Thursday, October 06, 2005

King James and Artscroll

Interesting comment:
[A]t Mesorah Publications, Orthodox publishers of Artscroll Library's Stone Edition Tanach (1996), general editor Rabbi Nosson Scherman says he has seen a demand for an English-only Tanakh, much of it from the non-Jewish world, especially evangelical Protestants and Catholics. "There is an increased interest on the part of many people, possibly people who are interested in the Bible as literature, who want to know how the Bible was understood by Jews before King James got around to it," [Rabbi Nosson] Scherman notes.
Okay, R. Scherman is clearly referring to the anthology-commentary in the Stone Edition. But the translation uses a great deal of terms taken straight from the King James! An early example is the translation of Genesis 4:9, hashomer ahi anokhi, as "Am I my brother's keeper?" I can promise that if the KJV had never existed and someone was translating the Torah into English for the very first time today they wouldn't have naturally employed that sentence. It would be interesting to search the Stone Edition for KJV phrases, but someone else will have to do that. Suffice it to say that the King James shadows it throughout.

It's certainly possible, if not likely, that the anonymous translators of the Artscroll chumash did not consult the KJV even once because to a very real extent the King James Version is the template in English through which each Bible translated into that language must pay its respect. Who among English speakers does not know that Cain's retort to God was "Am I my brother's keeper?"

Traditionally one of the fast days, 10 Teves, was taken to mark the translation of the Torah into Greek, an event deplored according to this tradition and likened to the caging of a lion.Apparently an English rendition of the Torah, even one produced by Orthodoxy's RW publishing giant can't escape it.

Other Jewish translations use the phrase, and not just ones like the JPS translation. R. Aryeh Kaplan's Living Torah has "am I my brother's keeper" as well--but he has the King James in his bibliography. There is no James, kingly or otherwise, in the back of Artscroll's Chumash--but its presence is certainly there.

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