Friday, December 30, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- wrapping it up

Some of you are saying, but Talmud was censored and so of course Jews don’t know this stuff about Jesus is in there. Class, if I bring it up, what is it? Yes, an urban legend!
In 1554 after a supposed examination of Talmud, the Pope ordered that the Talmud be censored to remove text which he thought spoke blasphemously about Jesus.
About 1600, in Amsterdam, an edition of Talmud was published which restored all the censored text. This is the ancestor of modern versions of Talmud and the text in it matches a manuscript produced in 1342, now in the Bavarian State Library in Germany. Images of the entire 1342 manuscript are available online for free and you can also download them as PDF; they are legible at the right zoom factor, once you get used to the handwriting.
I have compared the digitized copy of Talmud I own to the manuscript; there are bolded words in my digitized copy showing where the censorship was applied. The text of Talmud in those places is identical to the 1342 manuscript. My digitized copy was produced 2 decades ago.
If the Talmud had existed only in its censored state in the 1700s, Eisenmenger would have had nothing to copy from. Somehow he copied from all the places that the Pope had censored. And since he couldn’t read them for himself he had to get somebody to tell him how to copy the text into his book. I encourage you to figure the chances that he got hold of a Christian who knew all about them – or talked to Jews who had copies of the Amsterdam Talmud.
There was rather a funny bit about the Amsterdam Talmud at the Mendel Beilis trial. Pranaitis and the prosecution had made a big deal about how Pranaitis had read the Amsterdam Talmud, but could not bring it to court because it had to be accessed in specialized libraries. Defense attorney Zarudny got up and said he would bring a copy in for the court’s inspection. Literally people in the court laughed.
One day later, Zarudny showed up with the copy and announced that it was available for inspection. More laughter at Pranaitis’ expense. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt over a period of three days that he didn’t know anything about the contents of Talmud or about the Aramaic language in which so much of it is written.
Zarudny was not Jewish and he was not a member of the faculty of a religious academy. He did not have to access a specialized facility to get the copy of the Amsterdam Talmud that he produced in court.
If somebody claims that passage X was censored out of Talmud and referred to Jesus, the first thing to do is get the citation. If it’s one of the standard citations used by Eisenmenger and his heirs, you can stop there. “Somebody” has bought into the urban legend.
If it’s not one of the standard citations, where did “somebody” get it? He or she probably will not have an answer for that question but if I’m wrong about that, email me the citation. It’s probably untraceable. The modern way of citing to Talmud is based on the Vilno edition of the 1800s CE. Look at the dates: the Vilno edition is based on the text of the Amsterdam Talmud. In fact, some of the standard citations have this problem of being untraceable because the “pages” they refer to don’t exist in the Vilno edition. If they refer to Jerusalem Talmud, they also don’t conform to the modern way of citing to that.
The only way to trace that citation is to know what it said -- not in translation and not in interpretation. That’s the lesson of this whole section of the blog and of these last few posts in particular. And “somebody” probably can’t give that information, a sign of buying into an urban legend.
And the only way to explain what makes a good translation or commentary is...

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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