Watch the full event here.
The Humanities Council welcomed Robert Alter, Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, as a Belknap Visitor in the Humanities to speak on “The Art of Bible Translation.” Over 70 attendees filled McCormick 101 on Monday, Sept. 23 at 4:30 pm.
Moderator Eric Gregory, Chair of the Humanities Council, introduced Alter as one of the great humanists of our time. Alter’s landmark, award-winning, solo translation of and commentary on the Hebrew Bible took more than two decades, using only paper and pencil, to produce. The feat has received favorable comparisons to the King James Version, Gregory noted.
“Why do we need a new translation of the Bible?” Alter asked. “The short answer is that none of the existing translations, with the only partial exception of the King James Version, do a great deal of justice to the literary shaping of the Hebrew—and that is quite remarkable.”
In narrative prose, the importance of rhythm has often gone overlooked, he said. He emphasized that particular cadences can capture the cosmic harmony depicted in Scripture.
Responses came from Leora Batnitzky, Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Religion; Esther Schor, Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Professor of American Jewish Studies and Professor of English; and David Bellos, Professor of French and Italian, Professor of Comparative Literature, and Director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication. The Department of Religion and Program in Judaic Studies co-sponsored the event.
By Ruby Shao