And God Said How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman

Thomas Dunne Books




272 Pages


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For centuries, translations of the Bible have obscured our understanding and appreciation of the original text. Now And God Said provides readers with an authoritative account of significant mistranslations and shows how new translation methods can give readers their first glimpse into what the Bible really means.

And God Said uncovers the often inaccurate or misleading English translations of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament that quotes from it. Sometimes the familiar English is just misleading. Other times the mistakes are more substantial. But the errors are widespread. This book tackles such issues as what’s wrong with the Ten Commandments (starting with the word “commandments”), the correct description of the “virgin” birth, and the surprisingly modern message in the Song of Solomon, as well as many other unexpected but thought-provoking revelations.

Acclaimed translator Dr. Joel M. Hoffman sheds light on the original intention of the text and the newly developed means that readers can use to get closer to it. In And God Said his fresh approach has united the topics of religion, language, and linguistics to offer the first modern understanding since the Bible was written.


Praise for And God Said

"A sensitive . . . discussion of the structure of languages in general and of Biblical Hebrew in particular."—The Jerusalem Post

“A wise and important book, and a lot of fun to read.”—Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

“Hoffman is wise and gentle as he exhibits the issue of distortion by way of translation. Short of all readers learning Hebrew, Hoffman’s work is the best gift for a careful reader of a text that defies easy contemporary rendering.”—Walter Brueggemann, author of The Prophetic Imagination

"[Hoffman] unites Biblical scholarship and translation theory, embracing modern science and modern linguistics, to help us understand what the Prophets and our forebears were doing and how they wrote.  He retrieves what the Bible really was and what it can be for us now."—The Very Reverend James A. Kowalski, The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine

"Author Hoffman, a linguist and a translator, uses his knowledge and his skills to correct some of the common errors in translating the language of the Bible from Hebrew into English. His initial three chapters are devoted to explaining linguistics and 'translation theory,' skillfully clarifying complex concepts. The remaining five chapters ably apply these ideas to biblical phrases that, according to Hoffman, require rewording. He begins with the important commandment, 'And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.' He convincingly claims that the Hebrew words for 'heart' and 'soul' have been 'severely mistranslated' and should be rendered as 'mind' and 'body.' Similarly, Hoffman effectively demonstrates errors in rendering 'shepherd,' 'my sister, my bride,' two of the Ten Commandments, and 'virgin.' Attentive readers will find this book to be valuable for properly understanding the Bible."—Publishers Weekly

"Scholar and translator Hoffman (In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language) brings us a work of both levity and erudition. His book probes the difficulties and oft-encountered inaccuracies of English translations of the Bible. Hoffman confronts the complexity of both the Hebrew-to-English translation and the sociocultural milieus of ancient and modern, which the art of translation attempts to bridge. Starting with the King James Version (KJV) and offering comment on subsequent English translations, e.g., New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), English Revised Version (ERV), American Standard (ASV), and Revised Standard Version (RSV), the author insightfully discusses the biblical lexicon (e.g., words like king, shepherd, and heart) and how best to translate them. Hoffman elucidates and modernizes the biblical text with contemporary examples of pop culture, such as his use of the O.J. Simpson trial to demonstrate a point . . . Full of interpretive insight, Hoffman's work is a good resource for those interested in the topic of English Bible translation, or the challenges of translation generally."—Anthony Elisa, JKM Theological Library, Chicago, Illinois, Library Journal

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Getting Started



"If the King’s English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me."

That quip by Miriam Amanda "Ma" Ferguson to her Texas constituents last century actually reflects a common attitude toward the Bible. While of course most people know that it wasn’t originally written in English, they also think that the ancient text is conveyed pretty accurately in the familiar English quotations: "The Lord is my shepherd . . .," "In the beginning, God created

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  • Dr. Joel M. Hoffman

  • Joel M. Hoffman, Ph.D., is the author of In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language and is the chief translator for the 10-volume series, My People’s Prayer Book (winner of the National Jewish Book Award) and for My People’s Passover Haggadah. He writes a biweekly column on Hebrew for The Jerusalem Post. He has held faculty appointments at Brandeis University and at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He lives in New York.
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    Joel M. Hoffman

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