Jewish Aramaic versions of the Old Testament. After explaining the origin and character of the Targums and their place in ancient Jewish liturgy, this article will treat the various Targums to the three main sections of the Hebrew Bible—the Pentateuch, the Prophets and the Writings. (A Targum is regarded as "related to" the book or books of the Bible of which it is a translation; hence the technical term, a Targum "to" the Pentateuch, etc.)
Origin and Character. The term "Targum" (plural, Targums or Targumim) comes from the Aramaic and post-Biblical Hebrew word targûm, meaning translation; in a limited sense used here it denotes specifically an Aramaic translation made by Jews of a book or books of the Hebrew OT. At some uncertain date after the Exile, but well before the Christian era, the majority of the Jews no longer understood Hebrew, since their vernacular in Babylonia and Palestine had become Aramaic. Because of the desire of having the people understand the doctrinal message of the Bible, particularly of the Pentateuch (Torah, Law), the custom was introduced of having the portions of the Law and the Prophets that were read in Hebrew in the synagogues rendered into Aramaic in Aramaicspeaking communities. While the Jewish tradition (Meg. 3a) that traces the origin of Targums to the time of Ezra (based on Neh 8.8) is scarcely creditable, written Targums to some books (for example, the Targum to Job; see below), as well as oral translations of the Hebrew pericopes from the Law and the Prophets that were read in the synagogues, must have existed in New Testament times. Very probably there was also a Targum to the Psalms (cf, Mt 27.46; Mk 15.34).
Although the extant Targums differ greatly among themselves in language, nature and date of composition, they have certain common characteristics; thus, the anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms of the Masoretic Text (MT) are generally avoided: God is said to act ad extra through his memrā ' (word), a term used in this way only in Targumic literature: He guides Israel through [the shekinah (presence) of] His Glory; Israel sees not the Lord Himself but His Glory (Tos. Meg. 4.41; Kidd. 49a; confer, John 12.41; 1.14; etc.).
The Targums and the Synagogue Liturgy. In the Synagogue service before the time of Christ certain passages from the Pentateuch (Acts 15.21; 14.15) and the Prophets (Luke 4.16–21; Acts 13.14–15, 27) were read and, at least in Palestine, rendered into Aramaic [for details see G. F. Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era (Cambridge, Mass. 1927–32) 1:296–307]. The rendering had to be given extempore, without the aid of written translations. Certain passages (for example, Gn 35.22; Ex 32.21–24; Nm 6.24–26) were read but not translated. Some current Aramaic translations (for example, of Lv 18.21; 22.28) were censured by the rabbis. It is probable that in early, even NT, times the OT was not read consecutively from service to service. The liturgical Targum may then have arisen only gradually, over a lengthy period. The Targum used for the common people would tend to be paraphrastic rather than literal, as is the case of the extant Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch.
Targums to the Pentateuch. There are several Targums to the Pentateuch, the most important being the Babylonian, the Palestinian and the Samaritan Targums.
Babylonian Targum. This is the official Jewish Targum to the Books of Moses. It is customarily called the Onkelos Targum, although it is really an anonymous composition. The name of Onkelos, to whom it is ascribed in bMeg. 3a, is now generally considered to be merely a dialectic form of Ἀκύλας, i.e., Aquila, who is mentioned in the parallel passage of jMeg. 71c. Some scholars believe that Aquila's Greek version of the Hebrew OT was meant in both passages (See part 6 of this article). Onkelos is generally a literal translation that gives the correct halakic (see halakah) understanding of nearly all the pertinent passages of the Pentateuch (not, however, of Lv 24.20). It is written in an Aramaic that imitates the Aramaic of the Bible. Although it was edited in Babylonia, probably between the second and the fifth centuries, to bring it into conformity with the Biblical text, the Mishnah and the Babylonian Talmud, Onkelos apparently originated in Palestine around the first Christian century. A comparison of certain passages of Onkelos with those of the Palestinian Targum indicates a relation between them (see W. Bacher, 60). Onkelos may actually be an early form of the Palestinian Targum later revised in Babylonia. Before its introduction from Babylonia c. a.d. 800, Onkelos was unknown to Palestinian Judaism, but it later replaced the older Palestinian Targum in Western Jewry. It was first printed at Bologna in 1482 and often later, for example, at Sabbioneta in 1557, and by A. Berliner with an excellent introduction (Leipzig 1882–84). A. Sperber published a new edition based on Yemenite manuscripts [The Bible in Aramaic I (Leiden 1959)]. In the West Onkelos was pointed with Tiberian (Western) vowels; the Yemenite manuscripts have a mixture of Eastern and Western vowel points. A. Díez Macho published Onkelos from manuscripts with Eastern vowel points for the Madrid polyglot bible [see Vetus Testamentum, 8 (1958) 113–133]. A Latin version of Onkelos is given in B. Walton's Polyglot Bible. An English translation (not always faithful) was published by J. W. Etheridge [The Targums … (2 v., London 1862–65)].
The Palestinian Targum. This is a paraphrastic translation of the Pentateuch that was current in Palestine and among Jews of Palestinian origin before it was replaced by the Onkelos Targum. Unlike Onkelos, the Palestinian Targum was never issued in an official edition, so that it is now known in several different forms. It has been preserved in the Codex Neofiti 1, in portions of Pseudo-Jonathan, in fragments from the Cairo Geniza, in the socalled Fragment Targum, in glosses (Tosefta) on Targum manuscripts and in rabbinic citations from the second to the 16th century.
The Codex Neofitì 1 of the Vatican Library, written at the beginning of the 15th century, was identified as a manuscript of the Palestinian Targum by A. Díez Macho between 1949 and 1956 [see Vetus Testamentum, 7 (1959) 222–245; Christian News from Israel (July 1962) 19–25]. It is a translation of the entire Pentateuch into good and relatively old Palestinian Aramaic. While the geographical data [see Vetus Testamentum, 7 (1959) 229] may point to the second Christian century as the date of composition, Codex Neofiti 1 itself appears to bear traces of later recension and to be in its present form a copy of a text that was made no earlier than the fifth century. The following passages show how the Mishnah with its Talmudic halakah compares with its Targumic renderings: confer, Meg. 4.9 with Leviticus 18.21; Meg. 4.10 with Genesis 35.22; Exodus ch. 32; Numbers 6.24–26; jMeg. 4.9.75c (c. a.d. 350) with Leviticus 22.28. Its translation of Genesis 6.2, 4 reproduces verbally the exegesis of R. Simeon ben Yohai (c. a.d. 150); confer, Genesis Rabba on Genesis 6.2, 4.
In the 14th century mention was made of a translation (targûm ) of the Torah of which the author was said to be a certain Jonathan (ben Uzziel), a title due probably to a wrong solution of the abbreviation TJ as Targum of Jonathan instead of Targum of Jerusalem; hence the modern name of Pseudo-Jonathan. It is a translation that essentially represents the Palestinian Targum, but its text has been made to conform in many passages to that of Onkelos. It has some late references [for example, in Gn 21.21 (seventh century); Ex 26.9; Nm 24.24] and many paraphrases found in no other text of the Palestinian Targum. It has at least 12 antihalakic passages that are similar to the halakah of philo judaeus and the Karaites. In many passages of halakah [see A. Marmorstein, Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 49 (1931) 234–235] and midrashic paraphrase, Pseudo-Jonathan is very old and probably pre-Christian. Some scholars, for example, P. E. Kahle [Cairo Geniza (2d ed. Oxford 1959) 203–204], would date its translation of Deuteronomy 33.11 to c. 130 b.c. The origin of Pseudo-Jonathan's composite text and the earlier history of its transmission are important, but unsolved, problems. It was first published at Venice in 1591; it was later uncritically edited from a manuscript of the British Museum by M. Ginsburger [Pseudo-Jonathan … (Berlin 1903)]; a new edition of the same manuscript is being prepared for the Madrid Polyglot.
The fragments of the Palestinian Targum from the Cairo geniza were published mainly by Kahle [Masoreten des Westens (Stuttgart 1930) 2:1–62; for other fragments see Christian News … 64], who dates the earliest manuscripts to the seventh and eighth centuries; J. L. Teicher, however, claims none is earlier than the mid-ninth century [Vetus Testamentum, (1951) 125–129; also see A. Díez Macho, Vetus Testamentum, 8 (1958) 116].
The so-called Fragment Targum, of which four manuscripts are known, translates only certain portions of the Pentateuch and is probably a collection of glosses on the Palestinian Targum taken from the manuscripts of Onkelos. It was published first at Venice in 1517; and later, in the Walton Polyglot (1654–57). A somewhat different type of text was published by M. Ginsburger [Das Fragmententhargum (Berlin 1899)] on the basis of Paris manuscript, 110.
The Samaritan Targum. This is a literal translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch into the Aramaic dialect of the samaritans. Like the Palestinian Targum, its texts vary greatly among themselves. It was published first in the Paris Polyglot (1645), then in corrected form in the Walton Polyglot. It was edited by A. Brüll (1875) and from various manuscripts by H. Petermann and C. Vollers (1872–91). A new edition from recently discovered manuscripts [on which see Estudios biblicos, 18 (1959) 183–197] is in preparation. The peshitta of the Pentateuch is in some yet undetermined way related to the Palestinian Targum, on which it may be based to a certain extent.
Knowledge of the Palestinian Targum can be useful in NT exegesis. Despite some later editing, the extant texts of the Palestinian Targum appear to represent, in great part, the liturgical Targum of the NT period. It can have a bearing on NT exegesis because: (1) its Aramaic language is very close to that spoken in Palestine in Christ's day; (2) its free paraphrase represents many theological concepts then current among the ordinary Jews; (3) since it was connected with the synagogue, it would have been familiar to more people than would other Jewish writings of the period. Its value for NT exegesis is now becoming ever more appreciated; for a full list of examples and a view of earlier work, see A. Díez Macho, "Targum y Nuevo Testamento," Mélange E. Tisserant, v.1 (Studi e Testi 231; Vatican City 1964); M. McNamara, The Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch and the N.T. (Rome 1966). Among the various forms of this Targum, that of Pseudo-Jonathan shows the closest relationship with the NT, particularly with the Apocalypse. For textual criticism all the Targums must be used with great caution (Eissfeldt, 945; Roberts, 211).
Targum to the Prophets. The Targum to the Former and the Latter Prophets (see prophetic books of the old testament) is written in Aramaic similar to that of Onkelos but with more extensive haggadah. It was edited in its present form in Babylonia, some time later than Onkelos, which it quotes; but it is of Palestinian origin and may contain some early, even pre-Christian paraphrase; confer, its Isaiah 65.5 with Revelation 20.14. The author of the Targum is unknown; the Jonathan (ben Uzziel) to whom it is ascribed in Meg. 3a is now taken to be a mere Hebraization of the name of Theodotion who translated the Bible into Greek. Some scholars believe that Theodotion's Greek translation is intended in Meg. 3a. In the Babylonian Talmud the Targum to Prophets is associated with the name of R. Jose of Pumbeditha (d. a.d. 333), although he is not its author. It was first printed in the rab binical bible of 1517, and often later, for example, by P. De Lagarde, Prophetae Chaldaice (Leipzig 1872) and A. Sperber, The Bible in Aramaic, v.2–3 (Leiden 1959–62). A new edition based on "Eastern" manuscripts will be published in the Madrid Polyglot. A Latin translation of it is given in the Walton Polyglot. Of a Palestinian Targum to the Prophets, which probably once existed, little is known.
Targums to the Writings. All these are written in Palestinian Aramaic and vary from one another in style and age. A written Targum to Job existed in the first Christian century (Shabb. 115a) and may be identical with that used at Qumran, extensive fragments of which (from c. 100 b.c.) have been found [see J. Van Der Ploeg, Le Targum de Job de la grotte 11 de Qumran … (Amsterdam 1962)]. The Qumran fragments differ from the traditionally known Targum to Job, which, with the Targum to the Psalms, forms a class apart, both in language and in the nature of its paraphrase. The Targum to the Psalms often agrees with Septuagint (LXX) against the MT, and at times it has conflated readings from both the LXX and the MT. It is probably an old work with later additions. From the paraphrase to Psalms 107 (108).12 some (for example, Bacher) date it before a.d. 476, but its language seems to be more recent (S. Bialoblocki). The Targum to Chronicles is similar in language to the Targum to Psalms and Job. Although it received its present form in the eighth or ninth century, it probably originated in the fourth century. The Targum to Proverbs, an extremely literal translation, is closely related to the Peshitta of the same book. Both were probably made from an old Jewish Syriac translation. The Targums to the Five Scrolls (i.e., Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther) are, with the exception of the first Targum to Esther, very paraphrastic and recent compositions (from the eighth and ninth centuries) and possibly contain occasional older traditions (cf, the Targum to Lam 2.20 with Mt 23.35). A Targum to Esther existed as early as Tannaitic times (Meg. 2.1). There are three Targums to this book. The first is a literal translation; the second (targûm šēnî ) and the third are similar to each other and are both paraphrastic. There is no known Targum to Daniel or to Ezra and Nehemiah. The Targum to the Writings (except to Chronicles) was first printed in 1517, and often later, for example, by P. de Lagarde, Hagiographa Chaldaice (Leipzig 1873). The Targum to Chronicles was first published by M. F. Beck (Augsburg 1680–83) and later from more complete manuscript by D. Wilkins (Amsterdam 1715).
Bibliography: e. mangenot, Dictionnaire de la Bible, ed., f. vigoroux, 5 v. (Paris 1895–1912) 5.2:1995–2008. t. walker, Dictionary of the Bible, eds., j. hastings and j. a. selbia, 5 v. (Edinburgh 1942–50) 4:678–683. s. bialo-blocki, Encyclopaedia Judaica: Das Judentum in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 10 v. (Berlin 1928–34), incomplete, 4:570–581. w. bacher, The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed., j. singer, (New York 1901–06) 12:57–63. f. schÜhlein, The Catholic Encyclopedia, ed., c. g. herbermann et al., 16 v. (New York 1907–14; suppl. 1922) 14:454–457. b. j. roberts, The Old Testament Text and Versions (Cardiff 1951) 197–213. o. eissfeldt, Einleitung in das AT (3d ed. Tübingen 1964) 944–947. p. e. kahle, The Cairo Geniza (2d ed. New York 1960) 191–208. p. churgin, Targum Jonathan to the Prophets (Yale Oriental Series, Researches 14; New Haven 1907). r. h. melamed, "The Targum to Canticles according to Six Yemen MSS …," Jewish Quarterly Review, 10 (1919–20) 377–410; 11 (1920–21) 1–20; 12 (1921–23) 57–117; repr. Philadelphia 1921. The Aramaic Bible: The Targums, 19 vols. ed., m. mcnamara, (Wilmington, Del. 1986–). Estudios biblicos (Madrid 1941–). Vetus Testamentum (Leiden 1951–). Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (Giessen-Berlin 1881–).
"Targums." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/targums
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