Academic journal article Shofar

Give Us a King! Samuel, Saul, and David

Academic journal article Shofar

Give Us a King! Samuel, Saul, and David

Article excerpt

Give us a King! Samuel, Saul, and David

Continuing the work he began with his translation of the Torah/Pentateuch (The Five Books of Moses, Schocken, 1995), Everett Fox applies his adaptation of the Buber-Rosenzweig theory of Bible translation (see M. Buber and F. Rosenzweig, Scripture and Translation [tr. L. Rosenwald, E. Fox; Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994]) to the books of Samuel. Insofar as English translation allows, Fox tries to reproduce the aural registers, structures, and cadences of the original Hebrew. In support of this principle of "phonic equivalence," the translation is laid out in the form of free verse. Likewise, familar anglicized translations of the biblical characters are reformed closer to the sound of the Hebrew originals (e.g., Samuel is rendered Shemu'el and Saul, Sha'ul). Fox continues his endeavor (from his translation of the Torah) to reproduce the Leitwörter ("leading words," key repeated terms) so important to biblical literary style -- a technique treated with indifference in most modern translations.

For a literary translation the difficult (corrupted) text of the books of Samuel in the primary manuscript tradition (identified, by the former name of its current archival home, as codex Leningrad) presents many obstacles. Fox takes a middle course between rigid adherence to the Masoretic tradition and a full-blown eclectic translation, which selects the best reading from the available manuscript evidence (principally, the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls versions of Samuel). Compared to Fox's translation of the Torah, scholarly footnotes are kept to a minimum. In place of a more detailed apparatus, Fox offers brief introductory essays to major sections of Samuel, leaving the meaning of the text where it usually resides -- in the nexus between the text and the reader's imaginative engagement.

From the perspective of someone who has both taught Samuel to beginners in biblical Hebrew and engaged with it as a scholar of Hebrew narrative, the translation is a success. …

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