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Unfolding Proverbs: Translation and Context

3 credits, 48 hours

Course Instructor and Meeting Time:

Instructor: Murray Salisbury. This intensive course will meet on Sundays and Wednesdays at 11:30 AM – 3 PM Eastern Time (6:30 -10:00 PM Jerusalem Time) starting Sun September 12, 2021 for 7 weeks and 12 sessions . Lectures will be recorded and made available within a few days for those who cannot make the live sessions. 

Course Prerequisite:

Students are required to have proficiency in reading Biblical Hebrew and in understanding spoken and written English. The course will be taught in English. 

Course Description:

This is a practical course with emphasis on skill development, especially the skill of unfolding the various layers of meaning embedded in the artistry of biblical poems and proverbs. It aims to give students an increasing appreciation of how Hebrew meshalim work- and, to some extent, how Hebrew poetry works also. 

The goal is to equip participants with tools of exegesis, or poetry analysis, and of proverb analysis to help them make informed decisions about the meaning of the more difficult proverbs and wisdom poems in the Book of Proverbs. That is, we aim to give the knowledge and skills needed to choose the most likely intrepretation from among the multiple alternatives found in translations and commentaries. To achieve this end goal, we will start with easier texts to practive the skills for using these tools appropriately.

Much of what the participants will learn can be taken away and applied to many other poetic books and sections in the Scriptures. However, they will also learn about the specific nature of proverbs. What is a proverb? What is a mashal? In what ways are they different from each other? How do proverbs and meshalim generate their persuasive power to change outward behaviour as well as attitudes and values of the heart? 

Participants will study the Hebrew text of selected proverbs and longer wisdom poems in conjunction with discussions about their poetic features and the likely functions of these features. Where appropriate, they will learn how to find background information about the cultural, geographical, and historical contexts. Students will learn to explore the biblical world of the authors and their original audiences in order to read Herbrew poems from within their own various kinds of context.

Another focus will be the book’s many translation challenges, especially that of producing translations that sound like proverbs in the target language. A good quality translation of this book involves not only clear and accurate content, but also a style that is concise, crafted, and compelling.


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