According to the Radioislam.org (pro-Palestinian site) page Jewish Racism towards Non-Jews as expressed in the Talmud, the Talmud contains the following verse:

"The Jews are called human beings, but the non-Jews are not humans. They are beasts."
- Talmud: Baba mezia, 114b

I googled to find the reference and went to this page. I couldn't find anything by searching the page. Does the Talmud say this?

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    Relevant discussion on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ATalmud%2FArchive_2#Racist_Bias. It definitely doesn't answer the question, but it alludes to how complex the issue might be. Feb 16, 2017 at 16:31
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    Another question that is likely to get better answers at HermeneuticsSSE. Asking us to interpret the meaning of scripture with our rules against opinion-based answers isn't helpful.
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 16, 2017 at 22:44
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    Here we go judaism.stackexchange.com/q/31053/759
    – Double AA
    Feb 17, 2017 at 4:09
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    @DoubleAA: Good find. I wish I could close as a cross-site duplicate.
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 17, 2017 at 7:19
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs on Stack Exchange's Judaism network
    – Avery
    Feb 17, 2017 at 23:45

3 Answers 3


This is a situation in which inadequate understanding of terminology causes confusion.

In the referenced text, the Jews are called Adam, and the Gentiles are not called Adam. The Gentiles are the non-Jews. Adam literally translates to "Man" (hence its appearance in DevSolar's answer).

So the people who claim that it supports considering the non-Jews to be beasts are basing it on the literal translation...

... but the literal translation is incorrect, because context matters.

When referring to human vs animal, the term Bnei Adam is used, which means "Sons of Adam" (in this case, referring to the Adam of "Adam and Eve").

In this situation, "Adam" is actually referring to the people of Israel collectively as though it is a single being. And in the context, what it's saying is that the rituals are for the people of Israel (the Jews), not for the Gentiles.

For more information, see here.

One can see the actual context, with explanation, in another way, here. Notice that it is speaking of purity of dwellings. The Talmud is guidance, more akin to the Hadith of Islam, as opposed to the Torah, which is like the Quran. As such, much of its contents reference things found in the Torah. In this case, it's referencing usages of "man" such as that found in Numbers 19:14, which says "If a man dies in a tent". The source here clarifies that "man", here, only applies to Jews.

Also note that the phrase "They are beasts" (or rather, the equivalent in Talmudic Aramaic) does not appear. This phrase is a fabrication, added by those who wish to demonise Jews.

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    You should add that the point of the Talmud is to provide legal interpretations for specific contexts, not necessarily spiritual guidance. Hence "Adam" becomes a legal term derived from the Bible, rather than a philosophical claim.
    – Avery
    Feb 16, 2017 at 17:18
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    @MohammadSakibArifin - rule of thumb: most literal translations are inaccurate in general. When it comes to esoteric religious texts with 50 layers of contexts, they are almost guaranteed to be.
    – user5341
    Feb 16, 2017 at 17:31
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    @MohammadSakibArifin For the same reason that the passage about Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai shouldn't be literally interpreted as him having horns: because Ancient Hebrew is not a literal language. Feb 16, 2017 at 19:00
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    I feel like this answer misses an important point: I can't read Hebrew script, but in the link you provide, "they are beasts" does not appear, and it is precisely this bit which makes the quotation sound so hateful - If Jews decided to use a word "man" as meaning "Jew" it would just men Jew and not man. The problem is if they call all non-Jews animals.
    – sgf
    Feb 16, 2017 at 22:44
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    @sgf is correct: "they are beasts" does not occur in the original Hebrew. Sefaria (sefaria.org/Bava_Metzia.114b) has a helpful translation with the literal text in bold, explanations in roman type.
    – Aant
    Feb 17, 2017 at 0:15

In chapter 114b of Baba Metzi'a (page 404 of the linked PDF), I find these lines in the first paragraph to be closest to the claim:

The graves of Gentiles do not defile, for it is written, And ye my flock, the flock of my pastures, are men; only ye are designated ‘men’.

I cannot say what other translations make of these verses, and I might have overseen some other part of 114b. But as far as I can see, I would consider the claim false, or at the least significantly exaggerated.

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    It's been a long time since I studied these things but where it says things like "only ye are designated men" it's referring to some rule where "men" must or must not do something and its saying who are "men" such that this rule should apply to them. In this case it's saying that the graves of non-jews do not cause a priest to become unclean such that he wouldn't be able to serve in the temple, letting this particular priest off for being somewhere he shouldn't be, i.e. a graveyard.
    – Separatrix
    Feb 17, 2017 at 10:01
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    If one takes the above too literally, then "And ye my flock, the flock of my pastures, are men; 5 only ye are designated ‘men’" can be taken to mean "Men are sheep". To which I can only respond, "Bah!". :-) Feb 17, 2017 at 16:43
  • @BobJarvis: But that is really the point of the big monotheistics, isn't it? Feel good as the "we", have a clear definition of "them", have holy rules that absolve thee of critical thinking or doubt when told to do your ruler's bidding (in the name of god-of-choice, of course), but follow your ruler meekly because that is how your god bids thee. That's why the monotheistics were so popular with monarchs and emperors, presidents and kalifs throughout time. Crusades, Jihad, ... -- so easy when your god has given you The Rules and a Shepherd to interpret them for you... "Bah" indeed. ;-)
    – DevSolar
    Feb 17, 2017 at 18:48
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    @Separatrix exactly. This is even in secular civil statutes. If you are reading your local Motor Vehicle Code, the word "vehicle" in the rule "no vehicle shall be driven without headlights" actually means "vehicle that is subject to the Motor Vehicle Code". That means that spaceships, submarines, horses, and autogyros are "not vehicles" in that specific context as it relates to the interpretation of that body of law. That doesn't mean that a spaceship is not a vehicle in a philosophical sense. Feb 24, 2017 at 5:12
  • @RobertColumbia, there's more to it than that in this case, but since it's been protected there just isn't the character count to explain this the way it should be told. It has to be done as a story, with a bit of performance, it doesn't work as dry academic translation and should never be taught that way.
    – Separatrix
    Feb 27, 2017 at 19:13

TL;DR - the claim is false, partly a phrase taken (slightly) out of context (the first part) and partly a complete fabrication (the second part).

I've heard this claim before, and got intrigued, luckily, I can read Hebrew:

The text can be found here: https://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%91%D7%91%D7%90_%D7%9E%D7%A6%D7%99%D7%A2%D7%90_%D7%A7%D7%99%D7%93_%D7%91

It does not mention beasts, and doesn't really refer to gentiles in general but to polytheists ("Those who worship stars and constellations"), nor does it pertain to the humanity of persons of different faiths, it isn't even a canonical position but rather a record of a certain opinion, it can be roughly translated (my translation here is based on my reading of the source text) as "In the question of impurity caused by death, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochay argued that the body of a polytheist does not defile (which is a religious term that had religious impact and caused certain requirements), and this is because some verse in the bible that uses the term 'Adam' (man) in the context of Jews and another verse that uses the same word to tell us that the a dead body (of 'Adam') causes defilement". In other words, it is a suggested interpretation of another unrelated text, not related the the humanity of people in general, if said interpretation is held as true, its only effect is to relax the Jewish requirements for handling bodies of Polytheists.

Looking further (basically looking up the quoted Rabbi), is seems that this whole interpretation was done in the context of the Roman occupation in order to be able to clear some places that were suspected as defiled to be used. There is a long tradition of interpreting texts using convoluted logical interpretations to achieve practical positive results while claiming to be based on the original text (such as allowing loans, preventing a child from being labeled a bastard, etc.) this text seems to follow that tradition by defining a term in a non obvious way for a practical purpose.

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