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The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary [Hardcover]

By Robert Alter (Editor) & Robert Alter (Translator)
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Item description for The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter...

An English-language translation of the Hebrew bible for contemporary readers seeks to convey the text's original power and lyrical qualities, providing in the accompanying commentary additional insight into its literary and historical significance. 25,000 first printing.

Publishers Description
Through a distinguished career of critical scholarship and translation, Robert Alter has equipped us to read the Hebrew Bible as a powerful, cohesive work of literature. The culmination of this work, Alter's masterly new translation and probing commentary combine to give contemporary readers the definitive edition of "The Five Books." Alter's majestic translation recovers the mesmerizing effect of these ancient stories the profound and haunting enigmas, the ambiguities of motive and image, and the distinctive cadences and lovely precision of the Hebrew text. Other modern translations either recast these features for contemporary clarity, thereby losing the character of the original, or fail to give readers a suitably fluid English as a point of contact. Alter's translation conveys the music and the meaning of the Hebrew text in a lyrical, lucid English. His accompanying commentary illuminates the text with learned insight and reflection on its literary and historical dimensions."

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 98
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2005 page 13
  • New York Review of Books - 10/20/2005 page 38
  • New York Times - 10/17/2004 page 8
  • Library Journal - 11/01/2004 page 89
  • New York Times - 12/05/2004 page 40

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Item Specifications...

Studio: W. W. Norton & Company
Pages   1064
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.92" Width: 6.74" Height: 2.22"
Weight:   3.35 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Aug 1, 2004
Publisher   W. W. Norton & Company
ISBN  0393019551  
ISBN13  9780393019551  

Availability  0 units.

More About Robert Alter

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Robert Alter is a Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime contributions to American letters, he lives in Berkeley, California.

Robert Alter currently resides in Berkeley, in the state of California. Robert Alter has an academic affiliation as follows - University of California, Berkeley.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Criticism & Theory > General
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Criticism & Theory > Hermeneutics
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > Old Testament
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Old Testament
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Hermeneutics
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Sacred Writings > Torah

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary?

A Beautiful Edition  Apr 27, 2008
Alter, Robert. "The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary", W.W, Norton, 2004.

A Beautiful Edition

Amos Lassen

I am always on the lookout for new editions and new commentaries of "The Five Books of Moses". The beauty of the books is that they can be read and reread and each time new ideas can be found. Alter gives us a faithful English translation of the books and every translation is a commentary in its own right. Alter is one of the leading, if not the leading, Hebrew translator at work today and what he gives us here is both thoughtful and fascinating. He looks more at Biblical themes and poetics rather than a strict historical translation giving new life to the words on the page. Rather than translate the Torah as a historical document, he works with it as a piece of literature and his final translation is stunning. The commentary and background information show the intricacies of the Hebrew language. Alter manages to give a perfect balance between the original language of the Torah and the detail that he provides in the English language. The text is lively as are the footnotes which tell a great deal about the Mosaic text. Alter gives great detail as he describes the origins of many Hebrew words and explains their usage in the context of the Torah text as well as pointing out how rabbinical scholars view the words. This gives the reader a chance to see the text from both a modern perspective alongside a traditional view.
Alter considers the major views of "The Five Books" (Yahwist, Elohist, Deuternomic and Priestly) but also goes to Jewish and Christian scholarship in the commentaries and introductions he provides and sometimes takes issues with leading theories providing the reader with new food for thought. Alter is seen throughout the text with his many footnotes of explanations and we never lose sight that this is his translation and commentary. He, however, never forces his thoughts on the reader and even though I felt he was looking over my shoulder as I read, I never once found him to be intrusive. In fact, I kind of look at him as an old friend and mentor who is there to answer my many questions. His psychological observations, however, at times, seem a tad speculative but, on the other hand, he does show the humanity of the characters and rather then being just names on a page, they come to life.
I am particularly fond of Alter's approach to the book of "Genesis" as he gives the state of the human before the patriarchal rise of the Israelites and then he looks at the patriarchs as human. "Genesis" of late has taken a major role in the world because of what the Christian world calls "original sin" but when we read the first book in context with the other four, we realize that the entire Pentateuch is merely the background for Moses, the protagonist of almost the entire Torah. He becomes the mouthpiece of G-d and it is from his lips that we receive both the wrath of the Supreme Being as well as the law. The Torah, without Moses, would not have much to say.
It is astounding when we see that the ratio of law to narrative is four to one and reading about the law is perhaps the most difficult aspect of "The Five Books". There is a great deal of repetition but Alter shows that this is necessary to stress the importance of Mosaic Law.
The modern age that we live in is one of extreme arrogance and as we become more and more modern, it becomes more and more difficult to get past the diversities of culture and religion. Many dismiss the Torah as being hard to understand and merely a representation of an ancient culture that has little bearing on life today. The difficulty of the philosophy and the tremendous amount of repetition seem to underlie the mentality of modern man but a study of "The Five Books of Moses" allows for thoughtful questioning and a better understanding of issues about modern Israel. But we must also not forget that the Pentateuch is not an end all but merely one of the building blocks of all of the Hebrew scriptures and in order to gain a full understanding of what we have, further study is needed. Nevertheless, Robert Alter is a fine place to start.
Gross Omissions  May 30, 2007
This is not a comment on the substance of Dr Alter's translation. I opened it today for comparative study; I own three other versions of The Five Books. To my dismay, I find no Parashat-Named Headings,none; merely Chapter Headings,and Bk Chapt.#s at the top of each page. I sought refuge in the index. There is no index! I have read many reviews and comments of this work and none, not one, mentioned this glaring omission. For a layman as myself I find this book too tedius to bother with,other than when I go to another version for the missing information. It is beyond my comprehension how this highly praised book by a masterful author could be published without the norms I have mentioned.
Very Helpful Commentary  Jan 10, 2007
I've been using this text as part of a Bible Study I conduct. The commentary is primarily a translator's. What I mean by that is that it's not mainly a theological commentary, but one which seeks to understand the Hebrew text and explain how the translator sees the text. I like that insofar as what I'm looking for is an attempt at an accurate translation rather than as someone promoting his own theological agenda. If you're looking for theological interpretations, then this commentary would be of limited interest. The primary goal is to render an accurate literary translation of the Hebrew and to offer some archeological/ancient cultural commentary. I can see this text useful regardless of whether it's used by Jews or Christians.
Pleasant Reading  Nov 9, 2006
Not a completely new translation. Not a language study. Torah nicely written with recommendable commentary. Hebrew is much more picturesque and alive than any translation I have ever seen. Although MANY liberties are taken, the translation is more picturesque and more accurate to the actual meaning (very opinionated) than others. The translation is easy to like.
not for me, but certainly has its merits   Oct 9, 2006
If you want a primarily literary guide to the Torah, this book is certainly well done. And for non-Jews and nonbelievers who want nothing more, this is probably pretty good.

If you want something more historically minded, this book occasionally has some good points- but I think Richard Elliot Friedman's commentary and the Conservative movement's Etz Chaim are better.

If you want a week-by-week guide to the Torah portion, this book does not compare favorably with any of the religiously-oriented Chumashes (the Hertz Chumash, the also-Orthodox Artscroll, or their Reform and Conservative competitors); it simply doesn't tell you very much about the Judaism that evolved from the Torah. But to be fair, it doesn't try to.

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