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A History of German Jewish Bible Translation$
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Abigail Gillman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226477695

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226477862.001.0001

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Ma shemo? The Name of God in the German Jewish Bible

Ma shemo? The Name of God in the German Jewish Bible

(p.251) Epilogue Ma shemo? The Name of God in the German Jewish Bible
A History of German Jewish Bible Translation

Abigail Gillman

University of Chicago Press

Rendering the Tetragrammaton poses the “ultimate challenge” for the Bible translator--and German Jewish translators eagerly took up the gauntlet. Mendelssohn made the radical decision to call the Lord “Der Ewige,” “the Eternal Being,” and defended his choice on traditionalist as well as philosophical grounds. Mendelssohn also set a precedent by introducing Der Ewige only in Exodus 3, rendering “Eheye asher Eheye” as “I am the being that is Eternal.” Mendelssohn’s innovation proved so popular that subsequent translators were compelled either to adopt it or to come up with an equally daring alternative. Hirsch decried “The Eternal” as both abstract and alien. Mendelssohn’s most famous opponents, Rosenzweig and Buber, used capitalized pronouns in lieu of a single divine Name; they too brought existentialist and Jewish reasoning to bear on that decision. Linking the translation of the Name to the theophany in Exodus 3 is symbolic of the many ways that German Jewish translators positioned themselves as direct heirs of Moses—the first secretary, transmitter, and translator of the Torah. The story of Der Ewige, pro and contra, recapitulates the history of German Jewish Bible translation in the modern era.

Keywords:   Der Ewige, Tetragrammaton, Lord, The Eternal, Eheye asher Eheye, Moses Mendelssohn, Franz Rosenzweig, Adonai, John Calvin

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