“Jewish Bible Translations: Personalities, Passions, Politics, Progress” by Leonard Greenspoon— Evaluating Translations

Greenspoon, Leonard. “Jewish Bible Translations: Personalities, Passions, Politics, Progress”, Jewish Publication Society, 2020.

Evaluating Translations

Amos Lassen

Leonard Greenspoon’s “Jewish Bible Translations” is the first book to examine Jewish Bible translations from the third century BCE to our day. “It is an overdue corrective of an important story that has been regularly omitted or downgraded in other histories of Bible translation.”

Greenspoon examines a wide range of translations over twenty-four centuries through the historical, cultural, linguistic, and religious contexts of versions in eleven languages: Arabic, Aramaic, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and Yiddish. He looks at many Jewish translators including Buber, Hirsch, Kaplan, Leeser, Luzzatto, Mendelssohn, Orlinsky, and Saadiah Gaon and shows their “their aspirations within the Jewish and larger milieus in which they worked.”

He examines principles, styles, and techniques and their choice to emphasize either literal reflections of the Hebrew or distinctive elements of the vernacular language and their underlying rationales. Here are new insights about their shared characteristics and the limits they faced and we see how Jewish translators and interpreters influenced the style and diction of the King James Bible.

Accessible and authoritative for all from beginners to scholars, Jewish Bible Translations enables readers to make their own informed evaluations of individual translations and to holistically assess Bible translation within Judaism.