It is of course a truism that “every translation is an interpretation.” Joel Hoffman has taken his cue from that truism to go deeper into the wonder, difficulty, and frequent mistakes of modern translations of the Bible. He scopes out the great slippage between the Hebrew of the Bible and the many English renderings that variously evidence ideology, carelessness, and ignorance. I am especially taken by his rich probe of the elusiveness of the term for “soul” (nephesh) and our many long-standing misconstruals of the term.
Reading this careful analysis will cause us to give more regard and attention to the ancient text; and we will learn to read more closely, more slowly, more carefully, and with legitimate suspicion about the translation before us. Hoffman is wise and gentle as he exhibits the issue of distortion by way of translation.
Short of all readers learning Hebrew, Hoffman’s work is the best gift for a careful reader of a text that defies easy contemporary rendering.