Robert Alter: The Challenges of Translating the Bible

Free and open to the public. 
An event celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the University of Chicago

Thursday, October 8
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Mandel Hall
1131 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637


A translation that does some justice to the Hebrew Bible must make some effort to convey in English the subtlety, the expressive compactness, the precision of word-choice, the evocative use of syntax, and related stylistic features of the Hebrew. All this is challenging because the structure of modern English is so different from that of ancient Hebrew. In this Neubauer Collegium Director's Lecture, Robert Alter demonstrated his own struggles with these issues through examples from his own translation. 

Opening Remarks were delivered by Jonathan Lear, Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society and John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor at the Committee on Social Thought and in the Department of Philosophy.

Professor Robert Alter (University of California, Berkeley) has written widely on the European novel from the eighteenth century to the present, on contemporary American fiction, and on modern Hebrew literature. He has also written extensively on literary aspects of the Bible. His twenty-two published books include two prize-winning volumes on biblical narrative and poetry and award-winning translations of Genesis and of the Five Books of Moses. He has devoted book-length studies to Fielding, Stendhal, and the self-reflexive tradition in the novel. His books have been translated into eight different languages. In 2009, he received the Robert Kirsch Award from the Los Angeles Times for lifetime contribution to American letters.