I read in this CNN article today that a scholar named Robert Alter has brought forth his own translation of the Tanach (the five books of Moses):
His argument is that past translations either get the Hebrew wrong or mangle the Bible’s syntax or lose the power of the work or even are so up-to-the-minute that they become too conversational to be accurate or interesting.
He was also determined to get back into the book every single “and” that other translators left out, saying that part of book’s majesty is built by its use of repetitions.
The 1611 King James version, perhaps the most famous book ever written by a committee, may reach poetic heights, but Alter says it is fraught with “embarrassing inaccuracies” and often substitutes Greek or Latin words and Renaissance English tonalities and rhythms for biblical ones.
Why do I find this fascinating? I was raised in Conservative Judaism and lived in Israel, where I studied the Tanach in Hebrew and developed my own feeling for what the Hebrew meant. I’m very curious to see how he translates things. Even though I don’t take the Bible as truth, I hold it to be a historical work of art. It opens a window on a lot of ancient history in that it reflects the life and beliefs of the people who wrote it. So I’ll be very interested not only to read this new translation, but to see how it’s received among the people who regard it to varying degrees as “God’s word.” Who’s going to decide how to translate God’s word?