Skip to main content

Full text of "A Translation of the Treatise Chagigah"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 

Critical Notices. 537 


A Translation of the Treatise Chagigah. 

A Translation of the Treatise Chagigah. From the Babylonian Talmud. 
With Introdtiction, Notes, etc. By the Rev. A. W. Streane, M.A. 
Cambridge University Press, 1891. 

Me. Streane's volume deserves, and will receive, the cordial welcome 
of all English students of the Talmud. It is a useful and meritorious 
effort to place at least one of the smallest tractates of the Babylonian 
Talmud within the intellectual reach of those to whom the original 
presents insuperable difficulties. But Mr. Streane's attempt cannot 
fail to re-open the whole controversy on the possibility of translating 
the Talmud at all. 

No literature can ever be the possession of the multitude unless it 
can dispense with a guide. A country is not opened up to civilisation 
when a few adventurous spirits have found their way to its heart. 
Until its highways have become the ways of common tread, which he 
who will can traverse, it remains in the control of the professional 
explorer. In this sense we fear the Talmud can never become a 
popular book ; the " general reader " can never hope to see more of 
the country than the guide chooses to show him. For, though it has 
been committed to writing, the Talmud remains an oral tradition, 
which a living expounder alone can adequately convey to another. 
We do not mean to imply that translation in quite impossible, and 
that efforts towards that object should be deprecated. But Mr. 
Btreane himself would be the first to admit that his version is by no 
means easy reading. If a translation is to be of real service, the text 
of the Talmud cannot be rendered exactly as it stands. Mr. Streane's 
version is in places quite bewildering, and this is no fault of the 
translator. Yet it is not the fault of the original either, for whatever 
the Rabbis were not, they were close reasoners. The difficulty is one 
arising from the method in which the Talmud is written, and that it 
is not quite impossible to cope with it has been shown clearly enough 
by that renowned Talmudist, Friedmann of Vienna. 1 Not to trans- 

1 -n»Snn nillK by "OT. (Pressburg : 1885.) 

538 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

form this review into an essay, we must briefly state the conclusion at 
which this authority arrived. The translator must not take the 
Talmud as he finds it, and translate it word by word, for thereby 
confusion becomes worse confounded. He must first separate the 
main line of argument from the accessories, added sometimes in most 
intricate ramifications to the main line, and he must show, by print- 
ing in varying types, the points at which the main line of thought is 
interrupted and resumed. Technical terms must be altogether left 
untranslated, for they have no strictly accurate equivalents in other 
languages. Friedmann prints some representative extracts to show 
how the Talmud would look thus arranged, and at the invitation of the 
Oriental Congress, held in Vienna in 1888, edited tractate Makkoth in 
accordance with his plan. May it be hoped that one of the Congresses 
to be held shortly in London will take the matter in hand, and will 
entrust to Mr. Streane, or to other available scholars, the task of 
attempting, on lines similar to those suggested by Friedmann, the 
translation of some representative passages from one of the Talmudic 
tractates ? 

The preceding remarks deal with fundamental principles; it 
remains to speak of Mr. Streane's performance on its own merits. It 
bears the mark of patience and care, as well as of a no mean 
acquaintance with the language and style of the Talmud. The trans- 
lation of technical phrases, however, occasionally leads to a misinter- 
pretation. Thus, on p. 3 of the translation, " there is a Baraitha, A 
deaf man is like a fool and a child," does not convey the true sense. 
for 'Onp merely refers to the preceding Mishnah, which is about to be 
explained. A similar remark applies, e.g., to the opening words of the 
second paragraph of p. 122, where the Mishnah and not a Baraitha is 
cited. In the same paragraph (on p. 3) the words 733 D*£On 1"nnc 
DIpD mean less "as wise men have everywhere said," than " wher- 
ever the sages employ the term." Mr. Streane's notes are usually very 
full, and the historical help they supply is most useful. Yet the 
addition of a brief explanation of the context, of the interpolation 
of apparently irrelevant passages, might often have greatly facilitated 
the student's labour of following the argument. Talking of the notes, 
it is somewhat strange to find such frequent references to "Wolf, 
Bartolocci, and Etheridge, to the utter exclusion of the important 
works of modern scholars. Equally strange is the omission to men- 
tion the Yarice Lectiones of Babbinovicz, which would have supple- 
mented some of Mr. Streane's notes. Thus, on p. 117, note 5, a 
reference to the Munich MS. would have shown that the reading is 
fcO, and not tOI. Bacher's Agada der Bdbyl. Amoraer, p. 148, might 
have been quoted on p. 119, note 1, and 137, note 2, for it is the most 

Critical Notices. 539 

important contribution to the subject. But we have no space to 
enter into a minute criticism of the notes ; the following points must 
suffice : Jim 1311 (p. 11, note 2) so far from always introducing some- 
thing pre-Christian, mostly does the reverse ; nor is the distinction 
drawn (p. 13, note 4) between KD7B>3 and n^n, a tenable one. On page 
19, for "weighs out for us both light and heavy" the translation 
should be "has made the light as important as the heavy" ftpw 

miDIID ni^p aman \yby). In p. 55, note 4, the explanation offered of 
the absence of a commentary on Genesis corresponding to those 
on the other books (e.g., Mechilta on Exodusl, though very 
ingenious, can scarcely be accepted. The Bereshith liabia, 
which is one of the oldest of the Midrashim, filled the gap 
which Mr. Streane finds, but which, in fact, has no existence. 
No commentary of authority supports Mr. Streane's note 9, or p. 65 ; 
nor is there, as far as we know, any Talmudical or Midrashic passage 
that justifies the statement (p. 71, note 1) that " Tradition said that 
there were 250 points of difference between the Law and Ezekiel." 
The note (p. 81, 4) to " wrapped himself up " omits to allude to the fact 
that a Talmid Chacham was very particular to appear in a 
dignified costume, and thus the phrase acquired quite a conventional 
signification. On page 117 the omission to refer to Rabbinovicz has 
produced an unintelligible rendering, for the reading should be DltJ'O 
^S X' 1T33 fcOWT, which gives very good sense, "for the weight of 
the vessel must be taken into account." Sometimes one might feel 
inclined to divide the paragraphs differently. Thus, on p. 121, the new 
paragraph should not begin at the words " Bab Papa," but with " But 
let us consider." Several other notes might be questioned, and some 
uncritical explanations are propounded, which are obviously inad- 
missible. But we have no further space to deal with details, however 
important they may be. 

Though it will be seen from what precedes that Mr. Streane's work 
is marked by some defects, it will, we are certain, have a stimu- 
lative effect on the study of the Talmud, and the learned translator 
has earned our thanks for a very conscientious attempt to supply a 
real need. 

I. Abrahams.