Talmud (from Hebrew, lmd, learn, study, teach) is the body of teaching, commentary, and discussion of the Jewish amoraim on the Mishnah. There are two Talmuds: the Jerusalem (or Palestinian) Talmud which was originated in Erez Israel around 300 AD, and the Babylonian Talmud which was completed about 600 AD.

Both works are commentaries on some or all of the Mishnaic orders of Zera’emMo’edNashim, and Nezikim. The Babylonian Talmud also includes commentaries on Kodashim and Tohorot. The commentaries on the Mishnah are known as gemara. The language of the Jerusalem Talmud is Western Aramaic, and, in general, the discussion is concise.

The supremacy of the Babylonian Talmud was finally established by the eleventh century: as Isaac Alfasi put it, «we rely on our Talmud since it is later in time, and they were more versed in Talmud than we are.» Rav. Ashi and Tavina, traditionally, brought the process of editing of the Babylonian Talmud to an end, but there is evidence that the Savoriam continued this work until the end of the sixth century. The work consists mainly of oral discussions as they were held in the academies, and often the discussions are discursive.

The entire Talmud contains around two and half million words, one-third halakhah and two-thirds aggadah. Its varied discussions on particular problems and situations render it great historical value since the range of topics include folklore, manners, customs, popular proverbs, prayers, ceremonial, and medical remedies.

Once becoming authoritative, commentaries on it were produced; the most popular and influential was that of Rashi, completed in the 12th and 13th centuries, by the toalists. As it was completed in manuscript, numerous readings of the text came about. Individual treaties were printed by the end of the 15th century; the first complete edition was printed in Venice in 1520-1523 by the Christian Daniel Bomberg.

It is printed with the gemara following each Mishnah; Rashi’s commentary is printed on the inside margin and that of the tosafot on the outside. The study of the Talmud remains a religious duty, and the text was deemed subversive and dangerous by the Christian Church, which frequently ordered it burned from the 13th to 16th centuries, and included it on the first index Expurgatorius in 1559. A.G.H.


Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 945