by Gil Student
Anti-Talmud accusations have a long history dating back to the 13th century when the associates of the Inquisition attempted to defame Jews and their religion [see Yitzchak Baer, A History of Jews in Christian Spain, vol. I pp. 150-185]. The early material compiled by hateful preachers like Raymond Martini and Nicholas Donin remain the basis of all subsequent accusations against the Talmud. Some are true, most are false and based on quotations taken out of context, and some are total fabrications [see Baer, ch. 4 f. 54, 82 that it has been proven that Raymond Martini forged quotations]. On the internet today we can find many of these old accusations being rehashed and this site is an attempt to correct the mistakes and put the true quotes into their proper perspective.
The accusations against the Talmud can be divided into four categories [see Hyam Maccoby, Judaism on Trial, pp. 23-38].Â
1] The Talmud considers itself holier than the Bible
2] The Talmud contains passages that are blasphemous against Jesus and Mary
The first two accusations are essentially frivolous. What business is it of Christians if the Jewish Talmud is considered holier than the Bible (which it isn't)? And if Jews do not take the account of the Christian NT to be totally historically accurate, so what? To fundamentalist Christians, EVERY other religion is considered blasphemous. Why should the Talmud be judged within the Christian religious framework? Of course, any Jewish book is blasphemous within that framework because Judaism does not accept Jesus as the messiah. The very accusation that the Jewish Talmud is blasphemous to Christianity is redundant.
Â 3] The Talmud has ridiculous and immoral statements
The third accusation is one that Jews have to work out for themselves. Should a Jew believe in a book that makes foolish and obscene comments? That a Jew does should not be relevant to gentiles. In fact, the allegedly foolish and immoral statements in the Talmud are sometimes non-existent but usually allegorical. The Talmud and associated literature developed an entire genre of parables and allegorical sayings that, when understood, shed light on the mysteries of life. However, when inadequately translated and ripped from their context they seem silly.
Dov Zlotnick, Introduction to Saul Lieberman's Greek in Jewish Palestine (1994), p. xx
Rabbinic texts that seem bizarre at first blush can become quite ordinary when properly understood. I remember Lieberman once being called by a popular national publication regarding a passage from the Talmud. To the caller, who was researching an article, the passage seemed silly. Its subject was the difference between a roll or a bundle of documents, and how each note of indebtedness was to be placed in relation to the other. After the Professor finished explaining the passage, the caller responded with surprise, "Why, this is reasonable!" "Of course," the Professor responded.
"Well, in that case," the caller replied, "I cannot use it."
4] The Talmud has laws that are racist and anti-gentile
The fourth accusation is the one on which I will be focussing. Because today's Orthodox Jews still lead their lives based on the laws contained in the Talmud, it is incumbent upon Jews to understand and explain that their religious laws are not racist or derogatory to gentiles. Jewish law, as contained in the Talmud, treats gentiles with the proper respect due to a person created in the image of G-d. Their property and lives are honored and any (mis)quotes from the Talmud indicating otherwise need to be seen in their original language and context.
I will be showing the ENTIRE passages in both their original Hebrew or Aramaic and in translation. I will also be providing a fuller context by bringing other quotations on the topics from other parts of the Talmud. After seeing all of the quotations, a proper judgement can be rendered. I will also be showing how Jewish commentators and legalists have understood these passages throughout history.
Even if a reader would believe that these talmudic quotations are racist, if Jews have always understood them differently then Jews cannot be considered racist. Even if someone can twist the words of the Talmud to be hateful, if Jews have always understood the Talmud in a non-hateful way then the argument is meaningless. The real exercise is to find the (allegedly racist) talmudic influence on Jews and Judaism and by perusing through the post-talmudic literature we can clearly find that this talmudic influence was not racist.
Is the Talmud racist or anti-gentile? No. But neither is it a universalist manifesto. It is a religious document written by those of the Jewish religion for others of the same faith. It favors Judaism over other religions and sets down rules on how to live in both an all-Jewish society and a mixed society. It legislates how to create vibrant Jewish communities while still maintaining respect for the gentile society. Universalists would have everyone be treated exactly equally and live in non-denominational communities. However, the Talmud, which is concerned for the survival of the Jewish religion, must weigh both the respect for humanity and the need for Jewish survival throughout thousands of years of minority-status.
What we will demonstrate is that the consideration for the Jewish community NEVER relegates those outside of this community to an inhuman status. Gentiles are ALWAYS respected and their rights are secured.
The anti-talmudic lies are exactly that - lies. The wisdom of the Talmud has sustained Judaism for thousands of years and perhaps its very success is what has engendered so much jealous hatred.
Â Copyright 2000 Gil Student