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Soncino Press

Soncino Press is a Jewish publishing company based in the United Kingdom that has published a variety of books of Jewish interest, most notably English translations and commentaries to the Talmud and Hebrew Bible.

Soncino Press
Soncino Press Logo.jpg
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Headquarters locationLondon
Publication typesBooks

The Soncino Hebrew Bible and Talmud translations and commentaries formerly were widely used in both Orthodox and Conservative synagogues decades ago.

These translations and commentaries are mostly based on traditional Jewish sources. They accept the Bible as Divine and the Biblical history of the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai as true, and had been generally regarded as Orthodox. Nonetheless, they tended to have some input from Christian and modern academic scholarship and tended not to treat Rabbinical Midrash and Aggadah as fact. The Terms and Abbreviations page lists Authorized Version and Revised Version, both of which include N.T.; the latter term[1] is found in Soncino's Talmud.[2]

The 1894 Soncino Psalms was replaced due to protests: its author, Christian D. Ginsburg, converted to Christianity.[3]



These works, which passed their half century over two decades ago, have seen their acceptance change.

As Orthodox and Conservative Judaism have diverged in recent decades, they have tended to move to different Bible translations reflecting their increasingly different theological viewpoints.

  • Orthodox Jews are now more likely to use ArtScroll translations, which shun academic scholarship and treat Midrashic and Aggadic accounts, as well as the Biblical text, as literally true.
  • Conservative Judaism has moved in the opposite direction, publishing a commentary, the Etz Hayim Bible, which is considerably more liberal in tone, based on academic sources that accept the documentary hypothesis as the Bible's origin and question the accuracy of its accounts of Jewish history.

Nonetheless, Soncino books still retain a following, particularly among traditional Conservative and some Modern Orthodox Jews in the English-speaking world.

A full page was devoted in The Jewish Press to the Soncino Classics Collection CD-ROM in 2003.[4]

No popular Jewish translation with Soncino's intermediate approach, combining traditionalist outlook and exegesis with openness towards Christian and academic scholarship, has appeared since.

Additionally, because the Soncino publications were generally released without copyright notices at a time when notices were mandatory for establishment of copyright, the works were generally considered as public domain. Legally, however, this is no longer the case in the United States since 1994.[NB 1]


The firm is named for the Soncino family of Hebrew book printing pioneers. Based in Northern Italy, this family published the first-ever printed book in Hebrew type in 1483 (an edition of the Talmud tractate Berakhot) and continued a string of printed editions of the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, and various rabbinical works until about 1547.

Soncino Books of the BibleEdit

The Soncino Books of the Bible is a set of Hebrew Bible commentaries, covering the whole Tanakh (Old Testament) in fourteen volumes, published by the Soncino Press. The first volume to appear was Psalms in 1945, and the last was Chronicles in 1952. The series was edited by Rev. Dr. Abraham Cohen and the commentary was written by several rabbis including Cohen himself, Eli Cashdan, Harry Freedman and Israel Wolf Slotki (identified as I. W. Slotki) (1884–1973)

Each volume contains the Hebrew and English texts of the Hebrew Bible in parallel columns, with a running commentary below them. The Hebrew text in Psalms is that of Christian D. Ginsburg's[5] earlier (1894) edition.[6] This led to protests, since Ginsburg had converted to Christianity, so subsequent volumes used a (completely reset) copy of Meir Letteris' second (1866) edition of the Hebrew text. Both Hebrew texts are scrupulous versions of the Masoretic Text, so the differences between them are small. The English translation is the Jewish Publication Society of America Version of 1917.

First editionEdit

The commentary in the first edition of the series drew mainly upon classical Jewish sources (see below), but also drew upon the best of early-to-mid 20th century Bible scholarship, including the work of Christian expositors.[7][8]

The Soncino Chumash, covering the Torah and Haftaras, first published in 1947 and frequently reprinted also has Christian source references, since it was a duplicate of the book The Pentateuch and Haftarahs edited by Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz, also published by the Soncino Press. It also includes views of the most important medieval Jewish commentators, such as Abraham ibn Ezra, Rashi, Ramban, Radak, Sforno and Ralbag (Gersonides).[9][10]

Second editionEdit

A second edition of all books other than the Soncino Chumash appeared in the 1990s, edited by Rabbi Abraham J. Rosenberg, (a disciple of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein) who had previously done a Bible commentary for Judaica Press and a Mishnah commentary for Artscroll.[11] In this edition, all work from historical scholars and Christian bible commentators has been removed; it has been replaced by additional references to the Midrash literature and medieval Jewish commentators.

Translations of classical worksEdit

Soncino Press also published a number of other classical works.

Soncino TalmudEdit

The Soncino Talmud (1935–1952),[12] subsequent to publishing the volumes for which it is known, released an index.[13]

The English section has concisely detailed numbered footnotes covering Jewish classical commentaries.


Other works include:

  • Soncino Midrash Rabbah
  • Soncino Zohar (1934)
  • Soncino Haggadah

CD-ROM - Soncino Classics CollectionEdit

Davka released a CD-ROM, Soncino Classics Collection,[4] that contains:[14]

  • Hebrew and English of Tanach
  • Aramaic and English of the Soncino Talmud
  • Soncino Midrash Rabbah
  • Soncino Zohar

Soncino's Midrash Rabbah has brief commentaries in its footnotes. The Soncino Haggadah is a translation and commentary on the Haggadah by Cecil Roth.


  1. ^ In the United Kingdom, and other contemporary signatories to the Berne Convention, a copyright notice was never required to establish copyright. In the United States copyright for such works originally published overseas was re-established by the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) of 1994. Copyright was restored for works still in copyright in their native countries as of 1 January 1996.

    The term of copyright in the UK at the time was life + 70 years, so U.S. copyright was restored for all UK-originating works whose authors were still alive on 1 January 1926 or were born after that date. Under current U.S. law the works will now remain in copyright until the end of a period of 95 years from first publication.


  1. ^ R"L
  2. ^ Menachot,85a,footnote B4. It is not common; it seems to have been the doing of one Soncino editor.
  3. ^ Christian D. Ginsburg. "Hebrew Bible".
  4. ^ a b Shimon Lewin (May 30, 2003). "Soncino Classics Collection". The Jewish Press. p. 36.
  5. ^ Christian D. Ginsburg. "Hebrew Bible".
  6. ^ See preface to Psalms
  7. ^ See preface to Psalms
  8. ^ "Soncino Press Books of the Bible (14 Volume Set)". ... including the work of Christian bible historians.
  9. ^ See preface to Chumash
  10. ^ Appendix of 1947 edition
  11. ^ See and the approbation (haskama) by Rabbi David Feinstein found in the beginning of each volume,, and the Thursday, May 11, 2006 entry (Did Rashi mean Canaanite?) of the blog "What's bothering Artscroll?" (
  12. ^ Joseph Berger (February 10, 2005). "An English Talmud for Daily Readers and Debaters". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Joseph Berger (December 27, 2011). "After 1,500 Years, an Index to the Talmud's Labyrinths, With Roots in the Bronx". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "From the Torah to the Zohar - Soncino Classics Collection". December 31, 1998.

External linksEdit