What did God create in the beginning?
The usual answer is as obvious as it is wrong: “heaven and earth.”
The problem is that the Hebrew for the first word here means “sky,” not “heaven.” In English, the birds, clouds, rain, etc. are all in the sky, not in heaven. Heaven, by contrast, is, depending on one’s theology, either where good people go when they die or where all people go when they die.
A translation variation, “heavens,” is a little better, but only to the extent that that Biblish word has entered the mainstream. People don’t talk about “cloudy heavens” when it’s overcast. They talk about a cloudy sky.
We see the Hebrew word, shamayim, ten times in the first chapter of Genesis.
The final four times the word is where birds are, which is obviously the “sky” in English, not “heaven” or “heavens.”
Four times the word appears in connection with the Hebrew raki’a, which is usually translated into English as “firmament” — though, again, that’s a word whose use is almost entirely confined to translations of Genesis; the NRSV’s “dome” isn’t a bad alternative. The raki’a is the ancient conception of the sky, which is why the Hebrew raki’a is God’s name for the shamayim, in one place, just like “day” is God’s name for “light.”
In one case, the shamayim is the place under which the water of the ocean is gathered — again, “sky” in English.
And that leaves Genesis 1:1, where God creates the shamayim. (If you’re counting along, it seems like we now have eleven instances, not ten, but only because one of them appears in two lists — in connection with raki’a and in connection with birds.)
Elsewhere in the Bible (Deut. 11:17, e.g.), a lack of rain results when the shamayim gets stopped up. The shamayim is where the stars are (Gen. 26:4). And so forth. All of these are “sky” in English.
So it seems to me that Genesis 1:1 should talk about the “the sky and the land” or “the sky and the earth.”
The only possible reason I can think of not to go with this clear translation is that the Hebrew pair shamayim and eretz is used metaphorically (as a merism) to represent all of creation. (This is presumably why the ISV goes with “universe” here. But in turning the pair “sky/earth” into the one word “universe,” the ISV destroys the dualism that underlies the creation story.)
So what do you think? Is there any reason to keep the common translation “heaven(s)”?
If God is like a nurse, does that mean that God is female?
What got me thinking about things like this is that John Piper’s “desiring God” blog just ran a post called “Our Mother Who Art In Heaven?” The basic point is to affirm that God is a “masculine God” in spite of 26 places where God is described with feminine imagery.
The author, Tony Reinke, starts off as though he wants to examine the implication of those 26 places neutrally: “But one of the immediate objections to [a masculine God] is the simple fact that God sometimes references himself through feminine imagery, and this is certainly true.”
Of course, by phrasing the question as how “God references himself” (my emphasis), Reinke has already prejudiced the issue. Still, it’s an interesting question, and I don’t believe that Reinke, or John Cooper (whose book, Our Father in Heaven: Christian Faith and Inclusive Language for God, Reinke cites) have understood how language works in these cases.
Cooper’s point, quoted by Reinke, is that there may be a variety of feminine imagery, such as Numbers 11:12, where God “gives birth” to the People Israel. But even so, there “are no instances where God is directly identified by a feminine term, even a metaphorical predicate noun.”
Most interesting is Reinke’s explanation: “That explains why in Scripture we find many many masculine titles for God: Lord, Father, King, Judge, Savior, Ruler, Warrior, Shepherd, Husband, and even a handful of metaphorical masculine titles like Rock, Fortress, and Shield..
What would make “Rock” a “metaphorical masculine title”? Not that it matters, but the word itself is feminine in Hebrew (at least one of the words, eh-ven) and in Greek (petra). Similarly, what makes “lord,” “savior”, “ruler,” etc. masculine? Certainly nothing intrinsic to the words.
I think that Reinke and Cooper are going about this the wrong way. The gender of the words used to describe or identify God is irrelevant.
Rather — as in so many other instances — I think the key to understanding the language here is knowing how imagery works. After all, even if God is our king, God isn’t a king in the same sense that Harald V of Norway is. Rather, “God is our King” means that God has certain attributes of a king.
For example, here are three attributes once common to most kings:
- they reigned with absolute power
- they inherited their position
- they were men
It seems pretty clear to me that the metaphor of God as king refers to (1). It seems equally clear that it does not refer to (2). The question is whether it refers to (3), and I don’t think that it does. I think that (3) is incidental to the metaphor, like (2).
In other words, even though only men were kings, and God is a king, it doesn’t follow that God is a man or even like a man, just as even though only humans were kings, and God is a king, it doesn’t follow that God is human or like a human. (A similar issue arises with the word “man” itself: “How to be a Biblical Man.”)
There can be no doubt that gender roles in antiquity were more sharply defined than they are today. But I don’t think that this cultural difference gives us the clear answer that God was masculine. Rather, I think we have to see past it in order to understand the intent of the text.
I imagine translating from some language into English, and the original text has to do with a bunch of people sitting around a room admiring a fancy new door. The obvious translation of what happens next is, “the host showed his guests the door.”
- The problem, though, is that “show the door” in English means “ask to leave.” Is “showed his guests the door” still the right translation?
- Equally, in England, to “table a motion” at a meeting means to decide to vote on it, while in the U.S. those same words mean to decide not to vote on it. If a British essay says, “he wanted to table to the motion,” is that how an American translation should read?
- In Japan, the word for “yes” is sometimes to used in polite situations to mean “no.” In these situations, should the translator render the Japanese hai (“yes”) as “yes” or as “no” in English?
- In Arabic, ahalan comes from the word for “family,” but it means “welcome.” Does the English rendition of that Arabic word have to include the word “family”?
- In China, the “dragon” is a symbol of beneficent, graceful, royal power. If a Chinese story says that, “her grandfather was always the dragon in her life,” should the English translation use the word “dragon,” even though “dragon” in English conveys a whole different set of images?
These cases are all examples of how the right word can convey the wrong thing, sometimes because English has a specific meaning for what could be a general phrase (1); sometimes because both the foreign language and English have specific meanings, and they don’t match (2); sometimes because the meaning of the foreign word changes depending on context in ways that the English word doesn’t (3); sometimes because the foreign language assigns imagery to a word but English doesn’t (4); and sometimes because the foreign language assigns imagery to a word but English has different imagery (5).
What these have in common is that they all strike me as cases where the English translation must avoid the literal words of the foreign language.
Similar cases in Bible translation keep popping up:
- Most recently, regarding the translation of the Greek for “son” in Arabic, because Arabic might use the word “son” for different imagery than Greek did.
- Regarding “heart” in Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27 (levav and kardia), because the Hebrew and Greek words conveyed different things than the English does.
- Regarding shepherds, and, in particular Psalm 23, because in Hebrew shepherds were fierce, regal, and romantic, while the same is not true in English.
among many others.
The more general lesson, it seems to me, is that translating the words can mean mistranslating the text.
In two previous postings (here and here) I show how “Love the Lord your God with all your heart [and] all your soul” — from Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 — actually refers to two specific aspects of being human: the intangible (levav in Hebrew or kardia in Greek) and the tangible (nefesh in Hebrew or psuche in Greek). Essentially, the words translated as “heart” and “soul” are like the computer terms “software” and “hardware,” but for people.
So “heart” in English is inaccurate as a translation, because it refers only to emotion, while the original includes intellect. And “soul” in English is even worse, because it suggests intangible qualities, but the original specifically referred to tangible things like the flesh, blood, and breath.
While we don’t have convenient words in English to express these “software” and “hardware” aspects in people, we are lucky that we have a pair of words that does. The English pair, like levav/nefesh or kardia/psuche, refers to the combination of these two concepts. And that pair is “mind and body.”
Normally the word “mind” in English indicates intellect to the exclusion of emotion, and normally “body” tends to focus on flesh rather than blood or breath. But taken together they assume broader meanings.
We see these broader meanings, for example, in the “mind-body connection,” which refers to the fact that both how we feel and what we think are connected to more physical matters. For instance, it’s becoming clear that losing a loved one can increase the risk of heart attack. That’s the mind-body connection. Taking deep breaths can help mitigate agony. That’s also the mind-body connection. And so forth.
So I would translate the first two parts of Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27, as “love the Lord your God with all your mind and body…”
January 18, 2012 Posted by Joel H. | translation practice | Bible, Bible translation, Biblical ontology, Deuteronomy 6:5, heart, kardia, levav, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30, Matthew 22:37, metaphor, mind-body, mind-body connection, nefesh, nephesh, ontology, psuche, psyche, semantics, soul, translation, translation practice | Bible | 16 Comments
A while ago I explained why I don’t think “heart” is an accurate translation in “Love the Lord your God with all your heart [and] all your soul,” from Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. The reason was that the original referred to both emotion and intellect, while “heart” in English is generally only the former.
I think that “soul” is an even worse translation. Here’s why.
“Soul” in English
|“||there are two parts to being human, our internal processes and our physical stuff”|
Most people don’t agree on what exactly a “soul” is in English. For some, it’s what lives on after death. For others, it has more to do with lifeforce. Nonetheless, most people do agree on certain aspects: the soul is intangible, for example, and there’s something mystical or unworldly about it. And in this regard, it’s worthwhile to point out that even those who don’t think people have souls know what “soul” means. (I’m reminded of J.-E. Renan: O Seigneur, s’il y a un Seigneur ; sauvez mon ame, si j’ai une ame – “O Lord, if there is a Lord, save my soul, if I have a soul.”) So in spite of disagreement about some things, “soul” does have a core meaning common to most English speakers.
We do have a few expressions in English that veer off in other directions, most notably the metonymic use of “soul” for “person,” as in, “17 souls were lost at sea.” (Also, it’s been widely observed that “bless her soul” in certain dialects really just means, “I’m about to say something nasty about her.”) But these are exceptions. The “soul” in English is intangible, amorphous, and perhaps eternal.
“Soul” in the Bible
The English “soul” is supposed to translate the Hebrew word nefesh (also commonly spelled nephesh) but the Hebrew nefesh isn’t at all what we would call a “soul.”
The first sign that things have gone wrong comes from Leviticus. In 7:18, for example, we see that the nefesh does the eating. We see the same thing in 7:27, which warns about any nefesh that eats blood. Certainly it’s the body, not the soul, in English that does the eating and drinking. But in Hebrew it’s the nefesh.
Additionally, we read in Leviticus 17:11 that “the nefesh of flesh is in the blood … it is blood that atones for the nefesh.” Though opinions differ about where the soul in English might be located, it’s pretty clearly not in the blood. Yet that’s exactly where the nefesh lies in Hebrew. Furthermore, we actually see a close connection here between nefesh and blood.
Leviticus 24:17-18 gives us more information. There, we read that anyone who wounds the nefesh of a person will be put to death, and anyone who wounds the nefesh of an animal will pay for it, “a nefesh for a nefesh.” These passages are clearly not about what we would call “souls” in English. They are about the physical body.
The parallelism in Psalm 63:1 (“my nefesh thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,” NRSV) helps us further. There nefesh is in parallel with basar, “flesh.” So in addition to having something to do with the blood, we learn specifially that nefesh is related to the flesh.
Finally, in I Kings 17:19-22, we learn that the nefesh is related to the “breath.” Elijah revives a dead boy by laying him down (17:19), stretching himself over the boy (17:21) and then the nefesh “of the child came into him again, and he revived” (NRSV). The passage is almost certainly about mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. (Elijah’s disciple, Elisha, also knew how to perform mouth-to-mouth, as we read in II Kings 4:8, where Elisha puts his mouth on the mouth of a dead child to revive him.)
So the nefesh is related to the blood, to the flesh, and — we now see — to the breath.
In short, nefesh was the tangible aspects of life, that is, everything that could be touched: the blood, the flesh, and the physical breath. This is why “soul” is such a disasterous translation for nefesh. “Soul” in English is precisely that which is intangible, while nefesh is the opposite.
The situation in Greek — where we find psuche (also commonly transliterated psyche) for the Hebrew nefesh — is more complicated.
Like its Hebrew counterpart, the Greek psuche can refer to the physical aspects of life. In Matthew 6:25, for example, the psuche does the eating and drinking. But in Matthew 10:28, we see psuche used in contrast to the phsycial body.
So the Greek word is used both in the Hebrew sense of nefesh and in the English sense of “soul.” (Actually, the English word is probably used in the Greek sense, but it works out the same.) Still, we can be fairly certain that in the context of kardia (“heart,” but not really), psuche in Greek matches what nefesh means in Hebrew, both because the quote is from Hebrew, and for a more fundamental reason:
“Love with All Your Heart and Soul”
We’ve already seen that the word translated as “heart” really refers to emotions and intellect together. Now we see that the word translated as “soul” refers to the physical aspects of life.
Taken together, they form a nice pair: the first word refers to the intangible aspects of being human, and the second word to the tangible aspects. The concepts are just like software (“heart”) and hardware (“soul”) for computers, but applied to people. We don’t have words like these in English, but I think it’s fascinating that they did in antiquity, as if to say that there are two parts to being human, our internal processes and our physical stuff.
The commandment is to love God with both.
[Update: The third part in this series is here.]
January 11, 2012 Posted by Joel H. | translation practice | Bible, Bible translation, Deuteronomy 6:5, heart, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30, Matthew 22:37, metaphor, nefesh, nephesh, ontology, psuche, psyche, semantics, soul, translation | 37 Comments
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart [and] all your soul…” According to Jesus in Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27, this is the most important commandment.
Jesus’ Greek is a quotation of Deuteronomy 6:5, and that Hebrew passage is so central to Jews that it’s part of what is inscribed on the parchment inside the mezuzah traditionally affixed to doorways.
But I don’t think “heart” (or “soul”) is what the original meant in either the Old Testament or the New Testament.
As a matter of anatomy, the Hebrew levav (“heart” in Deuteronomy) and the Greek kardia (“heart” in Mattherw, Mark and Luke) is what we would now call the heart in English. But as a matter of metaphor it is something very different.
“Heart” in English
In English, the word “heart” generally indicates emotion. And it’s the opposite of “brain” or “mind,” which represent rationality. For example, someone who is “thinking with his heart” is being emotional and not rational. “To follow your heart” is to do what you love, even if you don’t think it’s a good idea. “A sound mind in a sound body” refers to someone who can think clearly, not necessarily someone whose emotions are well organized. “Let the mind rule the heart” means to let rationality prevail over emotion. The expression “heart-broken” refers to emotions, while “his mind is gone” refers to rational thought.
It’s not that we think that emotion is literally in the heart or that thoughts are literally in the mind (though, in fact, as a matter of science, both are probably mostly in the brain). Rather, we use “heart” metaphorically to represent emotion and “mind” (or “brain”) metaphorically to represent thought.
In fact, this way of using “heart” and “mind” is part of a broader, more fundamental view of people: they have emotions (hope, fear, love, expectation, sorrow, etc.) and they have thoughts. And the two are distinct.
But this ontology is not the only way of divvying up what it means to be human.
“Heart” in the Bible
In the Bible, emotions and thoughts were considered to be closer in nature than they are now. For instance, in modern English “I love him” and “I fear him” are both statements about emotions, even though the emotions differ. Similarly, in the Bible, “I love him” and “I think he’s a capable ruler” were both the same kind of thing.
And the levav (Hebrew for “heart”) and kardia (Greek for “heart”) were used to represent both — that is, what we would now call emotions and also what we would now call thoughts.
We see levav used to represent cognition, for example, in Isaiah 6:10, which contains three pairs. “To see” goes with “eyes.” “To hear” goes with “ears.” And “to understand” goes with levav. (Matthew 13:15, quoting Isaiah, similarly pairs “understand” with kardia.) Deuteronomy 29:4 contains the same three pairs, though it has the alternative form lev instead of levav. In the same way, Isaiah 10:7 pairs “thinking” with levav. And in Ezekiel 38:10, when something enters your levav you think a certain way.
The levav, then, is the seat of thoughts and cognition. In this sense, levav is the opposite of the English “heart.” (Using the opposite of the word you want to translate is usually a bad idea.)
The Hebrew levav is also used for emotion, though. In Leviticus 19:17, the levav is where you should not “hate.” In Psalm 27:3, the levav is connected to “fear.” And so forth.
We see a particularly clear picture: while the English “heart” is used for “emotions and not thoughts,” the Hebrew levav is used for “emotions and thoughts.”
Greek works like Hebrew in this regard. We’ve already seen Matthew 13:15, but that’s a quote of Isaiah, so it’s not necessarily reliable. But there are plenty of other examples. In Matthew 9:4, when Jesus knows the scribes’ “thoughts,” he knows what is in their kardia. In Matthew 15:19, thoughts come from the kardia. Mark 8:17 connects a “hard kardia” with inability to understand.
And the kardia is also where people are happy (as in Acts 2:26), afraid (John 14:27), and so on.
So, as with Hebrew, Greek combines thoughts and emotions in the kardia. And again this is unlike English, which separates them, using “heart” not just to include emotions but, importantly, specifically to exclude thoughts.
“Love with All Your Heart”
So while it’s tempting to translate levav and kardia as “heart” — particularly because “love” and “heart” go together in a way that “love” and “mind” do not — it’s also a severe mistake, because “heart” excludes thoughts, and what we need is a word that specifically includes them, along with emotions.
In isolation, finding such a word in English is no easy task, as the issue is not just linguistic, but also ontological. Modern English speakers think there are (at least) two kinds of internal human events: thoughts and emotions. Ancient Greek and Hebrew speakers thought there was one. And the point of levav and kardia is to include them both.
Fortunately, the translation task gets easier when we take into account “soul” (which is also a major mistranslation), as I hope to address soon. [Update: the explanation of “soul” is here: “How to Love the Lord Your God — Part 2, Soul.”]
November 28, 2011 Posted by Joel H. | translation practice | Bible, Bible translation, Biblical ontology, Deuteronomy 6:5, heart, kardia, levav, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30, Matthew 22:37, metaphor, ontology, semantics, soul, translation | 44 Comments
“The Lord is my shepherd.” This line from Psalm 23 is among the most famous images from the Bible. But as I describe in And God Said, for most people the English words hide the ancient imagery.
To get started, here’s a question: which actor would you cast as a typical shepherd?
When I think of a shepherd, I think of a scrawny man dressed in rags who spends more time with sheep than with people. In term of imagery, I might say, “as lonely as a shepherd,” or “as meager as a shepherd,” or “as ill-dressed as a shepherd.” (If you’re reading this and you are a shepherd, please forgive me!) So in terms of an actor, I think I’d pick Woody Allen. (And Mr. Allen, if you’re reading this, please forgive me; I still love your movies.)
But we see a completely different set of images in the Bible. Shepherds were fierce, regal, and romantic. Back then, one might have said, “as brave as a shepherd,” “as strong as a shepherd,” or “or sexy as a shepherd.”
So even though the Hebrew in Psalm 23 is ro’eh, and even though ro’eh literally means “shepherd,” I don’t think “The Lord is my shepherd” is a very good translation.
For example, Exodus 2:16-20 describes the Midian priest’s seven daughters who are drawing water for their father’s flock when a group of shepherds comes to menace them. Moses proves his amazing capabilities by defending the women against the shepherds. The daughters even say, “[Moses] saved us from the shepherds.” Nowadays, that’s a laughable image. But in the Bible, shepherds were fierce, and Moses demonstrated great worthiness by standing up to them. (In another clash with modern sensibilities, the high priest thanks Moses by giving him a daughter to marry.)
It’s often pointed out that actually knowing more than one language is helpful for intuiting how translation works. But I think many of the same intuitions can come from thinking about just one language. Here are two examples from English:
1. Jim West recently wrote that “Bob Cargill has penned” something. What role does “pen” play in that phrase? In a language that can’t make nouns into verbs the way English does, should the translation be the equivalent of “wrote with a pen” or just “wrote”? What about “dialed [a phone]”? What about “top of the hour” for a society that has no physical clocks (or just digital ones!)?
Jim qualified his opening line: “Bob Cargill has penned (I know, its an anachronism since he typed and didnt pen at all)….” In that broader context, is “pen” a crucial element of the phrase that needs to be translated?
2. “Sofa” and “couch” mean almost exactly the same thing. But a “couch potato” isn’t a “sofa potato.” (For non-English speakers: A “couch potato” is someone who’s lazy, especially someone who lazes on a couch or sofa, and especially someone who does so to watch television.) What goes wrong if “sofa” and “couch” get mixed up? How can we know when the two words are interchangeable and when they’re not?
George Lakoff (in More than Cool Reason) points out that metaphors are conceptual, not merely linguistic. Then he has an example of how metaphors might differ, and what the consequences would be.
I think it’s helpful to keep these issues firmly in mind as we translate across cultures.
Here’s what Lakoff has to say:
1. One metaphor for us is “argument is war”:
It is important to see that we don’t just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent. We attack his positions and we defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies[….] Many of the things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war[….] It is in this sense that the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor is one that we live by in this culture; it structures the actions we perform in arguing. (p. 4)
2. Cultures could (and do) differ:
Try to imagine a culture where arguments are not viewed in terms of war, where no one wins or loses, where there is no sense of attacking or defending[….] Imagine a culture where an argument is viewed as a dance, the participants are seen as performers, and the goal is to perform in a balanced and aesthetically pleasing way. In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently […] and talk about them differently. But we would probably not view them as arguing at all. (pp. 4-5)
The Hebrew text reads: v’gam ani natati lachem nikyon shinayim b’chol areichem v’choser lechem b’chol m’komoteichem v’lo shavtm aday n’um adonai. That is, ” ‘I [Adonai] have given [or will give] you a purity/cleanness of teeth in all your cities and a lack of bread in all your places, and you didn’t return to me,’ says Adonai.”
At first, it looks like classic Hebrew parallelism (“saying the same thing twice”), where “cleanness of teeth” is like “lack of bread,” and “cities” is like “places.”
Noting (correctly) that “cleanness of teeth” doesn’t mean “hunger” in English, some translators explain the phrase in translation, rendering it as “hunger” (NLT) or “empty stomachs” (NIV).
But our translation question is whether “cleanness of teeth” is an idiom or a metaphor. If it’s an idiom, then, yes, it should be rendered as idiomatic English.
But I think the line is meant to be ironic, and that it’s built on the biblical metaphor by which white is purity.
We see the metaphor in Isaiah 1:18 (where “scarlet sins” shall become “white like snow”) and Psalm 51:9 (where “I will be white like snow” is part of purification).
The rare word nikayon (which becomes nikyon before another noun) generally refers to purity or innocence, as in Genesis 20:5 (where Abimelech explains to God that he acted justly, with nikayon of hands), or Hosea 8:5 (where the lack of nikayon among the Israelites enrages God).
Amos 4:4 starts an ironic tirade: “Come to Bethel,” Amos taunts, “and sin.” “Offer your sacrifices … burn a Thank Offering of leaven” even though according to Leviticus 7:12-14, the Thank Offering isn’t supposed to be burned. Amos continues, “for this is what you love to do.”
Then in Amos 4:6, we read, “I will give you purity…” Sounds good. But wait.
“… of teeth” and “lack of bread.” It’s not good.
In fact, it’s more irony. This time, the cleanness (nikayon) and whiteness (of teeth) is ironically symbolic of hunger.
As it happens, white stands for purity in English, too, so it seems to me that we ought to be able to capture the irony in translation, but I’m not quite sure how.
The first thing we have to fix is “I will give you … teeth,” which in English sounds like a bunch of detached teeth will be coming our way. The Hebrew “give” also means “let” or “make,” so “make your teeth clean” is one way to go (followed, perhaps, by “make food lacking”). But it still doesn’t seem right.
God Didn’t Say That (@GodDidntSayThat) is an online forum for discussing the Bible and its translations, mistranslations, interpretations, and misinterpretations.
Dr. Joel M. Hoffman (@JoelMHoffman) is the chief translator for the ten-volume series My People’s Prayer Book, author of And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible’s Original Meaning, and editor of The Unabridged Bible. Writing under “J.M. Hoffman,” he is author of the thriller series The Warwick Files. He holds a PhD in theoretical linguistics and has taught at Brandeis University and HUC-JIR in New York City. He presents widely to churches, synagogues, and other groups. more…
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- The Bible's Cutting Room Floor: The Holy Scriptures Missing From Your Bible (St. Martin's Press, 2014)
- And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning (St. Martin's Press, 2010)
- In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language (NYU Press, 2004)
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