Tikkun Magazine

The Wisdom Books

A translation with commentary by Robert Alter
W.W. Norton & Company, 2010

Contemporary doubts about God pale in comparison with the Bible’s own inclusion of the books of Job and Ecclesiastes. Any conception of God intervening in our lives to make things all right is virtually destroyed, leaving us with conceptions of God that do not fit into any pious orthodoxy. These conceptions provide the groundwork for a different kind of theology than that held by the rabbis who made the decision to include them. Robert Alter is a well-respected scholar, and his translation reflects the wide expanse of his knowledge; his commentaries, however, are a bit of a distraction, focused far more on the literary and translation issues than on the underlying wisdom and spiritual challenges of these texts. If Norton is thinking of publishing more books of the Bible, it would be well advised to seek Alter-like translations, but to find spiritual rather than literary experts to take on the task of commentary.