Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 2 October 2012; Revised 21 March 2018
The Talmud ("teaching, learning, lesson, or study,") is an early Jewish work containing both Mishnah and Gemara. The Mishnah contains legal rulings and sayings of the Jewish Sages, known as Tannaim (pl. of Tanna, teacher). The Mishnaic period lasted 10–220 A.D. The Mishnah generally reflects laws and traditions followed in the first century, although to what degree cannot be determined with certainty. The written Mishnah is believed to be the work of Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi between 180 and A.D. 220. The names of the Mishnaic Sages may be found here. The Mishnah was written primarily in Mishnaic Hebrew but with some Aramaic. The Gemara contains legal analysis, debate and commentary on the Mishnah by Jewish scholars, known a Amoraim (pl. of Amora, "interpreter"). The Gemara period occurred 220–500 A.D. For more background information see the article The Beginnings of the Talmud at JewishHistory.org.
An important companion work to the Talmud is the Tosefta, a 2nd-3rd century collection of rabbinic material similar to the Mishnah, which acts as a supplement to the Mishnah (Tosefta means "supplement, addition"). The Tosefta closely corresponds to the Mishnah, with the same organization. It is mainly written in Mishnaic Hebrew, with some Aramaic. At times the text of the Tosefta agrees nearly verbatim with the Mishnah. At others there are significant differences. The Tosefta often attributes laws that are anonymous in the Mishnah to named authorities called Tannaim. It also augments the Mishnah with additional glosses and discussions. It offers additional aggadic and midrashic material, and it sometimes contradicts the Mishnah in the ruling of Jewish law, or in attributing in whose name a law was stated. See "Tosefta" in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
The Talmud is organized into 63 Tractates ("book") and further divided into six Sedarim ("order, division"). A Tractate is organized by chapters and folios. The Mishnah is always quoted according to Tractate, Chapter and Paragraph (labeled Mishnah), similar to Bible references. Thus, Ber. 2:4 means the Tractate Berakoth, second Chapter, fourth Paragraph marked "Mishnah." Gemara discussions follow Mishnah paragraphs and are quoted by folio number and part "a" or "b," such as Ber. 10a.
There is only one Talmud, but two separate versions were developed, one in the East in Babylonia where Jews still lived in exile, and the other in the Land of Israel. For the complete history of the Talmud see the article by Wilhelm Bacher in the Jewish Encyclopedia. The Babylonian Talmud (Heb. Talmud Bavli) dated c. 500 AD is the most complete version of the Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud (English translation) with 63 Tractates may be found online at Halakah.com and at JewishVirtualLibrary.org, with the former being more complete and the latter including the Tosefta of the Sages.
The Jerusalem Talmud (Heb. Talmud Yerushalmi), also known as the Palestinian Talmud or Talmud of the Land of Israel, is a collection of Rabbinic notes on the second-century Jewish Mishnah. Naming this version of the Talmud after the Land of Israel is considered more accurate because it mainly originates from the Galilee, since no Jews lived in Jerusalem at this time. The Jerusalem Talmud predates the Babylonian Talmud by at least 100 years (c. 400 AD) and is written primarily in Mishnaic Hebrew with some Jewish Aramaic. The legal analysis of the Jerusalem Talmud in contrast to its Babylonian counterpart tends to be brief and succinct. The Jerusalem Talmud with 39 Tractates in Hebrew with some English translation may be found online at Sefaria.org.
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