Hebrew Poetry in the Bible – A Guide for Understanding and for Translating


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In most translation projects translators begin by translating the New Testament. When this job is done they move on to trans¬late the Old Testament. By this time translators may be quite experienced, having spent three or four years working with bibli¬cal texts and actively applying translation principles. So it is usually mature, confident translators who begin an Old Testament project and who assume that they will be simply continuing on in the same kind of work. But such translators may be in for a surprise, because translation problems in the Old Testament are different from and oftentimes more difficult than those found in the New Testament.

Some of these problems have to do with the time gap between the time the Old Testament was written and our modern times. The New Testament was written less than two thousand years ago, but parts of the Old Testament were probably written over three thousand years ago. The New Testament text was written by a limited number of authors over a relatively short period of time, amounting to less than one hundred years. The Old Testament texts, on the other hand, were written by many more authors over a much longer time period covering nearly one thousand years. While we know quite a bit about the social, political, and cultural context of the New Testament, we know much less about the world of the Old Testament. Because the manuscripts of the New Testament are not nearly as old, scholars are more sure of the texts. In contrast, in the Old Testament there are over five thousand places where we are unsure what the original text said. Though most of these textual problems concern minor issues, they complicate the task of translation.

Added to these problems, the Old Testament has a greater variety of subject matter and many more different types of literature, or ‘‘genres,’’ than found in the New Testament. The translation of the literary form we call ‘‘poetry’’ presents one of the greatest challenges to Old Testament translators.

Published 2000 Pages 260

Additional information

Weight 520 g
Dimensions 24 × 16.5 × 1 cm

Lynell Zogbo Ernst R. Wendland




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