Monday, September 07, 2009

Alter on LIteralism and Effective Bible Translation

Literary critic Robert Alter on the importance of literal translations--or "semantic precision"--for understanding the order and choice of Hebrew wording in the OT :
My notion of effective translation of the Bible involves a high degree of literalism--within the limits of reasonably acceptable literary English--both in regard to representing the word choice and the word order of the Hebrew. . . . [T]he precedent of the King James Version has played a decisive and constructive role in directing readers of English to a rather literal experience of the Bible, and . . . this precedence can be ignored only at considerable cost, as nearly all the English versions of the Bible done in recent decades show.
Robert Alter, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel (W.W Norton, 1999), xxix. HT: Leland Ryken, Understanding English Bible Translation