Awash in a sea of Bible translations, do we need yet another?
Most translations bend the text toward us. They make the rough places smooth, the odd bits more palatable to our modern sensibilities. In every translation something is gained and something lost. In The First Testament: A New Translation, John Goldingay interrupts our sleepy familiarity with the Old Testament. He sets our expectations off balance by inviting us to hear the strange accent of the Hebrew text. We encounter the sinewed cadences of the Hebrew Bible, its tics and its textures. Translating words consistently, word by word, allows us to hear resonances and see the subtle figures stitched into the textual carpet. In a day of white-bread renderings of the Bible, here is a nine-grain translation with no sugar or additives.
In The First Testament the language of Zion comes to us unbaptized in pious religiosity. Familiar terms such as salvation, righteousness, and holiness are avoided. We cock our ears to listen more carefully, to catch the intonations and features we had not caught before: “Yahweh said to Abram, ‘Get yourself from your country, from your homeland, and from your father’s household, to the country that I shall enable you to see, and I shall make you into a big nation. I shall bless you and make your name big and you’ll become a blessing." (Gen 12:1-2) “Hey, you who wish for Yahweh’s day. What good really is Yahweh’s day to you?― it will be darkness, not light.” (Amos 5:18) “My shepherd being Yahweh, I don’t lack; he enables me to lie down in grassy pastures. He leads me to settled water; he turns my life back.” (Ps 23:1-3)
The First Testament is an invitation to read the sacred text through the eyes of one of the most accomplished Old Testament scholars in the English-speaking world today. With introductions to each book, it is an attractive translation for the classroom as much as for personal study and enjoyment.
John Goldingay (PhD, University of Nottingham; DD, Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth) is David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. His many books include The Theology of the Book of Isaiah, Do We Need the New Testament?, Biblical Theology, and a three-volume Old Testament Theology. He has also published a seventeen-volume Old Testament for Everyone series, where much of this translation first appeared.