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The Art of Bible Translation

Robert Alter

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Princeton University Press img Link Publisher

Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Religion/Theologie


From the recipient of the National Jewish Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, a "hugely entertaining and irreverent" (Adam Gopnik, New Yorker) account of the art of translating the Hebrew Bible into English

In this brief book, award-winning biblical translator and acclaimed literary critic Robert Alter offers a personal and passionate account of what he learned about the art of Bible translation over the two decades he spent completing his own English version of the Hebrew Bible.

Alter’s literary training gave him the advantage of seeing that a translation of the Bible can convey the text’s meaning only by trying to capture the powerful and subtle literary style of the biblical Hebrew, something the modern English versions don’t do justice to. The Bible’s style, Alter writes, “is not some sort of aesthetic embellishment of the ‘message’ of Scripture but the vital medium through which the biblical vision of God, human nature, history, politics, society, and moral value is conveyed.” And, as the translators of the King James Version knew, the authority of the Bible is inseparable from its literary authority.

For these reasons, the Bible can be brought to life in English only by re-creating its literary virtuosity, and Alter discusses the principal aspects of style in the Hebrew Bible that any translator should try to reproduce: word choice, syntax, word play and sound play, rhythm, and dialogue. In the process, he provides an illuminating and accessible introduction to biblical style that also offers insights about the art of translation far beyond the Bible.



Ecclesiastes, Font Bureau, Jephthah, Modern English Version, Revised English Bible, Scotch Roman, Book of Deuteronomy, Philology, Martin Buber, Hebrew language, Ambiguity, Metonymy, Joab, Pierre Simon Fournier, Noun, Poetry, Target language (translation), Parataxis, Prayer in the New Testament, Ehud, Vocabulary, Franz Rosenzweig, Poetic diction, Flood myth, Writing, Hebrew Bible, Printing, Elohim, Prose, Biblical poetry, Verb, Oral-formulaic composition, Translation, Circumlocution, Jacob and Esau, Esau, Matthew Carter, Illustration, Biblical literalism, Goy, Potiphar, Bible translations into English, Animal sacrifice, Amnon, Modern English, Adjective, Etymology, Robert Alter, Inference, Usage, Books of Samuel, Absalom, Asahel, Typeface, Pun, Publication, Narrative, Evocation, Righteousness, Euphemism, New English Bible, Protestantism, Modern Hebrew, English poetry, The Other Hand, Utterance, Tyndale Bible, Septuagint, Vladimir Nabokov, Bible, Diction, Metaphor, Bible translations, Everett Fox, Psalms, Suggestion, Alliteration, Phrase, New Testament, Hebrews, Verbosity, Precedent, Rashi, Cognate, Biblical Hebrew, Jerusalem Bible, King James Version, Word play, The Various, Writer, Antithesis, J. (newspaper), Erudition, Decorum, Abraham ibn Ezra, Clause, Old Testament, Archaism, Religious text, Consonant