'Ancient Rabbis Inspired by God': Robert Sheringham’s Surprising Edition of Mishnah Tractate Yoma (1648)

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Abstract

The edition of Mishnah tractate Joma published in 1648 by the fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Robert Sheringham (1602-1678) was an exceptional achievement, albeit a strange one. Taking its cue from translations and editions of Mishnah tractates that had been produced in the Netherlands, Sheringham's book was the first of its kind to be published in England. Sheringham's book was also, however, an outlier among English Mishnaic scholarship, and has seemed to evince an unusual degree of sympathy for Hebraic traditions. This chapter will place this strange work into context by analysing Sheringham's practice as a reader of the Mishnah, exploring how he interprets the text and the sources he uses to do so (especially the Babylonian Talmud and Maimonides's commentary on the Mishnah). It will demonstrate that Sheringham saw the Mishnah as a kind of key with which to unlock the centrality of Jewish traditions within the culture of the ancient world, an approach which drew mixed reactions from Sheringham's contemporaries (as this chapter will show). The essay will conclude by contrasting Sheringham's work to that of the later seventeenth-century Oxford Mishnaic editor and translator, William Guise (c.1653-1683), and reflecting on Sheringham’s understanding of the Mishnah and its value.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Mishnaic Moment
Subtitle of host publicationJewish Law among Jews and Christians in Early Modern Europe
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Oct 2021

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