The SimHebrew Bible (MacDonald version)

If I have rather quiet on the Autumn Light front in recent months, it’s because I’ve been hard at work on the SimHebrew Bible, and other projects.

My friend Bob MacDonald, retired computing developer and musician, who has done an extraordinary amount of work in translating the Hebrew Bible and setting it to music (based on the original cantillation values), appears to have taken to SimHebrew, and in a matter of days has created his own Square Hebrew-SimHebrew Convertor to rival my own, and with it, has produced SimHebrew versions of the Book of Psalms, The Twelve [minor prophets], Isaiah, Exodus, Genesis, and the five scrolls.

‘Tis a thing of beauty—illustrating the concision and gem-like simplicity of the original Hebrew, revealing the word stems, preserving the distinctions between aleph and ayin, ḥet and khaph, tet and tav, etc. that are lost in phonetic transcription, but without the jumble of eye-glazing diacritics that characterize scholarly transliteration. It’s humbling that he rustled up a converter in a few days that took me and my programmer son and another programmer several months and tweaks to get to the same point. Although the project is currently viewable by invitation only, you can see an example in Bob’s post yesterday at

Unlike my own SimHebrew Bible, which is based on a ‘full spelling’ (ktiv malé) of the Masoretic text, the Macdonald SimHebrew Bible uses the traditional deficient spelling (ktiv ḥaser) version, as used in the Leningrad Codex. I, too, did so initially, but halfway through the Book of Genesis, I realised that since the SimHebrew Bible is aimed primarily at a non-Hebrew-reading readership, it’s best to used the ‘full spelling’ version, as it helps the reader distinguish the presence of /o/, /i/, and /u/ vowels in the text, which is often not readily apparent in the deficient spelling version. Ultimately, however, both the full and the deficient spelling variations of the SimHebrew Bible will be required, so MacDonald’s endeavour is very welcome.