J.R.R. Tolkien’s Translation of Jonah

March 13 2020

Best known for his knowledge of elvish, the celebrated fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien was by profession a philologist with a mastery of numerous ancient languages—including biblical Hebrew. And he was also a devout Catholic. Thus it was only natural that when Father Alexander Jones began work on creating a fresh translation of Scripture from the original languages for English-speaking Catholics, he turned to the author of The Lord of the Rings. (The resulting edition, published in 1966 and known as the Jerusalem Bible, is still widely used today.) Philip Kosloski writes:

Father Jones asked Tolkien in 1957 to contribute to the Jerusalem Bible and he accepted. After seeing some of his initial work, Jones wrote to Tolkien, “In truth I should be content to send you all that remains of the Bible, with great confidence.”

Tolkien’s primary contribution, however, was [a translation of] the book of Jonah, though Jones hoped Tolkien could help with Joshua as well. Additionally, Tolkien translated a single verse from the book of Isaiah. However, Tolkien was engrossed in his other work and unable . . . to contribute anything else. He submitted his final draft of Jonah in 1961.

Tolkien didn’t know his name would appear in the printed edition, as he didn’t think his contribution was much of anything. He wrote in a letter dated 1967, “Naming me among the ‘principal collaborators’ was an undeserved courtesy on the part of the editor of the Jerusalem Bible. I was consulted on one or two points of style, and criticized some contributions of others. I was originally assigned a large amount of text to translate, but after doing some necessary preliminary work I was obliged to resign owing to pressure of other work, and only completed Jonah, one of the shortest books.”

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More about: Hebrew Bible, J. R. R. Tolkien, Jonah, Translation

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy