What is the Talmud?
- The Talmuds are two of the most important documents for understanding Judaism, ancient and modern. The Talmuds are by far the two largest components of the dozen or so early Jewish documents that together form the ‘Oral Torah’ – that is the body of teachings passed down by word-of-mouth and eventually codified into writings that, alongside the Written Torah (the Hebrew Bible), are normative for Jewish faith and practice.
- The Talmuds are often used to explain Jewish practices mentioned in the New Testament. While the Talmuds were written down three to five centuries after the New Testament, the Talmuds cite individual rabbis for the teachings found within. These rabbis can be dated, making it possible to get a sense for the antiquity of the various teachings found in the Talmuds. (Neusner, the editor and main translator for this set, is less sanguine about the traditional approach to dating Talmudic material, and puts emphasis on the rabbinic literature being products of the time in which they were finally compiled. However, Neusner provides his own criteria for dividing the Talmud into different chronological strata.)
- Commentaries, Bible Dictionaries and other references works already in the Logos library cite the Talmuds extensively. I ran a search for the first tractate, Berakoth, across the entire Logos library and found over 13,000 hits ( using a regex search with Match Case turned on: /[bytp]?Ber(a[kc]h?oth?)?/ ). Some of those are related Mishnah references instead of Talmud references (they share the same tractate names) but Berakoth is just one of 49 tractates covered in the Talmuds, and this count doesn’t include books in production now which will greatly benefit from tagged references to the Talmuds, such as Lightfoot’s A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. Tagging these sorts of references makes the software more efficient at helping you dig as deep as you want to go.
- Even if one is fairly fluent in Aramaic and Hebrew, reading the Talmud requires special training due to the compact ‘encoding’ and formulae of the compositions. Neusner’s English translations provide parenthetical expansions of the text which ‘unpack’ the Talmuds, making them accessible to a much wider audience. Neusner also structures these texts using an outline format around ‘sense-units’ that visually convey the thought structure of the original texts that is often lost in other translations (you can see this approach in action in Neusner’s translation of the Mishnah as well).
- The PDF editions are searchable and I think quite nice for PDFs, but they do not contain the type of data type milestones or tagging that make Logos books easy to navigate. For example, the PDFs are organized around Neusner’s chapter numbers, but these works are almost universally cited by folio number and an A or B to indicate which side of the folio. The Logos edition will be navigable and linkable by either Neusner’s own structural outline numbers or the traditional folio numbers. References to the Mishnah and the Bible will also be tagged as well, making this edition even more useful than the PDFs, all for the same price.
I’m excited about the avenues of exploration that will open up by having these texts available in the Logos library.