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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
A collection of Jewish writings. There are two works which bear this name
the Talmud of Jerusalem, and the Talmud of Babylon. Each of these are composed of two parts
the Mishna, which is the text, and is common to both; and the Gemara, or commentary. The Mishna, which comprehends all the laws, institutions, and rules of life (which, besides the ancient Hebrew Scriptures, the Jews thought themselves bound to observe, ) was composed, according to the unanimous testimony of the Jews, about the close of the second century. It was the work of rabbi Jehuda (or Juda) Hakkadosh, who was the ornament of the school of Tiberias, and is said to have occupied him forty years. The commentaries and additions which succeeding rabbies made, were collected by rabbi Jochanan Ben Eliezer, some say in the fifth, others in the sixth, and others in the seventh century, under the name of Gemara, that is, completion, because it completed the Talmud. A similar addition was made to the Mishna by the Babylonish doctors in the beginning of the sixth century, according to Enfield; and in the seventh, according to others. The Mishna is divided into six parts, of which every one which is entitled order, is formed of treatises: every treatise is divided into chapters; and every chapter into mishnas or aphorisms.
In the first part is discussed whatever relates to seeds, fruits, and trees: in the second, feasts: in the third, women, their duties, their disorders, marriages, divorces, contracts, and nuptials; in the fourth, are treated the damages or losses sustained by beasts or men, of things found, deposits, usuries, rents, farms, partnership in commerce, inheritance, sales and purchases, oaths, witnesses, arrests, idolatry; and here are named those by whom in oral law was received and preserved: in the fifth part are noticed what regards sacrifices and holy things: and the sixth treats on purifications, vessels, furniture, clothes, houses, leprosy, baths, and numerous other articles:-all this forms the Mishna. As the learned reader may wish to obtain some notion of rabbinical composition and judgment, we shall gratify his curiosity sufficiently by the following specimen: "Adam's body was made of the earth of Babylon, his head of the land of Israel, his other members of other parts of the world. R. Meir thought he was compact of the earth gathered out of the whole earth: as it is written, thine eyes did see my substance.
Now it is elsewhere written, the eyes of the Lord are over all the earth. R. Aha expressly marks the twelve hours in which his various parts were formed. His stature was from one end of the world to the other; and it was for his transgression that the Creator, laying his hand in anger on him, lessened him; 'for before, ' says R. Eleazer, 'with his hand he reached the firmament.' R. Jehuda thinks his sin was heresy; but R. Isaac thinks that it was nourishing his foreskin." The Talmud of Babylon is most valued by the Jews; and this is the book which they mean to express when they talk of the Talmud in general. An abridgment of it was made by Maimonides in the 12th century, in which he rejected some of its greatest absurdities. The Gemara is stuffed with dreams and chimeras, with many ignorant and impertinent questions, and the style very coarse. The Mishna is written in a style comparatively pure, and may be very useful in explaining passages of the New Testament, where the phraseology is similar. This is, indeed, the only use to which Christians can apply it: but this renders it valuable.
Lightfoot has judiciously availed himself of such information as he could derive from it. Some of the popes, with a barbarous zeal, and a timidity of spirit, for the success of the Christian religion, which the belief of its divinity can never excuse, ordered great numbers of the Talmud to be burned. Gregory IX. burned about twenty cart-loads; and Paul IV. ordered 12, 000 copies of the Talmud to be destroyed.
See MISCHNA, the last edition of the Talmud of Babylon, printed at Amsterdam, in 12 vols. folio: the Talmud of Jerusalem is in one large volume folio.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Talmud'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/t/talmud.html. 1802.