The Talmud of the Land of Israel: A Preliminary Translation and Explanation by Jacob Neusner

Saul Lieberman writes in 1984, shortly before his death:

I HAVE BEFORE MY EYES A Preliminary Translation and Explanation of three tractates of the Palestinian Talmud (hereafter TP), vid. Horayot, Niddah and Abodah Zarah (hereafter AZ). In his Forward to Horayot and Niddah,’ the translator claims that he used the editio princeps of TP,2 Codex Leiden, the Geniza fragments recently discovered, the parallels of TP,3 etc. Since all this material is now easily accessible these claims would seem credible.

However, it would seem that the translator did not know that a different text of TP Horayot is appended to the Babylonian Talmud of that tractate, a fact with which any rabbinic student is familiar.4 Hence one begins to doubt the credibility of the translator. And indeed after a superficial perusal of the translation, the reader is stunned by the translator’s ignorance of rabbinic Hebrew, of Aramaic grammar, and above all of the subject matter with which he deals, as we shall presently demonstrate…

The right place for our English translation is the waste basket. A preliminary translation is not a mockery translation, not a farce of an important ancient document. In fairness to the translator I must add that his various essays on Jewish topics are meritorious. They abound in brilliant insights and intelligent questions. In the beginning, when he was well aware of his ignorance of the original languages, he relied on responsible English translations of rabbinic texts (like those of Soncino Press). Later, however, he began to make his own translations of rabbinic sources. Whenever the translator deviates from the accepted English translations already available, his renderings are all, more or less, of the same character. Our present translation is the crown of them all.

About Luke Ford

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