English Editions of the Babylonian Talmud
The entire Babylonian Talmud is available online in the original Aramaic as well as an almost complete – if not perfect — translation (Soncino edition). However, for many of us the online Talmud is not enough. Certainly beginners and even most intermediate students will benefit from a teacher to guide them through this ancient text, with its own logic and presumptions. A printed volume with a detailed explanation, and some basic guide books are the second best thing. (Besides, some people still prefer reading a book that is actually printed on paper). There are considerable differences between the various English editions and a Talmud can take up quite a bit of shelf space, so here is the basic information.
Steinsalz Edition – Koren
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz made the daring move of translating the Talmud for Hebrew speakers and initially did not include a reprinting of the traditional Vilna layout (the Hebrew translation, started in 1965, was finallycompleted in 2010). The Hebrew edition was also innovative in that the text was translated in one font and explicated in another, together forming a single, relatively understandable text.
The English version of the Steinsalz Talmud – which had been taken on unsuccessfully by Random House — has been revitalized by Koren. The new edition inclues both the original Hebrew Vilna pagenation in the back of each volume and a completely new English translation laid out in parallel to the original Aramaic-Hebrew. Both the translation and the explication are rigorous, and the commentary in the margins includes excellent historical, halachic and even scientific information. While the English is fluent and understandable, it does not take the reader far from the original text.
Excellent for both beginners and advanced students.
If you’re interested in studying these specific tractates in English, this is the probably the edition for you. Of course, if you want to get the whole set and don’t want to wait several years for the complete edition, you may want to check out one of the other editions.
This is the only edition of the entire Babylonian Talmud that has the original Aramaic in the traditional Vilna layout, with both Rashi and Tosafot commentaries, as well as a translation and an detailed commentary. The commentary is based on a broad range of traditional sources, and as such even includes variant readings. It is not academic / critical. It includes seventy large volumes and is priced accordingly. This edition has almost everything the English speaking scholar would want. It belongs in the libraries of Synagogues, universities, rabbis, and aspiring Talmudic scholars.
This somewhat older edition (1935-1952) also includes the traditional Aramaic Vilna layout alongside an English translation. Tractates Kiddushin, Menachot and minor tractates were evidently never completed in this edition. The translation and commentary were done under the supervision of Rabbi Dr. Isidore Epstein and so the general gist of the translation and commentary – supplied in notes below the translation — is somewhat more critical than the Schottenstien edition. The edition includes 30 volumes in all and is quite useable. to purchase the thirty-volume Soncino Talmud from Amazon, click here.
Steinsaltz Edition – Random House
Far less extensive than Schottenstein, it does have some special features, such as historical comments and segments censored from the traditional edition. The translation closely follows the original text. The Random House Steinsaltz is currently out of print, but available on Amazon. It includes volumes that haven’t come out in the new Koren edition, such as Ta’anit, Ketubot, Baba Metzia and Sanhedrin, but with the publication of the Koren Steinsalz volumes, the Random House ones are likely to become obsolete.
Jacob Neusner, the well known scholar of Judaism, rendered the Talmud into English with the help of his students. If you are not interested in the Aramaic-Hebrew original this is probably your edition. It is very academically minded, and clearly and systematically delineates the Talmudic discourse. It does not include the Hebrew or any additional commentary except introductions etc. It can certainly serve scholars and lay people who are not using the original Aramaic, or are interested in an academic supplement. Certainly belongs in academic libraries and would serve well in any. To purchase the Neusner Talmud from Amazon, click here.
This is the first translation of the Talmud to English (before the turn of the 20th century) and the first to be online (Sacred texts). It is relatively short and inexpensive. However, this is where its claim to fame ends. It is neither complete nor very accurate. If you are interested in the Babylonian you can get better texts online and certainly off.