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The Five Books of Moses

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  956 ratings  ·  94 reviews
Through a distinguished career of critical scholarship and translation, Robert Alter has equipped us to read the Hebrew Bible as a powerful, cohesive work of literature. In this landmark work, Alter's masterly translation and probing commentary combine to give contemporary readers the definitive edition of The Five Books. Winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Tra ...more
Paperback, 1060 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published -450)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,262)
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I'm an atheist, but religion fascinates me, primarily as a manifestation of culture. I read the Torah as I would any ancient text, and found it an amazing and instructive document of nation-building. From the most pragmatic--laws and norms, historical lessons--to the most spiritual--a genesis story, a spiritual justification, a historical and cultural sense of the nation, what is the meaning of being human, what the limits, what the goals, what the good and bad relationships--, countless questio ...more
Feb 13, 2008 Charlaralotte rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: atheists
Recommended to Charlaralotte by: God (via Moses). It was a very long speech.
Shelves: read-in-2007
Scared the heck out of my parents during the couple weeks I was reading this baby. Oh, I read the Large Print edition. Much easier on the eyes.

From a literary perspective, it was in dire need of a good editor. I mean, every time God tells Moses something, we get the complete text of his speech. Then, we get the exact same text again when Moses tells everyone what God said. REDUNDANCY. Could have really tightened this piece up to make the plot move much swifter.

Had problems liking anyone in this
After a disastrous go at Genesis using the NIV Bible translation I arrived at Alter's translation . What a beautifully wrought work. The introduction alone is worth the cost of admission. Robert Alter transformed into a richly woven narrative, what had been for me just a quaint collection of odd little stories told in either a wildly anachronistic and culturally discordant language (KJV) or a sadistically boring translation that made it nearly impossible to believe that anyone would find it in a ...more
Aug 18, 2011 Kira rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Moses
Recommended to Kira by: Abraham
A good solid read, better than its companion novel, Holy Bible. There's a bit more appreciation for the fellow man, and a lot more gratuitous sex. I also enjoyed Moses; he's less of a Gary-Stu than Jesus. There's also a lot more action and adventure in Torah, and the plot advances with a bit more urgency. Still, there's a lot to be desired. A good editor and less purple prose would tighten this up a bit.

Overall? A decent read. It's also notable that compared to Holy Bible, the Goodreads page fo
For all of you that think you know your bible. Don't take it for granted - really take the time to read this.
Pater Edmund
Robert Alter's is simply the best translation of any part of the Bible in English. As Alan Jacobs puts it:

It is a rare thing to find scholars willing not only to treat another text as a master work, but also to devote all their skill to illuminating that master work, revealing it in its best and clearest light. Robert Alter is a masterful scholar and a critic of exemplary sensitivity and tact who, both as translator and as commentator, has placed himself wholly in the service of the artfulness o
Brad Allen
I must confess that I haven't read the whole thing. Most of the stuff you've heard of happens in the first book, Genesis. I read a bunch of that at my Bar Mitzvah. I did the section where the main character (G-d) told Abraham, his biggest fan, to kill his own kid. Messed up. It reminds me of the time that Don Shula told me to burn down my neighborhood to prove how much I like the Dolphins.

It's not clear what G-d was going for here much of the time. I think the book is supposed to convey some s
Skylar Burris
Alter embarked on this English translation of the Pentateuch because "there is…something seriously wrong with all familiar English translations…Broadly speaking, one may say that in the case of the modern versions, the problem is a shaky sense of English and in the case of the King James version, a shaky sense of Hebrew." It is this "shaky sense of English" exhibited by most modern translations that has always made the KJV my preferred devotional Bible; poetry speaks to the soul, and too much of ...more
Michael Austin
Robert Alter's translation of the Five Books of Moses is one of those rare books that really is as good as everybody says it is. Alter's task in the book is huge: to make a meaningful translation of works that have been translated thousands of times and commented upon by hundreds of thousands of people from dozens of religious traditions. How in the world can one do anything new with the Bible?

Well, as it turns out, you can. Alter succeeds by sticking firmly to one core principle: to create a li
Feb 17, 2008 Daniel added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Western civilization
Recently a friend asked me if I ever skimmed when reading a book; I have to say that the book of Numbers really demands some skimming! I think you'd have to be so devoted to the sacredness of scripture to read every word in the Torah that you could compete with an Orthodox rabbi. Having naturally read these five books as part of the OT before, I thought it would be fun to read a self-contained translation of these scriptures as the Jewish Torah - sort of a companion to the Koran or the Gospels. ...more
Genesis: In which God creates the world, and then destroys it, because, you know, it wasn't quite right. But at no point does he actually change or improve anything about it.

Exodus: In which God terrorizes and slaughters the Egyptians because he seems to prefer the Israelites a bit more, for whatever reason.

Leviticus: In which God makes his culinary and interior design tastes known to the "Chosen People."

Numbers: In which Yaweh, the Most High One, and part-time war general, takes roll call. Als
Iso Cambia
Jul 03, 2014 Iso Cambia rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody, it's pretty bad, there are much better books out there.
Recommended to Iso by: Religious fundamentalists
Oh goodness, I finally finished this after almost a year. No wonder religious people never read this stuff, it's either boring as hell (minus one star) or psychopathically brutal (minus two stars). Plus it was supposedly written by Moses but it talks about Moses' death. How is that believable? Minus one star.

Now, on to the rest of the old testament, it will probably take me another year.
Jaclyn Goss
I'm not jewish but I find spiritual reading relaxing. I liked the stories, even having come from a catholic background. It was sort of nice to understand the basic foundations of the jewish faith.
Arda Keskinkilic
iyi hadi değiştirdin de bari egonu kenara koyda değiştir. israiloğulları yukarı, israiloğulları aşağı yok biz israiloğulları şöyle üstünüz yok diğer ırklar şöyle alçak.
Lucie Janků
After a year I finally finished The Five Books of Moses. And now I'm feeling a bit weird because... really, how can you rate and evaluate The Bible (or at least a part of it)? Sure, I could talk about it's influence on the world, I could say how scary I find the Old Testament God and how some of the parts put me through serious shock - these are the bases for merciful-wannabe christianity? I'm sorry, but the God here was cruel and petty. Yet still, it was a fascinating read and I'm glad I got th ...more
Brad keil
This is the beginning and basis of all Western culture and literature. The book of Genesis is the richest and most complex writing humans have ever done.
Robert Alter's translation of the Torah/Pentateuch is a beautifully wrought and astutely commented rendition of a work which has produced many of the world's most enduring cultural motifs. I first read these books back when I was in high school; using, I believe, the New International Version. I enjoyed them back then, but I think Alter's translation, alongside the additional years i've lived since then, have far enriched the experience for me.

Genesis will always probably be one of my two or th
Seth Rogovoy
A terrific alternative translation of the Bible. Always worth checking against other translations for how Kaplan phrases things slightly differently.
I read the Torah. It was good. Cannot give a rating because Adonai is watching me!!
It was pretty good, but the sequel didn't even come close.
Eli Offer
Feb 04, 2011 Eli Offer is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
this book is truly amazing. i love it.
May 24, 2008 B rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: evryone
Essential teachings
I have rated this book five stars based on the quality of the translation and the fact that this is the Torah (the first five books of the Christian Bible), upon which modern Western literature as we know it was built. (Along with the ancient Greek classics.) The Alter translation and footnotes make what is obscure, cryptic or downright confusing, much clearer. (Though it seems no amount of scholarship can clear up some confusing passages.) I still love the KJV, but if you want to actually under ...more
Геллее Авбакар
This book was a part of my study in the Jewish tradition, Actually it helps me understand the main pillars of believing in the Jewish religion. And it was also the reason why I develop somehow my Hebrew. The book I am reviewing is translated to English, I don't read it in Hebrew. And here is my point of view upon it.

The General Idea:
The Torah consist of five books, Bereshit, Shemoth, Vayiqra, Bamidbar, Devarim. These five books contains all the events of life that happens to Jews dur
Brandon Halvorsen
I wish I could give it ten stars!! This is my favorite Bible translation. I know many people are passionate about their favorite translations for various reasons. I dare to suggest that if you read this one, you'll have a new favorite!

The translation and commentary Robert Alter provides is engaging, easy-to-read, at times shocking, but mostly beautiful. A must read for every pastor, Bible freak, and serious Christian.

Here's what others had to say -

"Alter's translation brings delight because it
May 26, 2014 Alex rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Alex by: New York Times Book Review
Shelves: religion
I only got about a third of the way through this book, through Exodus 7, before I had to return it to the library, but I really enjoyed it and will probably buy it for myself. I heard of the book from the New York Times Book Review, which sparked my interest with statements like: Alter allows "us to see for ourselves how the Bible embeds its most acute ironies in wordplay and repetition."

Alter's commentary really is insightful, especially where it highlights wordplay, the meanings of names, and
Mary Overton
Genesis 2:4-7,17
".... This is the tale of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
"On the day the LORD God made earth and heavens, no shrub of the field being yet on the earth and no plant of the field yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not caused rain to fall on the earth and there was no human to till the soil, and wetness would well from the earth to water all the surface of the soil, then the LORD God fashioned the human, humus from the soil, and blew into his nostrils the breath of
Robert Alter's translation of the Five Books of Moses is stunning. There is something wonderful about reading them translated from scratch by a single person so that it embodies a fresh, singular vision rather than a committee that builds on previous translations (although the New Standard Revised Version has a lot to be said for it, and the other work of a single translator I once tried to read--Everett Foxx--was borderline unreadable). It is also a beautiful edition, nicely printed with excell ...more
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