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370-121-MS: Judaism, Christianity & Islam (Sasson): Legends of the Jews

This guide contains the resources you will need to use for the Judaism, Christianity & Islam course. These are very specialized resources for interpretive scriptural research, so we've also included information to help you get the most out of each resourc

Legends of the Jews

The Legends of the Jews is a compendium of legends and parables relating to the Hebrew Bible by Rabbi Louis Ginzberg. A Talmudist and a leading figure of the Conservative Movement of Judaism of the early 20th century, Ginzberg did extensive research into the Judaism and Jewish history, and was known to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Rabbinic literature. The Legends of the Jews is a synthesis of this work.

In the first four volumes of Legends, Ginzberg paraphrases all the known legends relating to the events of the Hebrew Bible, gathering them together and organizing them so that they to correspond to the same order of events as they occur in the Bible. The fifth and sixth volumes are comprised of extensive notes for the legends chronicled in volumes 1-4, including information about Ginzberg's sources, as well as information on when his sources may have contradicted one another. Finally, the seventh volume of the series cross-indexes all of the content of the previous six volume into two major indexes, labeled "Index A" and "Index B".

The indexes and how to use them:

Index A is a general index. Arranged alphabetically, it indexes names, places, important objects, and events and tells the reader in which volumes each indexed item is referenced, including specific page numbers. For example, if you were to look up "Angel of Babylon," you would see that it is referenced in Volume I, page 351. At 515 pages long, this index is quite extensive and can be very specific. This index is best used when you have a specific term or name in mind and would like to see where it is referenced within the Legends.

Index B is an index of the passages cited within the Legends. It is comprised of fourteen sub-indexes of the sources that Ginzberg used to form The Legends of the Jews. These fourteen sections are:

  1. Ancient Bible Versions
  2. Apocrypha
  3. Pseudepigrapha
  4. Hellenistic Literature
  5. Tannaitic Literature
  6. Talmud and Minor Treatises
  7. Midrashim
  8. Medieval Hebrew Commentators
  9. Other Medieval Writings
  10. New Testament
  11. New Testament Pseudepigrapha
  12. Church Fathers and Medieval Christian Writers
  13. Greek and Latin Writers
  14. Oriental Literature

Index B is extremely difficult to use, as requires that the reader first know which source text they are looking for. For example, to use the index for the Pseudepigrapha, you would need to know which Pseudepigraphic work you want to find first, and only then will you be able to see which parts of the work were used in which parts of Ginzberg's work. The index will also only provide the volume and the page number for where each passage was used in the Legends, so it is also necessary to read through the quoted page to figure out exactly how the passage was used.

In addition to the two main indexes, there is an index of Hebrew words and an index of Piyyutim (Jewish liturgical poems) that have been used in Legends. These indexes require the user to be able to read Hebrew in order to find the words/Piyyutim they are looking for.

The full set of The Legends of the Jews is available on the Main Floor of the Library.


The four volumes of Rabbi Louis Ginzberg's writings are also available online. However, the extensive commentary contained in volumes 5 and 6, and the indexes contained in volume 7 are not. 

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