Thursday, February 5, 2009

Marvel's former president re-translating Genesis

Yes indeed. From the New Jersey Star-Ledger:

To millions of Americans fascinated by comic-book superheroes, Bill Jemas of Princeton is an industry legend who helped breathe life into Marvel Enterprises by pushing the wildly successful "Ultimate Spider-Man" series that rejuvenated the company.

These days, however, Jemas, a high-energy 51-year-old whose controversial four years as Marvel's president remain fodder for comic-book blogs, finds himself engrossed in a task far removed from dialogue balloons.

Each morning before sunrise, for the last three years, the Rutgers and Harvard Law School graduate has labored over the Bible, specifically the Book of Genesis in Hebrew, the language in which it was first written.

His goal is to write an English translation of Genesis that is truer to the Hebrew text than are widely used English translations like the famed King James Version. He already has completed the first chapter, available online and in his book "Genesis Rejuvenated."

Later in the article we hear from a more conventional Bible scholar:

"There are already Hebrew dictionaries, and there are plenty of translations of Genesis," said Bruce Chilton, a religion professor at Bard College in New York. "There are commentaries on Genesis. There are books on Genesis. But what Bill has done here that's innovative is, he's put the materials together in such a way that a beginning reader can see the Book of Genesis as being filled with possibilities of meaning, and not just limited to a single meaning.

"What he is doing here is opening up the world of Genesis so that the reader is encouraged to read word for word, understanding that we're dealing with a major shift of language from Hebrew into English."

Jemas, who was raised Roman Catholic, married a Jewish woman and now attends a Reconstructionist synagogue in Princeton. He said he makes no claim that his translation is more accurate than others. But he wants readers to consider the possibility that decisions of past English translators are not sacrosanct.

Read the whole thing! (via Ian)

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