Translating the Bible - into Hebrew...

By Miriam Shaviv
September 11, 2008

In university, my version of Chaucer included a line-by-line translation of the Old English into more palatable modern English. Now, in Israel, someone has the same idea – for the Bible. According to Ha’aretz,

A move is afoot to publish the Bible in contemporary Hebrew. In other words, to translate the Bible into Hebrew. To rewrite it, in the same language, using different words.

This is a private commercial endeavor launched by a veteran teacher of the Bible, Avraham Ahuvia, and publisher Rafi Mozes of Reches Educational Projects. The entire text is vocalized, and each verse appears in the original form alongside the translated version.

The Education Ministry cried foul upon hearing of the idea and hastily issued a directive banning use of the new translation in schools. The danger has thus been averted: Even if they wanted to, Israeli teachers and students, at least officially, may not sample this work.

Although nothing will stop pupils using the translations at home, for homework.

And more is the pity. Although I fully believe that we must do everything possible to make Jewish texts accessible to our young, I simply cannot believe – as a graduate of an Israeli primary school – that ancient Hebrew, which is really not that different from modern Hebrew, really is beyond the reach of most Israeli students.



Thu, 09/11/2008 - 23:10

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I have taught Shakespeare in Charedi boys' schools [ YES they do learn Shakespeare if they stick around long enough!] and I have had to translate most of the plays as if they were written in a foreign language. The boys use Yiddish, Hebrew and Aramaic during their daily studies and English is not necessarily their first language. It's OK to translate a great text if it helps them understabnd the original -- but the simplified modern version can never take the place of the original. Compare the King James 'Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death' with the NEB 'I walk through a dark place.' Compare 'Lead us not into temptation' with 'Don't test us'.


Thu, 09/18/2008 - 08:35

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I agree!
Reading the bible isn't easy even for native Israelis but is Maths easy without learning?
By learning the language of the bible and tackling the difficulties kids will enrich their Modern Hebrew and be part of of a thousand year old heritage.


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