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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Genesis: New Translation of the Classic Bible Stories, A

Genesis: New Translation of the Classic Bible Stories, A - Stephen Mitchell I found it refreshing to read a translation that was upfront with numerous reminders that this is ancient literature that is based on stories from a variety of sources that were retold for hundreds of years around the campfire long before they were written down, and then years later they were combined and compiled by an editor. I think it puts the stories into a reasonably accurate historical perspective.

I found the "Introduction" in which the translator explained his approach to the book of Genesis much more interesting than the translated material itself.
"... If there is any author of Genesis as a whole, it is R. He was in certain ways a very skillful editor, ... But Genesis as it is presented to us is R's recension ... is a disservice to the original authors. that is why in this book I have separated the text into its sources, printing each story as a distinct work by a particular writer. ... "
"The insertion here is skillful enough, but elsewhere R's splices can be awkward, interrupting the flow of the narrative and interpolation P's dull prose into the brilliant concision of J, as at the beginning of J's 'Hagar and Ishmael.'
....Early in the work of translation, I decided to omit all these additional verses, whether they had been added by R or by some scribe centuries before. I felt obliged to do this out of loyalty to J, E, and the Joseph author, who are the great writers of Genesis. What author would want his work presented to the public cluttered with the second and third thoughts of second- and third-rate writers? As I relegated these accretions to the Textual Notes, the stories took on a stunning clarity. It was like removing coat after coat of lacquer that had obscured the vibrant colors of a masterpiece. This was most impressive in the Joseph story. But there are many other striking examples. ..."
Explanation of letters used to identify sources and their corresponding approximate dates:
J -- Yahwist -- 950-800 BCE
E -- Elohist -- 850-750 BCE
P -- Priestly Writer -- 700-500 BCE
"early sources" -- 950 BCE
"late sources" -- after 587 BCE
R -- Redactor -- 450-400 BCE