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The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary Paperback – October 3, 2011


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The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary + The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary + The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (October 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393340538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393340532
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A master translator of Hebrew poetry.” (Jon Meacham - The New York Times Book Review)

“Masterfully translated.” (John Timpane - Philadelphia Inquirer)

“Magnificent: This translation is superb [and] the commentary is rich in linguistic, historical, and literary insights that immeasurably enrich the reading of these texts.” (Library Journal)

About the Author

Robert Alter's ongoing translation of the Hebrew Bible, the magnificent capstone to a lifetime of distinguished scholarly work, has won the PEN Center Literary Award for Translation. His immense achievements in scholarship 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. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, Alter is the Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.

Customer Reviews

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The book itself is super well bound, and is of very high quality.
Yang Liu
Each of the three books in this collection approach the subject of wisdom from a different perspective.
Israel Drazin
Robert Alter has translated most of the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew into English.
Tony Marquise Jr.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Burl Horniachek on November 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Alter's translation of the Wisdom Books is very impressive. Highly recommended. It is a great improvement on his translation of the Psalms, where every literary effect was subordinated to carrying over the compactness of the Hebrew. Alter is generally thought to be a better translator of prose than poetry, but he does a very good job here. There is new insight into these books on every page. The commentary too is always illuminating.
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"The strong disparities among these Wisdom books vividly illustrate how the Hebrew Bible, contrary to popular preconception, is not a book but an anthology ...incorporating widely different views of human nature, God and history and even the natural world."
--Robert Alter, 2010
Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley

* Why another translation?
** Comparative selections and commentary
*** Conclusion

* Why another translation?

Scholarship matters. It really does. Scholarship matters just like Integrity matters. Correspondingly, such efforts are the only defense against literalism and fundamentalist fanaticism. Prof. Robert Alter, like many of his contemporaries in Religious Studies (Jewish, Christian and Muslim, alike) share the belief that many of the stories canonized were common tales that the Ancient Israelites and their surrounding neighbors (perhaps even extending into the reaches of central Europe and The Far East) told and re-told for generations before being transcribed. These homogenized stories appeared to have been morality tales before cultural reconstruction transformed them into insular and sacred pieces. In addition to Job, The Creation Story through Noah, Esther, Ruth and even The Tobit all reflect a Judaizing/ Monotheistic rendering when compared to the older source material found in such texts as The Book of The Jubilees or The Epic of Gilgamesh, to name a few.

**
---Job ("Iyov") 3:3

JPS (1917): "Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night wherein it was said: 'A man-child is brought forth.' "

NAB (1969): "Perish the day on which I was born and the night when they said, `The child is a boy!
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Format: Hardcover
The Wisdom Books, Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter.

Robert Alter is, with James Kugel, one of the two leading writer / translators of the Hebrew Bible who write to a general, lay audience who simply wish to read parts of the Old Testament as narrative literature. As with his translations of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), The Story of David (1 and 2 Samuel) and The Psalms, Adler has selected books with the widest general interest both across religions and across the spectrum of non-religious readers.

Aside from having that `family resemblance' which lumps these three books together as `Wisdom Books', they share the reputation for not being good fits in the Old Testament Canon. On the one hand, unlike `the law and the prophets', thinks like Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, you will find selections from these works very seldom read from the lectern on Sundays. And yet, these works, especially Job and Ecclesiastes, have a broad presence in our secular culture. Job has been dramatized often and the character himself has appeared in fiction from John Steinbeck to Ken Kesey. The standard-bearer for the wisdom literature is the 8 verse poem at Ecclesiastes 3:1 - 8, which Pete Seeger turned into the song `Turn, Turn, Turn'. It may be part of the genius of Hebrew poesy that when you compare Alter's translation of these verses with the oh so familiar translation Seeger uses from the King James Bible, the poetic power remains the same, even when individual words are changed. But as soon as we leave this poem, the clarity of Alter's translation makes itself felt, when he replaces the KJV verse 9: `What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By AJL Reviews on July 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
God still answers Job from the whirlwind (Job 38:1) in Robert Alter`s new translation, but Qohelet`s vanity of vanities`` is gone, replaced by ``Merest breath ... merest breath. All is mere breath" (Eccl. 1:2). The translation of this phrase is appealing in its simplicity and its attempt to stay close to the root meaning of the Hebrew, something that characterizes Alter's translation enterprise as a whole. The Wisdom books, three of the most difficult texts in the biblical corpus, present many challenges to the translator. Job, which tackles the issues of good and evil, reward and punishment, and divine providence, is renowned as a particularly difficult text that often defies understanding, let alone elegant translation. Proverbs is a collection of practical wisdom, delivered in short pithy phrases. Qohelet contains the somewhat cynical reflections of a world-weary thinker. It probably only barely made it into the canon, saved by the pious epilogue of an anonymous editor. Alter brings to the task of translation the well-honed literary sensitivity of a lifelong student of literature, and an obvious appreciation of the artistic ability of the authors of these works. Coupled with his intimate knowledge of the biblical corpus, which he has been studying, translating, and writing about for decades, the results are a translation that comes closer than most to capturing the poetry of the original. Combined with helpful introductions and illuminating commentary this volume is a welcome addition to the ever-growing corpus of English renditions of the Book of Books. Translation is a fussy business and no translation will please everyone in all its aspects. Nevertheless, Alter can be recommended as a reliable guide to these instructive but at times impenetrable books of the Hebrew Bible.
Barry Dov Walfish
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