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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 1: Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:42 pm
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Favorite English translation of the Torah?

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Let me get this out of the way: Yes, of course it's better to read the Torah in Hebrew. But some of us aren't going to be reading fluent ancient Hebrew any time soon!

So what's your favorite translation of the Torah?

I vote for Everett Fox's The Five Books of Moses. I suspect it gives as much a 'feel' for the Hebrew as possible in a clear English translation. And I love that he uses Hebrew names: nothing against Anglicized names, but I want to read about Yosef, not Joseph.

I only wish Fox gave us as much commentary as the Etz Hayim chumash or the Jewish Study Bible. Sad

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 2: Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:14 am
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Re: Favorite English translation of the Torah?

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Jrosemary wrote:
Let me get this out of the way: Yes, of course it's better to read the Torah in Hebrew. But some of us aren't going to be reading fluent ancient Hebrew any time soon!

So what's your favorite translation of the Torah?

I vote for Everett Fox's The Five Books of Moses. I suspect it gives as much a 'feel' for the Hebrew as possible in a clear English translation. And I love that he uses Hebrew names: nothing against Anglicized names, but I want to read about Yosef, not Joseph.

I only wish Fox gave us as much commentary as the Etz Hayim chumash or the Jewish Study Bible. Sad


I like Fox too; you get a better idea of the wordplay and puns that run throughout the Torah, and of the rhythms and shape of the Hebrew. It was a remarkable achievement.

I also like the Robert Alter translation and commentary, and Friedman's as well. I even consult the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash for Orthodox commentary, though I'm not crazy about the translation. For feeling the connection with people three thousand years ago, though - the foreignness and strangeness of their culture and worldview as well as their humanness - Fox is hard to beat.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 3: Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:46 am
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I haven't read Robert Alter's translation of the Torah yet, but I'm reading his translation of the David story now. I find his translation serviceable, but I love his in-depth commentary!

However, I have a feeling he's going to break my heart by being too coservative about the David-Jonathan relationship.We'll see!

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 4: Sun Nov 20, 2011 8:04 pm
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Re: Favorite English translation of the Torah?

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Jrosemary wrote:
Let me get this out of the way: Yes, of course it's better to read the Torah in Hebrew. But some of us aren't going to be reading fluent ancient Hebrew any time soon!

So what's your favorite translation of the Torah?

I vote for Everett Fox's The Five Books of Moses. I suspect it gives as much a 'feel' for the Hebrew as possible in a clear English translation. And I love that he uses Hebrew names: nothing against Anglicized names, but I want to read about Yosef, not Joseph.

I only wish Fox gave us as much commentary as the Etz Hayim chumash or the Jewish Study Bible. Sad


Which chapter of the Five book of Moses are you speaking of ?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 5: Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:27 pm
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Jrosemary wrote:
I haven't read Robert Alter's translation of the Torah yet, but I'm reading his translation of the David story now. I find his translation serviceable, but I love his in-depth commentary!


Both are quite good as is his translation of Psalms.

I prefer Alter to Fox, but I also appreciate the commentary found in the JPS (5 volumes), Etz Hayim, and Plaut z''l.

Parenthetically, I find it interesting that Alter has expressed a real appreciation of the King James.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 6: Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:48 am
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I came across the following recently ...

Quote:
Translations, particularly those adopted by ecclesiastical hierarchies, tend to wield potent influence, frequently deleterious, over the hearts and minds of their devotees. They often receive virtual, if not official, canonicity. Either way, the phenomenon engenders an attitude that encourages a fundamentalist, monolithic approach to the Scriptures, one that is subversive of intellectual freedom, corrosive of tolerance, and productive of doctrinal tyranny. Moreover, a translation of the Holy Scriptures, however felicitously and elegantly executed, must perforce, in the long run, be the enemy of truth. It is surely difficult enough to transplant a piece of literature from its native cultural soil into another milieu of quite a different character and composition. Can the fine nuances of language, the deliberately introduced ambiguities, the instinctive elements and distinctive qualities of style of a great national opus of consummate artistry really be accurately conveyed and truthfully reproduced in another language? Can the cultural, linguistic, and spiritual barriers really be overcome? These difficulties are compounded immeasurably by the large number of obscure Hebrew words, phrases and grammatical forms that are scattered over the texts. The truth is that despite the vast strides in our knowledge of the ancient Semitic languages made over the past century, many passages in the Hebrew Bible still remain imperfectly understood. They substitute simplicities or speculative emendations for the obscurities, either of which can be quite misleading.

No wonder the second century C.E. Palestinian sage Rabbi Judah declares that "He who translates a [biblical] verse literally is a falsifier, and he who amplifies it blasphemes and defames."

-Studies in Biblical Interpretation - Nahum Sarna, pg.254


Translation is both necessary evil and, at times, valuable commentary.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 7: Mon Sep 03, 2012 2:55 pm
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Jayhawker Soule wrote:

I came across the following recently ...

Quote:
Translations, particularly those adopted by ecclesiastical hierarchies, tend to wield potent influence, frequently deleterious, over the hearts and minds of their devotees. They often receive virtual, if not official, canonicity. Either way, the phenomenon engenders an attitude that encourages a fundamentalist, monolithic approach to the Scriptures, one that is subversive of intellectual freedom, corrosive of tolerance, and productive of doctrinal tyranny. Moreover, a translation of the Holy Scriptures, however felicitously and elegantly executed, must perforce, in the long run, be the enemy of truth. It is surely difficult enough to transplant a piece of literature from its native cultural soil into another milieu of quite a different character and composition. Can the fine nuances of language, the deliberately introduced ambiguities, the instinctive elements and distinctive qualities of style of a great national opus of consummate artistry really be accurately conveyed and truthfully reproduced in another language? Can the cultural, linguistic, and spiritual barriers really be overcome? These difficulties are compounded immeasurably by the large number of obscure Hebrew words, phrases and grammatical forms that are scattered over the texts. The truth is that despite the vast strides in our knowledge of the ancient Semitic languages made over the past century, many passages in the Hebrew Bible still remain imperfectly understood. They substitute simplicities or speculative emendations for the obscurities, either of which can be quite misleading.

No wonder the second century C.E. Palestinian sage Rabbi Judah declares that "He who translates a [biblical] verse literally is a falsifier, and he who amplifies it blasphemes and defames."

-Studies in Biblical Interpretation - Nahum Sarna, pg.254


Translation is both necessary evil and, at times, valuable commentary.


All of that was brilliant and 100% right on the money. It's also the reason that the Torah is still read in Jewish services in the original Hebrew, from Torah scrolls that have not changed in, at the very least, more than a thousand years.

Incidentally, that Rabbi Judah was not just an ordinary rabbi; he was, I am thinking, Judah ha-Nasi, Rabbi Judah the Prince, who ordered that the Oral Torah finally be committed to writing and thus commissioned the Mishnah, the foundation document at the core of the Talmud. He was one of the most important leaders in the history of the Jewish people and religion.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 8: Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:33 pm
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cnorman18 wrote:

Jayhawker Soule wrote:

I came across the following recently ...

Quote:
Translations, particularly those adopted by ecclesiastical hierarchies, tend to wield potent influence, frequently deleterious, over the hearts and minds of their devotees. They often receive virtual, if not official, canonicity. Either way, the phenomenon engenders an attitude that encourages a fundamentalist, monolithic approach to the Scriptures, one that is subversive of intellectual freedom, corrosive of tolerance, and productive of doctrinal tyranny. Moreover, a translation of the Holy Scriptures, however felicitously and elegantly executed, must perforce, in the long run, be the enemy of truth. It is surely difficult enough to transplant a piece of literature from its native cultural soil into another milieu of quite a different character and composition. Can the fine nuances of language, the deliberately introduced ambiguities, the instinctive elements and distinctive qualities of style of a great national opus of consummate artistry really be accurately conveyed and truthfully reproduced in another language? Can the cultural, linguistic, and spiritual barriers really be overcome? These difficulties are compounded immeasurably by the large number of obscure Hebrew words, phrases and grammatical forms that are scattered over the texts. The truth is that despite the vast strides in our knowledge of the ancient Semitic languages made over the past century, many passages in the Hebrew Bible still remain imperfectly understood. They substitute simplicities or speculative emendations for the obscurities, either of which can be quite misleading.

No wonder the second century C.E. Palestinian sage Rabbi Judah declares that "He who translates a [biblical] verse literally is a falsifier, and he who amplifies it blasphemes and defames."

-Studies in Biblical Interpretation - Nahum Sarna, pg.254


Translation is both necessary evil and, at times, valuable commentary.


All of that was brilliant and 100% right on the money. It's also the reason that the Torah is still read in Jewish services in the original Hebrew, from Torah scrolls that have not changed in, at the very least, more than a thousand years.

Actually, probably not, although we can pretend otherwise. Nor should we take Sarna's commentary as an argument against translation - he was, after all, the commission head for the most recent JPS Torah translation and its lead commentator on its first two books. The point being made is two-fold:
  1. All translation is interpretation, and
  2. to dogmatically rely upon a single interpretation is every bit as foolish as remaining wilfully blind to such commentary.
I 'suffer' from participating in weekly Torah class in the States, and the most informed input is inevitably found - not among those who sit with lexicon in hand, but among those who make full use of the many translations and commentaries at our disposal.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 9: Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:41 pm
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Jayhawker Soule wrote:

cnorman18 wrote:

Jayhawker Soule wrote:

I came across the following recently ...

Quote:
Translations, particularly those adopted by ecclesiastical hierarchies, tend to wield potent influence, frequently deleterious, over the hearts and minds of their devotees. They often receive virtual, if not official, canonicity. Either way, the phenomenon engenders an attitude that encourages a fundamentalist, monolithic approach to the Scriptures, one that is subversive of intellectual freedom, corrosive of tolerance, and productive of doctrinal tyranny. Moreover, a translation of the Holy Scriptures, however felicitously and elegantly executed, must perforce, in the long run, be the enemy of truth. It is surely difficult enough to transplant a piece of literature from its native cultural soil into another milieu of quite a different character and composition. Can the fine nuances of language, the deliberately introduced ambiguities, the instinctive elements and distinctive qualities of style of a great national opus of consummate artistry really be accurately conveyed and truthfully reproduced in another language? Can the cultural, linguistic, and spiritual barriers really be overcome? These difficulties are compounded immeasurably by the large number of obscure Hebrew words, phrases and grammatical forms that are scattered over the texts. The truth is that despite the vast strides in our knowledge of the ancient Semitic languages made over the past century, many passages in the Hebrew Bible still remain imperfectly understood. They substitute simplicities or speculative emendations for the obscurities, either of which can be quite misleading.

No wonder the second century C.E. Palestinian sage Rabbi Judah declares that "He who translates a [biblical] verse literally is a falsifier, and he who amplifies it blasphemes and defames."

-Studies in Biblical Interpretation - Nahum Sarna, pg.254


Translation is both necessary evil and, at times, valuable commentary.


All of that was brilliant and 100% right on the money. It's also the reason that the Torah is still read in Jewish services in the original Hebrew, from Torah scrolls that have not changed in, at the very least, more than a thousand years.

Actually, probably not, although we can pretend otherwise.

It's certainly part of the reason. How many times have we been told that we can never really understand the Torah until we learn to read in in the original language? Don't you think if we had been reading in English or German or Arabic or French in various nations, we might have gotten a bit out of touch after a few thousand years? It at least keeps the fact that English was not the original language in sight and in the consciousness. How many Christians are even aware of the meaning of more than a half-dozen words in Koine Greek?
Quote:

Nor should we take Sarna's commentary as an argument against translation - he was, after all, the commission head for the most recent JPS Torah translation and its lead commentator on its first two books. The point being made is two-fold:
  1. All translation is interpretation, and
  2. to dogmatically rely upon a single interpretation is every bit as foolish as remaining wilfully blind to such commentary.
I 'suffer' from participating in weekly Torah class in the States, and the most informed input is inevitably found - not among those who sit with lexicon in hand, but among those who make full use of the many translations and commentaries at our disposal.

And with all that I also agree 100%. Well said.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 10: Wed Sep 05, 2012 7:16 am
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cnorman18 wrote:
How many times have we been told that we can never really understand the Torah until we learn to read ii in the original language?

Repeating an erroneous statement makes it no less erroneous, especially since "learn to read it in the original language" covers everything from the Bar Mitzvah boy to the Biblical Hebrew scholar. In fact, the person who learns to read it in the original language is threatened with a far more insidious translation error: he or she will read a word or phrase and think "I know what that means" rather than "I know what that has come to mean" or "I know what we currently think that means" or ...

You read a pericope in the original and let me read Sarna, Alter, and Berlin. Unless you are a substantial scholar of philology and Biblical Hebrew, I simply do not accept that you will exit the study with a superior understanding. To insist otherwise would be in my opinion remarkably naive.

The reason for 'sanctifying' the Hebrew is not because it magically imparts greater understanding, but because it is the source to which we must always be able to return and re-evaluate as our understanding of language and its culture improves. But trust me on this: I've studied Torah with native Israelis and here is no substitute for modern scholarship and commentary ...

... and, of course, none of this makes Sarna's comment above any less true.

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