More Reviews of Genesis 1-11

"A serendipitous experience"


Readers of the Volokh Conspiracy will know Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators (with John F. Hobbins) from an earlier series of posts. Several months ago I also mentioned a couple of reviews. Three new reviews have just been published.

First, in the Book List for the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Robert P. Gordon writes:

The introductory sections make important points about the practice of translation, without being at all technical. The bulk of the volume is titled 'After the Translation', and the longest section within it consists of notes justifying the choices made by the translators. A great deal of attention is given to the history of interpretation, both Jewish and Christian, with a particular focus on ancient and early modern translations. While not every textual or translational issue within Genesis 1–11 is addressed, reading the notes becomes quite a serendipitous experience: one never quite knows what kind of nugget is about to appear.

Gordon concludes: "Even amid the continuing deluge of studies of Genesis 1–11, this will prove a refreshing read, with most to offer on how precisely one should render the text in the light of the many points—linguistic, cultural, historical, macro-contextual, aesthetic and other—that the translators raise for discussion."

Second, in the Association of Jewish Libraries' Reviews, David Tesler notes our attempt to show deliberate repetition, our "nod toward tradition," and our attention to "the reception of Genesis as scripture." He commends the book: "This translation of Genesis 1-11 is an excellent resource for the interested layman and scholar alike."

Third, in The Christian Century, James C. Howell wrote "Two new (very different) Old Testament translations", a review article on our book and John Goldingay's The First Testament. Howell discusses a number of specific translation choices, and he writes:

Over the years, I have reviewed several translations in these pages. These two new ones could not be more different from one another in style, results, packaging, purpose, and intended use. Samuel Bray, a professor of law, and John Hobbins, a pastor and scholar, provide a lovely rendering of Genesis 1–11. They also provide much more, as the actual translation of the text fills only 19 of the book's 326 pages. Their introduction is a wise and eloquent reflection on the art of translation and what is at stake in approaching it. Their extensive notes not only explain why they translated the way they did but also function as a fairly profound commentary on the text itself.

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  1. Incredible drama, could have used fewer genealogies, on the whole I’d rate it…

    Oh, you mean the translation.

  2. You’d think GOD would be able to transmit HIS message clearly and precisely so all peoples could understand it.

    Or maybe it’s just all man-made crap written by the weak-minded for the weak-minded.

    1. “You’d think GOD would be able to transmit HIS message clearly and precisely so all peoples could understand it.”

      You’re assuming that clarity and precision were His goals. Maybe they weren’t. Maybe He could only send the occasional burning bush message because he lost a bar bet in the God clubhouse.

    2. Maybe the problem is on the receiving end. I have employees who struggle with any message more complicated than “sit, stay, fetch.”

      For them, there is the 10 commandments.

      And then Jesus simplified them further.

      “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

      How much simpler could it be?

      1. You might be onto something.

        “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.” Job 33:14

    3. Nowhere in Genesis does it claim that it was transmitted by GOD.

  3. Sorry apedad
    That might be what man would think but in the new testament Jesus often spoke in parables

    “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

    1. So God’s a passive-aggressive asshole.

      Got it.

      1. Therefore He doesn’t exist?

        1. Beats me but apparently if God does exist then he’s a passive-aggressive asshole.

  4. DEEEEP literary analysis HERE!!! God COMMANDS us to kill EVERYONE!

    Our that them thar VALUES of society outta come from that them thar HOLY BIBLE, and if ya read it right, it actually says that God wants us to KILL EVERYBODY!!! Follow me through now: No one is righteous, NONE (Romans 3:10). Therefore, ALL must have done at least one thing bad, since they’d be righteous, had they never done anything bad. Well, maybe they haven’t actually DONE evil, maybe they THOUGHT something bad (Matt. 5:28, thoughts can be sins). In any case, they must’ve broken SOME commandment, in thinking or acting, or else they’d be righteous. James 2:10 tells us that if we’ve broken ANY commandment, we broke them ALL. Now we can’t weasel out of this by saying that the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament, because Christ said that he’s come to fulfill the old law, not to destroy it (Matt. 5:17). So we MUST conclude that all are guilty of everything. And the Old Testament lists many capital offenses! There’s working on Sunday. There’s also making sacrifices to, or worshipping, the wrong God (Exodus 22:20, Deut. 17:2-5), or even showing contempt for the Lord’s priests or judges (Deut. 17:12). All are guilty of everything, including the capital offenses. OK, so now we’re finally there… God’s Word COMMANDS us such that we’ve got to kill EVERYBODY!!!

    1. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.

      If God does not exist, then anything is permissible. Your morals are not my morals. What you believe has no more credibility than mine. If I believe that my family is all important, then to steal from you is not wrong in my eyes. The only punishment would be by the government….if they can catch me

      1. On the off chance that your sarcasmometer isn’t working well today, I was being snarky in stringing together those verses. My point is that the evil will look at a Holy Book, and find things to justify their evil ways. The good and decent people will work inversely. So we might as well go to the REAL source, and pay little attention to the Holy Books. The REAL source is “the God within you”, AKA, your conscience. If it ain’t working right… You are SOOO screwed! If it IS working right, your Holy Book will be of some assistance, yes… It contains some collected wisdom. Bu tit is NOT the real source!

        People whose conscience isn’t working right, suffer a LOT… Usually, right here on Planet Earth, even! It is kinda counter-intuitive, but concern for others is one of the best, most beneficial gifts that we have, even for ourselves… In the long run, and on average. Be nasty, folks catch on, are nasty back to you… Karma!

        1. You believe in Karma but not God?

          1. 1) SQRSLY is a sarcasm faucet, and 2) plenty of Hindus believe in karma but no gods.

            1. SQRLSY, my fingers are cold.

          2. No, I believe in both. It is organized religion in general that I am not a big fan of. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and old man that I admired (he was a nice guy) said to me, “SQRLSY One, I believe in God… I just don’t believe in His Little Helpers”. I have taken that one to heart!

            I do realize that there are organized-religion folks that are helped by that organized religion, and do good things. Sad to say, the converse is true also.

            1. Organized religion killed Jesus.

              But the New Testament also says that some people need rules and structure, so let them have it.

        2. Conscience!? Objective good and bad!? What gibberish, there are only deterministic biological processes and traits — both adaptive and maladaptive!

          1. Sarcasm or not?

            Cooperation is better than competition in the long run… Cooperation, job specialization, and free trade, inter-tribal trade, is how civilization got started… Good means loving your neighbor, however mushy the definition may be. Bad = the opposite. As we evolved, tribal warfare was tolerable. In the days of nuke-weapons, it is no longer tolerable! Can we go another 1,000, 10,000, or 100,000 years the way we are going, with all these nukes laying around? I don’t think so!

            The solution is far more likely to be ethical-moral-spiritual than technical… I can’t prove it… But I can FEEL it!

            1. “Cooperation is better than competition in the long run…warfare is no longer tolerable! ”

              Maybe, but how do you know??

      2. So I guess that begs the question, are ‘Morals’ inherently desirable, or are they desirable because God made them desirable?

        If the former, then you don’t need God in order to be moral.

        If the latter is true, then morals are meaningless anyway, since God could give his approval to commit rape (Deu 22:23-29, Num 31:15-18), incest (Genesis 19:32-36, in light of Lot’s favorable characterization in 2 Peter 2:7-8 and God’s saving of Lot in Genesis 19:15), war (plenty of examples of God being a war-loving hombre in the Bible), child molestation/pedophilia (Num 31:1-18, Deu 20:10-14, Jud 21:7-11 and 20-23, Exo 21:7-10), or any of millions of other generally reprehensible things.

        Though, of course, God sent down his son to be brutally tortured and killed so that we could just forget about that messy first half of the Bible. Given that, I guess we can ignore all that ‘early’ morality and just go with stuff from the second half, right?

        1. So let’s try that. What kind of morality is promoted in the New Testament:

          1) God will make people gay if they don’t believe in him, and, in doing so, they will earn death (Romans 1:26-32)

          2) The end of times will be marked by homosexuality and educated women (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

          3) God is like a slave-owner who beats his slaves “with many stripes” (Luke 12:46-47)

          4) THROWBACK to Numbers 21, where God sends snakes to attack people that complained because they had not had food or water for days when Moses led them to the desert (John 3:14, the latchkey kid to the superstar John 3:16, which brings up)

          5) Child-sacrifice is cool (John 3:16)

          6) Your salvation depends ENTIRELY on being committed to God, regardless of your actual deeds, which in and of itself, makes the case that actions are only desirable in God’s eyes because they are what he demands, not because he actually cares whether people are good at all (John 3:18 and 36)

          There’s plenty more to see here, but honestly I think #6 sums it up perfectly. Why would I, or anyone else, follow a God that is accepting of people who shout his name from the rooftops but refuse to ‘love their neighbor’, while he rejects people who don’t acknowledge God but still do amazing selfless things? Why would anyone love a God that accepts the murderers, rapists, etc. that sit in prison or make deathbed conversions, but automatically damns to hell every person around the world who has never heard of the Bible?

          1. P.S. did you know that religious preference is almost entirely dictated by a person’s place of birth? See this link (it even has citations for those who care to drill down into the data):

            Sorry for the short-link, but the full one went over the character limit. It’s an article on Patheos, but you can also just google ‘How Religion is Dictated by Birthplace’, and you’ll find it.

            1. FYI, at at least, what you can do to easy auto-shorten the link is just to strip out the “s” in https: so that becomes for example… It has worked well for me…

              Biblical literalism is for lazy people who don’t want to be bothered to think for themselves, and-or, they want to kiss God’s butt, not realizing that the RIGHT way to kiss God’s butt, is to love one’s neighbors!

              1. What is “Biblical literalism”? The Bible on its own terms purports to speak literally at some times and figuratively at others.

                1. Well, some silly folks think that they collect more brownie points, the more stuff that they can take literally…

          2. 2) The end of times will be marked by homosexuality and educated women (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

            HOLY CRAP!!!

            Is TrueAmericanParrot God?

            1. But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

              1. I understand that real men (and women) are not gullible enough to be superstitious, at least not after the age of 12 or so.

                I could quote an equally lengthy, equally authoritative passage from the script of Animal House to illustrate this point, but I’ll just leave it at this.

              2. It took me a while, but I get it now! The above clearly DOES describe Trump!!!

                So do you think that Trump is the Anti-Christ? The Anti-Buddha? The Anti-Hubbard? All of the preceding? None of the preceding?

              3. Gozer the Traveller! He will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldronaii, the Traveller came as a large and moving Torb! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the Meketrex Supplicants they chose a new form for him–that of a Giant Sloar! Many Shubs and Zulls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Sloar that day, I can tell you.

      3. Clearly this does not follow logically. Humans evolved from a primate common ancestor with many characteristics in common with primates in general. Included among those “characteristics” are numerous behaviors that form the basis of our “morality”. You know things like do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As to your family, among pre-industrial societies without a “government” if you kill or steal from another family the response will be against your family, so you will pay a price. Your genetic relatives will pay a cost as will you.

  5. My favorite translation of Genesis 25-50? The 1492 page four-novel tetralogy by Thomas Mann, Joseph and His Brothers. To give fair warning, Herr Mann’s translation is rather loose. He padded the story a bit.

  6. Choose reason. Every time.

    Especially in the context of sacred ignorance and dogmatic intolerance.

    Most especially if you are older than 12 or so. By then childhood indoctrination fades as an excuse for gullibility, backwardness, ignorance, bigotry, and superstition. By ostensible adulthood it is no excuse.

    Choose reason. And education, tolerance, science, modernity, liberty, progress, and inclusivity.

    Choose reason. Be an adult. Or, at least, try.

    So sayeth the Congregation Of Exalted Reason.

    1. But what is reason without love? Or without conscience?

      Reason does not prove that love is better than hate, that pleasure is better than pain, that life is better than death, or that construction is better than destruction. Prove ANY of these true using reason? These are starting, fundamental assumptions that we build on, using reason,

      1. Religion and politics are the same phenomenon — giant memeplexes evolving to spread on to as many carbon infestation units as possible, each one jealous the other plex might control that greatest of all meme spread mechanisms: the power to legally force themselves onto reluctant units.

    2. Virgin births, talking snakes, people being turned into salt thousands of years ago by a supernatural entity? Lol what a load. Thanks but I’ll stick with my rational beliefs in evolution being responsible for everything until it magically stopped some time ago before it could effect intergroup intelligence. Men and women being exactly the same down to the atom and equally capable in everything/and or women being superior despite being different sizes and having various fundamental anatomical and neurological differences and centralizing government and raping people for tax money increasing social and economic freedom!

  7. The Bible was written by illiterate goatherders.

    1. Are illiterate people capable of writing?

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