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The Mishnah: A New Translation
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93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
Neusner has compiled the translations of several of his students in this work. There is an unevenness to the quality of translation. Some tractates are well-translated and others seem to lack the idiomatic quality which one who reads Hebrew understands in the original. Prof. Neusner is to be complemented for arranging the mishnayot in each perek in such an manner that they resemble the way they were learned in the oral academies of old and are still learned among students in modern yeshivot. As a second edition to compliment an already existing translation on your booksehlf I would heartily recommend it. If you're looking for that first copy of the Mishnah for your library get Danby's translation (Oxford Univ. Pr.) or Blackman's Hebrew/English (Judaica Pr.).
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
Jacob Neusner's translation of the Mishnah (which he undertook in collaboration with several of his pupils) was first published in 1988. It is a landmark among modern popular translations of ancient Rabbinic texts, and has rapidly become a standard work, taking its place alongside the earlier English translations by Herbert Danby and Philip Blackman.

Unlike those earlier translations, however, Neusner's approximates in English the particular flavour of the eliptical, laconic style of the original. For the first time, English-speaking readers can gain an insight into how the Mishnah says what it says, without the paraphrases and glosses of Danby and Blackman.

But Neusner's approach to the translation has its price. First, the text does not flow like Danby's translation. Readers are made starkly aware that the Mishnah is a compilation of teachings, not a work of literature. Second, the terse, eliptical style results from the Mishnah's being written originally for readers who understood not only the subject matter but also the set of the minds that considered it and the milieu that cradled it. There is therefore much in the text that is taken for granted, and uninitiated readers can feel at a disadvantage.

To meet the needs of the uninitiated, however, Neusner provides an extensive introduction. This places the Mishnah in context and explains its purpose. It is a mine of information presented with the clarity and simplicity of style which only the greatest scholars command. Indeed, the introduction is valuable for the expert as well as the novice.

In short, this is an important work. Its value lies in two particular areas: the non-paraphrastic style of the translation that imitates as closely as reasonably possible the style of the original, and the extent and quality of the background material provided in the Introduction.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
It all started with the Hebrew Bible. The Mishnah collected interpretations of the Bible by Rabbis in the first two centuries of the Common Era. The Mishnah formed the basis for yet more interpretation -- called Gemara -- by more Rabbis between then and roughly 500 C.E. The Mishnah and the Gemara together form the Talmud, the foundation of Jewish law ever since.

The Mishnah is thus a very important book to Judaism. Harold Bloom (in Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine) thinks of it as a Jewish New Testament. But for all its significance, the Mishnah is far less easy to come by than the New Testament. Other complete Mishnah editions in English translation range from more than $160 for Herbert Danby's one-volume 1933 translation The Mishnah or the out-of-print Blackman Mishnayoth (6 Volume Set) to $400 or more for Mishnayot Kehati: Complete 21-volume Boxed Set (make sure to check for the English translation) to $975 for the top-of-the-line ArtScroll Mishnah Series now at 39 volumes and growing. (Wait for ArtScroll's annual 20-percent-off sale if you want to buy that set.) Neusner's edition performs a great service by making the complete Mishnah more widely accessible to English readers.

One of the tricks to understanding the Mishnah is placing it in the context of Jewish law and literature. A good index of Biblical citations helps, as it allows the Bible student to track down the otherwise difficult-to-find Biblical references in the Mishnah. The Neusner edition of the Mishnah would be valuable for its Biblical index alone. Its Biblical index, with roughly 750 references, well surpassed that in the Danby edition, which has roughly 500 references.

Neusner and his student coauthors also make the Mishnah somewhat more accessible by employing his trademark outline form to break up the thoughts in the text. This helps readers to understand the sometimes dense text.

But in many places, Neusner's outline form will not add enough clarity to make sense of the text. A student who wants to engage in significant Mishnah study will soon find the advantages of turning to an annotated edition like the Kehati or ArtScroll. Do get the Neusner edition as an introduction and overall reference. But try also one volume of the Artscroll series, for example its first volume, The Mishnah: Seder Zeraim Vol 1 - Berachos (Artscroll Mishnah Series).

Any way that you approach the Mishnah, you will find in it a new world of understanding of the Bible and its law. And one of its rewards is that the world of material that it provides is a large one, as it reflects the debates of hundreds of Rabbis struggling to find their own better understanding of the Divine.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The translation is rather weak for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is superficial and gives the reader the wrong understanding of the Mishna because it is not thorough. For example, in the very last Mishna in Uktzin, Shammai and Hillel's explanations of when a fish is susceptible to impurity are readily understood. However, since the translation does not even bother to explain the view of Rabbi Akiva, the reader will misunderstand the third vew. Only if one looks in Danby or Blackman would one understand that R. Akiva means the opposite. The fact that the translation is broken up into a different letter for each clause is clearly artificial too, because no outline form is provided. The lettering is just haphazard and random. The lack of clarity and superficialness is buttered with an extensive introduction as to why this translation is so superior to Danby's because it allows one to understand the original "form" of the Hebrew. But would good is the form if the content is untouched?
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
The great advantage of this work is that it has the entire Mishnah in one volume. It is also by and large readable. However it is no substitute for the Hebrew original and certainly not a proper tool for in- depth learning. The translation is not always completely accurate. I do not want to show ingratitude for at one point this work helped me a lot. I do however believe it is a tool for a stage in ' learning' and that the deeper understanding awaits those who will at some point be able to meet with the Hebrew original and its many great commentators.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As a non-Jew attempting to better appreciate, study and understand Judiasm, I bought this version of the Mishnah. I had read Neusner's Introduction, and found it very well done. Unfortunately, the reported poetic nature and subtleties that appear to be present in the Hebrew are lost in translation here. It reminded me of reading the tax code. I believe this is a well done scholarly work, but I would suspect that for a Jew, the Hebrew version is what you want - and for a non-Jew, one of the other (non-literal) translations that are apparently better to read (see other reviews) would be a better choice.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book's greatness is a quantitative one [ie a single volume;] it's attempts to offer an extremely literal translation of the original hebrew text, and emulate the terseness that the hebrew has, can lead the uninitiated reader to many dead-ends in understanding. The truth is that minor literal variations from the actual intent of the hebrew simply do not appear to the all-english reader; nothing can make up for looking back to the actual hebrew when a difficulty arises in the presentation of the text. So, if you have a knowledge of hebrew, hebrew grammar, and are looking for a text to either compliment your library or saturate the desires of the completely uninitiated individuals you come into contact with until they realize that they need to work on their hebrew comprehension, then this book could be what you're looking for; if, on the other hand, you speak/read only english and are trying to get close to the text despite your current difficulty, then you should realize that to become a "master of the mishna" you will eventually have to learn hebrew, something you should be working on continually anyway, and until you have learned hebrew [,a thing that happens gradually,] you'll want a book, or a set of books, that addresses your growing needs and potentials, something this book does not, something The Philip Blackman Set certainly does as well as providing a form of the text of the mishna that's incredibly easier to follow, by means of notation and blocked-text and the orginal hebrew [to reference increasingly as your comprehension of the language increases,] than the bulleted form offered by Neusner. Lastly, if you're Just looking for the cheapest way to get an entire english translation of the mishna into your hands, then you have the wrong attitude, one you'll regret as your learning increases. So, While this book, [Neusner's Mishna,] is wholly a translation of the text, in combination with another book [or set of books] containing English commentary on the Mishnah and then another book, [or set of them,] containing a completely hebrew version of the Mishnah, it could prove itself to be of substantial value. Neusner's scholarship and skill as an intensely technical and descriptive author, and thoroughly learned individual, shouldn't be questioned for an instant; he's a wonderfully intellegent man [ something that's evidenced in the introduction and foreward he provides in the book, to the book. But, this is simply a translation -- something that doesn't allow his true understanding of these issues to shine through to one who can't understand the myraid meanings and implications that abound in the entire canon of Jewish Religious Literature.] Ultimately, I feel as though this translation's truest value is when it's in the author and his immediate students' own hands, [eg as a sort of classroom text, referrenced in conference and consort with the other book(s) I mentioned.]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I purchased this edition of the Mishnah after I purchased the first volume of the Schottenstein version of the Talmud. I wanted a copy of the Mishnah not bogged down by the Gemara. I'm not Jewish and I felt like the Gemara made studying the Talmud too cumbersome for an uninitiated person like myself. I still go through the Talmud, though I spend more time focusing on the Mishnah. I have found this edition of the Mishnah to be very helpful. The translation has an academic trust which I trust, the arrangement is appealing and there are not footnote and endnotes that would leave me feeling daunted. It's just the text and a lengthy introduction. I've found studying the text to be very enjoyable as I focus only on the text and not on scholarly interpretation. That will come later but for now I just need the text and this version provides me with a translation I can have confidence in. Highly recommended.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
This version of the Mishnah is not complete and leaves out entire tractates.
The numbering does not agree with the Mishnah.
Not for Serious Jewish study, lots of good wisdom but numbering does not agree with the Talmud.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
For those of us who didn't grow up in a Jewish home and who are still making the effort to learn Hebrew, this is a real blessing to have and gives one insight into the scriptures and customs of both biblical and modern Judaism.

A good reference book and one I'm glad I've bought. Thanks to the people who put in the hard work to make this available :)

Sean
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