The rabbis of the second and third centuries CE, known as the Tannaim (“repeaters”), were arguably the most impactful intellectual group in the history of the Jews. Their orally-codified works form the basis for all subsequent Jewish movements and works, including the Talmud, its commentaries, and the subsequent Jewish normative discourse; works of mysticism and magic which invoked named rabbis, from late antiquity to early modernity; and the Karaite movement, which defined itself in opposition to the rabbinic movement and its literature. 

The Tannaim created a normative corpus known as Mishnah, consisting of “oral law” with no consistent connection to the scriptures, and a companion work, almost a commentary, known as Tosefta (“addition”). Alongside it, Tannaim created a corpus of commentaries on the last four books of the Pentateuch, known as “Tannaitic Midrash.”

Thus, the new translation of Tannaitic Midrash, proposed here, will offer, for the first time:  

  1. A comprehensive translation of the entire extant corpus of Tannaitic Midrash, including the works preserved only in fragmentary form, which have not yet been translated into any language.
  2. A translation based on the best textual evidence available, and on the interpretive and hermeneutic principles discovered by scholars of Midrash working in the last four decades.
  3. A short commentary that would make connections to cognate literature, clarify complex hermeneutical moves, and provide context. This would be the first scholarly commentary on the entire corpus of Tannaitic Midrash.

Finally, the new translation of Tannaitic midrash would present 

  1. A “learnable translation” instead of  a “readable translation,” which would recreate, in English, the experience of engaging with the original text of Tannaitic Midrash. All recurring patterns and terms will be translated in the same way. All incongruities in the text will be preserved. The terse dialogic form would be maintained. It would endeavor to reflect in translation or at least to explain in the commentary the mechanics of the reading method that underlies every rabbinic reading of a scriptural word.

A new translation of Tannaitic Midrash offers scholars access to a seminal text for the study of Judaism and Christianity, and for the study of literary and normative interpretation in classical antiquity. It does so by building on cutting edge scholarship and by utilizing a new approach to translating rabbinic texts. 

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