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When God began to form the universe, the world was void and vacant, darkness lay over the abyss.” And now we have Alter.Today a professor emeritus at the University of California in Berkeley, he has, like Moffat, the solidest of academic backgrounds, though not in biblical studies but in Hebrew and European literature, on which he has published widely.The authors of the great works of the Bible, Alter has consistently argued, most recently in a forthcoming new book, , were highly self-conscious poets and prose writers whose artistry has been ignored or inadequately dealt with by nearly all of their modern translators.
The 1611 King James Bible, which was Bible for generations of English readers and retains for many a hallowedness that no other English Bible has, was the work of 47 scholars pooling their knowledge, skills, and judgments.
All of the better-known modern English Bibles—the (initiated in 1956 and now nearing completion)—have been joint efforts.
Smith, also self-taught, was the daughter of a Connecticut congregational minister.
She said of the Bible, “I do not see how anyone can know more about it than I do,” and produced a grotesquely unreadable version of it.
The first lines of Alter’s Bible are, “When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.” They illustrate several of his main points about biblical language and its translation.
He preserves, because he thinks it stylistically crucial, the Bible’s repetitive use of the coordinating conjunction “and” instead of varying it with such alternatives as “while,” “then,” “but,” etc., or eliminating it completely, as most modern translations do.
Fenton was a London businessman with an interest in Oriental poetry and the belief that that he had discovered the metrical principles behind “the varied and beautiful forms of ancient Hebrew versification.” Some of his translations of biblical poetry were quite good. The King James Bible begins, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the Earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
Have you ever thought about the extent to which the Bible is a work of literature?
Though the text is obviously studied most deeply in the context of religious learning and education, it shares so many features with other literary works.