Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Joseph Jacobs and Rabbis Samuel Schulman and David Philip-
son. As Editor-in-chief the group unanimously chose Dr. Max L.
Margolis, a Bible scholar of fabulous knowledge and brilliant
acumen.
Dr. Margolis in his little book.
The Story of Bible Translations
,
has told how the work was carried out. He himself prepared a draft
text, on which the committee worked during sixteen meetings,
each lasting from ten days to three weeks. If the committee was not
satisfied with a passage in the first draft, other suggestions were
considered, and a final decision was made by majority vote. Dr.
Adler’s reminiscences, entitled
I Have Considered the Days
, contain
a few amusing anecdotes about the committee meetings, but do
not tell much about the undertaking itself. But we still possess
Max Margolis’s notes, and these shed considerable light on the
final result.
The Jewish Publication Society translation (hereafter JPS) may
be considered a Jewish recension of RV.
The English revisers of 1881-1885, as well as the American
revisers who supplemented their work, regarded the AV of 1611
as standard and classic. Their task was not to produce a new
translation, but to make AV more accessible to the modern reader.
The grandiose English style of the Elizabethans was to remain.
But words that had become completely obsolete, or which had
acquired an entirely different meaning, were changed to make
the text more understandable. Other changes were introduced
to correct errors and inaccuracies which were due to the scholarly
limitations or theological preconceptions of the earlier translators.
But while the English and American revisers thus modified or
re-translated hundreds of passages, they worked within the frame­
work of the Elizabethan vocabulary; and where AV was correct
and reasonably clear, they retained it without change.
This, by and large, was the approach of the JPS committee.
The notes of Margolis indicate that he would have preferred a more
independent line, had not the committee ruled otherwise. Professor
Harry M. Orlinsky, who has made a detailed study of the various
renderings, thinks the committee was somewhat awed by the
prestige of RV and so followed it in many places where (for ex­
ample) Leeser had reproduced the sense of the Hebrew more
exactly. Surprisingly, too, JPS retained Anglicisms — such as
the use of “corn” in the sense of “grain” and the spellings “honour”
and “labour” — which the American revisers discarded.
But the merits of JPS are real enough; they explain why this
translation has been almost universally adopted by English-
speaking Jews and has been consulted with respect by the Christian