Essential Languages for the Study of Rabbinic Literature

The Early Christianity blogosphere has been abuzz discussing which languages one needs in order to study The New Testament. I thought we should take a stab at raising the discussion with regards to Rabbinic literatures. Here’s my attempt, broken down into different sub-fields (DISCLAIMER: I am a student at the Hebrew University):

  • Palestinian:
    • Primary: JPA, Greek, Latin, Syriac
    • Secondary: German
  • Babylonian: 
    • Primary: JBA (RBA), Greek, Middle Persian, Syriac, Latin
    • Secondary: German, French
  • Medieval:
    • Primary: Arabic, Latin
    • Secondary: German

Knowledge of Biblical, Rabbinic, and Modern Hebrew are taken for granted, although a deeper familiarity through coursework or grammars is also important.

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2 thoughts on “Essential Languages for the Study of Rabbinic Literature”

  1. I would distinguish between the need for Arabic for Geonica and for Rishonim. For the former it’s critical, for the latter (even for Spanish writers), less so. One can learn to be sensitive to Arabisms w/o full command of Arabic. In Medieval Ashkenaz, an awareness of medieval French and German are desireable, also.

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