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The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and…
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The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with…

by Robert Alter

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Just to be clear, I'm rating the book. Alter's comments are wonderful, Job is a fascinating poem, Ecclesiastes surely one of the great splenetic explosions in world literature. The first nine chapters of Proverbs are fine, there's some drama there as a father tries to convince his son not to be an idiot. From my own childhood, I know that's a tough task. Five stars for all that stuff. But Proverbs 10 forward... holy mother of God (unsuitable as that expression is).

These are books in the Jewish tradition, too, but forcing people to read Proverbs reminds me of Calvin: human beings are completely depraved if they can come up with that nonsense, and *then* *also* put it into not one, but *two* collections of divinely inspired literature. I imagine a Calvinist preacher somewhere thundering about the fate of those predestined to hell: it's having Proverbs read to you for the rest of eternity by someone who believes, passionately, in the wisdom of the proverbs attributed to Solomon. A wise man avoids readings from proverbs/ but a fool languishes in his boredom. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Alter does an amazing job of uncovering the layers of history and syntax hidden in the familiar books of the Bible. I loved the work he did on Job and Ecclesiastes, but found the Proverbs to be a long slog in the middle. You are only as good as your source material, I suppose, and seeing the dead center of this book stripped of the ample embellishments of the King James translators really robbed it of everything I enjoyed previously. Voluminous annotations take you inside the translation process. Highly recommended. ( )
  johnmcgraw | Mar 30, 2012 |
An absolutely fascinating translation & commentary on a group of Old Testament books that I had not previously associated with one another. Job, of course, is familiar to most Jews and Christians although I suspect we have only sketchy memories of the tale. Many Proverbs are familiar, often as moral precepts whose source we may not recall. And Ecclesiastes, or Qohelet as it is called here, is best known for Chapter 3 which begins "Everything has a season..." popularized in folk music and a frequent funeral theme. This new translation explains in detailed footnotes Alter's reasons for selecting one source text or another (or a combination), one word or translation of a word or another. Alter then offers an interpretation of / commentary on almost every verse in each book as well as comparing and contrasting the dominant themes of each. I will confess that I occasionally dared to disagree with an interpretation because it seemed to me that Alter was over-thinking the passage. Regardless of these rare differences I found this to be an engaging and inspiring work. ( )
  amac121212 | Aug 22, 2011 |
"Wisdom literature is as close as the ancient Near East came to Greek philosophy, which was nearly contemporaneous with the latest Wisdom texts of the Hebrew Bible. It shares with Greek philosophy an inquiry into values and a disposition to reflect on the human condition, but it lacks both the purely theoretical and the systematic impulses of the Greek thinkers. Ethical issues are raised, but there is no real ontology, epistemology, anthropology, or metaphysics, and much of the thrust of Near Eastern Wisdom is pragmatic and even explicitly didactic. Job, for all its profundity, is a theological rather than a philosophic text. Its author is God-obsessed and never wonders or speculates about God's existence but rather expresses his outrage at the spectacular injustice of a world governed by a purportedly just God. Qohelet [Ecclesiastes], concerned as it is with the structure of reality and how ephemeral human life is locked into that structure, is close to a genuinely philosophic work, though it articulates its philosophy through incantatory language and haunting imagery rather than through systematic thought." location 265

Job's wish comes true:
"Would, then, that my words were written,
that they were inscribed in a book,
with an iron pen and lead
to be hewn in rock forever."
JOB 19:23-24

The dilemma:
"One person dies full of innocence,
completely tranquil and at peace.
His udders are filled with milk,
the marrow of his bones still moist.
Another dies with a bitter heart,
and he has never enjoyed good.
Together in the dust they lie,
and the worm will cover them."
JOB 21:23-26
  maryoverton | Dec 12, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393068129, Hardcover)

A magnificent new volume in Robert Alter’s award-winning, landmark translation of and commentary on the Hebrew Bible.

Here, in Robert Alter’s bold new translation, are some of the most magnificent works in world literature. The astounding poetry in the Book of Job is restored to its powerful ancient meanings and rhythms. The account of creation in its Voice from the Whirlwind is beautiful and incendiary—an unforgettable challenge to the place of man in the universe. The serene fatalism that construes life as ephemeral and without purpose suffuses Ecclesiastes with a quiet beauty. The pithy maxims of Proverbs impart a worldly wisdom that is still sound and satirically shrewd.

Each of these books conveys and undermines the universal wisdom that the righteous thrive and the wicked suffer in a rational moral order; together they are essential to the ancient canon that is the Hebrew Bible. In Alter’s translation they regain the energy and force of the original, enhancing their ongoing relevance to the lives of modern readers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:39 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Presents a modern translation of the Books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, and provides annotations and commentary for each verse.

» see all 2 descriptions

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W.W. Norton

Two editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393068129, 0393340538

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