Genesis: Translation and Commentary
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Genesis: Translation and Commentary

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  319 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Genesis begins with the making of heaven and earth and all life, and ends with the image of a mummy Joseph's in a coffin. In between come many of the primal stories in Western culture: Adam and Eve's expulsion from the garden of Eden, Cain's murder of Abel, Noah and the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham's binding of Isaac, the covenant of God and Abraha...more
Paperback, 324 pages
Published September 17th 1997 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 1996)
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Although I am using this edition to write the review, I would strongly recommend reading a modern translation, not the beautiful but ornate, antiquated King James text. The best modern translation that I could find is the New International Version of the Bible. So why focus only on the book of Genesis? Because it holds such a high percentage of the well-known Biblical stories; because it is the beginning and sets up so much of the rest of the Judeo-Christian tradition; and because it is probably...more
T Fool
Alter is perhaps the model scholar. He knows his subject utterly -- antiquity, language, literature, Judaism. The go-to guy.

He examines Genesis from a literary perspective, in his footnotes, which background cultural and historical matters and go into the linguistic nuances that time to time must be aired. The translation he renders distinguishes poetic text from prose. He explains -- occasional footnotes provide -- a bit about the workings of Hebrew syntax and poetics as he formulates an Engli...more
Thanks, daughter dearest, for introducing me to this translation of Genesis, a fresh and more literary approach. It's musical, poetic, earthy, embodied and free of much of the baggage that accompanies other translations. My copy is heavily underlined, with as many marks in the footnotes as the text. I recommend it to anyone in pursuit of the living word. It deepened my understanding of scripture. Robert Alter went on to translate the second through fifth "books of Moses," a volume I haven't yet...more
Dec 17, 2011 D. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The general reader.
I have a hardback copy of this for reference on my shelf of Genesis commentaries, but also an increasingly ragged paperback copy that I've been carrying with me everywhere of late. Reading this during any available downtime has proven fruitful, allowing me to reflect again and again on the text.

Robert Alter's translation of Genesis attempts to restore the accuracy, power, and poeticism of the Hebrew text that has been dulled by the stilted, forced, and theologically tendentious renderings of the...more
Justin Evans
Lovely translation, which balances the gravitas of the old ones with the readability of the new ones. The extensive notes focus mainly on linguistic matters (of the 'this Hebrew word is the same word used to describe Abraham's mustache' variety) and literary form. There's some discussion of source texts and the various strands that went to make up Genesis, but that's kept to a minimum, since Alter wants to foreground the work that someone put into arranging all that stuff into a reasonably coher...more
While I'm not a religious person by any means, and this book did not convince me to change my beliefs, I do think that it was well written (well translated?) and I found the author's commentary fabulous. I would read more of his translations of the Bible, for certain.

I read this book for an upcoming Humanities class, but would recommend it to others just for the stories (myths? legends?) involved.
Really fantastic translation/commentary.
I attended a Catholic school from grades 5-12, and there was A LOT of things explained in the commentary that I never learned in my 8 years at a Catholic school. I'm not religious by any means but no doubt it's worth a read since a lot of novels reference back to the book of Genesis.
For my Bible as Literature class we had to read this translation. I found the notes to be fantastic and very insightful to readers, such as I, who had very little prior knowledge about the Bible and its comments besides that it is a book of sorts.
Beautiful... an honest attempt at achieving the poetry of the original Hebrew texts. Reading it like straight literature is beyond tolerable; dare I say it is enjoyable?
Amanda Stempson
It was fascinating to read this translation of Genesis along side other, more traditional translations for my Bible as Literature course.
Margaret Langstaff
Eye-opening. Changed the way I read the Pentateuch. Brilliant Hebrew scholar, and very accessible too.
Julie Davis
I read this a bit every day and was blown away by Alter's translation and notes. HIGHLY recommended thus far. Reading both for morning reflection and prayer AND as prep for eventually reading Genesis on my podcast, with commentary from various sources, one of which will be this book. No translation and commentary I have read has so vividly brought alive this scripture. The commentary is cultural and literary rather than religious, just fyi, but that simply enhances it for the reader who already...more
Mike Jensen
Alter (by reputation) does a brilliant job of translating the Hebrew text and a brilliant job (this, I know) of exploring the literary traits and richness of the book of Genesis. I only fault the translation in that it was produced by one man, not a committee that could broaden Alter's single perspective. That fault, if it be one, hardly matters, for the book offers many pleasures and insights into the first book of the Bible with a commentary geared to the interests of today.
Robert Alter is one of my new favorite writers. His knowledge of old testament commentary is centuries-deep; he cites medieval scholars in his own commentaries, and shows how the choices modern translators have made impact the way we understand the Genesis stories, and shines light on the uniquely Hebrew ways of telling stories through repetition and slight variations that reveal the state of mind of the speaker. I have never paid such close attention to Bible stories before. I have the same fee...more
Dan Ruprecht
A translation of Genesis equally fit for study and enjoyment.
Invaluable for reading Genesis as narrative.
Alter's Genesis was good and provided solid textual insights, but I expected more from it after reading what his introduction claimed and the praise it received. His translation was terse and beautiful, but still seemed fairly familiar (to this reader of the KJV). Maybe if, like Heaney's translation of Beowulf, I heard him read it aloud, it would make a difference. Probably not, as I'm fairly sure Alter does not have a cool Irish accent.
A piece that serves as the foundation for countless books, movies and stories; as well as what is possibly the most well put together insight into psychology and people coping with the world today. Regardless of whether you are not a Christian, Muslim or Jew, this is a work you should definitely consider reading soon, especially if you have an interest in literature or psychology.
Rodney Bond
This book is for anyone who is interested in the various interpretations, themes, and history of the Bible. Having said that, it is not an easy read. It is written at a very high level, especially with respect to literary analysis. If you enjoy analytically studying books like Isaiah, Romans and Revelation, this book is definitely for you.
Evans McGowan
As it says on the cover, quoting Robert Fagles, "[Here is:] THE Genesis for our generation and beyond." Agreed, and dare I say the definitive translation... his insights and 'asides' are hugely informative and faith-formative. A solid basis to any reading of Genesis. Highly Recommended.
Genesis is one of the few books of the Bible that is actually somewhat interesting and entertaining. Not a font of wisdom by any stretch of the imagination, but culturally important and enjoyable in its own right. Alter provides the best translation I've seen.
If you have ever wanted to read religious text but have been afraid of the language and bulk - start here. This book has a footnotes to explain everything - including wrong translations and how that changes the meaning.
Chelsi Cassilly
Great translation of Genesis. I appreciated the notes at the bottom to help give me even more background as well as clear up some of my questions. Really enjoyed following Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in their stories.
Harald Gao
Having left the church for years, it's odd to go back to Biblical texts...they're not usually thought of as being great storytelling, but Genesis is quite grand, and Alter's translation is pretty excellent.
Robert Alter had done an impressive translation of Genesis. This book is for anyone wanting to do a close reading of Genesis. It offers an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of both Hebrew and English.
Another book needed for my course in Genesis. I was actually surprised that the school used this commentary and found it to be extremely biased and liberal theologically in its approach to the OT.
Fantastic. Had to read this for an Anthropology of Religion class. The commentary is very insightful into both Alter's translation process and the structure of ancient Hebrew life.
Not really all that interesting but did bring up some points about the flaws in God and the odd patterns that he has throughout Genesis.
Adil Tobaa
It's about time I read the Book of Genesis...
And it was surprisingly disappointing.
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Robert Bernard Alter (b. 1935) was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Lifetime Achievement and the PEN Center Literary Award for Translation. He is the Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and has published many acclaimed works on the Bible, literary modernism, and contemporary Hebrew literature.
More about Robert Alter...
The Art of Biblical Narrative The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes The Art Of Biblical Poetry

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