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Genesis: Translation and Commentary Paperback


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Frequently Bought Together

Genesis: Translation and Commentary + Reading Biblical Narrative: An Introductory Guide + Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039331670X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393316704
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Biblical book of Genesis contains some of the most sublime poetry known to man as well as the powerful and bloody history of early Israel. Literary critic Robert Alter here joins the ranks of contemporary authors who have tried to mimic, in English, the sonorous rhythms and parallel constructions of the original Hebrew. He also supplies an insightful, fascinating commentary that emphasizes the dramatic unity of the Genesis story. For believers seeking a deeper understanding of the Bible's first book, or for readers interested in the Bible as literature, Alter's contribution is essential. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Of the making of many translations and commentaries on the book of Genesis there is no end. After all, the book of Genesis contains not only two of the Western world's most enduring myths of creation but also chronicles the history of early Israel. While past commentators like Hermann Gunkel and Gerhard von Rad were concerned with the ways in which the various literary forms present in the book of Genesis reflected the historical and theological concerns of the texts' writers and hearers, literary critic Alter (The Art of Biblical Narrative) emphasizes the overall narrative unity of the disparate textual units that comprise the book of Genesis. In his translation of the first 11 chapters, for example, Alter carefully reproduces the stylistic devices of repetition and parallelism so characteristic of Hebrew poetry, while his translation of chapters 12-50 captures the dramatic tension and characterization that are the hallmarks of Hebrew narrative style. Alter is ever attentive to the power of paronomasia in the Hebrew so that his translation of Genesis 1:1, "When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste (tohu wabohu, in Hebrew) and darkness over the deep and God's breath hovering over the waters...," attempts through alliteration to translate the lilting poetry of the Hebrew phrase. Although Alter's translations lack the sparkle and elegance of Everett Fox's translations of Genesis in The Five Books of Moses (Schocken 1995), his commentaries on the literary qualities of Genesis and his casting of the Hebrew Bible's opening book as a single narrative woven together by the threads of character and theme ensure that Alter's work will take its place in the distinguished ranks of commentaries.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

This should not be sold in its current ebook format.
SteveW
Alter's translation is thoughtful, readable, and faithful to the spirit and dignity of the great book of Genesis.
Mark Lee
Reading this book was a life-changing experience for me as it changed the way I read the Bible.
Bobby Winters

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Volkswagen Blues on February 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
This edition pairs a fabulous translation with commentary that is extensive and erudite without being the least bit boringly pedantic. Alter's running commentary in the footnotes (which constitute at least one half of every page!) alerts readers to centuries of interpretations and re-interpretations of this cornerstone of world literature, in a manner that makes the book of Genesis seem more alive and more vital than ever before, an ongoing and important discussion.
Alter's commentaries help to situate Genesis within the larger narrative arc of the Bible as well as they address even the most current strains of Biblical exegesis (like feminist rethinkings of gender roles in the creation, for example), but this reader found the wealth of fascinating minutiae even more endearing. What did Potiphar's wife REALLY say to Joseph when she tried to seduce him? It's in there. What does Adam's name mean in Hebrew? It's in there.
First-time readers of the Bible can expect a very readable yet faithful prose, while long-time readers can expect the unexpected, as Alter's etymological and socio-historical explanations bring a pleasantly surprising new clarity to a classic.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Mark Lee on October 14, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll never look at Genesis in quite the same way. That said, sometimes the "fresh" "new" look is just another way of packaging a worthless, fleeting novelty. Once in awhile, though, "fresh" means a shift in paradigm.

Alter's translation is thoughtful, readable, and faithful to the spirit and dignity of the great book of Genesis. As a man who principally looks at Genesis through literary eyes, one might think his commentary would be reduced to cold faithlessness. But Alter is deeply linked to the faith of the authors and what they were trying to tell. He leaves the judgment of the story to the reader.

As a believer, I also appreciated Alter's comments on the intelligence of the composition. To him, it's not just a collection of old legends, but a story with a plan - a tapestry with patterns to be sure woven into a sensible design.

In a day where we've chaptered and versified the Bible to death, Alter's holistic treatment probably gets back to the spirit in which the original account was probably presented.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Mark McEntire on April 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps the most serious limitation of standard translations of the Bible is the tendency for the target language and its literary conventions to take control. One concrete example of this is the convention within contemporary English prose that word repetition is undesirable. This is particularly unfortunate when translating a language like biblical Hebrew in which frequent word repetition is one of the key elements of literary structure. Alter has produced a valuable translation of Genesis which allows the literary conventions of the source language to retain control. Of course, this means that the translation will often depart the expectations of contemporary English prose, but the result is well worth this price. For the first time, the literary features of the Hebrew text of Genesis are available for English readers to observe. Those who find the stories of Genesis so familiar that they have become stale will find that this translation gives the text new life. Alter has included helpful commentary on the text in footnotes. Unfortunately, this commentary is somewhat uneven. Some literary features of the text are discussed in great detail while others receive no comment at all. Therefore, the need for a fully developed narrative commentary on Genesis is still unmet.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Alter is attempting to capture both the meaning of the words and the poetry of the phrasing. This was a wonderful read. And where his choice of words differs from mainstream translation, he is careful to explain what the Hebrew words are and why he made his choices, so you can make up your own mind. Masterful.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By SteveW on May 4, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Alter's translation of Genesis is superb and he provides an exhaustive level of insight into the source material. Too bad the publisher didn't treat such scholarship with a little more respect--this Kindle version is appallingly bad. Typos, bizarre alignment issues, improperly placed footnotes and a lack of definitive page numbers go well beyond the typical ebook translation errors. This should not be sold in its current ebook format. I will be asking for a refund.

DO NOT BUY THIS IN EBOOK FORMAT
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you're looking for an unbiased version of this great work of literature, something that gives readers the chance to have a better insight into various possible translations of one of the best selling books ever, Robert Alter's Genesis is what you're looking for. This book is truly extraordinary, in that it doesn't manipulate words to achieve a certain goal or position in the reader's mind, instead, it explains why many previous translation give a very wrong view of the bible. Robert Alter carefully revises the Hebrew, and uses large amounts of footnotes, to explain why he has chosen a certain translation, and what several other interpretations could be. Many people think a translation really can't change a book very much, but this version of Genesis shows us otherwise.
A good example for instance, is the creation of mankind. King james and most other translators have always said the first human was a man, and from his flesh a woman was created. When we look at the exact word that is used in the original book, we see that it is `adam, which means human. Without the prefix "ben" (son of), this does not suggest maleness, and verse 27 says
"And god created the human in his image,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them."
This suggests the first human being both male and female. Then God took part of this human, and made another human, now calling one man and the other woman. This would also explain the attraction between man and woman, the need to be together, because they were once one. This shows how much difference even just the fact that the translator is male (such as King James) can make, and what a huge impact something this small can have on all of Christianity and indeed mankind.
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