Reply – Re: Another new translation of the Hebrew Scriptures and "soul"
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Re: Another new translation of the Hebrew Scriptures and "soul"
— by russellallen russellallen
Robert Alter’s translation has been a long time coming. I read his Pentateuch ages ago and have a copy of the Psalms. 

It doesn’t neatly fit into the categories that we’ve constructed for Bible translations, which is good. It is a quite literal translation keeping closely to the form of the Hebrew but is neither motivated by theological conservatism (eg ESV) nor Ecclesiastical/cultural conservatism (NRSV), and it isn’t a continuation of the Tyndale tradition that both those belong to.

It is also good in how it walks the fine line between a translation that requires no commentary but in the process loses much of the flavour of the underlying text (eg CEV) and a translation which requires commentary for most people to follow what is going on.

Here is the CEV with the first part of Hannah’s song in 1 Sam 2:

Hannah prayed:
You make me strong
and happy, LORD.
You rescued me.
Now I can be glad
and laugh at my enemies. 
No other god is like you.
We’re safer with you
than on a high mountain.
I can tell those proud people,
“Stop your boasting!
Nothing is hidden from the LORD,
and he judges what we do.” 

Here is ESV:

And Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the LORD;
my horn is exalted in the LORD.
 My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.

“There is none holy like the LORD:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
 for the LORD is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.

"My horn is exulted in the Lord” is surely a step too far.

Here is Alter:

And Hannah prayed and she said:
“My heart rejoiced through the LORD,
my horn is raised high through the LORD.
My mouth is wide to bolt down my foes;
for I was gladdened by Your deliverance.
There is no one holy like the LORD,
for there’s no one beside You,
and there is no bastion like our God.
Do not go on talking high and mighty—
arrogance slips from your mouth—
for a God all-knowing is the LORD,
and His is the measure of actions.”

“My horn is raised high through the LORD” is a concrete image I can attempt to grasp, unlike “My horn is exulted in the LORD”, and surely something is lost with the CEV “You make me strong and happy, LORD”

For what it’s worth, currently the OEB early draft of 1 Sam has:

And Hannah prayed:
My heart exults in the Lord,
my strength is exalted in the Lord;
my mouth laughs at my enemies;
because I rejoice in your salvation.

There is none holy as the Lord,
there is none like you;
there is no rock like our God.

Do not talk so proudly,
let not arrogance come out of your mouth,
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.

A bit boring compared to Alter. :)


On 16 Jan 2019, at 2:21 am, Timchambers [via Open English Bible] <[hidden email]> wrote:

And inetersting that this translator had the same issue with "soul" that we were discussing...

>>"In trying to be faithful to the literary art of the Hebrew Bible I certainly edged it away from being merely a precursor to the New Testament — which is a different kind of writing all together," he says.

Take, for example, the word "soul" — you won't find it in Alter's translation.

"That's because the Hebrew word translated very often as 'soul' means something like 'life breath,' " Alter explains. "It's a very physical thing and there is no concept among the biblical writers in a split between body and soul. So I got rid of the soul."<<

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