- Paperback: 880 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (23 May 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393348768
- ISBN-13: 978-0393348767
- Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 3.8 x 23.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 603,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Ancient Israel: The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings: a Translation with Commentary Paperback – 23 May 2014
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Alter has achieved the significant feat of refreshing English by taking it back to one of its sources of strength. --Peter Ackroyd
About the Author
Robert Alter is the author of the highly acclaimed Genesis, The David Story, The Five Books of Moses, The Book of Psalms and The Wisdom Books.
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As a Hebraist I was immediately gripped by Alter's command of the Hebrew, and stunned by his grasp of the subtle distinctions between literary expressions in the Hebrew text. It goes without saying that what the author has done in this volume and the others of his series is to demonstrate that translation is as much of an art as it is a science; biblical literature often makes sudden and abrupt changes from prose to poetry, and not to mention careful and calculating choices in vocabulary and diction. Translation is just as much about translating art as it is about saying, "this word means this, and that word means that..." Unfortunately the artistry of the text is usually compromised in many English translations because of false assumptions about "literal" versus "dynamic" and paraphrastic translations of the text.
In so many ways, Robert Alter is changing the way that scholars and layman alike are viewing the art of translation, especially among those that know Hebrew and Aramaic. If you have never picked up Alter's translations before, perhaps now would be a good time. His commentary alone is provocative enough, but his translation alone is worth the price of this volume.
My ONLY complaint about this volume has to do with the absence of the section that is typically at the end of his works entitled, "For Further Reading." I contacted him about this and he insists that the bibliography would have been too cumbersome and not particularly helpful for readers. In his volume, "The David Story," there is a run-down of the characters in the narrative of 1 and 2 Samuel as well as a brief list of some of the resources that he consulted in the production of that translation that are absent in this one. While I wish that those appendices would have been included in the present volume, I understand his decision, and I am not deterred in recommending his work in the slightest.
Hebrew Bible translation is moving into a new age in a BIG and GREAT way. Check out this volume and others of his translations to see some of where Bible translation is heading and you might just find some insightful surprises along the way; passages that were once obscure are now clear, passages that translators flattened into clarity by way of the heresy of explanation stand ambiguous as they were in the Hebrew. Altogether, this work is extremely readable, powerfully insightful, and a sober challenge to the excuses of translators past.
Alter does not attempt to give his readers an extensive commentary on the four books. However he does introduce each with about a half dozen pages in which he explains the history and contents of the book. He also places about half a page of commentary on each page of each book.
Alter's translation is much clearer than many others. For example, just a simple sentence in the Art Scroll edition of I Samuel 11:1 translates: "Then Nahash the Ammonite sent up and besieged Jabesh-gilead, and all the people of Jabesh said to Nahash, `Seal a covenant with us, and we will serve you.'" Alter has: "And Nahash the Ammonite came up and encamped against Jabesh-Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, `Make a pact with us, and we shall be subject to you.'" In more than half a page under this sentence, Alter explains what the Ammonite kingdom is, its relationship to King Saul and King David, what is the settlement of Jabesh-Gilead, its relationship to Saul, what was found in Cave 4 of Qumran in the twentieth century that throws light on this episode.