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Aramaic translation or paraphrase of the Old Testament

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Targum (TARGUMIM; Hebrew: TRGVMYM singular, TRGVM “translation” (cf. Mtrgm. Ezra, iv, 7) is the distinctive designation of the Aramaic translations or paraphrases of the Old Testament. After the return from exile Aramaic gradually won the ascendancy as the colloquial language over the slowly decaying Hebrew until, from probably the last century before the Christian era, Hebrew was hardly more than the language of the schools and of worship. As the majority of the population ceased to be conversant with the sacred language it became necessary to provide translations for the better understanding of the passages of the Bible read in Hebrew at the liturgical services. Thus to meet this need it became customary to add to the portions of the Scriptures read on the Sabbath an explanatory oral translation—a Targum. At first this was probably done only for the more difficult passages, but as time went on, for the entire text. The “Mishna” gives elaborate instructions as to the way in which this translating should be done. According to the “Megillah” (IV, 4), when the lesson to be read aloud was from the “Torah” only one verse was to be read to the translator (Methurgeman MTVRGMN). When the lesson was from the “Nebi’im” it was permitted to read three to him, unless each verse formed a special division. The directions also state which portions are to be read aloud but not translated (cf. for instance “Meg.”, IV, 10), and a warning is given against translations that are either too free, palliative, allegorical etc.

Another regulation was that the Targum was not to be written down (“Jer. Meg.”, IV, i=fol. 74 d). This prohibition, however, probably referred only to the interpretation given in the synagogue and did not apply to private use or to its employment in study. In any case, written Targums must have existed at an early date. Thus, for instance, one on the Book of Job is mentioned in the era of Gamaliel I (middle of the first century A.D.), which he, however, was not willing to recognize (“Sabb.”, 115a; cf. “Tos. Sabb.”, 13, 2=p. 128, ed. Zuckermandel). If Matt., xxvii, 46, gives the Aramaic form of Ps., xxi, 2, the last utterance of the Savior upon the Cross, this shows that even then the Psalms were current among the people in the Aramaic language; moreover, Ephes., iv, 8, has a closer connection with the Targum to Ps., lxvii, 19, than with the Masoretic text. In addition, the “Mishna Yadayim”, IV, 5, and “Sabb.”, XVI, also indicates the early existence of MSS. of the Targum. These MSS., however, were only owned privately not officially as for along period the Targums were without authoritative and official importance in Palestine. This authoritative position was first gained among the Babylonian Jews and through their influence the Targums were also more highly esteemed in Palestine, at least the two older ones. In the form in which they exist at present no Targum that has been preserved goes back further than the fifth century. Various indications, however, show the great antiquity of the main contents of many Targums, their theology among other things. That as early as the third century the text, for instance, of the Targum on the Pentateuch was regarded by the synagogue as traditionally settled is evident from the “Mishna Meg.”, IV, 10, “Jer. Meg.”, 74d, “Hab. Kidd.”, 49d, “Tos. Meg.”, IV, 41. There are Targums to all the canonical books excepting Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah; for some books of the Bible there are several Targums. As regards age and linguistic character they may be divided into three classes: (I) Targum of Onkelos and Targum of Jonathan; (2) Jerusalem Targums; (3) Targum on the Hagiographa.

The form of language used in the Targums is called specifically the “Targum dialect”. It belongs to western Aramaic and more particularly to the Aramaic of Palestine. Its home is to be sought in Judea, the ancient seat of the learning of the scribes. It should be borne in mind that this Targumic language does not represent the spoken Aramaic, but is the result of the labors of scholars. Consequently the point under discussion turns on a literary Aramaic originally formed in Judea. This is particularly true of the two earlier Targums; the later ones show generally an artificially mixed type of language. The traditional pointing of the texts is valueless and misleading: a more certain basis was first offered by MSS. from Southern Arabia in which the pointing for the vowels was placed above the line. In Arabia the old synagogal custom of reciting the Targum at the religious services had been retained, and consequently more interest was felt there in the pronunciation. It must be acknowledged, however, that this cannot be regarded as a direct reproduction of the Palestinian pronunciation; it may have sprung from a formal treatment of the Targum of Onkelos customary among the Babylonian scholars. As regards the method of translation all Targums in common strive to avoid as much as possible anthropomorphisms and anthropopathic terms, as well as other apparently undignified expressions concerning, and descriptive of God. The Targums are printed in the Rabbinical and Polyglot Bibles, although the two do not always contain the same Targums or an equal number of them. See below for particulars as to individual editions.

I. THE TARGUM OF ONKELOS.—The official Tar-gum to the Pentateuch (Hebrew: TRGVSSL TVRH) is designated by the name of Onkelos (ANQLVM). In the Babylonian Talmud and in the Tosephta, Onkelos is the name of a proselyte who is mentioned as a contemporary of the elder Gamaliel (“Aboda zara”, 11a; cf. “Tos. sabb.”, 8=p. 119, ed. Zuckermandel). The labors of Onkelos are referred to in “Meg.”, 3a, in the following words: “Rab Jeremiya, according to others Rab Hiya bar Abba says: ‘According to the statement (MPY) of Rab Eliezer and Rab Josua, Onkelos the proselyte has said, AMRV that is, has orally formulated, the Targum of the Torah‘”. Gaon Sar Shalon (d. 859) was the first who, taking this passage as a basis, called the Pentateuch-Targum the Targum of Onkelos. This he did in an opinion concerning the Targum which he evidently had before him at the time in a written copy. The designation that thus arose became customary through its acceptance by Rashi and others. It is evident, however, that in the passage mentioned (“Meg.”, 3a) there has been a confusion with the name of Aquila, the translator of the Bible, for the older parallel passage of the Palestinian Talmud (“Meg.”, I, 11 = fol. 71c) says the same of Aquila and his Greek translation of the Bible. Compare also Midrash, Tanchuma, Mishpatim, 91, 92 (ed. Mantua, 1863, fol. 36b). Thus it seems that in Babylonia the old and correct knowledge of the Greek translation of the proselyte Aquila was erroneously transferred to the anonymous Aramaic translation, that consequently Onkelos (instead of Akylas) is a corrupted form or a provincial modification of Aquila (`QYLM), as, for instance, the To-sephta has ANQLM always (five times) for `QYLM. It is not necessary to discuss here earlier views concerning this point. The effort to prove the existence of an Onkelos distinct from Aquila is still made by Friedmann (“Onkelos and Akylas” in “Jahresber. der Israelit.—theol. Lehranstalt in Wien”, 1896), but the proof adduced is not convincing (cf. Blau in “Jewish Quarterly Review,” IX, 1897, p. 727 sqq.).

Thus it is not known who wrote the Targum named after Onkelos. In any case the Targum, at least the greater part of it, is old, a fact indicated by the connection with Rab Eliezer and Rab Josua, and belongs probably to the second, or it may be to the first century of our era. It arose, as the idiom shows, in Judea, but it received official recognition first from the Babylonian Rabbis, and is therefore called by them TRGVM DYDN (our Targum), or is quoted with the formula KRMTVGMYNN (as we translate). Rab Natronay (d. 869) in speaking of this T DRBNN says, that it is not permitted to replace it in the services of the synagogue by any other translation of the Pentateuch. The high reputation of this authorized translation is shown by the fact that it has a Masorah of its own. The fixing of the written form, and thereby the final settlement of the text as well, should not be assigned to a date before the fifth century. The language is, in general, an artificial form of speech closely connected with the Biblical Aramaic. It is probably not the spoken Aramaic used as a dialect by the Jewish people, but a copy made by scholars of the Hebraic original, of which the Targum claims to give the most faithful reproduction possible. In doing this the Aramaic language is treated similarly to the Greek in the translation of Aquila, consequently the many Hebraic idioms. There is no positive proof (Dalman, “Gramm”, 13) of a corrupting influence of the Babylonian dialect as Noldeke held [“Semit. Sprachen” (1887), 32; (2nd ed., 1899), 38].

As regards the character of the translation it is, taken altogether, fairly literal. Anthropomorphic and anthropopathic expressions are avoided by roundabout expressions or in other ways; obscure Hebrew words are often taken without change into the text; proper names are frequently interpreted, as Shinar-Babylon, Ishmaelites-Arabs; for figurative expressions are substituted the corresponding literal ones. Haggadic interpretation is only used at times, for instance in prophetic passages, as Gen., xlix; Num., xxiv; Deut., xxxiii. This Targum was first printed at Bologna (1482) together with the Hebrew text of the Bible and the commentary of Rashi; later, in the Rabbinical Bibles of Bomberg and Buxtorf, and with a Latin translation in the Complutensian Polyglot (1517), and the Polyglots of Antwerp (1569), Paris (1645), and London (1657). Among separate editions of the Targum special mention should be made of that printed in 1557 at Sabbioneta. More modern editions are: Berliner, “Targum Onkelos” (2 vols., Berlin, 1884), in which vol. I contains the text according to the Sabbioneta edition, and vol. II, elucidations; the Yemanites at Jerusalem have printed with an edition of the Pentateuch (sefer Keter tors) from MSS. the Arabic translation by Saadya (Jerusalem, 1894-1901), in which publication the vowel pointing above the line has been changed to sublinear pointing; Barnheim, “The Targum of Onkelos to Genesis” (London, 1896), on the text of the Yemen manuscripts. In addition to the Latin translations in the Polyglot Bibles there is one by Fagius (Strasburg, 1546); there is also an English translation by Etheridge, “The Targum of Onkelos and Jonathan ben Uzziel on the Pent., with the Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum”, from the Chaldee (2 vols., London, 1862-65).

THE TARGUM OF JONATHAN (YONATHAN).—The Targum to the Prophets (priores, historical books; posteriores, the actual Prophets) now in existence is ascribed to Jonathan ben Uzziel, who is said on the authority of the Babylonian “Megillah”, 3a, to have formulated it orally (Hebrew: AMRV) in accordance with the instructions (MPY) of Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi. This assertion probably means that in his exposition he gives the traditional interpretation that had been handed down from one generation to another since early times. According to the Babylonian “Sukkah” (28a=baba bathra 134a), he was the most noted pupil of the elder Hillel, and is therefore assigned to the first Christian century. The Babylonian Talmud in quoting passages from this Targum ascribes them to Rab Joseph bar Hiya (d. 333), the head of the school at Pumbaditha. Rab Joseph was regarded as a great authority on the tradition of the Targum and his judgment on the translation of individual passages was eagerly listened to; he may perhaps be considered as the editor of this Targum. For Jonathan as for Onkelos the final settlement of the written form did not occur until the fifth Christian century. Cornill claims to show (“Einleitung”, 2nd ed., 1893, p. 308) that the Targum on the Prophets is older than the Torah-Targum, but the reasons produced are not convincing (cf. Dalman, 15, passim). Linguistically, this Targum approaches most closely that of Onkelos; in grammaticalconstruction the two are alike but the words used differ, and this Targum is more paraphrastic. In the historical books Jonathan himself is often the expounder, but in the actual prophetic books the exposition is in reality Haggadic. The religious opinions and theological conceptions of the era that are interwoven are very instructive. The text, further, is not free from later additions; from this cause arise the double translations of which the Targum contains several. The “Prophetae priores” was first printed with the Hebrew text and the commentaries of Gimhi and Levi at Leiria, Portugal, in 1494. At a later date the whole Targum was printed in the Rabbinical Bibles of Bomberg and Buxtorf and in the Polyglot Bibles of Antwerp, Paris, and London. The last edition is that of de Lagarde, “Prophetic chaldaice e fide codicis Reuchliniani” (Leipzig, 1872). There are supplementary additions to this from an Erfurt MS. in “Symmicta”, I, 139. The Targum to the Haphtarah is to be found in what is called the Pentateuch edition of the Yemanites at Jerusalem. English translations are: Pauli, “The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah Translated” (London, 1871); Levy, “Targum on Isaiah,” I (London, 1889).

II. THE JERUSALEM TARGUMS.—This designation is not correct; the older and more correct name. Hebrew: TRGVM AR` YSRAL i.e. Palestinian Targum, is found for instance in the writings of Gaon Hai (d. 1038). At a later date this designation was displaced by the term YRVSMLY just as before this the Palestinian Talmud (TLMVD ARTS YSRAL) is called in the writings of Gaon Sar Shalon T YRVSLMY. Fundamentally the language of these Targums is Palestinian Aramaic but of a very mixed type. Neither of them is homogeneous grammatically and lexically. Besides expressions that recall the Galilean dialect of the Palestinian Talmud a preference is shown for imitation of the language of the Targum of Onkelos, while there are also various terms belonging to the language of the Babylonian Talmud.

Targum Yerushalmi I on the Pentateuch.—This is generally called the Targum of Jonathan or of Pseudo-Jonathan, because it is cited in the first printed edition (Venice, 1591) under the name of Jonathan ben Uzziel. This designation, however, rests on a mistaken solution of the abbreviation T Y that is, T`YRVSMLY. The Targum could not have appeared in its present form before the second half of the seventh century. For example (Gen., xxi, 21), a wife and daughter of Mohammed are mentioned. Compare also (Gen., xlix, 26) the position of Esau and Ishmael as representatives of the Christian and the Mohammedan world. The Targum covers the entire Pentateuch. The only passages that are lacking are: Gen., vi, 15; x, 23; xviii, 4; xx, 15; xxiv, 28; xli, 49; xliv, 30-31; Exod., iv, 8; Lev., xxiv, 4; Num., xxii, 18; xxx, 20b, 2D; xxxvi, 8-9. As to its form it is a free Haggadic treatment of the text, that is, an exposition rather than a translation. A large part of it is made up of legendary narratives; there are also dialogues, rhetorical and poetical digressions.

The paraphrase also discusses religious and meta-physical conceptions, as was the custom of the Jewish mystics of the seventh century. This Targum was first printed: as “TRGVM HQDVS YVN TN `VZ AL at Venice in 1591. It is also to be found in volume IV of the London Polyglot. A separate edition of this Targum was edited from the manuscript in the British Museum (MS. Addit. 27031) by Ginsburger, “Targum Jonathan ben Usiel zum Pentat.” (Berlin, 1903). Concerning this codex cf. Barnstein in “Jew. Quart. Rev.”, XI (1899), 167 sqq. An English translation has been published by Etheridge (supra).

B. Targum Yerushalmi II on the Pentateuch is also called the Fragmentary Targum, because the Targum on the entire Pentateuch has not been preserved, but only portions of it on numerous longer and shorter passages, frequently only the Targum on individual verses or parts of such. These fragments were first printed in the rabbinical Bible of 1517 as TRGVM In language, method of translation, and exegetical form they are related to the Pseudo-Jonathan. A perspicuously arranged compilation of the fragments that have been preserved is given by Gins-burger in the “ZDMG”, LVII (1903), 67 sqq., and in loc. cit., LVIII (1904), 374 sqq., on a page that came from a geniza or repository in a synagogue for damaged manuscripts. A Latin translation from the Venice edition of 1517 was published by Taylor (London, 1649); English tr. by Etheridge (supra).

Opinions concerning the connection between the Targums Jerushalmi I and Jerushalmi II agree in general that both are to be traced back to different recensions of an old Jerusalem Targum. This is the view of Zunz (p. 73, and passim), and also that of Geiger, “Urschrift and Ubersetzungen der Bibel” (Berlin, 1857), 454. Bassfreund (infra) reaches the conclusion that the basis both of the Fragmentary Targum and that of the Pseudo-Jonathan is a complete Jerusalem Targum of post-Talmudic origin, but that the two Targums, Jerushalmi I and II, presuppose the existence of the Targum of Onkelos. The Fragmentary Targum gives from this ancient Jerusalem Targum, according to Bassfreund, only matter supplementary to Onkelos, while Onkelos and the Jerusalem Targum have been used in preparing the Pseudo-Jonathan. In the preface to his edition of the Pseudo-Jonathan (see below) Ginsburger tries to prove that both the Fragmentary Targum and the Pseudo-Jonathan may be traced back to a very ancient Palestinian Targum, which was not influenced by the Targum of Onkelos until a later date. The Fragmentary Targum, in Ginsburger’s opinion, represents a variant collection, not to Onkelos (as Bassfreund thinks), but to another recension of that ancient Jerusalem Targum. Ginsburger’s views will have to be accepted as the more probable.

C. Targum Yerushalmi III is the name assigned by Dalman (Gramm., 29) to fragments which are given in old editions of the Pentateuch, as Lisbon (1491), Salonica (1520), Constantinople (1546), Venice (1591), and in several MSS. Nearly all have been published by Ginsburger, “Das Fragmententargum” (1899), 71-74.

D. There have also been Jerusalem Targums on the Prophets and on individual books of the Hagiographa. As regards the Targums on the Prophets de Lagarde has given Reuchlin’s notes from the “Nebi’im Codex” in the introduction (pp. VI—XLII) to his “Prophetle chaldaice” (infra). There are fragments on Josue, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaias, Jeremias, Amos, Jonas, Zacharias. [Cf. Bacher in “ZDMG”, XXVIII (1874), 1-72; XXIX (1875), 157 sqq., 319 sq.]

III. TARGUMS ON THE HAGIOGRAPHA.—They are the work of various authors and have the character more or less of private undertakings, with the production of which the schools had nothing to do. Linguistically they are to be regarded as the work artificially produced of a late age. They depend in the main on the Jerusalem Targums and probably belong to the same era; the Targum on Chronicles may be somewhat later. Three groups are to be distinguished as regards linguistic character and relation to the original text: (a) Targums to Proverbs, Psalms, and Job; (b) Targums to the five Megilloth, that is Ruth, Esther, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Canticles; (c) Targums to the Books of Chronicles. The Targums mentioned under (a) adhere relatively closest to the text of the Bible. The Targum to Proverbs is in language and contents very dependent on the text of the Syriac Peschitto, and is but little more than a Jewish recension of the same. [Cf. Noldeke in “`Merx’ Archiv für wissenschaftl. Erforschung des A. T.”, II (1872), 246 sqq.; Baumgartner, “Etude critique sur l’etat du texte du livre des Proverbes” (Leipzig, 1890), 267 sqq.] Haggadic additions are found only occasionally in the Targum on the Psalms. In a number of passages a second translation is introduced with the remark T A (that is, TRGVM ACHR another Targum). The Targum to Job contains many more additions. There are also variants of the usual formula of citation T A and much oftener than in the Targum on the Psalms. In style and language this Targum resembles that on the Psalms, consequently both perhaps are the work of the same author.

The Targums on the Megilloth are not in reality translations but rather Haggadic commentaries. The Biblical text is most clearly evident in the Targums to Ruth and to Lamentations. The Targum to Ecclesiastes is a tasteless declamation upon the text on which it is based; that on Canticles is an allegorico-mystical Midrash. There are two Targums to Esther, the one closely resembles a paraphrase and has no legends interwoven with it; the other, called Targum scheni, has altogether the character of a Midrash. It is only to a small degree a translation; the greater part of it consists of stories, legends, and discourses that have but slight connection with the contents of the book. (c) A Targum on the Books of Chronicles was edited from a MS. in Erfurt by Matthias Beck (2 pts., Augsburg, 1680-83); a more complete and correct text taken from a MS. at Cambridge was edited by Wilkins, “Paraphrasis Chaldaica in librum priorem et posteriorem Chronicorum” (Amsterdam, 1715).

All the Targums to the Hagiographa (excepting Chronicles) were printed for the first time in the Bomberg Bible in 1517; afterwards in the “Polyglots” of Antwerp, Paris, and London. A modern edition from the Bomberg text, with Chronicles from the Erfurt Codex, was edited by de Lagarde, “Hagiographa chaldaice” (Leipzig, 1873).


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