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The Artscroll Talmud, translated with copious notes into both English and Modern Hebrew, has received wide approval from all sectors of the orthodox world. In fact, I am not aware of any opposition, although if any exists it would certainly be relevant to this question.

Other translations, most notably the Steinsaltz and the Soncino, have not received anywhere near the same levels of support. In fact, it would seem that these editions are even specifically rejected by many who support the Artscroll.

What causes for rejection of these were not present in Artscroll, and/or what causes for support of the Artscroll were not present in these earlier editions?

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For the record, while I study daily from the Artscroll, I have only passing familiarity with the other editions. One glaring issue is that, if I recall correctly, the Steinsaltz does not have the actual daf. This is a first guess at an answer, but I suspect there are many other reasons and the real answer is extremely complex. –  yoel Feb 26 '13 at 5:18
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@CharlesKoppelman it didn't really occur to me, but maybe this is a question specific to a particular wing of the orthodox world. What is the objection to Artscroll? –  yoel Feb 26 '13 at 5:29
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@yoel: While the original Steinsaltz set doesn't have the tzurat hadaf, his renewed Vilna edition ("Koren Talmud Bavli") and the new English translation both have the daf in addition to his translation & commentary. –  Aryeh Feb 26 '13 at 5:36
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@yoel In some transcriptions, Artscroll omits parts of sources that they disagree with while purporting to present the full text (e.g., Rashi on Shir HaShirim). In some translations, Artscroll omits parts of the source they disagree with (Oznayim L'Torah). Grammar is often improperly translated. How are these ideological or not substantive? –  Charles Koppelman Feb 26 '13 at 6:14
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@yoel What ideology doesn't hold of that? Are we pretending the other opinions don't exist? The many sides to every machloket is part of the beauty of gemara. (This is not a comment on any specific Artscroll or any other publication.) –  Double AA Feb 26 '13 at 21:28
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3 Answers

I've never heard any objection to Soncino specifically. I've heard objection to translated editions generally — and the very explicatory ArtScroll English edition especially — from teachers: namely, that these editions make it too easy for students to make their way through the g'mara, and the student loses out on the benefits (spiritual and pedagogical) of struggling to understand the g'mara.

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Berachot 6B - ‫אמר רבא אגרא דשמעתא םברא‬ -- see Rashi –  Menachem Feb 26 '13 at 6:30
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@Menachem, couldn't you just quote the Rashi for me, and translate both the g'mara and it? :-) –  msh210 Feb 26 '13 at 14:34
    
hebrewbooks.org/shas.aspx?mesechta=1&daf=6b&format=text -- אגרא דשמעתא סברא. שהוא יגע וטורח ומחשב להבין טעמו של דבר –  Menachem Feb 26 '13 at 15:58
    
    
related judaism.stackexchange.com/a/31307/759 –  Double AA Sep 24 '13 at 20:30
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Adam Mintz has written a fine essay called The Talmud in Translation, in which he elaborates on the history of the Artscroll, Steinsaltz, and Soncino Talmuds and the various polemics concerning each.

Regarding "rejections," there have been critiques for each Talmud.

On the Soncino, there was a little controversy that concerned making the Talmud accessible to non-Jew if it was translated.

On the Steinsaltz, many in the charedi world followed R. Schach's condemnation because "it was written by the same author who penned several books that they considered to contain words of heresy." Regarding the translation, R. Schach disapproved of its modern Hebrew translation and the "secular" style of its study aids.

These issues are just as relevant for the Artscroll Talmud, but perhaps their haskamot from R. Elyashiv and R. Schechter have opened more doors for chareidi acceptance.

Like Charles Koppelman, I disagree with your premise that the Steinsaltz and Soncino Talmuds "have not received anywhere near the same levels of support." See, for example, the powerful haskamot reprinted in the new Steinsaltz translation. I know many in Israel prefer the Steinsaltz over the Artscroll, and there are various reasons, such R. Steinsaltz pedagogic honesty on translating controversial statements in the gemara, the encyclopedic information to facilitate study, and a general method of providing the tools to start digging rather than do all the work for you.

This is popularity is certainly true in modern orthodox/daati leumi communities. I mention this because I personally believe political divisions between the daati leumi (which many identify R. Steinsaltz under) and chareidi (e.g., Artscroll) world have a lot to do with this discussion of acceptance.

The Soncino, however, might lack the same contemporary support simply due to antiquated aesthetics, lack of study guides, and more archaic translations in comparison to the other two.

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So do you think the difference is basically hashkafic? I'm not really familiar with the dati leumi perspective and even less so with the MO perspective so maybe that's why I perceived such a disparity of support. –  yoel Feb 26 '13 at 21:19
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Yes, that's one crucial factor. That includes R. Steinsaltz's advocacy of providing women and secular Jews the same opportunity to learning gemara, so it's not just daati leumi vs. charedi. But in addition, I think the other factor is the difference in pedagogy. Whereas the Artscroll packs in a plethora of commentaries to answer presupposed questions, the Steinsaltz focuses on providing the learner the tools to stimulate those questions; different goals entirely. The preference is highly subjective, and I'm happy they're both serving different needs. –  Aryeh Feb 26 '13 at 22:24
    
+1 for the on-the-mark article. –  Double AA Feb 27 '13 at 4:16
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I disagree with the premise of the question, but I have some reasons why it might be perceived that way.

It seems to me that Artscroll has a higher marketing budget than most Jewish publishing houses. The support that it advertizes might feel larger than Soncino or Steinsaltz because those publishers:

  1. did not distribute their books as widely before and after publication soliciting opinions.
  2. did not talk to the right people in the right way.
  3. do not have the same built-in market that Artscroll does with its siddurs, chumashes, Tanakhs, etc.
  4. do not have the same size (or the same stature) built-in ideological market.
  5. do not advertize nearly as well.

On the other hand, one thing that's always great about Artscroll is the formatting. Translating the Talmud is complex, especially when you add in interpretation and commentary. Artscroll manages to be user-friendly in a way most other publications are not. They font is better, the layout is better, the spacing is better, etc.1

Artscroll is also cheaper than most Talmud editions, which makes it more common to own.

Also, Artscroll tends to be easier for new learners than Soncino, specifically, which is fairly hard to understand. Whether that's a benefit is debatable, of course.


1I think if Artscroll published the first chumashes, Rashi script wouldn't need to exist.

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