All translations interpret. All readings of the Hebrew by Hebrew speakers interpret. Like it or not, we are locked into what we have been indoctrinated with, whether we wake or sleep!
So I came across the literature professor's translation the other day of a bit of Proverbs. (See this post for the detail I am commenting on.) this is a chapter that I have always loved for earlier inarticulate reasons, but now maybe I can offer a few. Torah is from before the foundation of the world, - earth, universe, whatever. Who knows what the ancients meant by tbl - but it seems from verses 26 and 31 that it is similar to our usage or world. Alter and I agree on this gloss.
Lots of things we don't agree on. The two readings have several departures from each other. (Mind you, neither of us was reading the other, so they can scarcely be said to depart from the other. Mostly I was departing from the non-concordant translations from the King James to the Jerusalem translation of the '60s. I hate people making axe-grinding decisions for me.)
Verse 1: I phrase this as a question. It's a typical beginning of a question, Does not x?: hloa-kcmh tqra // utbunh titn qolh. I don't see any reason to depart from the question format.
Verse 2: Alter's glosses, top of the heights and crossroads are nice turns of phrase. They would even meet my concordance rules. I don't use the sound made by road much - only twice, and in each case I could have used path. In one of the cases, I didn't want to use path and pathway so close to each other since they are not related sounds. That may be where road first appeared in my work. Then as I worked further, it may have glossed itself automatically via my prediction algorithm. See my concordance glossary page and search for path. (I don't imagine there is one for Alter's work but I know from interviews that he uses such tools.)
Verse 3: Alter is more accurate than I am in following the Hebrew word sequence - my error. I should change this, and who knows I might some day. Fits better with the music too. I am surprised I did not notice. [- Done - changed - stamped in the database - will find its way into all the books eventually. Must correct unnecessary idiosyncrasies.]
Verse 4: Alter uses 'men' - I try to reserve this word for roots that imply males only. I never use the word humankind. Instead I use children of humanity, in this case an accurate rendering, al-bni adm. For alicm aiwim aqra, the English rhythm 'each and every one of you' fits the shape and intent of the music with its recitation on the dominant.
Verse 22-23: I have more serious reservations here. If he uses Holy One in capitals, what does be use for וְלִקְד֥וֹשׁ and similar phrases in Isaiah. See these instances in the concordance. He misses the purchase metaphor in this verse. From whom did Hashem purchase Wisdom? It was not created. I know he uses the gloss create in Genesis 1:1 and this is not the same word.
And he puts a line return in verse 23. There are no pausal accents in this verse. The music is a simple descent from the third to the tonic. g f# revia, e. There are only two verses in Scripture that have this form of accentuation (the other is Psalms 76:5 Light-giving you are more excellent than mountains of prey). I imagine that someone versed in literature may not be able to make such a connection in the music. In fact few people can study the accents this way or hear them because the musical traditions are very confusing without the deciphering key I have noted in my books and on this blog almost everywhere you look.
Also he misses the allusion to sacrifice, the libation that was poured out before the foundation of the world. (Like Torah). It's a unique use of the root in Proverbs. The word, … a quantum fluctuation that was in the beginning when time could not be defined. The gloss shape I associate with building (bnh) rather than sacrifice. No - it's not a potter and pot image in this case.
Verses 24-25: spawned? Sounds like a salmon farm. I have a concordance conflict with birth. My use of it here is perhaps not perfect. The agony of the dance and writhing and turmoil before the created order is perhaps a real libation. We are to be born through that same agony. But you can't say everything at once.
As I discovered in preparing words for my children, it takes a hundred pages to find the language to encapsulate an idea. For us, it has taken billions of years and 300,000+ words to encapsulate the instruction and the grief of God.
Having diverged from each other in these verses, we have a few more inconcinnities as things progress in the chapter. My punctuation and capitalization is debatable, but it is what I intended - incomplete thoughts piling on each other. I could ask about his glosses for delight and whether there is an unavoidable overlap between roots here, but perhaps it is immaterial.
This is not immaterial: I don't use strengthen (yzz) for engrave (kqq) the word occurs twice here in verses 27 and 29. He uses two different unrelated glosses: traced and strengthened. The poem contains two identical words that are part of the recursive structure in the poem. They should be identically glossed. Especially when they are so close to each other. This is the Torah given by the lawgiver (hqq) before the foundation of the world.
Yes - waters do flout, I guess.
Alter has great knowledge and experience, but some things there need to be corrected. If I had his translation in my database, the errors could be made evident with an algorithm. Still - he has hype and a team behind him - and they can't or haven't read very critically.