Page 30 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
peshat
; o f ascertaining the simple, direct sense o f the text. As a
result, the translation cannot always conform to Rabbinic h e r ­
meneutic, with respect to law; o r to later Jewish belief. This
problem already existed in late antiquity , and is ev iden t in
Medieval scholarship, as for example, in Saadia Gaon’s transla­
tion of the Bible into Arabic. T he NJV is based on the Masoretic
text o f the Hebrew Bible. Nevertheless, any modern translation
must, at the very least, take note o f variant readings in the ancient
versions and o f the evidence o f Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as o f data
available from previously unknown manuscripts o f the Hebrew
Bible. The re must be an awareness o f the efforts o f modern
scholars to make sense out o f difficult readings. As a result, NJV
often notes, at the bottom o f the page, what meaning would be
yielded by an emendation o f the text, without actually basing its
own translation on any such emendation.
The re is also a distinction to be made between any suggested
alteration o f the consonantal text o f the Bible, and merely the
revocalization o f the text. In line with the overall conservatism
toward the text o f the Bible, it was necessary, in many instances, to
state that the meaning o f the original Hebrew was uncertain.
The result is a conservative treatmen t, in the sense tha t many
renderings can be traced to traditional commentaries; bu t at the
same time, a highly original, and often ingenious translation. In
terms o f philology, it embodies the best insights o f modern schol­
arship in the Semitic languages, and is perhaps the most philolog-
ically accurate translation of the Hebrew Bible ever produced .
BIBLICAL EXEGESIS
Even before NJV was completed, it was realized tha t a new
commentary in the English language was a major desideratum .
T he project tha t produced the Soncino commentaries, in Eng­
land (including the To rah commentary by the late Chief Rabbi
J .H . Hertz), has been exceptionally useful; bu t it cannot be con­
sidered adequate, today.
In the late 1970’s, Nahum M. Sarna was designated ed ito r o f
the Bible Commentary, to be still ano the r project o f JPS; and
Chaim Potok was designated literary editor. Work has already
begun on the T o rah books, and several will be appearing in the