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There are two Talmuds, each consisting of the Mishnah plus a line-by-line rabbinic commentary, the Gemara, from either Babylonia or Palestine (sometimes now referred to as the Land of Israel). Traditionally, the Babylonian Talmud has been authoritative both because it is more comprehensive than the Palestinian Talmud and because it was produced by Jews enjoying the greater security and prosperity of Persian rule. (In some circles, the argument now is being made that the Talmud of the Land of Israel (sic) should be regarded as more authoritative because of where it was compiled.) Each Talmud brings together comments from rabbis of the third to seventh centuries of the common era.

Each of volume of Talmud is printed with the Talmud (Mishnah and Gemara) text in the center, surrounded by several different commentaries. Taken together a set of the Talmud resembles a large, multivolume encyclopedia.

Historically, the Talmud has been the subject of censorship and suppression, including burning, by European Christian authorities.

According to the Jewish Theological Seminary -- flagship educational institution of the Conservative movement -- the Talmud can be considered the first hypertextual document. The text is self-referential, as the same material is discussed in many places. Each word of the text is also a jumping-off point to the thoughts of many commentators, both on and off the printed page. As the product of over five hundred years of Jewish intellectual life, it includes a wide range of legal, historical, philosophical, theological, and folkloric material.

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