Jonathan ben Uzziel

views updated


JONATHAN BEN UZZIEL (first century b.c.e.–first century c.e.), translator of the Prophets into Aramaic (see *Bible: Translations) Jonathan is mentioned as the outstanding pupil of *Hillel (bb 134a; Suk. 28a). All that is recorded of him, however, is that he translated the prophetical books into Aramaic "from the mouth of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi" (an anachronistic statement meant to claim unbroken continuity between the latest prophets and the Aramaic translation), and that the translation evoked a storm of criticism, "rocking Ereẓ Israel over an area of 400 parasangs by 400 parasangs." The same account continues that a Heavenly Voice came forth, demanding to know who it was that had revealed divine mysteries to humans, and Jonathan replied that he had done so, not for the sake of personal honor "… but in order that disputes should not multiply in Israel" (Meg. 3a). It would appear that the translation was midrashic, and it is possible that it contained eschatological elements. In the same passage it is stated that Jonathan was desirous of translating the Hagiographa also, but a Heavenly Voice deterred him, saying "Enough." It has been suggested that the Targum to Job, which Gamaliel the Elder ordered to be hidden away (Shab. 115a), was the work of Jonathan, and that the ensuing furor deterred him from continuing with his self-appointed task. The extent to which the existing Aramaic translation of the Prophets is derived from the Targum attributed by the Talmud to Jonathan is difficult to say. Yet, it is clear that there is no connection between Jonathan and the Aramaic translation of the Pentateuch at first called Targum Ereẓ Yisrael and later Targum Yerushalmi. It was erroneously attributed from the 14th century to Jonathan, because the initials ת״י were taken to refer to Targum Jonathan instead of Targum Yerushalmi (Palestinian Targum).


Bacher, Tann; Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 35–41; Hyman, Toledot, s.v.add. bibliography: B. Chilton, in: dbi, 1:531–34.

[Yehoshua M. Grintz /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

About this article

Jonathan ben Uzziel

Updated About content Print Article