Thursday, March 20, 2008
M. L. RODKINSON
Yesterday I posted Rabbi Antelman's quote concerning the Rodkinson translation of the Talmud, to wit:
Until the first comprehensive English translation of the Talmud by Soncino Press appeared (1935-1952); a non-comprehensive translation of M. L. Rodkinson was the only one in existence. Most scholars utilizing his works were unaware that he was a sinister personality whose primary efforts to render portions of the Talmud into English was for the purpose ofdisinformation and for providing gist for anti-Semitic attacks on Jewry via careful distortion of selected words and mis-translation of Talmudic passages, and facilitating their use out of context....
Rodkinson edited a Hebrew paper...whose purpose was to convert Jews to Christianity. One of Rodkinson's Hebrew works reiterated the insidious "Blood Libel" that Jews utilized Christian blood to bake matzot for Passover.
Susanna has unearthed an article from the 1897 Volume V journal "The Bookman" which contains an article by Jewish Scholar Richard Gottheil which makes a similar claim:
THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD
"No work in the literature in the world has had so unfortunate a history as has the Talmud. It has suffered from blandiloquence, on the one hand, and traducement on the other. It has remained for Mr. M.L. Rodkinson to fill its cup to the brim by making it the object of a mystification. the title-page promises to the subscribers the "original text edited, formulated, and punctuated;" and the preface explains the somewhat unintelligible word "formulated" to mean the excision of all "irrelevant matter" and all "accretions."
This is hanging out false colors. The accompanying prospectus excites the expectation of "an exhaustive, systematic, and philologically accurate text." this is wilfully throwing sand in the eyes of people to whom the text itself is a sealed book. Mr. Rodkinson's previously published pamphlets - which he grandiloquently describes in the prospectus as "twenty-two published theological works" - show that his early training has been such as to rob him of the very faculty of appreciating the first principles of philological work. to have studied the Talmud as a purely religious exercise - even for forty years - does not necessarily make a man a Talmudic scholar. The excision of "irrelevant matter" does not lead to an "original" text; the irrelevant may be as original as the relevant. The canon of Mr. Rodkinson's judgement as between what is original and what is added, is based on nothing but the whim of Mr. Rodkinson's moments. It is pure fancy. In preforming these acrobatic feats of jumping from one passage to another, Mr. Rodkinson has obliterated the true character of the Talmud, as certainly as he has misstated its theological point of view when he says that "it knows no authority but conscience and reason. It is the bitterest enemy of all superstition and all fanaticism"
[pp.69-70, bolding mine]
The website Internet Sacred Text Archive has a copy of the Rodkinson translation of The Babylonian Talmud online. I didn't see any alternative translation in the website, though admittedly I didn't look very hard.