Aramaic Versions (the Targums)

Eberhard Nestle, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Vol. 2, pp. 130-132.

1. Origin and Language

Aramaic Versions (The Targums): These are Aramaic paraphrases of the Old Testament (targum -- "interpretation, translation," from targem, "to explain, translate "; cf. Ezra 4: 7) prepared for use in the synagogue, and took their rise from the custom of repeating and explaining the Hebrew sacred text in the Aramaic tongue, which after the exile became the vernacular of the Jews in Palestine and elsewhere. At first the targum was a free oral exposition; then it gradually acquired fixed form, and at last was reduced to writing. It is frequently found in manuscripts following the Hebrew text verse by verse. When the Law was read, the paraphrase was given after every verse; with the Prophets three verses were allowed to be taken together.

The language of the Targums used to be called Chaldee, because Jerome so named the Aramaic portions of the Hebrew Bible, which are written in a dialect very akin to that of the Targums. In reality, these have preserved the Jewish form of the Aramaic, the next cognate dialect being Syriac, the form of the Aramaic used by the Christians of Edesea, while still other cognate dialects are those of the Palmyrene inscriptions and of the Samaritans. The grammatical and lexicographical use of the Targums is hampered by the fact that no edition has as yet appeared that takes account of all the materials now available. Mercier vocalized the texts after the Syriac, Buxtorf after the Biblical Aramaic; the edition printed by Foa (Sabbionetta, 1557) seems to rest on a manuscript in which the supralinear system of vocalization had been changed into that of Tiberias, but with many faults and inconsistencies. The most original system of vocalization is that preserved in manuscripts from Yemen, on which cf. the works of Merx, Berliner, Landauer, Kautzsch, Margoliouth (The Superlinear Punctuation, in PSBA, xxiii, 164-205), and Barnstein (The Targum of Onkelos to Genesis, London, 1896), and the editions of Prätorius (Joshua, Berlin, 1899; Judges, 1900).

2. Targum Onkelos

For the greater part of the Old Testament there is more than one Targum. One on the Pentateuch is attributed in some passages of the Talmud to the helpers of Ezra. According to the Babylonian Talmud (Megillot 3a), Onkelos delivered it orally in Palestine; but this is the result of confusing Onkelos with Aquila, who translated the Old Testament into Greek, and "Judaic Pentateuch-Targum" is a better name than "Targum of Onkelos," which has been in use since Bomberg's Rabbinic Bible of 1517. In the third century its text seems to have been considered fixed, and manuscripts are mentioned several times, but Origen and Jerome apparently did not know a Targum, and hence we may conclude that it did not find official recognition before the fifth century. Its language is different from that of both Talmuds, and seems to render the original into the language of the place and time of its origin (Palestine) as faithfully as a translation which is somewhat pararphrastic can do. The Hebrew text on which it rests is practically our Masoretic text, and it is of interest as representing the exegetical tradition of the Jews. It is quite literal, gives a messianic interpretation of Gen. 49:10, and Num. 24:17, additions to Gen. 49, Num. 24, Deut. 32:33, and avoids all anthropomorphisms. Like the Hebrew text, it has been the subject of Masoretic studies, which have been edited by Berliner (Die Massorah zum Targum Onkelos, Leipsic, 1877).

3. Targum Jonathan

The Targum of the Prophets has been ascribed to Jonathan ben Uzziel, Hillel's greatest disciple; others give as its redactor Joseph ben Hiyya of Babylon (d. about 333); but it did not receive its final written form before the fifth century. It is more paraphrastic than the Targum of the Law, which induced Cornill to think that it is older. Eichhorn and Bertholdt thought they recognized different hands. The paraphrase is greatly influenced by the book of Daniel. Isa. 53 is understood of the Messiah, whose suffering atones for Israel. Great enmity is shown against Rome.

4. Other Targums of the Law and Prophets

The two Targums just described represent the Judaic Aramaic; of a mixed character is the language of Targums Yerushalmi I and II on the Law. Some verses are missing from the former, and the latter is preserved only in fragments. Certain other fragments found in various manuscripts and editions of the Pentateuch are designated by Dalman (Grammatik, § 6, 3) as Yerushalmi III. There are similar fragments of a Targum on the Prophets published by Lagarde from the margins of Reuchlin's codex (on which cf. Bacher, in ZDMG, xxviii). Bassfreund (Des Fragmententargum zum Pentateuch, Breslau, 1896) and similarly Dalman (Grammatik, § 6, 4) see in Onkelos the oldest Palestinian Targum and in Yerushalmi I and II a later development. M. Ginsburger, on the contrary (Pseudo-jonathan, Berlin, 1903, preface), and Bacher find in them traces of a very old Palestinian Targum, which has been worked over by Onkelos. The comment in these pieces is sometimes very fantastic.

5. The Hagiographa

The Targums of the Hagiographa are not translations, but commentaries; the Targum of the Song of Solomon, for instance, is a panegyric of the Jewish nation with foolish anachronisms, the Targum of the Psalms is in some parts literal, in others explanatory. The Targum of Proverbs is a working over of the Syriac translation (cf. Pinkuss, in ZATW, xiv, 65, 161). As the Hagiographa were not read in the Synagogue as regularly as the Law and the Prophets (cf. Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15; 15:21), their Targums are to some extent private literary works of differing character. For Ezra-Nehemiah and Daniel no Targum is known, unless the Aramaic parts of Daniel are fragments of a Targum. For Esther there are two Targums.


Bibliography: The best grammar is G. Dalman, Grammatik des jüdisch-palästinischen Aramaisch, Leipsic, 1894, Ausgabe mit Dialektproben, 1898, 2d ed., 1905 (gives valuable compend of literature). The first special dictionary for the Targum is the Meturgeman of Elias Levita, Isny, 1541; quite complete but unsatisfactory linguistically is J. Levy, Chaldäisches Wörterbuch über die Targumim, 2 vols., Leipsic, 1867-68. The whole range of Aramaic literature is treated in Nathan ben Jehief Sepher he-aruk (c. 1100 A.D.), first printed without place and date, but before 1480 A.D., new ed., by A. Kohut, Vienna, 1878-92 (cf. JE, ix, 180-182). Others are: G. F. Boderianus (1573), printed in the Antwerp Polyglot; J. Buxtorf, Lexicon chaldaicum, 1640, new ed., B. Fischer, Leipsic, 1869-75; M. Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Jerushalmi and the Midrashic Literature, 2 vols., New York, 1903 (the most accessible); G. Dalman, Aramäisch-neuhebräisches Wörterbuch mit Lexikon der Abbreviaturen, von G. Händler, Frankfort, 1897-1901.

The Targum of Onkelos was first printed Bologna, 1482, with Hebr. text and Rashi's commentary; best edition by Foa, at Sabbionetta, 1557, republished by A. Berliner at Berlin, 1884 (cf. Lagarde, Mittheilungen, ii, 163-182); latest edition in the Hebrew Pentateuch Sefer keter tora at Jerusalem, 1894-1901. Parts are in A. Merx, Chrestomathia Targumica, Berlin, 1883; in E. Kautzsch, Ueber eine alte Handschrift des Targum Onkelos, Halle, 1893; and G. Dalman, Aramäische Dialektproben, Leipsic, 1896. Translations are that in Eng, by J. W. Etheridge, including Onkelos, Jonathan, and the Jerusalem fragments, 2 vols., London, 1862, and the Latin transl. by P. Fagius, Strasburg, 1546. On the text-critical value and other relations consult: S. Landauer, Die Masorah zum Onkelos, Leipsic, 1877; H. Barnstein, Targum of Onkelos to Genesis, London, 1896; G. Diettrich, Grammatische Beobachtungen, in ZATW, xx (1900), 148-159; E. Brederek, in TSK, lxxiv (1901), 351-377; A. Merx, Die Vokalisation der Targume, in Verhandlung des Sten orientalischen Congress, ii, part 1, pp. 142-188. On the person of Onkelos consult: D. Lussatto, Philoxemus, Cracow, 1895; M. Friedmann, Onkelos und Akylas, Vienna, 1896; JE, ii, 36-38, ix, 405, xii, 58-59.

The editions of the Targums of Jonathan are: For the "Former Prophets " 1st edition, Leiria, 1494, for the whole, in the first Rabbinic Bible, Venice, 1517; by Lagarde after Reuchlin's MS., 1872 (cf. A. Klostermann in TSK, xivi, 1873, 731-767); Joshua and Judges by Praetorius from South Arabian MSS., Berlin, 1899-1900; Jonah and Micah by Merx, in his Chrestomathia, ut sup.; Nahum by Adler, in JQR, vii (1895), 630-657; Jer. i-xii by Wolfsohn, 1903; Ezekiel i-x by Silbermann, 1902; the Haftaroth in the Hebrew Pentateuch Sefer keter torah, ut sup. Consult also: C. W. H. Pauli, The Chaldee Paraphrase on the Prophet Isaiah, London, 1871; Z. Frankel, Zu dem Targum der Propheten, Breslau, 1872; W. Bacher, in ZDMG, xxviii (1874), 1-72, 157, 319; H. S. Levy, Targum on Isaiah, with Commentary, London, 1889.

Yerushalmi I and II were first published in Bomberg's Rabbinic Bible, Venice, 1517. The best editions of both are by M. Ginsburger, Pseudo-Jonathan, Berlin, 1903, and Das Fragmententhargum, 1899 (cf. Barnstein, in JQR, xiii, 1899, 167; ZDMG, lviii, 1904, 374-378). On both Targums, cf. Dalman, Grammatik, § 6, 1-2; on an important manuscript of Yerushalmi II at Nuremberg, cf. Lagarde, Mittheilungen, iii, Göttingen, 1889, 87.

The Targum of the Hagiographa: The first edition of Job, Ps., Prov., and the Rolls was in the Rabbinic Bible, Venice, 1517, which books were reprinted by Lagarde in 1873; the best edition of the Targum on Esther is by M. David, Berlin, 1898 (cf. Posner, Das Targum Rischon zu Esther, Breslau, 1896); Ecclesiastes, from South Arabian MSS., by A. Levy, ib. 1905. Consult E. Brederek, Konkordanz zum Targum Onkelos, Giessen, 1906; H. L. Strack, Einleitung in das A. T., § 84, Munich, 1906.