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Many of the discussions in Biblical Hermeneutics involve textual analysis that rabbis analyzed as far back as the lifetime of Jesus. These discussions and analyses are found in a variety of Jewish sources including the Mishna, the Talmud, and commentaries by Rashi, Rambam and many many others that are probably unfamiliar to many who post here. Many of the original works are NOT available on-line in English, although there are secondary sources on-line that will site to them, and often there are Hebrew-only on-line sources that can be daunting to anyone but those fluent in the language.

I've not yet gotten much appreciation for using these sources, but I will continue to do so as time allows. How much inforamtion do you want about: the source document, the commentator, and the period the commentaries were made? I can almost always find Wikipedia references to the rabbis mentioned, at minimum. That will give you an idea of the rabbi's historical influence on Jewish thought. With Talmud references (which will include Mishna), I can give you links to English translations that are ok, but not great. The gold standard in translations and illucidations of the Talmud is the Art Scroll Schottenstein Talmud, and electronic versions are only available for the I-Pad if you've purchased the particular volume (there are 73 volumes to the Schottenstein Talmud).

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    An important question, as many on this site are not aware of the progression of Jewish thought, much less commentary. I will give credence to the translator, providing he(or she) doesn't have some theological axe to grind. I like Dan's answer the best as it gives me the greatest opportunity to "see if these things are so". PS-I DO appreciate your usage of those sources. – Tau Aug 17 '14 at 6:32
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The primary thing is that a source can be verified and consulted if others wish to do so. There are many conventions used for citing sources, but the common elements included are:

  • title of work
  • page number(s), direct URL, subtitles, chapters, verses, etc. that can be used to find the specific reference (i.e. not just the name of a book, help us find where in the book a quote comes from)
  • author(s), editor(s), and/or translator(s) (if the translation is your own, somehow indicate this)
  • publisher (many ancient works have been continuously republished, knowing which publisher and year of publication you are consulting is helpful)

A good reference will include these. It is not a problem if the reference is in another language, simply indicate whose translation you are using (even if your own) and give a good citation so that others who read the language can find it.

Examples

  • Bad:

    Rashi says, "This verse calls for a midrashic interpretation. It teaches us that the sequence of the Creation as written is impossible."

  • Good:

    Rashi says, "This verse calls for a midrashic interpretation [because according to its simple interpretation, the vowelization of the word בָּרָא, should be different, as Rashi explains further]. It teaches us that the sequence of the Creation as written is impossible" (Chabad.org translation of Rashi's commentary on Bereishit/Genesis 1:11).

  • Excellent:2

    Rashi says, "This verse calls for a midrashic interpretation [because according to its simple interpretation, the vowelization of the word בָּרָא, should be different, as Rashi explains further]. It teaches us that the sequence of the Creation as written is impossible" (1)

    (1) Shlomo Yitzchaki, Sapirstein Edition Rashi: The Torah with Rashi's Commentary Translated, Annotated and Elucidated, vol. 1, ed. and trans. Rabbi Yisrael Herczeg (Artscroll / Mesorah Publications Ltd., 1999), 52.


1 See also the meta post on properly citing the Bible.

2 Even better, use <sup>1</sup> footnote markup, as in this footnote.

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My £0.02 - "it depends" on what we have in mind as a "source" -

  1. the "primary" texts, as I understand them, would mainly be the codified Oral Law:
  2. the old but "secondary" texts (not quite "ancient", IMO) would be commentaries like Rashi's, etc.
     
    There is also, I suppose,

  3. The halakhic and haggadic texts, which seem to be a kind of middle ground (see the titles listed in the side bar at the links immediately above).

For ##1 and 3, there is a reference and citation system which functions much like giving references from the Bible. We commonly put "Genesis 1:1", not

Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1985), p. 1.

We might cite a particular translation or edition, which is then noted by conventional abbreviations (ASV, RSV, NRSV, etc.).

For #2, however, it would be more appropriate to cite according to edition, so that citing Kimchi or Rashi would be much like citing Anselm (of Laon) or Aquinas. And this requires (or at least suggests) the citation type that maj nem ɪz dæn labels as "excellent".

Here's one partial abbreviations list for ##1, 3 (I don't think this one is "public", more's the pity), and also a helpful resources page.

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  • Neither the Mishna, Tosefta, nor Talmud are actually codifications of Jewish Law. Codification of Jewish laws did not occur, really, until Maimonedes' Mishna Torah and the later Shulchan Aruch, and others. The Mishna, Tosefta and Talmud basically are collections of statements of law and debates about which views were authoritative; often these debates do not result in a conclusive answer. – Bruce James Aug 20 '14 at 15:05
  • Maybe just a little overly strict in your understanding of "codification" (also here)? I see too, though, this page which follows your stricter usage. No quibble whatsoever about your characterization of Mishna, Tosefta, Talmud, though. (Note, too "Mishneh Torah" for Maimonides, also here. Picky, I know!) – Dɑvïd Aug 20 '14 at 16:06

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