How Translation Obscured the Music of The Bible

Robert Alter at berfrois:

An essential fact about the Hebrew Bible is that most of its narrative prose as well as its poetry manifests a high order of sophisticated literary fashioning. This means that any translation that does not attempt to convey at least something of the stylistic brilliance of the original is a betrayal of it, and such has been the case of all the English versions done by committee in the modern period.

It might be objected that the books of the Bible are, after all, fundamentally religious texts, not works of literature but, for reasons we cannot altogether fathom, this tiny Israelite realm, though rather crude in comparison with its larger and more powerful ancient Near Eastern neighbours in regard to visual art and material culture, produced writers of genius who chose to express their vision of the new monotheistic worldview in artful narrative and finely evocative poetry. If a translation fails to get much of its music across, it also blurs or even misrepresents the depth and complexity of the monotheistic vision of God, history, the realm of morality, and humankind.

more here.