Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Book Review: The Grammar of God

The Grammar of God: A Journey into the Words and Worlds of the Bible

This book is for the serious Bible student. The author, Aviya Kushner, grew up in a Jewish home where every night over dinner the family discussed the grammar and nuances of scripture as written in Hebrew. As an adult she took a graduate course in Bible and writes, “I was lost much of the time, and many times saddened at what had been misrepresented or obscured in moving the words from the Hebrew to the English, from the ancient to the more contemporary.”

At chapter beginnings, Kushner gives the literal translation of parts of scripture according to the Hebrew and then elaborates on liberties taken by English translators. For instance, where an English version might read “Let us deal wisely,” the Hebrew actually means, “Let us outsmart.” While some of her points seemed to be splitting hairs, I appreciated her insight.

Kushner was used to reading not only scripture but commentaries written by rabbis from around the world over many centuries. She was taught to consider other opinions, so she found it hard to accept English translations that came across as certain of their interpretation. She writes, “Conversation, then, is an integral part of law, even to Jews who believe the Bible is the word of God dictated to Moses.”

Noting the differences in vocabulary, grammar, culture and worldview, she writes, “While some changes are understandable, others are unbearably painful for a Hebrew reader to see.”

A pastor once told me that reading the Bible in its original languages is like seeing television in color rather than black and white. Kushner would agree. The Grammar of God is a challenging but insightful read.

No comments: