Reviews for Genesis : Translation and Commentary
Library Journal Reviews 1996 August
Norton. Sept. 1996. c.352p. ISBN 0-393-03981-1. $30. Copyright 1998 Library Journal Reviews
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1996 July #4
Of the making of many translations and commentaries on the book of Genesis there is no end. After all, the book of Genesis contains not only two of the Western world's most enduring myths of creation but also chronicles the history of early Israel. While past commentators like Hermann Gunkel and Gerhard von Rad were concerned with the ways in which the various literary forms present in the book of Genesis reflected the historical and theological concerns of the texts' writers and hearers, literary critic Alter (The Art of Biblical Narrative) emphasizes the overall narrative unity of the disparate textual units that comprise the book of Genesis. In his translation of the first 11 chapters, for example, Alter carefully reproduces the stylistic devices of repetition and parallelism so characteristic of Hebrew poetry, while his translation of chapters 12-50 captures the dramatic tension and characterization that are the hallmarks of Hebrew narrative style. Alter is ever attentive to the power of paronomasia in the Hebrew so that his translation of Genesis 1:1, "When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste (tohu wabohu, in Hebrew) and darkness over the deep and God's breath hovering over the waters...," attempts through alliteration to translate the lilting poetry of the Hebrew phrase. Although Alter's translations lack the sparkle and elegance of Everett Fox's translations of Genesis in The Five Books of Moses (Schocken 1995), his commentaries on the literary qualities of Genesis and his casting of the Hebrew Bible's opening book as a single narrative woven together by the threads of character and theme ensure that Alter's work will take its place in the distinguished ranks of commentaries. (Sept.) Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information.