Monday, May 24, 2010

Alter on translation heresy

Today I received a new pile of books, most on Genesis or the Pentateuch.  One of these is Robert Alter's translation and commentary of the Pentateuch ("The Five Books of Moses: Translation and Commentary"). As a liberal Jew, Alter would deny the historicity of much of the Pentateuch and certainly would distance himself from a conservative Jewish (let alone Christian) understanding of the text.  However, Alter has great respect for the Torah as a literary piece and in many ways has captured its meaning and style in a way that far surpasses other modern translations.

I was stunned (and thrilled) to read this statement from Alter:
"The unacknowledged heresy underlying most modern English versions of the Bible is the use of translation as a vehicle for explaining the Bible instead of representing it in another language, and in the most egregious instances this amounts to explaining away the Bible."
Don't miss this point, for here was have an unabashed theological liberal who is criticizing Christian translations  for "explaining away the Bible" instead of accurately representing it. How I wish conservative Christians were as zealous for fidelity to God's word as is this liberal Jewish scholar.

1 comment:

  1. Any chance of a review of Alter when you're finished?