For thousands of years, the Psalms have been a powerful part of first Jewish, and then Christian liturgy. In translation, they contain some of the most memorable lines ever written in English.
Robert Alter, a professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California Berkeley, has published a new translation of the Psalms, The Book of Psalms.
Among the most noteworthy absences from his version is the soul. Why Psalms with no soul and no salvation? Robert Alter tells Robert Siegel that those are concepts superimposed on the ancient poems in more recent times.
Alter's previous works include the biblical translations Genesis and The Five Books of Moses.
Excerpt: 'The Book of Psalms'
The 23rd Psalm (King James Version)
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.