A Man for Distinctions

"The Jews are a race apart. They have made laws
according to their own fashion, and keep them."


Jacob Neusner's bibliography is as long as the laundry list of a professional football team. Only in his mid-50's, Neusner has published more than two hundred books—including detailed studies of the various rabbinic commentaries on the Five Books of Moses and histories of Babylonian Jewry and of the primitive church—and several hundred scholarly essays. He has also edited annotated translations of the Mishnah, the extensive rabbinic law code, and published translations of the two authoritative redactions of the Talmud. While Neusner has written on contemporary Jewish issues and (as a member of the NEH and NEA), has ventured bold opinions on the arts and on the state of academic learning, his real reputation is based on his prodigious scholarly accomplishments.

Concerning these accomplishments, two general observations are in order. The first is that the conclusions Neusner draws have often been offensive to self-designated Jewish spokesmen. His interpretations of Talmudic texts and the claims he makes for them have drawn fire, most notably two years ago from the Commentary-contributor and Jewish apologist Hyam Maccoby; while several months ago, the Jewish Theological Seminary, where Neusner received his rabbinic ordination,...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here