A Review of the "Eth Cepher" - Part 1
Many of you reading this will, no doubt, be familiar with the “Eth Cepher” Bible translation. If you have been to my Resources page in the last 6 months or so, you may have noticed that I put it under “Not Recommended.” This post and Part 2 will go into further detail of why I believe the Cepher should be avoided. Not only that, but also why I consider it dangerous. The reason for splitting it into two parts is because of the length. I tend to write quite a bit into one post and am working on breaking it up into more palatable pieces.
As it regards source texts, remember that first and foremost the Cepher is not a translation; it is a modified King James Version. What this should mean then is that the Old Testament (OT) is translated from the Hebrew Masoretic Text (and indeed, we find it is according to the Cepher website), and the New Testament (NT) is translated from the Textus Receptus. But even in this, we find the author has not stuck to any given text completely. Rather, he has cherry-picked his sources, seemingly those that agree with his theology.
And so this present article will address the textual / translational issues present within the Cepher. I will give examples of where the verses have been modified from the way they were translated in the KJV. I do not claim to know of every such alteration; I have not read through the entire Cepher, nor do I think doing so is beneficial. I believe it is evident (and will present said evidence here for the reader) that the Cepher should not be considered an accurate reflection of the Biblical text.
The second part of this post that follows, will address not the text of the Cepher, but its Preface. Specifically, the claims made by those producing it either in the Preface to the print edition, or on the official Cepher website. The issues in this material should likewise be self-evident to any serious Biblical scholar. The Preface contains claims of conspiracy and heinous plots to keep believers from reading books that were “removed” from their Bibles. It includes spurious claims surrounding late pseudepigraphal texts like Jasher and the alleged 29th Chapter of Acts. It similarly makes a self-defeating claim regarding the number of canonical books in the OT.
But again, I will reserve those observations and criticisms for part 2. For the writing at hand, I will begin my explanation of the texts as they pertain to the canonical texts of Scripture.
Introduction: The Tanakh (Old Testament)
The first alteration of note is the revision of “husband” and “wife.” Namely, that the words no longer exist. “Husband” can be found only a few times, and “wife” does not exist at all. In their place is the generic “man” and “woman.” So in Genesis 2:24 we read that a “man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his woman.”
Now I can’t say this is 100% incorrect, as the words normally translated “husband” and “wife” are indeed “man” and “woman” respectively. Still, this seems an entirely unnecessary – and arbitrary – alteration.
Next, now in Exodus, we encounter a good example of our author’s demonstration of his apparent inability to translate Hebrew. (Note: this is not the first occurrence of this, but it is the first one I came to in my perusal, so I will be using it).
Exodus 6:3: “And I appeared unto El-Avraham, unto El-Yitschaq, and unto El-Ya’aqov, by EL SHADDAI, but by my name YAHUAH was I not known to them.”
In Hebrew, this is: וָאֵרָ֗א אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֖ב בְּאֵ֣ל שַׁדָּ֑י וּשְׁמִ֣י יְהוָ֔ה לֹ֥א נֹודַ֖עְתִּי לָהֶֽם׃
See those the words in blue? They are el Avraham el yistchaq v’el ya’aqov, or “Unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob.” The word el there is a preposition meaning “to” or “unto.” True, it is spelled alef-lamed, just as the word El (God) is, but it is a completely different word. The author here gives us an indication that he is unversed in basic Hebrew grammar. We will see this again in Greek when we address Galatians below.
There are a handful of other oddities but I admittedly didn’t spend as much time in the Tanakh (Old Testament), as I found fewer changes to it than to the New Testament.
The Gospel of Matthew
To begin, here’s a few examples from Matthew’s Gospel.
First in the opening chapter, the KJV text is revised to follow the Syriac translation in 1:16. From the Cepher:
Matthew 1:16: “And Ya’aqov begat אתet-Yoceph the father of Miryam, of whom was born YAHUSHA, who is called MASHIACH.”
First of all, you may have noticed the את-eth in there. That will be addressed in part as it relates to the Preface.
The point in question is the translation “father” of Mary, instead of “husband” of Mary (or I guess here it would say the “man” of Mary). This comes not from the Greek text of Matthew found in the Textus Receptus, nor from the medieval Hebrew Matthew translations (as the Cepher does claim to also take influence from some of the Shem Tov manuscripts for Matthew as well will see in chapter 23 below). Instead, it comes from a minority within the HRM, who wish to read the Syriac word גברה (gowra) as “guardian” meaning “father” instead of “husband.” Though this word, related to the Hebrew גבר (gever), just means “man” and is used of men of different sorts of relationships (fathers, brothers, uncles, etc.). I address this further in my article on Peshitta Primacy, so I won’t rehash it here.
In short, this simply means the Cepher has diverged from the KJV, as well as the Shem Tov Matthew that it cherry-picks from elsewhere, and borrowed from a poor translation from another source, in this case the Syriac. This is the author’s attempt, I presume, to complete the 14th generation by making this Mary’s genealogy and not Joseph’s (not sure what to say about comparing this to Luke’s, though to be fair, reconciling the two is already a difficult task).
The footnotes on verse 9 here state that yeshu’ah (a transliteration of the Hebrew, ישועה, a word used throughout the OT for “salvation” or “deliverance”) means “something saved, deliverance, aid, victory.” Though where the author got this idea, I cannot say. I checked the various Greek texts (starting with the Textus Receptus he claims to be using, followed by the NA28) and then the Syriac Peshitta text. I also checked the DuTillet Hebrew Matthew, which does not include the word “salvation,” nor do any of the Shem Tov manuscripts in George Howard’s “Hebrew Gospel of Matthew.” I checked the Latin as well, just for grins, and again came up empty. In short, I don’t see any textual support for this at all, which leads me to believe he arrived at this alteration based on some interpretation or personal doctrine. At least, that’s my assumption.
Further, we find he writes “evil inclination” instead of “temptation,” likely a reference to what’s known in Rabbinic terminology as the yester ha’ra. Again, I have found no textual support in all the aforementioned texts for this. I am inclined to believe it is an attempt to reconcile this passage with James 1:13, which states that “God tempts no one” with the apparent “leading into” of temptation. This seems yet another case of eisegesis.
Lastly, the author has “deliver us from outer darkness” instead of “from evil.” I would be stretching the limits of my creative prowess to presume what he intends here. I will simply comment that there is no textual support and move on.
Matthew 23:2-3: “Saying, The scribes and Parashiym sit in Mosheh’s seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever he bids you guard, that diligently guard and do; but do not ye after their reforms and traditions: for they say, and do not.”
This is the place where the author claims to have repaired the verse based on the Hebrew text of Matthew. In this case, he is referring to the idea popularized by Nehemia Gordon that the text should read, “whatever he commands you, do” and not “whatever they command you, do.” The difference here, so the claim goes, is that according to the Hebrew Matthew, Yeshua is commanding the disciples to obey “he” (ie. Moses), not “they” (the Pharisees).
As I pointed out in my article, “The Seat of Moses” this is not the case. Not only does this defy all ancient witnesses to Matthew’s Gospel in Greek, Syriac, Latin, and other early translations, it doesn’t even bear the weight of evidence from the Shem Tov medieval Matthew text. Simply put, only some of the Shem Tov manuscripts (a minority of them) read “he” while they rest read, “they.”
So this alteration found in the Eth Cepher is not only cherry-picked from a medieval Matthew, but from a minority of those very same manuscripts.
Moving from Matthew now to John (the rest of the synoptics haven’t been butchered any worse than Matthew, as far as I could tell). One odd thing to note: along with his alterations to the text and canon, the author also re-ordered the books. So the synoptics are followed by Acts, then the General Epistles, then Paul’s letters, and lastly John’s Gospel and Epistles, and Revelation. For the purposes of this article, I will address things in the more traditional order.
The Gospel of John
John 6:4: “And the Pecach, a Feast of YAHUAH which the Yahudiym observed, was nigh.”
The author seems to be offended by the evangelist’s reference to Passover being a “feast of the Jews” and has (without textual support) changed the words, “a feast of the Jews” to “a Feast of YAHUAH which the Yahudiym observed.”
We see this same addition made in John 7:2 regarding Tabernacles.
John 20:1: “NOW on that certain Shabbath came Miryam of Migdal early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and saw the stone taken away from the sepulcher.”
Here the author has exchanged the KJV’s, “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark” for a translation that I’m assuming is eisegetically reading the Sabbath into the verse. If we were to, rather literally, render the Greek of the verse, we would have Τῇ δὲ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων giving us, “Now the one of the week" (or Sabbath, alternatively). Granted, it is an odd wording even in the Greek itself. We find the cardinal one and not the ordinal first. Nevertheless the author ignores the number entirely, instead shifting meaning away from a numeric reference to a theological one: the Sabbath.
While he does the same for Matthew and Luke, he does not alter Mark, which still reads (in line with the KJV), “AND when the Shabbath was past…” So despite his attempts to harmonize the days, he ends up presenting the accounts of Matthew, Luke, and John as occurring on the beginning of the Sabbath while it was still dark; yet Mark stands in contrast to tell us it occurred when the Sabbath was past. Consistency and harmonization may have been his goal, but he has not achieved it here.
The Acts of the Apostles
Acts 13:9: “Then Sha’ul, (as one Pa’al,) filled with the RUACH HA’QODESH, set his eyes on him.”
There seems to be a common thread among these sort of pseudo-translations, that cause them to want to keep from changing Paul’s name. ISR's "The Scriptures Version" originally removed the words "also called Paul" entirely from the 1993 and 1998 editions, only putting them back in with the 2009 update. (Note: for proof, click here to read the verse in the 1998 edition has found on BibleHub).
The Cepher is no exception in this regard, and indeed the author has offered a footnote as to why the name Pa’al is used (unfortunately, he has not offered us any reason why he has removed the word καὶ (“also [called]”) and instead inserted the words “as one”). The footnote reads, “Pa’al: worker, the title that the apostle Sha’ul of Tarsus took whom YAHUSHA called on the road to Damascus.”
Except…he didn’t. Paul's given name, a Jewish name, was Sha'ul (anglicized to Paul), that much is correct. But it was common for Jews of the Roman empire to be known by multiple names. As Craig Keener notes:
"Roman citizens had three names. As a citizen, Saul had a Roman cognomen (“Paul,” meaning “small”); his other Roman names remain unknown to us. As inscriptions show was common, his Roman name sounded similar to his Jewish name (Saul, from the name of the Old Testament’s most famous Benjamite). This is not a name change; now that Paul is moving in a predominantly Roman environment, he begins to go by his Roman name, and some of Luke’s readers recognize for the first time that Luke is writing about someone of whom they had already heard." 
Nor is this the meaning of the name which is given here. The Roman name Paulus (from which the Greek Παυλος (Paulos is derived), anglicized as Paul, means “small,” “little,” or possibly “humble.” 
This one gets really dicey. From my personal experience, there is quite a history of Torah Observant believers trying to grapple with the difficulty of understanding Galatians. Andrew Gabriel Roth, in his translation of the Eastern Syriac Peshitta, noted that while the majority of his text was Paul Younan’s Gospels and Acts, and James Murdock for the rest of the NT, he wrote/translated nearly all of Galatians from scratch.  The reason is because, again, Galatians is a very difficult book for Torah Keepers. And not just for Torah Keepers, either; the whole of Christian academia still wrestles with it, as is demonstrated by the nuanced differences in the New Perspective approaches of Wright, Dunn, and Sanders. But that’s neither here nor there.
Galatians 3:19: “Why then the Torah? Grace was added because of the transgression, that the seed should come to the promise; through ELOHIYM in the hands of a mediator.”
Here it is in the KJV, for comparison: “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.”
What it appears the author has done, is misread the Greek χάριν (charin), which means “on account of” or “because of,” for the Greek χάρις (charis), meaning “grace.” This is where we get words like charisma. In doing so, the author has completely reversed the meaning of the text. This verse – a necessary text for Progressive Revelation – is explaining why the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai. And the reason it was so, is because of man’s transgression. By inserting the word grace, the author makes it look like the Torah is the supreme factor here, and that grace was added at Mt. Sinai. (Never mind that grace clearly predates the giving of the Torah, just go read Genesis 6-8).
The author is, at best, inconsistent here. It bears pointing out that this same word is used in Ephesians 3:1;14, and in both places, the author has left it as “for this cause.” Perhaps just as frustrating from a translation perspective, is since he chose “grace” as the definition of charin, he now has no basis for the words “because of.” So at the very least, it would read, “Why then the Torah? Grace added the transgression…” which would clearly also defeat the plain meaning of the passage.
Additionally, he – for some reason – has exchanged “angels/messengers” for his preference of “ELOHIYM.” There is no textual support here for this change, much like most of the others. Furthermore he has somehow lost the Greek διατάσσω (diatasso), “ordained” entirely. I have no guesses as to why this happened.
Galatians 5:2-4: “Behold, I Pa’al set forth as concerning you, except that MASHIACH was circumcised, none of ye benefit. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole Torah. 4 Removed by MASHIACH. For whosoever in Torah is so justified, grace has no effect.”
For comparison, the KJV:
“Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
The changes here should be evident. First, he has rendered the Greek περιτέμνησθε Χριστὸς as “except that MASHIACH was circumcised.” I assume his intent here is to convey that this verse is about Yeshua’s Torah-keeping, and His own having been circumcised according to the Torah, and not anyone else’s. I can appreciate the attempted clarity, but the grammar doesn’t bear this out. If I had to guess, I would say he probably read an interlinear and saw the word περιτέμνησθε (peritemnesthe), “circumcised” followed by the word Χριστὸς “Messiah, Christ” and thought it justification for rendering the verb as applying to the circumcision of Messiah. But this is a demonstration of an ignorance of Greek.
The word “circumcised” here has the following form: present, passive, subjunctive, second person, plural, verb. That seems like a lot. I’ll skip the long, boring part, and focus on the person. Second person “you, ye” here is who gets the verb, “circumcised.” After all, Paul had just said, “I say unto you” and this word is also second person plural. The verb in question (and indeed, the whole verse) applies to his audience, not to Messiah.
In verse 4, he has apparently translated the Greek κατηργήθητε ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ (katergethete apo Christou) as “Removed by MASHIACH.” The first word is rendered as “removed” and isn’t a terrible translation; the NRSV and TLV have “cut off.” His (lack of) understanding of prepositions shows again here, by rendering the Greek απο (apo) as “by.” This implies the work of the verb “removed” is accomplished by Messiah. Contextually and grammatically, and indeed in most of its usage, apo means “from” and is always in the genitive case in Greek. For the layman, this implies possession. Meaning, “removed from Messiah” would be the appropriate translation here, and not “removed by MASHIACH.” If Messiah were the one doing the removing/cutting off, we would expect the word to be in the nominative case as He would be the subject, and not the genitive as it is here. 
Never mind that he has ended the sentence “Removed by MASHIACH” where the Greek does not indicate the end of the sentence.
I suppose these next three are less so a matter of poor translation, and more so an error of using the “find and replace” tool of a word processor.
1 Cor. 2:8: “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified את-eth the YAH of glory.”
I can’t help but thinking the author is making some odd Modalistic point, but I would rather not comment on the matter. Only that, according to his rendering here, the Father was crucified, not the Son.
1 Cor. 8:6: “But to us there is but one YAHUAH, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one YAHUAH-YAHUSHA the MASHIACH, by whom are all things, and we by him.”
So there’s a distinction between the Father, here called “Yahuah” and the Lord Yeshua, here called “Yahusha,” but yet Yahuah is Yahusha the Mashaich? This causes unnecessary confusion and gets worse when we examine Philippians 2 below.
1 Cor. 12:3: “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the RUACH YAHUAH calls YAHUSHA accursed: and that no man can say that YAHUAH is YAHUSHA, but by the RUACH HA’QODESH.”
Again this seems Modalistic in its confusion and confounding of the Person of the Father with the Person of the Son. And to be sure, it is not supported by the Greek text, which should instead be reading “Lord” in these places. It’s worth noting that in other places, such as Eph. 1:2, he has “the ADONAI YAHUSHA HA’MASHIACH.” So why these places were not at least rendered “Adonai” seems intentional.
Phil. 2:11: “And every tongue should confess that YAHUAH is YAHUSHA HA’MASHIACH, to the glory of YAH the Father.”
This really just compounds the issue I mentioned above in regards to 1 Corinthians; this sort of doctrinal abuse of the Persons of the Father and Son.
Col. 2:16-17: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day, or of the New Moon, or of the Shabbath: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come for the body of MASHIACH.”
Compare the original KJV: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
Stop: grammar time. (Okay, I was going to refrain from using that one, but I figure if you’re still with me now, you deserve to laugh for a moment).
I’m going to leave vs. 16 alone, since that’s mostly just a replacing of equivalent terms, and not so much a hijacking of the meaning.
The big difference here comes in the swapping of the word “but” for “for.” Now, no longer are such things a reference to the substance of Messiah, but it makes the claim that these things are for the body, that is, belonging to or intended for. Now theologically, I wholeheartedly agree that Sabbaths and Feasts and so on are for the body of Messiah. But I dare not butcher the words of holy writ to make that point.
In Greek, we find the word δέ here. In the Cepher, it was rendered as “for” yet δέ is not a preposition, it is a contrastive conjunction. (Hence why “but” is really the best English translation).
Only thing I will take time to point out here is that, despite his odd renderings of most passages pertaining to the Godhead or at the very least to the deity of Messiah, he has left 1 John 5:7 in the text. To be clear, if you’re unfamiliar with this issue, I suggest you go read this verse in any translation besides the KJV, then compare the KJV. For further study, you could look up the phrase Johannine Comma.
Rev. 13:18: “Here is wisdom. Let him that has understanding calculate the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is χξς.”
Here he has removed the number 666, and instead written the Greek letters themselves, as they appear in the Greek text. It’s not wrong, though he does it for theologically motivated reasons. The author has produced multiple videos on YouTube that go into this issue in depth. He has promoted multiple varied interpretations (from it being a symbol referring to the Bismillah in Arabic, to referring to the snake of the antichrist), but overall he asserts that the letters are not numbers, but instead are a symbol.
I would simply inquire, “Then why does the very same verse say “number” thrice, and “calculate” once, if it has nothing to do with a number?” I digress.
Overall, what do I say? Well there is no perfect translation of the Bible. However, some are worse than others. For the sake of not being completely and totally negative, I would say the Cepher has one redeeming quality: it’s got a lot of books bound up in it. Me personally, I like the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. But I make a clear distinction between those books and Scripture. I’ll address more of the canon and the destruction thereof as it pertains to the Cepher in part 2.
For now, here’s my final word: The Cepher is, at best, a King James Version. However, in many places, especially in places of doctrine, it either obscures what the original texts state, or it entirely alters the meaning. I find this not only to be a poor practice of translation, I find it to be very dangerous. It presents a falsehood to well-meaning believers, it causes a destruction of our witness to the world at large, and it offers no edification for the body beyond being convinced of a comforting lie.
I have only covered a handful of places within the canonical Scriptures; I have not even touched on the extra-Biblical books. Nor do I intend to do so. I would strongly advise people consider a translation of Scripture that has been vetted and compiled by a committee, and is not dependent on one person’s theology or opinions. For that reason, I recommend the TLV, NASB, ESV, and NRSV. For the average believer, the Cepher sets a dangerous precedent: namely, that the text of Scripture can be based on our doctrinal beliefs, and not the other way around.
As for me and my house, we will most certainly not be using it.
 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ac 13:9.
 Stelman Smith and Judson Cornwall, The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos, 1998), vii.
 Andrew Gabriel Roth, The Aramaic English New Testament. 4th Edition. Preface.
 David Alan Black, Learn to Read New Testament Greek. 2009. Pp. 26-27.
10/28/2020 09:18:48 am
Excellently written, my good sir. I very grateful there are those much smarter than I that are doing the work to help spread awareness of how dangerous these types of things can be.
10/31/2020 04:10:45 pm
I was appreciative of the reservations herein when it came to the criticisms charged against the eth-Cepher, the holding back of ad hominem accusations, and the attempted humble tone herein. The enhancement of your humility is showing, Mr. Brown. I want to thank you for directing your readers to your recently updated "resources" tab, as it indeed is resourceful.
10/31/2020 04:14:20 pm
1/3/2021 09:03:00 am
Very interesting teaching and reply regarding Cepher part 1.
4/12/2021 01:18:14 am
Heiser also called Jesus the Son of Adam has power upon earth to forgive sin (Luke 5 24).
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J. A. Brown