Introduction |  Translations | AcknowledgementsFair Use |  Early Traditions |  Web resources  |  Help

Introduction to Rabbinic Literature

Rabbinic literature consists of collections of traditions by and about rabbis living duing and after the 1st century when they were known as 'Pharisees'. This literature is useful for understanding both Jewish and Christian origins. Dating the various traditions is very important, but also very difficult. The names of the various rabbis is a good starting point for dating, but it is unsafe to simply rely on them - see more details about the Generations from  

Traditions about legal matters were called Halakhic and traditions more closely related to sermons than law cases were called Agadic.
Mishnah is the earliest Halakhic collection. It was originally oral, but it was written down at about 200 CE.
Tosephta is a supplement to Mishnah and, in some ways, a later rival collection, finished about 400 CE.
The Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds are commentaries on Mishnah by rabbis living 200-500 CE.
All four follow the same structure based on subjects, with 6 Orders divided into about 10 tractates each, and then into chapters, verses and Talmud, page references.

This site brings together texts and translations from many sources by scholars to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude. In particular:
*, who have carefully edited and presented the rabbinic traditions in Hebrew
*  Soncino who commissioned and published traditional rabbinic texts and translations for many years
*  Jacob Neusner who has tirelessly translated and edited English versions of almost all early rabbinic literature

The unique contribution of this site the presentation of related texts in parallel to each other, with various helps.
*  The Hebrew and English are always presented together, whenever possible
*  Parallel passages in the different collections are lined up so they can be studied together
*  Searching in English and Hebrew enables the discovery of further parallels and other links
*  Links to BIble references allows the two sets of literature to be studied together.
*  Hover-helps provide hints for dating rabbis and understanding technical terms (in italics).
(see Help for more details) 

At present this site contains only early Halakhic traditions, but I am planning to add early Agadic traditions. The membership scheme will pay for the time needed to do this. The texts themselves are all presented freely, but within a very strict Fair Use policy.  The hover-helps for dating and definitions are not part of the translations, and should be used with care, because they have been added automatically and may not have been checked. Every care has been taken to present the texts accurately, but errors are inevitable, especially in some texts which have been scanned. Therefore when citing a text for academic purposes DO NOT RELY ON THE TEXT FOUND ON THIS SITE - ALWAYS CITE THE PUBLISHED WORK.

My hope is that this site will encourage further study of these important traditions and encourage purchases of the paper versions of the translations, many of which have been unduly neglected. The paper editions usually contain helps and footnotes which are very helpful, as well as providing the reader with a better overall 'feel' for the nature and quality of these works.

David Instone-Brewer 2008