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By Louis Ginzberg / Jewish Publication Society / 2003
A masterpiece of Jewish literature, Legends of the Jews presents a comprehensive compilation of remarkable stories connected to the Hebrew Bible. It is an indispensable reference on that body of literature known as Midrash, the imaginative retelling and elaboration on Bible stories in which mythological tales about demons and magic co-exist with moralistic stories about the piety of the patriarchs.
The late scholar Louis Ginzberg believed that Jewish legend was both earlier and greater than what was represented in the Talmud and midrashic collections—the primary Rabbinic sources. And so he scoured Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Oriental sources to rediscover the fine threads of Jewish legend. The result was a masterpiece: a single, coherent collection of legends that follows the biblical narrative, accompanied by detailed notes that reveal a complex subtext of often intersecting and multi-layered levels of influence, borrowed notions, and interpretive commentaries.
Turn to Ginzberg’s Legends of the Jews to learn about the postbiblical understanding of a biblical episode, or to discover the source for biblical legends that cannot be traced directly to the Bible. It is also a place to find the answers to such questions as: On what day was Abraham born? What was Moses' physical appearance? Or what was the name of Potiphar's wife?
Legends of the Jews has long been recognized as one of the great classics of modern Jewish literature. Originally published in six volumes, this edition features an introduction by David Stern, Professor of Postbiblical and Medieval Hebrew Literature, and Director of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania.
Nothing better illustrates the odd intimacy of the Bible and interpretation than Legends of the Jews, a… set of biblical interpretations that was compiled by the famous Judaic scholar Louis Ginzburg nine decades ago, and that remains unsurpassed and indispensable today.
—Boston Book Review
One of the masterworks of twentieth century Jewish scholarship was Louis Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews, or, more accurately, Legends of the Bible... For scholars, Ginzberg's book is a monumental work of research. But for the general reader, it is a gateway into a world, a world where the imagination roamed and the spirit was free. You will discover that Adam had a previous wife, before Eve, that Cain repented and was forgiven, that Abraham missed Ishmael and went to see him several times after the expulsion, and that Rebecca was a worthy successor to Sarah. If you are not a scholar, put aside the two volumes of notes for a while and enjoy the legends themselves. The Bible will never be the same for you again, if you do.
—Rabbi Jack Reimer, South Florida Jewish Journal
A truly monumental work of scholarship... Read for pleasure by millions of Jews and Christians, consulted by students, scholars, and ordinary folk, Legends of the Jews has itself become legendary, the magnum opus of one of the twentieth century's greatest and most original Jewish scholars.
—James R. Kugel
The Jewish Publication Society of America was founded in Philadelphia in 1888 to provide the children of Jewish immigrants to America with books about their heritage in the language of the New World. As the oldest publisher of Jewish titles in the English language, the mission of JPS is to enhance Jewish culture by promoting the dissemination of religious and secular works of exceptional quality, in the United States and abroad, to all individuals and institutions interested in past and contemporary Jewish life.
Over the years JPS has issued a body of works for all tastes and needs. Its many titles include biographies, histories, art books, holiday anthologies, books for young readers, religious and philosophical studies, and translations of scholarly and popular classics. It is perhaps known best for its famous JPS Tanakh, the translation of the Hebrew Bible in English from the original Hebrew. You can find more information about JPS by visiting their website.
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Rabbi Louis Ginzberg (1878-1953) was one of the great Talmudists of the twentieth century. Born into a religious family in Lithuania, Ginzberg moved to America in 1899 and took a position at Hebrew Union College. This lead to his work for the Jewish Encyclopedia, for which he eventually authored 450 articles. Ginzberg soon left HUC to teach Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary from its reorganization in 1902 until his death. His remarkable scholarship in Jewish studies garnered Ginzberg an honorary doctorate by Harvard University in celebration of its tercentenary. He was also founder and president of the American Academy of Jewish Research.
Ginzberg was the author of a number of scholarly Jewish works, including a commentary on Talmud Yerushalmi (the Jerusalem Talmud) and his celebrated Legends of the Jews, which combined hundreds of legends and parables from a lifetime of Midrash research.