Holy Baba Batra!

[UPDATE: See the comments below for welcome attribution information from Professor Neusner, and information on forthcoming electronic editions of his translations of the Rabbinic canon. The attribution information is lacking in the electronic edition of the Talmud Bavli translation.]

I just yesterday received a copy of Jacob Neusner’s The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary on CD (Thanks, Eisenbrauns!). Hendrickson Publishers used Ages Software to create the program, which is essentially just pdf files of all the chapters (of Neusner’s devising) of the tractates. Neusner’s work in outlining the entire Babylonian Talmud is a truly breathtaking labor of great erudition. The precision of language and the patterns observable in the original are conveyed very well indeed in this translation, which fortunately doesn’t skimp on the explanatory parentheses necessary to make the extremely telegraphic nature of the Talmud’s language intelligible to those not very familiar with it. A general introduction to the Babylonian Talmud is included, as well as an introduction for and a treatise on the structure of each tractate. Very interesting.

There are, however two drawbacks. The first is the lack of facility in searching by the traditional folio numbers. Neusner’s outline organization of the tractates breaks them down into chapters, which the files are also broken into, but this means each tractate then has a number of files, and one needs to open several before finding the proper one with the correct folio numbers in it. The “Talmud Librarian” page doesn’t list the folios at all, and you’ll only find the folios included in the chapter headings. Oh, hold on a minute . . . . After a bit of work, I’ve come up with a basic html file that includes links to all the files, with the titles, transliterations, and descriptions given by Neusner in the general introduction, and including the folio numbers next to each link, a vast improvement I think. To get it to work, you’ll of course need to have purchased this Neusner Talmud CD, and having installed that, you’ll simply save this page (or this color-coded one) to the same directory in which all the files are installed. The pages will open in your web browser when you click the links, if you’ve got Adobe Acrobat (or its Reader) installed. (Note that it must be saved in the same directory that the files reside in for the file to work as is. If you’re comfortable with html editing, you can change that if you like.)

[UPDATE: The following paragraph/drawback is incorrect. Neusner’s is a complete translation of the Babylonian Talmud, which itself only comments on 37 of the Mishnah’s tractates. The presumption of forgetfulness is a wretched thing!]

The second drawback, which you’ll notice upon looking at that file, is that only 37 of the Babylonian Talmud’s 63 tractates are actually included in Neusner’s translation. This was quite a disappointment. Perhaps he’ll complete it in the future. If that’s the case, I’ll make a note of it here. It’s a fine translation, and the outline format is extraordinarily useful, helping to clarify the text, so I certainly hope Newusner’s Babylonian Talmud translation will be completed in the same format, and likewise made available on CD to complete this collection seamlessly. In the meantime, the (older, and thus somewhat inferior) Soncino translation of the complete Babylonian Talmud is available online, also in pdf format.

[UPDATE: Note that I have removed the link, as the pdfs of the Soncino Talmud to which I linked are clearly both a poor presentation of the Soncino Talmud, and in copyright infringement.]