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4.15  ·  Rating details ·  533 ratings  ·  52 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, 384 pages
Published September 17th 1997 by W. W. Norton Company (first published -500)
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4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  533 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Jackson Cyril
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading Alter's prose translations helps one understand what Erich Auerbach meant when he claimed that the Hebrew Bible was "fraught with background" (Mimesis). The awesome grandeur of the KJV's God who declares, "I shall question thee, and answer thou me" (Job) is here gone and what we have instead is a rather capricious desert tyrant ruling over an unruly and exceptionally malicious people. And the prose! I have read few passages as strikingly fresh as the opening chapter of Genesis, with its ...more
Michael Canoeist
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed-books
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
Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gotta-have-faith
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
Dalia Pimentel
Feb 09, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. it was kind of weird at some parts but not bad for most of it
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: I can't remember ever actually reading another translation of Genesis in whole so this is my first real experience with it.

Firstly, reading through the introduction is an adventure and almost a necessity when reading this book. Alter gives a huge amount of insight into the world of translating religious texts. There, he gives an explanation as to why his translation is unlike most of the other translations (spoiler: its because he likes to translate things literally). However, his i
Justin Evans
May 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Amanda Wehrman
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
It was fascinating to read this translation of Genesis along side other, more traditional translations for my Bible as Literature course.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, 2019
I never thought of Genesis as witty before, as I've only come across the solemnity and grandeur of King James' Bible.
Margaret Langstaff
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Eye-opening. Changed the way I read the Pentateuch. Brilliant Hebrew scholar, and very accessible too.
Sep 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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?
Feb 27, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is such a terrific translation - the language is lovely, but more importantly, the book is bolstered with absolutely marvelous footnotes that explain particular word choices, point out recurring themes or grammatical structures, and disuss some historical aspects (THE CAMELS!).
Elvin Meng
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A good translation for studying the Bible as literature. This, rather than the typical translations (e.g. King James,) captures the poetic intricacies of the Hebrew original through its extensive notes and commentary, if not the skillfully crafted translation itself.
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How can you argue with the Bible? The greatest story ever. And Robert Alter's translation brings in back to life.
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This rating is for Robert Alter'translation and commentary.
Miriam Jacobs
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Compelling translation, every page, every verse, even, full of insights.
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In my read-through of Genesis, I used two sources from Jewish scholars. The first was the Great Course on Genesis taught by Gary Rendsburg ( The syllabus for that course recommended this translation and commentary, which I had never heard of before.

Robert Alter's translation ended up being an extremely pleasant surprise. First, the translation itself is beautiful to read. He explains at length in his introduction that he sought to stay as close as possib
Julie Davis
Nov 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Rereading this for my chronological reading of the Bible. So very good!

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 t
Nov 23, 2014 added it
Shelves: school-reads
i talk about the absurdity of star-ratings all the time, but star-ratings for religious texts is the most absurd! ridiculous! i should probably rate for the translation/commentary/etc, in which case i really would give five stars because robert alter is So Good, like So Good, i don't know how to explain. the translation is excellent and actually feels true to what the hebrew probably reads like, and his commentary is so necessary and attentive and subtle and discerning! man. although i've always ...more
Sep 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Although I didn't fall in love with this commentary when I first picked it up, I grew to appreciate it more and more as I read it.

This commentary offers subtle nuances into the Hebrew that helps to pull out the rhythm, peotry, and playfulness of the author of genesis. Alter shows what is happening in the text with very helpful insights that I will be able to pull out for my preaching.

I will use other commentaries as well but I believe that the Hebrew nuances as depicted in this book will be qu
Miles Fowler
Looks good so far. I am only up to chapter three, and I compulsively read footnotes which is not the fast way to read this one.

The author has gone on to translate all five books of Moses into English. His painstaking approach is to try to capture the nuances of the original Hebrew. The footnotes explain some of the translation problems such as obscure phrases and double meanings implied in the text.
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Mike Jensen
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-books
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.
Evans McGowan
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
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  • Genesis (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, #1)
  • Sinai and Zion
  • The Letters of John: (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)
  • Mark for Everyone
  • Meeting God in Mark
  • Romans
  • The Jewish Gospels
  • The New Jerome Biblical Commentary
  • The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and Philemon (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)
  • Paul and Palestinian Judaism
  • The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary
  • The Journey of the Mind to God
  • 1 Peter (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)
  • Paul's Letter to the Philippians
  • Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak
  • Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar
  • Stories from Ancient Canaan
  • Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership
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.
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“Take care to keep open house : Because in this way some have had angels as their guests, without being conscious of it ".

Hebrews 13:2.”
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