Dror Abend-David

University of Florida

 “Divorce Already?!  Should Israelis Read the Tanakh in Translation?”

 As a justification for Isaak Salkinson's 1874 translation of Othello, Peretz Smolenskin presents this translation as revenge against the British, who "stole" the Hebrew Bible. Since the beginning of Zionism, modern Hebrew speakers have felt a sense of ownership (if not copyright) over the Hebrew Bible. Many of them feel that they can understand the scriptures better than even the most renowned Biblical scholars who do not speak Hebrew as a first language.

             A strong argument to the contrary is presented by Ghil'ad Zuckermann and Gitit Holzman. Zuckermann, author of Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew (2003), claims that modern Hebrew is a different language from Loshen Koydesh, and he refers to it as “Israeli,” a new language of “Israeli-speakers.”

             Zuckermann and Holzman (2012) recommend the Tanakh Ram under the translation of Avraham Ahuvia. What does a translation of the Bible from Hebrew to Hebrew look like? Does it, as Zuckermann and Holzman claim, make an important contribution to the popular understanding of the Bible? Or is the significance of such a “translation” in the political statement that it makes (not to mention the functionality of creating one more textbook for school children to purchase)? How different is the Tanakh Ram from the one printed in Dfus Romm about two hundred years earlier?

             But a possible solution is one of moderation (in this, as in other matters related to Israeli society…). To English majors who worked hard to memorize the first page of The Canterbury Tales and who most often cannot read Beowulf in the original – it might seem frivolous to divorce one aspect of the language from another only because some words are read differently. Doesn’t Bassanio look like a publican? And is Hamlet not sending Ophelia to a nunnery? Do you see modern English (or even American) scholars summoning Sir William to family court and demanding a divorce? If not, an appropriate Smolenskin-ian revenge would be to hold on to the Tanakh as tightly as English scholars hold on to Shakespearean drama. At the very least, one should think long and hard before initiating a painful and costly divorce procedure that will be followed by  Toho VaVoho in both the modern and the biblical sense.  


Deena Aranoff

Berkeley, CA

 “The Biblical root ʹmn: Retrieval of a term and its Household Context”

 This paper will examine the relationship between the most common meaning of the Biblical root ʹmn, to be faithful, and its less common meaning, to rear or nurse a child. In contrast to previous lexicographic presentations of the term, this paper suggests that the act of rearing a child and its requisite constancy provided the concrete social referent from which the more general qualities of steadfast loyalty were derived. As part of its analysis, the paper will examine the long and fraught translation history of the term amon in Proverbs 8:30.


Scott Elliott

Adrian College

"Transrendered: Scriptures in the Language of Comics and Graphic Novels"

 This paper investigates a range of comics and graphic novels that directly engage biblical material in various ways. It attempts to situate such productions in relation to other modes of "reworking" (Genette), including translation. While something is inevitably lost and gained in every hypertext, I argue that the best of these productions do not attempt to replicate the biblical text. Instead, by virtue of the inherently "guttural" language of the comics medium (i.e., speaking between the panels and enlisting readers in the process of writing the story), they highlight the Bible's own fragmentary nature and thus leave open the possibility of a more "writerly" text (Barthes). 


Robert Alter

Berkeley, CA

"The Challenges of Translating the Bible"

 Both biblical narrative prose and poetry manifest complex and subtly expressive stylistic features for which a translator must find English equivalents in order to convey the power of the Hebrew.   At the same time, the biblical texts pose many philological difficulties that need to be addressed, as biblical scholars generally fail to do, with careful attention to the literary contexts in which the words occur.  The gap between the ancient and modern languages is too great for an entirely satisfactory response to these challenges, but better approximations than we have been given are possible. 

Abigail Gillman

Boston University

Ma Sh’mo? Translating the Name(s) of God”

 Hermann Levin Goldschmidt notes that the Name of God is the “ultimate test” for translators of the Hebrew Bible; Franz Rosenzweig wrote that the very unity of the Bible, if not its Jewish character, hinges upon the correct perception of God and rendering of the divine Name.  But is there a correct way to translate God’s names in the Hebrew Bible, and how should the choice be justified?  Should one take a historicist approach, following the ancient translators, the Septuagint or the Targumim?  Is it a philosophical decision, such as Maimonides and Mendelssohn claimed?  Or ought one take an existentialist approach, following Buber and Rosenzweig, or perhaps Marcia Falk in her Book of Blessings? Is it best to pretend that the biblical God has only one Name, as S. R. Hirsch did, or at the other extreme, to provide multiple translations throughout, as one finds in a new, twenty-first century German Bible? My paper traces the “eternal” quest to properly render God’s Name in scripture, the theological rationale of these translations, and some debates among translators.


Everett Fox

Clark University

“On Translating the Bible—and Performance”

 As important as philology, close reading, and word choices are to the process of Bible translation, a seldom treated question is: how is the text to be read aloud? And how does this, in turn, affect translation? Examples from the Bible and outside will illustrate the place of performance in Bible translation.


Naomi Seidman

Graduate Theological Union

"The Afterlife of the Afterlife: Tehiyat hametim and the Translation of Jewish Liturgy"

 This talk will explore a particular translation problem in Jewish modernity--the translation from Hebrew of references to the raising of the dead--through the lens of Walter Benjamin's famous reference to translation as the "afterlife" of a text. How did translators keep these references alive, while signaling their disbelief in physical resurrection? What is the connection between the notion of a resurrected text and of the afterlife of a body and/or soul?


Leonard Greenspoon

Creighton University

“Nature or Nurture?  Jewish Bible Translators as Prodigies, Pedagogues, and Prophets”

 Although nothing is known about the earliest Jewish translators of the Bible (i.e., those who produced the LXX and Targumim), we are far better informed about those associated with later Jewish translations of the Bible.  This is the case at least as early as Saadiah Gaon in the tenth century.  The biographies of these individuals often chronicle prodigious intellectual (and/or religious) feats at praeternaturally young ages, widely encompassing efforts at educational reform, and far-ranging forecasts for the future of Jewish communities.  Whether historical, hagiographical, or some mixture of both, these recurrent elements reveal significant aspects of collective and individual understanding (and self-understanding) of who a Jewish translator is—or should be—and possibly how we should evaluate the versions thus produced.


Jeffrey Shoulson

University of Connecticut

"Hugh Broughton and Early Modern Biblical Scholarship: The King James Bible from the Outside Looking In"

 The paper is about one of the most colorful and controversial early modern Christian Hebraists, Hugh Broughton, who lobbied hard but ultimately failed to get himself included in the massive undertaking that resulted in the King James Bible (aka the Authorized Version).  Broughton's interest in millenarian eschatology heavily influenced his approach to Hebrew scholarship and raises particularly intriguing questions about how such enthusiasms might contributed indirectly to the legacy of the King James Bible, indisputably the most influential English version of the Bible.


Alan Levenson

University of Oklahoma

 “Translation versus Teaching: Competing Agendas in Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Pentateuch”

 Our keynote speaker speaks of the “heresy of explanation,” the act of substituting commentary for translation. By this standard, Samson Raphael Hirsch may be considered something worse than a heretic, notwithstanding his status as the father of Neo-Orthodoxy. He divided hendiadys into two discrete theologemena  (Gen 1:28 — “be fertile and increase” as endorsing marriage and parenthood, respectively.) He expounded the cantillation marks placed on the Torah scroll at the end of the first millennium as if they reflected the intent of God at Sinai (Gen 33:4 — signify Esau’s sincere tears). He adopted midrashic characterization of consonantal shapes as significant (Deut 6:4 — ehad is written with a large dalet, probably to prevent it from being changed to a resh which would make it Aher… “ Hirsch’s Bible translation serves as a springboard for a range of teaching on religious life; this paper will explore the Hirsch’s translation and its relationship to his Bible project generally.


Chana Bloch

Berkeley, CA

“‘In the Fever of Love’: Translating Eros in the Bible” 

 The Song of Songs is the only book in the Bible that is charged with erotic content. Its language is voluptuous, yet at the same time restrained and delicate. How does a translator preserve its dignity as a scriptural text while conveying its poetic temperature?