ASK Commentary
July 16, 2006 

English Translation of the Talmud

Commentary for July 16, 2006 — Where Is It Available? 

QUESTION: Where can I get a copy of the Talmud in English? I was told it has never been translated into English. Thanks. 
 
ANSWER: While several English translations of the Talmud are available in print, they are multi-volume editions costing several hundred dollars and not very available or practical to use. However, they would be available at most any seminary library, Jewish school or synagogue library, mega-church library, or most university libraries. I await a useful computer edition of the Talmud. A searchable internet edition would also be excellent. 
 
As I wrote in the ASK Commentary for July 7, 2004 in an article titled “Signs at Christ’s Crucifixion” which described the two Talmuds:

“The Talmuds are collections of ancient rabbinic laws, commentaries and traditions that expand upon the Torah (which can variously mean the first 5 books of Moses, or the entire Jewish Law). Among the Jewish people, two main schools of commentators came into existence and the result was two Talmuds: one Talmud originated in Palestine and was called the Jerusalem Talmud, while the other, produced in Babylon, was the Babylonian Talmud.  
 
The Talmuds comment on every aspect of Jewish life and even secular events are given a religious aspect. Each Talmud is comprised of two works, the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Mishnah is a compilation of straightforward, factual information about the Temple, its operation, and Jewish life during the period of Herod’s Temple. It generally reflects the beliefs of the Pharisees as interpreted by later Jewish interpreters. The Gemara is an extended theological commentary on the Mishnah (which is itself a factual commentary on the Torah).”
The most affordable (for most people) computer edition in English is Jacob Neusner’s translation of the Talmud, but even this edition is relatively expensive in computer form. It is my understanding that the translation is not considered to be the best by textual scholars. 
 
Personally I would like to see the Soncino edition of the Talmud available on computer in English. Last November I attended the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) meeting in Philadelphia (as part of the national Society for Biblical Literature gathering). At that time I asked principals of JPS why a good searchable English edition of the Talmud was not available, particularly the Soncino edition. I was told that there are still unresolved copyright issues with the original Soncino translators and publishers. Jacob Neusner has obviously worked out such issues for his translation and it is available from more than one software publisher. I hope others will follow his lead. 
 
The Talmud is available in English only partially on the internet from two website links. Use them with the proviso that they are not complete and each translation has a unique bias. The partial English translations of the Talmud are:
(1) Rabbi Dr. Isidore Epstein, http://www.come-and-hear.com/tcontents.html and  
(2) Michael L. Rodkinson, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/talmud.htm#t05.
More useful, in my opinion, would be a good searchable English computer translation of the Mishnah and Targums. The Talmud contains a great deal of problematic theological opinion that must be gone through to reach useful factual information. Remember, the Talmud was compiled by rabbis who deny that Jesus is the Messiah, just like many so-called “christian” scholars today. It is interesting but unfortunate that so many Messianic Christian organizations rely upon opinions of the Talmudic rabbis for factual information about the Old Testament when that information denies the messianic prophecies that apply to Jesus the Messiah. 
 
See Dr. Martin’s articles on the ASK website: “The Intertestamental Period,” “The Strange Ending of the Sotah,” and “The Solidification of Rabbinic Judaism,” all of which discuss the Talmud and its role in current Judaism. Thank you for your question.

David Sielaff
david@askelm.com

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