Pater Edmund's Reviews > The Five Books of Moses

The Five Books of Moses by Robert Alter
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Oct 26, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: scripture
Read from October 26, 2011 to May 22, 2012

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 of the Torah. It is because he has been so attentive in his commenting that he can afford to be so daring in his translation, so immune to the “heresy of explanation,” so faithful to the literary details of the text that other translators either see as impediments or do not see at all. Conversely, it is his adherence to this specifically literary model of fidelity in representation that leads him into commentary that far exceeds the demands of mere annotation.
[...]
The result is a translation-and-commentary that indeed shows the unfamiliar and often unexpected literary excellence of the Pentateuch. And because Alter (unlike Kierkegaard's Christian scholars) has no interest in “protecting” us from the biblical text, his work also, however unwittingly, provides devotional encouragement to one who would read this text “religiously.” Reading the edgy, rhythmical prose of Alter's translation, and consulting his tactful but richly woven commentary, such a reader comes away with a deepened sense of the providential care of the Lord for his Israel, the minute particularity of the covenantal relationship initiated by this God who allows not a sparrow to fall but by His will and numbers the very hairs of our heads.

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