The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Translation and Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Translating Rabbinic Literature for Classicists

Since Dan-el Padilla Peralta’s indictment of Classics, the field has been eager to incorporate new perspectives and become more interdisciplinary. Calls for papers on race and racism and an anti-racism unit at the SCS conference demonstrate the eagerness of Classicists to include new subaltern voices. This is the time to strike for scholars of rabbinic literature who have continuously shown how the rabbis were deeply embedded in the Roman world. Although scholars such as Seth Schwartz and Hayim Lapin have situated rabbinic literature in the Roman world, there has been little effort to make rabbinic literature itself accessible to Classicists.

In my paper, I propose three translation techniques which will encourage Classicists to see rabbinic literature as an inextricable part of their research. First, anthologies which selectively translate texts about Rome in rabbinic literature emphasize sugyot which are glaringly relevant for Classical research. Not only could such an anthology be useful for scholars seeking to incorporate rabbinic perspectives but it would also be an invaluable pedagogical tool. Second, providing explanatory glosses for the sugyot in the anthology would give Classicists the basic background needed to understand the text. This is especially important for an anthology which does not strictly adhere to the order of the Talmud and/or Midrash. Finally, spotlighting the numerous Greek and Latin loanwords in rabbinic stories about Rome shows the rabbis engaging with Roman language and reproducing it in transliteration. By leaving the Greek and Latin loanwords untranslated with a glossary note in the back of the anthology, I encourage the reader to reconcile with the multilingual character of the rabbinic text and the rabbis’ unique manipulation of Roman languages.

Classics is starting to address their isolation. Translation specifically targeting Classicists would make Jewish voices especially accessible.