Robert Alter Completes his New Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures

by fulltimestudent 10 Replies latest jw friends

  • fulltimestudent

    The Jewish Telegraphic Agency comments on Alter's Translation:

    Translation is not an easy task. Finding a word that accurately conveys a word's original meaning is certainly one problem (witness Freddy's word choices), There are apparently some interesting word choices in Alter's translation.

    Think about this one. Quote:"When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light."

    Why use the word welter? Allter explains. Quote" "Which brings us back to “welter and waste.” The Hebrew term he renders in English is “tohu vavohu.” In his commentary, Alter wrote: “Tohu by itself means ‘emptiness’ or ‘futility,’” while vavohu appears nowhere else in the Bible — “coined to rhyme with the [tohu] and reinforce it, an effect I have tried to approximate in English by alliteration.” Hence, welter and waste."

  • slimboyfat

    I bought his Genesis when it came out - excellent, especially the explanatory notes. He has a good eye for the structure of stories, foreshadowing, and repetition. The sort of things not often analysed in a Watchtower study. And he supports the NWT in some renderings too, such as Exodus 8:1 “send”, if I remember correctly.

  • careful

    He has also written a book about his translation entitled The Art of Bible Translation, due out in March:

  • Wonderment

    I just ordered it.

  • smiddy3

    In this 21st Century their is still $$$ Dollars galore that can be made in making money from thousand year old texts that are not even original and that you can give your own interpretation too .in a gullible market.

    And still the so called inspirational author of these writings Jehovah God is silent .?

  • Bobcat

    Hi Wonderment,

    "I just ordered it."

    I'd like to hear what you think of it after you get to peruse it a while. There is a PDF version of it available too. (Here.) The translator's focus on literary style has me curious. (Compare here.)

  • Wonderment

    sbf: "And he supports the NWT in some renderings too, such as Exodus 8:1 “send”, if I remember correctly."

    So does LXX, Young, Everett Fox, and some others. The primary meaning of the Hebrew verb shālach is "to send", "to put out," and is thus rendered accordingly in most versions. However, at Exodus 8.1, translators usually use, "Let my people go."

  • careful

    Wonderment, building on and supplementing SBF's comment on shālach at Ex. 8:1, notes how a minority of translators render that verb as "send" while the majority prefer "let go."

    The fact is that the word shālach can have both English meanings. While those two connotations may look different in English, that is not the case in Hebrew. In order for English speakers to see the semantic domain (range of meaning) of the word in Heb., consider "send" in the sense of "send away, dismiss." Once one does that, the at-first-glance difference in English between the two options "send" and "let go" melts away. If Moses is to tell Pharaoh "send my people away" or "dismiss my people," then isn't that the same thing as "let my people go"?

    The overall meanings of shālach in the Theological Wordbook of the OT are given as "send, send away, let go" (2.927). That it can mean "expel" is clear from Gen. 3:23, Adam and Eve expelled from Eden, and from Deut. 22:19, 29, a man divorcing or sending away his wife. Isn't Pharaoh supposed to "expel" the Israelites from his domain?

    It is noteworthy that the English translator of the LXX in the NETS version did not simply use "send" (which would be a translation of pempō) at Ex. 8:1, but "send ... away," from exapostellō. The literally meaning of it is "send forth, send away, dismiss." It is found in the Gen. 3 and Deut. 22 passages above for the Heb. shālach. Also on point is Jerome's translation of shālach at Ex. 8:1 in the Vulgate: dimitte, from demittō, from which comes our English "dismiss."

    I hope this clears things up. It really is a false dichotomy to pit "send" against "let go" in Exodus 8:1 because translators there do not simply render shālach as "send" but as "send ... away," what the NWT reads, as do Robert Young and George Ricker Berry in his Hebrew interlinear (1897). A check of Fox and Alter (unavailable to me) here might well turn up the same.

  • Diogenesister
    Careful If Moses were to say send my people away, or dismiss my people...

    Yes, in the context of talking to a king "dismiss my people"( particularly since they work for him) "dismiss" is a very appropriate word choice in English

  • Wonderment

    careful: "I hope this clears things up. It really is a false dichotomy to pit "send" against "let go" in Exodus 8:1...."

    Thanks for the clarification, because after reading your post I realize my short statement could lead to one to believe that I was setting up a dichotomy between the two expressions, although that was not what I had in mind.
    A Concordance will show that shālach is translated in most cases with the nuance of "to send." However, the meanings of "send away" (J. Wash Watts, Young, etc); "send free" (Fox); "send forth" (Brenton); "let go" (KJV; ASV; Darby); "release" (NET Bible); dismiss" (Jerome; Concordant); as you pointed out, are acceptable in certain contexts, like in Ex. 8.1.

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