The first books of the Bible describe powerfully but briefly the creation, the first generations of humanity, and the early history of the Jews. In addition to their power to inspire thought and worship, they inspired imagination. Much of the richness of Jewish belief and wisdom comes from the many legends that answered questions raised by the silences of the Bible. From the second to the fourteenth centuries, the Talmud, Midrash, and their Targums incorporated apocryphal views of Biblical persons and events to help explain scripture. Other legends found their way into the Kabbalah, into Biblical commentaries, and into Christian literature.
Never before available in paperback, Louis Ginzberg's landmark, seven-volume The Legends of the Jews assembles the many elaborations and embellishments of Biblical stories that flourished in the centuries following the Bible's own creation. From a portrait of Adam and Eve as innocent cannibals to tales of Moses ascending the throne of Ethiopia and visiting both hell and paradise, these legends offer strange, delightful, and occasionally bizarre variations of familiar Biblical stories. Other tales describe Eden and the building of the Tower of Babel, explain how the first Sabbath was celebrated, and chronicle the punishment of the rebel angels.
Ginzberg devoted most of his life to gathering these Jewish legends from their original sources -- written in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Syrian, Aramaic, Ethiopic, Arabic, Persian, and Old Slavic -- and reproducing them completely, accurately, and vividly. He presents these legends following the traditional Biblical sequence and reconciling the sometimes contradictory versions of the same stories found indifferent sources. In addition to four volumes of the legends themselves, The Legends of the Jews includes two indispensable volumes of notes that provide the sources for every legend and attest to the immense depth and range of Ginzberg's research, as well as a comprehensive index to the people, places, and motifs found in the legends and their sources.