The Hebrew Bible incorporates a great deal of artfully fashioned narrative prose and finely articulated poetry. These are essential to the vision of God, creation, and humanity conveyed in the texts, and so a translation should strive to suggest in English something of the stylistic power of the Hebrew–its rhythms, its deployment of expressive syntax, the fine precision of its word choices, the eloquence of its diction. The challenge to the translator is that there are such large structural and semantic differences between biblical Hebrew and modern English, and strategies have to be worked out to bridge that distance.
Robert Alter is Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1967. Professor Alter has written widely on the European novel from the eighteenth century to the present, on contemporary American fiction, and on modern Hebrew literature. He has also written extensively on literary aspects of the Bible. His twenty-two published books include two prize-winning volumes on biblical narrative and poetry and award-winning translations of Genesis and of the Five Books of Moses.
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Sponsored by the Harry Spindel Memorial Lecture Fund.