Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Translating the Hebrew Bible into . . . Hebrew

Latter-day Saints with strong feelings regarding the King James version of the Bible, or even those who have advocated revising the English Book of Mormon into more updated language and style (see my take here), may find this article in HAARETZ of interest.

There is a private commercial project underway in Israel to translate the Hebrew Bible into modern Hebrew -- to rewrite it into the same language, only with different words.

The reaction of the Education Ministry was to ban the use of the translation in schools. So, even if they wanted to, Israeli teachers and students, at least officially, may not sample this work.

Those who conceived of the project say that they have the best of intentions.
"The language of the Bible is a 'foreign language' for Israeli students, and there is a need to interpose easier language, so that teachers can have free time to delve deeper [into the material]," said Rafi Mozes. Avraham Ahuvia, who translated the work, added: "I was convinced [to put out the book] because we teachers translate the Bible orally in lessons for the students, who have a difficult time understanding the grand language."

The article provides a sample, comparing the original verse of Genesis with the new translation:

. . .[T]he original - "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" - and the [modern] translation - "At the start of creation, when God created the world."

The article concludes:

Motivated Bible teachers today need not make it easier for native Hebrew speakers to understand the language of the Bible, the same language in which they speak. They must not make the Bible easier for them, which essentially means killing the Bible softly. Rather, they should demonstrate that a small amount of thought and effort is all that is required to understand the Bible as it was written.

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