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Kingdom of Priests

Isn’t it interesting that there’s no adequate one out there, among all the countless versions, commentaries, etc.? I have, among ancient authors, entirely pleasing translations of Tacitus, Herodotus, Josephus, and so on, so that I don’t feel any particular need to consult the original.

I mention it because an Eastern Orthodox Christian correspondent writes to me that he recently purchased an Orthodox Study Bible of some kind and he likes it very much apart from his missing having a fair representation of Hebrew names (i.e., Moses instead of Moshe). That stuff doesn’t bother me. In his excellent book on the prophets, Norman Podhoretz writes that he likes the King James best, despite its many errors, because the flavor of the language most closely approximates the Hebrew original. I kind of go along with him on that. The English in all the Orthodox Jewish translations I’ve seen is invariably clunky, stiff, or tasteless. But non-Jewish Bibles of course leave out and otherwise take no heed of traditional commentaries, those that convey the Oral Tradition, without which the plain text is itself misleading.

I’m speaking here specifically of the Hebrew Bible. The New Testament, or anyway the Gospels, have their distinct difficulty, namely that Jesus’ own words in their original language are all lost, with the rare exceptional phrase preserved intact (e.g., “Talitha cumi“).
Now the question would be why does the Bible, unique among books in this as in so many ways, defy translation? The more time you spend with the original, the more you realize that every attempt to translate Scripture results in a whitewash, which can be more or less of a literary embarrassment. But that seems to be true only of the Hebrew Bible. Or if you disagree, is there an adequate version?
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