THE FACE OF WATER

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                                        THE FACE OF WATER

Author SARAH RUDEN

Publisher PANTHEON BOOKS

978-0-307-90856-8

Subtitled, “A translator on the beauty and meaning in the Bible,” is helpfully explanatory to the subject matter found in this book.  I already wrote a book brief on another book by Sarah Ruden.  She is obviously very able in latin and Greek as well as Hebrew and brings her expertise to bear as a Quaker Christian to various parts of the Old and New Testaments.  Her style reveals her to also be something of an ‘imp’.  That is probably what my mother would call her!  Her humour and style make for interesting, illuminating and thought provoking reading on a subject that could be really heavy going.  For the “King James only” folk she delves deeply into the complex world of the translator and knocks their augmentation on the head.  She is not an iconoclast though, she brings out hidden beauties buried within the original texts and these delight.  Humour in the Book of Jonah for example and wonderful emphases in the Hebrew of Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones.  In the chapters written here she indicates how the modern versions of the Bible frequently lack the vitality of the original texts.  They lack the variety, beauty and sometimes, the power of the Hebrew and Greek.   She does not profess to be a theologian or a philosopher but certainly encourages the reader to rethink the tendency to treat words cheaply.  She even indicates that people of today are losing the understanding of words, skating over the  surface without considering true meaning.  The chapters focus on Grammar, Vocabulary, Style and Poetry as found in the Bible, other matters are included also.  As she examines these she does so by unfolding a passage or two from the Old and New Testaments.  Unpacking the original language and indicating how difficult the very act of translation is.  To penetrate the meaning of words in the language of long ago, to come to grips with the grammar, the way Hebrew for instance seldom uses a noun to describe a person’s occupation and so the “Lord is my shepherd” where ‘shepherd’ is a noun in English, is a verb in Hebrew’.  “The Lord is the One Who pastures me,” would be a more accurate translation.  The second part of the book is mainly made up of passages retranslated and as she wrestles with these indicates the difficulty at arriving at something that could truly be called ‘accurate’.   So, a book to humble the Bible student, to cause us to be much more teachable and reliant upon the Holy Spirit to accomplish what Jesus promises that we should be led into all truth and to thank Him for the ‘aids’ that we have to Bible reading but not to be slavishly led by them.  

Last modified: March 13, 2020

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