Alter: Translations Lack Literary Grace

Robert Alter answering the question, “With so many new [Bible] translations available, is the King James Version still important and relevant today?”

Translations that cast the Bible in up-to-the-minute American English are definitely cutting into the constituency of the King James Version because they are easier to read and seem more “accessible.” My own sense is that such translations lack any literary grace and distort the feeling and the meaning of the Bible. Though we are distanced from the 1611 version now because of its archaic language, its beauty is undiminished, and I think it will always have readers as a great literary achievement that altered the course of the English language.

Interesting comments from a man who himself translates Scripture. Read the full (short) interview, “Robert Alter shares insight about the King James Bible.”

Robert Alter shares insight about the King James Bible – Cultural Compass

  1 Comment

  1. Foibled   •  

    Literary grace is a construct imposed on the Bible.
    “This leads me to a reflection about what you might call the ‘level’ of the translation. It has long been reckoned that the King James Version employs an ‘elevated’ English style. It is grand, splendid, magisterial. It strides down the road with measured tread, never in a hurry, looking to right and left and bowing to passers-by. Its cadences roll off the tongue and ring round the rafters, especially when helped on their way by the ample acoustics of an ancient parish church or cathedral. The problem is that most of the New Testament isn’t like that. Luke and Acts are, up to a point. Hebrews, too. But Mark? Paul?”

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