Reviews for Literary Bible : An Original Translation

Book News Reviews
American poet and Old Testament scholar Rosenberg offers a version, part verse and part prose, of The Torah, The Prophets, and what he calls The Scrolls. Introducing each book, he discusses its historical, religious, and literary features. In final essays, he explores how the Bible came about and how this book came about. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Booklist Reviews 2009 November #2
When Rosenberg first came to the Hebrew Bible, he did so convinced that he could interpret it within modern academic theory. Very quickly, he encountered voices so vibrant that they swept away such theoretical pretensions and set him on the daunting lifetime task of translating these voices into authentic vernacular English. The culmination of more than 30 years of labor, this impressive volume combines portions of 18 biblical books--from Genesis through Ezra--restoring to each passage the irresistible creativity and individuality of its now-forgotten author. Whether in the tautly engaging prose narrative of Exodus and Samuel or the strikingly direct poetic imagery of Isaiah and Job, readers feel an insistent human presence defying the barriers of time and culture. Though diverse in tone and mood, these translations deliver the force of minds for whom faith lives as something more than dry orthodoxy. Beyond the brilliant translations, the supplementary commentaries will reward readers disappointed by typical treatments of a dynamic ancient culture. A truly fresh reading of seminal scriptural texts. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2010 July
As much a work of fiction as a new translation of the Hebrew Bible, this "literary" Bible is an occasionally moving, often melodic, and utterly subjective take on two-thirds of the world's most influential book. The readable translation is unencumbered with explanatory notes or even standard line breaks. Given the increasingly burdensome annotations and commentary attached to scholarly and study Bibles--much of it needlessly argumentative and tendentious--this minimalist approach is refreshing, and certainly the stark blankness of the pages invites a closer, more visceral engagement with the text than is possible with almost any other Bible currently on the market. However, this strength is also the translation's greatest, and most distracting, weakness. The driving idea is to allow new or "secular" readers to discover the Old Testament in fresh and relatable ways. But the lack of supporting and corroborating material makes this work utterly unsuitable for student use and will leave even life-long academic readers of the Bible in doubt about the reliability and integrity of the translations and creative choices. All Bibles inevitably bear the taint of subjective translation, but Rosenberg offers nothing to reassure the reader interested in accuracy other than a rather brusque autobiographical afterword. Summing Up: Not recommended. Copyright 2010 American Library Association.

Library Journal Reviews 2009 October #1

In The Book of J, Rosenberg, noted poet and nonprofessional scholar of Hebrew scripture, and the brilliant and erratic Harold Bloom famously took on the four-strand theory of the composition of the Bible to reveal what they asserted was a new and great writer in our literature: J (the Yahwistic writer), a well-connected woman in the court of Solomon, crafting great poetic narratives that explained the growing nation of Israel to itself. This new book augments and completes that earlier controversial work, adding passages from the prophets, the Psalms, Lamentations, the Song of Songs, and other later writings. By no means a complete Bible or even complete Hebrew scripture, Rosenberg's new translation is as provocative and personal as ever--who but Rosenberg would see Psalm 23's "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies," as "you set a table before me/ in the presence of my enemies/ you give me grace to speak// to quiet them"? As is usual with Rosenberg's translations, this one comes with a tendentious afterword decrying prior translators, especially Robert Alter, and is replete with wishful thinking about the supposed authors and circumstances of the Hebrew originals' composition. VERDICT This is a modern poet's vivid re-creation of the Hebrew Bible in the image of his own psyche and his own times. By turns infuriating and illuminating, this curious but deeply poetic version of large portions of Hebrew scripture is highly recommended.

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