Books

Jewish Bible Translations Personalities, Passions, Politics, Progress

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  • Leonard Greenspoon (author)

About the Book

PUBLICATION DATE: Nov. 2020

Jewish Bible Translations is the first book-length history and analysis of Jewish Bible translations from the third century BCE to our day.  As such, it is an overdue corrective of an important story that has been regularly omitted or downgraded in other histories of Bible translation.

Examining a wide range of translations over twenty-four centuries, Greenspoon delves into the historical, cultural, linguistic, and religious contexts of versions in eleven languages: Arabic, Aramaic, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and Yiddish. He profiles many Jewish translators—among them Buber, Hirsch, Kaplan, Leeser, Luzzatto, Mendelssohn, Orlinsky, and Saadiah Gaon—framing their aspirations within the Jewish and larger milieus in which they worked.  He differentiates their principles, styles, and techniques—for example, their choice to emphasize either literal reflections of the Hebrew or distinctive elements of the vernacular language—and their underlying rationales.  As he highlights distinctive features of Jewish Bible translations, he offers new insights regarding their shared characteristics and their limits.  Additionally, he shows how profoundly Jewish translators and interpreters influenced the style and diction of the King James Bible.

Accessible and authoritative for beginners to scholars, Jewish Bible Translations will enable readers to make their own informed evaluations of individual translations and to holistically assess Bible translation within Judaism.

“Translating their Bible has been a major cultural activity of Jewish communities for well over two thousand years and on several continents, and yet few Jews today know about this history or why it matters. This massively learned but accessible volume admirably fills that glaring gap. I highly recommend it to Jewish and Gentile readers alike!”—Jon D. Levenson, author of Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

“This is an irresistible book. Greenspoon distills a lifetime of learning into a lively account of famous and not-so famous versions of Hebrew scripture in diverse languages—even Chinese. Sages and eccentrics populate his pages.”—Ronald Hendel, Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies, University of California, Berkeley and author of The Book of Genesis: A Biography 

“No one has more information at their fingertips than Greenspoon, and this book will inevitably become a resource for anyone working in translation. The book should also appear on course syllabi in Bible Studies as well as the history of Bible translation, and inform scholarship in Translation Studies as well.”—Naomi Seidman, University of Toronto Department for the Study of Religion

“The only comprehensive guide on the subject, from earliest times to the present, Jewish Bible Translations is a masterful work from a master craftsman. By marrying profound erudition with lucid explanations, provocative questions and comments, and a light, sometimes whimsical touch, Greenspoon is sure to engage both scholars and laity alike.”—Alan Levenson, Schusterman/Josey Chair, Jewish History, University of Oklahoma

“Do all Jews understand the Bible in the same way? The answer can be found in this fascinating and comprehensive volume that explains how and why Jews translated the Bible—from the earliest translation, into Greek, to contemporary English translations, and along the way, Aramaic, Arabic, Yiddish, and European languages. We encounter the translators, their interpretive traditions, and the agendas that inform their decisions. This book is a wonderful entrée into the Jewish engagement with the Bible.”—Adele Berlin, Robert H. Smith Professor of Biblical Studies (Emerita), University of Maryland, and coeditor of The Jewish Study Bible

“A masterfully broad survey—both chronologically and geographically—in a wonderfully engaging work by the dean of Jewish Bible translation.”—Marc Zvi Brettler, Bernice and Morton Lerner Professor in Judaic Studies, Duke University, and author of How to Read the Bible

Leonard Greenspoon

(Ph.D., Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University, 1977) is the Kltuznick Chair in Jewish Civilization and Professor of Classical & Near Eastern Studies and of Theology at Creighton University.  In addition, he has taught at Clemson University, Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Oxford University, the University of Bucharest, and Charles University (Prague).
He has edited or authored twenty-six books, with two more in press and three in progress, and written nearly 300 articles, book chapters, and extended encyclopedia entries, as well as 500+ book reviews.
He served as President of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies, editor of the Society of Biblical Literature’s Forum, and author of The Bible in the News column for Biblical Archaeology Review.  In addition, he has organized and hosted over twenty symposia on Jewish civilization.

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