This Bible is part of that Restoration.”
Ben-Avraham has longed believed in the importance of the Word of God in its original Jewish context. He explained that The Jerusalem Illustrated Bible contains important adjustments to the traditional translations, giving a more accurate historical and cultural context to passages which might have otherwise been difficult for the modern reader to understand.
Ben-Avraham explained the significance of using the original Hebrew names and text.
“We were able to correctly extract the original meaning,” he said, and provided some examples:
YHVH: The Hebrew meaning: for ‘this is my name and memorial forever, to all your generations’ (Exodus 3:15) has been restored where it has been hidden behind “Lord”, in both the Old and New Testaments.
Yeshua: The original Hebrew name of the Messiah – Yeshua – means ‘salvation’, thus giving meaning and clarity to the message given by Gabriel, “You shall call his name Yeshua (salvation), for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The name Jesus is a later transliteration of the Greek Yesous used when the Gospel went out to the Greek and Latin-speaking world.”
Shimon Kaifa: (Simon Peter): One who hears (from shma), and Kaifa, meaning a rock in Aramaic.
Genesis: When God pronounced the grim consequences of Eve’s behavior, it did not include physical pain to childbirth, which is natural for all mammals, for the word used there is “etzavon” = ‘sadness’ which is the very same word used for Adam who would till the ground in sadness- etzavon.
Endorsements for the Illustrated Bible have come from several prominent leaders of the global Messianic Jewish community, including Raymond Gannon, Ph.D. Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, the academic dean said, “I have highly valued the artistic expression of Elhanan ben-Avraham, an Israeli of strong biblical faith. Elhanan’s depictions of biblical events are astounding in both their clarity and correctness of the biblical message.”
For Elhanan, The Jerusalem Illustrated Bible is about leaving a legacy of his artwork in a framework which brings Glory to the Almighty, while providing families the opportunity to study and learn the Word of God in its authentic original Jewish context for their enjoyment and edification.
You may purchase a copy for $120.00 on the Bible Society in Israel website.