The ''Legends of the Jews'' is a chronological compilation of aggadah
from hundreds of biblical
A legend is a genre of folklore that consists of a narrative featuring human actions, believed or perceived, both by teller and listeners, to have taken place in human history. Narratives in this genre may demonstrate human values, and possess ...
The Mishnah or the Mishna (; he, מִשְׁנָה, "study by repetition", from the verb ''shanah'' , or "to study and review", also "secondary") is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions which is known as the Oral Torah ...
The Talmud (; he, , Talmūḏ) is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law ('' halakha'') and Jewish theology. Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the cent ...
''Midrash'' (; ["midrash"] he, מִדְרָשׁ; ...
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
. The compilation consists of seven volumes (four volumes of narrative texts and two volumes of footnotes with a volume of index) synthesized by
Louis Ginzberg ( he, לוי גינצבורג, ''Levy Gintzburg''; russian: Леви Гинцберг, ''Levy Ginzberg''; November 28, 1873 – November 11, 1953) was a Russian-born American rabbi and Talmudic scholar of Lithuanian-Jewish des ...
in a manuscript written in the
German ( ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and the Italian province of South Tyrol. It is also a ...
. In 1913, it was translated by
Henrietta Szold ( , ; December 21, 1860 – February 13, 1945) was a U.S. Jewish Zionist leader and founder of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. In 1942, she co-founded Ihud, a political party in Mandatory Palestine d ...
. It was published in Philadelphia by the Jewish Publication Society of America from 1909 to 1938.
The narrative is divided into four main volumes, Volume I covering the period from the Creation
Jacob (; ; ar, يَعْقُوب, Yaʿqūb; gr, Ἰακώβ, Iakṓb), later given the name Israel, is regarded as a patriarch of the Israelites and is an important figure in Abrahamic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. ...
; Volume II covering the period from
Joseph is a common male given name, derived from the Hebrew Yosef (יוֹסֵף). "Joseph" is used, along with "Josef", mostly in English, French and partially German languages. This spelling is also found as a variant in the languages of the m ...
The Exodus (Hebrew: יציאת מצרים, ''Yeẓi’at Miẓrayim'': ) is the founding myth of the Israelites whose narrative is spread over four books of the Torah (or Pentateuch, corresponding to the first five books of the Bible), namely ...
; Volume III covering the period from the Exodus to the death of
Moses hbo, מֹשֶׁה, Mōše; also known as Moshe or Moshe Rabbeinu (Mishnaic Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּינוּ, ); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, Mūše; ar, موسى, Mūsā; grc, Mωϋσῆς, Mōÿsēs () is considered the most important pro ...
; and Volume IV covering the period from Joshua
Reactions and influence
According to Ginzberg's son Eli,
Clarence Seward Darrow (; April 18, 1857 – March 13, 1938) was an American lawyer who became famous in the early 20th century for his involvement in the Leopold and Loeb murder trial and the Scopes "Monkey" Trial. He was a leading member of ...
consulted Ginzberg while preparing for the Scopes Trial
in order to find out who
Cain ''Káïn''; ar, قابيل/قايين, Qābīl/Qāyīn is a Biblical figure in the Book of Genesis within Abrahamic religions. He is the elder brother of Abel, and the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, the first couple within the Bible. He wa ...
had married, a subject on which Darrow later cross-examined
William Jennings Bryan
William Jennings Bryan (March 19, 1860 – July 26, 1925) was an American lawyer, orator and politician. Beginning in 1896, he emerged as a dominant force in the Democratic Party, running three times as the party's nominee for President ...
during the trial. Ginzberg referred Darrow to the ''Legends of the Jews'', which relates legends about Cain's wife having been one of Adam and Eve's daughters not mentioned in the Bible.
Nahum Glatzer wrote in 1956, "The first four volumes of ... ''Legends of the Jews'', which present the non-legal traditions of the Talmud and the Midrash, make pleasurable reading, which does not prevent the two volumes of 'Notes' that follow them from being documents of meticulous research into the original texts and their variants, as well as into general and Jewish folklore, into comparative religion and ancient Near Eastern thought." In 2014, Benjamin Ivry wrote, "If any work of stunning erudition can be called loveable, then surely Legends retains this allure. ...
e work and its author have attracted ecstatic praise."
In 2009, the ''Legends of the Jews'' was the subject of a colloquium held by the World Association for Jewish Studies, papers from which were published as ''Louis Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews: Ancient Jewish Folk Literature Reconsidered''. In 2019, painter Joel Silverstein presented an exhibition of paintings inspired by Ginzberg's work, titled ''The Ginzberg Variations''.
Jewish folklore are legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales, stories, tall tales, and customs that are the traditions of Judaism. Folktales are characterized by the presence of unusual personages, by the ...
BibliographyThe Legends of the Jews by Louis GinzbergLegends of the Jews (PDF)The Legends of the Jews
Books about Judaism
Books about folklore
Works based on legends