5/19/2009

Biblia PaupeRam

I attended part of conference on the new Tanakh Ram (see here and here for an overview of the debate; see here for an overview of the book) today. For those who have not been following, there has been a bit of controversy in Israel lately about the publication of a new translation of the Tanakh, or parts of it, into Modern Hebrew. Thankfully, the conference was about more than just debating the merits and problems with this new edition, and actually had some very interesting lectures on the history of bible translations and on issues with translating into a more modern form of the original text (not necessarily biblical).

There was one lecturer who pretty much stated the obvious – that the Tanakh is already translated into Modern Hebrew in classrooms, even Haredi ones. I think that misses the point of these criticisms, as I will explain.

I got a chance to look at the translation, and, honestly, was not impressed. I thought that the original and the translation are too equally weighted (they have slightly different fonts, but are the same size and stand side by side in columns; I would have much preferred to see the original in a much larger font). The translation itself was really not so good. The term “yerei Hashem” is consistently translated as “mi she-ma’amin ba-Shem”. Aside from being an inaccurate and even misleading translation, I don’t understand the need to translate the phrase into Modern Hebrew in general. The purpose of this translation should not be to create a Hebrew Biblia Pauperum, in a manner of speaking. It should facilitate the mastery or comfort with the original text. The current set-up is not conducive to that goal, though. I’d much rather see a Tanach with a brief commentary to elucidate difficult words on the bottom.

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