Robert Alter: Translating the Hebrew Bible

Hebrew Bible

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Learn about the first ever literary translation of the entire Hebrew Bible by a single author

Discover The Hebrew Bible anew with Robert Alter, who has spent decades translating the entire Hebrew Bible himself, with the ambition to capture its literary power.

In this illustrated lecture, hear how and why Alter has set aright what he calls the 'embarrassing inaccuracies' of the King James Version, restored the distinctive rhythms and meanings of the ancient Hebrew and decided to leave intact the purposeful ambiguities, archaic references, and striking metaphors that carry so much literary power in the original.

'Thrilling and constantly illuminating. After the still, small voices of so many tepid modern translations, here is a whirlwind.' —Michael Dirda, Washington Post

Robert Alter’s Ten Commandments of Bible Translation
1 Thou shalt not make translation an explanation of the original, for the Hebrew writer abhorreth all explanation.
2 Thou shalt not mangle the eloquent syntax of the original by seeking to modernise it.
3 Thou shalt not shamefully mingle linguistic registers.
4 Thou shalt not multiply for thyself synonyms where the Hebrew wisely and pointedly uses repeated terms.
5 Thou shalt not replace the expressive simplicity of the Hebrew prose with purportedly elegant language.
6 Thou shalt not betray the fine compactness of biblical poetry.
7 Thou shalt not make the Bible sound as though it were written just yesterday, for this, too, is an abomination.
8 Thou shalt diligently seek English counterparts for the word-play and sound-play of the Hebrew.
9 Thou shalt show to readers the liveliness and subtlety of the dialogues.
10 Thou shall continually set before thee the precision and purposefulness of the word-choices in the Hebrew.

Robert Alter is an Emeritus Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. His translation of The Hebrew Bible, the magnificent capstone to a lifetime of distinguished scholarly work, has won the PEN Center Literary Award for Translation and the Koret Jewish Book Award. His achievements in scholar ship ranging from the eighteenth-century European novel to contemporary Hebrew and American literature earned Alter the Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Los Angeles Times.


Name: Robert Alter: Translating the Hebrew Bible
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Price: Full Price: £12.00
Senior 60+: £10.00
Student: £8.00
Registered Unemployed: £8.00
Under 18: £8.00
Member Ticket: £12.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546