Regarded by scholars as the primary document of rabbinic Judaism, The Babylonian Talmud is now available in an affordable 22-volume English edition.
The Hebrew Scriptures contain many hundreds of laws both religious and civil. They concern the Temple (in Exodus), the priesthood (in Leviticus), the Temple offerings and other rites (in Numbers), and the social order of Israel (in Deuteronomy). These may rightly be called the written law (Torah).
The oral law (or Mishnah) is the extension of these precepts to cover all of life and its contingencies and was written down by rabbinic sages about 200 C.E. With the Talmud, Jewish sages systematized the laws in Scripture together with those of the oral tradition. While the Mishnah records rules governing the conduct of the holy life of Israel, the Talmud concerns itself with the details of the Mishnah. Israel's oral law found its definitive expression in the Talmud.
The Talmud of Babylonia (a.k.a., the Bavli, or Babylonian Talmud), is a sustained commentary on the written and oral law of Israel. Compiled between 500-600 C.E., it offers a magnificent record of how Jewish scholars preserved a humane and enduring civilization. Representing the primary document of rabbinic Judaism, it throws considerable light on the New Testament as well.
This monumental American translation was completed a decade ago - but was extraordinarily expensive and difficult to find - and features translations by Jacob Neusner, Tzvee Zahavy, Alan Avery-Peck, B. Barry Levy, Peter Haas, and Martin S. Jaffee, with commentary and new introductions by Jacob Neusner. All 37 tractates are presented in an easy-to-follow analytical format; Mishnah passages are set in bold type; and passages from Aramaic appear in italics.
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