Biblical Artistry

It would appear that at every turn, modernism serves to mangle the artistry in the Bible.

Include in this list of offenders:

  • a hard-core scientific reading of Genesis
  • an engineer’s reading of Revelation, complete with complex diagrams and math equations
  • a metaphysical reading of Song of Songs where it seems the poem is about anything except sex

Brought to mind by:

I have done my own translations of all biblical texts cited. The King James Version, of course, remains the magisterial rendering in English, but even in its modern revised form it lacks a good deal in the way of clarity and philological precision, while the various contemporary translations, in striving for just those two qualities, tend to obliterate literary features of the original like expresive syntax, deliberate ambiguity, and purposeful repetition of words. My own versions at times may seem willfully awkward, but at least they have the virtue of making evident certain aspects of te original that play an important role in the artistry of biblical narrative.

-Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, preface

DELIBERATE AMBIGUITY? In the Bible? You’re kidding. I thought that’s what we had all those nice translations and commentaries for: to get RID of that!!!