The Bible’s ‘Wisdom Books’

English translations of the Hebrew Bible tend either towards inspiration or straightforward translation.  On the eve of the 400th anniversary of the completion of the King James Bible, renowned biblical scholar Robert Alter has released his latest work — a translation of what are called “The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.” Alter is determined, in his latest effort, to marry poetry with precise language in what he calls the most mysterious books in the Hebrew Bible.

Jon Meacham spoke with him recently about the continued relevance of the Bible and of the “The Wisdom Books” in particular.

 

Comments

  • 44monterey

    The Bible’s ‘Wisdom Books’

    English translations of the Hebrew Bible ( My King James has sixty six different book written by forty four different people was written mostly in Greek) are inaccurate or bad translations with a political agenda. I turned off the video during the commercial and forgot to turn it back on. sorry

  • Matthew

    Robert Alter claims that his translation of the first line of the 23rd Psalm is significantly shorter than the King James, which is fourteen syllables. His is ten. That’s not significantly shorter. The original Hebrew is eight, which is much shorter, although not the 75% shorter that he glibly claims.

    Is it impossible for a literary person to be able to count?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/De-Teodoru/524926358 De Teodoru

    The old testament is a lot of screwing and killing and its Hebrew version is as melodic as the Hebrew language– somewhere between Rap and Gershwin. Christians should be aware that their faith is a Jewish offshoot that came in a time of total defeat for the Hebrews by killer Romans and represents a new perspective: kindness and forgiving at a one on one level. The rest is just the same dirty, dumb theological abuse of God to turn manure into gold. Try to emulate Jesus and you’ll be a good Christian– you don’t have to read all the self-serving dribble that is as sincere as modern Zionism’s secular exploitation of the Jewish Ethic. Your God is not in a book but in your heart. You don’t have to be a Christian to be one; but if you are you simply need to believe that ceaselessly trying to live as a good man that does onto others as he would have them do onto him makes you a good Christian. You needn’t bother with the political old testament. It is after all, an assumption that you screw and kill because God chose you to do that onto thy neighbor. It is that old testament that made Christians such murderers for so long. So go out on the limb of your faith rather than sticking to the trunk in a dead language you don’t understand written by people you know nothing about. Jesus walks with you and you alone, not with a mob of covetous murderers, plunderers and rapists.

  • EVANGELIST RACHEL RODGERS

    1jo 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time

    ONE SUCH ANTICHRIST (ONE WHO OPPOSES CHRIST JESUS OR HIS WORD; THE HOLY KING JAMES VERSION BIBLE) HAS RAISED HIS UGLY HEAD IN THE PERSON OF ROBERT ALTER, AND HIS “LACK OF” WISDOM BOOKS.
    THE SHOW HOST ASKED A VERY POINIENT QUESTION; MANY CHRISTIANS HOLD TO THE BELIEF THAT GOD WROTE THE BIBLE, SO WHO ARE YOU – ROBERT ALTER, TO CHANGE IT?
    THE ANSWER WAS THAT HE WAS MAKING A LITERARY ALTERATION TO A FORM OF POETRY. WHAT AN ABOMINATION. AND WHAT A DEVIL.
    THE BIBLE IS THE INSPIRED WORD OF GOD (2ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    2ti 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all go od works.).
    FIRST OF ALL, GOD NEVER PHYSICALLY WROTE ANY OF THE SCRIPTURES BEYOND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS GIVEN TO MOSES ON 2 TABLES OF STONE, WHICH MOSES PLACED IN THE ARK, AND INCLUDED IN THE TORA (De 10:1 At that time the LORD said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up nto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood.
    De 10:2 And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark).
    GOD COMMANDED, AND ALLOWED MAN TO WRITE THE REST OF THE SCRIPTURES GOD SPOKE TO MAN TO WRITE, AND INSPIRED IN MAN TO WRITE.
    Ex 34:27 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.
    Jer 36:28 Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned.
    Mal 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
    Isa 30:8 Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
    THIS IS THE BIBLE/ SCRIPTURES IN BOOK FORM AS GOD COMMANDED, FOR ALL TIME.

    HOW CAN POETRY INSTRUCT ONE IN RIGHTEOUSNESS? BEING IN RIGHT STANDING WITH GOD.
    2co 13:8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. AND WHAT IS TRUTH?
    JESUS CHRIST SAID: Joh 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
    Joh 17:18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
    Joh 17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
    Joh 17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
    Joh 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me
    NO ONE CAN BE SANCTIFIED (SET APART) AND MADE ONE WITH CHRIST JESUS WITHOUT THE TRUTH/GOD’S HOLY WORD, UNCOMPROMISED AND UNCHANGED BY MERE, MORTAL MAN.

    GOD PROTECTED HIS HOLY WORD/ SCRIPTURES/ BIBLE AGAINST TAMPERING/ ALTERATION WITH A STRONG CURSE IN REVELATION: Re 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
    Re 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

    ROBERT ALTER, YOU ARE CURSED.
    Ga 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
    Ga 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
    Ga 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
    Ga 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

    AS FOR THE SHOW’S HOST, WHY DO YOU NOT HAVE BISHOP H. PROPHET WALKER, GOD’S TRUE BIBLE SCHOLAR, AND PROPHET (truelightpentecostal.org) ON YOUR SHOW TO EXPLAIN THE BIBLE TO YOU AND YOUR VIEWERS?
    IS IT BECAUSE YOU DO NOT REALLY WANT THE TRUTH?

    VERY TRULY,

    EVANGELIST RACHEL RODGERS, TRUE LIGHT PENTECOST CHRUCH, SPARTANBURG, SC.

  • EVANGELIST RACHEL RODGERS

    DE TEODORU,
    YOU NEED TO GET SAVED.

    VERY TRULY,

    EVANGELIST RACHEL RODGERS, TRUE LIGHT PENTECOST CHURCH, SPARTANBURG, SC.

  • woland

    Is this Rachel Rodgers, evangelist unextraordinaire, a parody? If so she is pretty hilarious. If not, well, that says something about the bizarre US “intellectual” landscape.

    I like Fox’s and Alter’s translations. It is almost impossible to translate the Hebrew with its word plays (in the Samson epic, for instance). Fox’s and Alter’s translations, however, are much closer to the original Hebrew than the KJV and its various permutations (including the RSV and NRSV) and the NJPS. . The KJV is awful. It perverts the Hebrew text by trying to turn it into something Shakespeare might have written. The RSV and NRSV hew too close to the Christian Shakespearan line.

  • Pootersox

    I don’t know whether to feel pity or dismay for people like “Evangelist” Rachel Roberts.

    Is she completely unaware that the “inerrant word of God” she’s ranting so illiterately about came to humans (if indeed it did come from some divinity) in Aramaic and/or Hebrew? So unless she reads a language as it was spoken 2500 years ago, she’s not reading the words her purported God spoke.

    One of my favorite books on the Bible is the Book of J, where for the first time I was able to enjoy the humor of the Abraham/Sarah “you will have a child” story.

    The KJV was written in the style of literature of the early 1600′s. It now sounds “high-flown” because we no longer speak/write in that Early Modern style of English. Most more recent translations have simply lacked poetry as they attempted to make the text more accessible.

    I look forward to reading Alter’s new poetic translation to find again some of the beauty. I don’t speak ancient Hebrew or ancient Aramaic. So I value a good translation.

  • Abihail

    Rumor is Shakespeare was part of the group that created the King James Version so the resemblance isn’t coincidental. Also heard King James asked the translatorsntonuse language that sounded a little archaic to them as a way of conveying authority. Loved Alter’s translation of the first five books of the Bible. If you like Book of J, you will like Alter’s translation too. Very much. Look forward to the new book!

    This was the first episode of this television show that my sister and I have seen and we liked it very much. A great little Chrstmas Eve present – esp. including the Somalian-Canadian rapper. Thank you very much and will be there for the next broadcast!!

  • Zuriea

    Rachel, you have my prayers. May the peace that passes all understanding surround you and your family this holiday. Blessings.

  • Open Access

    Commercial? What commercial?

  • http://twitter.com/drsanford77 David Sanford

    Thanks! A big surprise tied into the 400th anniversary of the 1611 King James Version Bible:

    Two scholars have compiled the first worldwide census of extant copies of the original first printing of the 1611 King James Version (sometimes referred to as the “He” Bible). For decades, authorities from the British Museum, et al., have estimated that “around 50 copies” of that first printing still exist. The real number is quite different!

    For more information, you’re invited to contact Donald L. Brake, Sr., PhD, at dbrake1611@q.com or his associate David Sanford at drsanford@earthlink.net

  • Gtgard0

    “NO ONE CAN BE SANCTIFIED (SET APART) AND MADE ONE WITH CHRIST JESUS WITHOUT THE TRUTH/GOD’S HOLY WORD, UNCOMPROMISED AND UNCHANGED BY MERE, MORTAL MAN.” – Evangelist Ruth Rodgers

    Then why do you cite a bible that has been changed over, and over, and over again by mortal man? If you are following God’s Holy Word then you should be giving your recitations in Hebrew or ancient Aramaic and not attempting to recite Biblical verse in English. As has been adequately proven, the Bible has been modified both as to language and composition on multiple occasions throughout history. What currently consists of the books of the modern Bible was not even agreed upon until 1400s. Ever hear of the Gnostic gospels? Some of those were originally included in the liiturgy.

    Since Mr. Alter is trying to derive a more faithful translation from the original source material I would think that you would applaud rather than condemn him.

    Which brings up another interesting point… your pronouncement of a curse upon Mr. Alter. At least in my copy of the Bible there is a line in there somewhere called, “judge not lest ye be judged.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2Z463YIYVGPAWQKDFAE4XAP4JU The Big Orange Guy

    Now is the time to discover the power of psychotropics to help you through your bout of schizophrenia. That is the path to your enlightenment Evangelist Rachel Rogers.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2Z463YIYVGPAWQKDFAE4XAP4JU The Big Orange Guy

    Saved as a PDF file or some other kind of file? Actrually you might want to read Primo Levi’s, “The Drowned and the Saved” to see how your deity treats human beings. There’s that nasty “problem of evil” that baffles the true believers.

  • Tonyellis7

    With Bibles, there is a rich meaning that with translation can be coloured. It makes a picture come alive. There is a common theme in the Bible. It is God’s Kingdom and how it will vindicate the True God for the patience shown towards man. Our creator is being santified , shown to be clean and holy in all the outworking of his purpose for only upright man to inherit this earth and live forever upon it..Rev 4.11 & Psalms 37.9-11,29. May you all be blessed who look to the True God.