TARGUM. A name applied to each of several early somewhat paraphrastic translations of portions of the OT into Aram.
Definition and origin.
Targum is Aram. for “translation.” The root occurs once in the Bible (
It became customary in the synagogue services to read a v. from the Torah and then to have an explanation given orally in Aram. Although for many centuries it was not considered proper to read in the synagogue service anything except the actual Scripture itself, and the translations were given extemporaneously, usually from memory, in the course of the years these translations or interpretations naturally tended to become rather fixed. However, translations into Aram. were written down for use by people at home. By the 2nd or 3rd cent. a.d., many synagogues had adopted the custom of actually reading the tr. in the service, an innovation at which some of the rabbis were horrified.
As time went on and Jews in various areas began to speak Arab. or other languages, the targum ceased to be read in the services, but continued to be studied for help in interpretation.
Targums of the Pentateuch.
Since the Pentateuch in its entirety was read consecutively in the successive weekly synagogue services, the targums of the Pentateuch were particularly important. The best known of these is the so-called Targum of Onkelos, which was one of the earliest targums to be written down. Like most of the targums it had its origin in Pal. However, it was carried to Babylonia where there were great centers of Jewish learning in the 2nd and 3rd centuries a.d. Its dialect is fundamentally Palestinian, but at many points it was conformed to the Aram. dialect of Mesopotamia, and its text was changed at places, in view of the altered situation. It tends on the whole to be more literal than other targums, but it frequently expresses definite views such as the Messianic interpretation of
Other targums of the Pentateuch were considerably longer than the Targum of Onkelos. One which has been preserved in rather complete form has been called the Pseudo-Jonathan Targum because at one time it was thought to have been written by the author of the best-known targum on the books of the prophets (see below).
There are other MSS which contain portions of a targum of the law. On the assumption that they represent a different targum tradition they have been called the Fragmentary Targum. They, as well as the Pseudo-Jonathan Targum, have often been designated as the Palestinian Targum, or the Jerusalem Targum.
In 1956 Professor A. Diez-Macho reported that he had discovered that a palimpsest in the Vatican Museum, known as Neofiti I, was actually a complete copy of the Palestinian Targum.
Targums of the Prophets.
The bestknown targum of the prophets was attributed to Jonathan Ben Uzziel, a pupil of the great rabbi Hillel. On the whole it presents a fairly good tr. of the books in the second section of our present Heb. Bible, but it contains many paraphrases or interpretative additions. It is thought that this targum, like the Targum of Onkelos, was carried to Babylon and there worked over to some extent.
An interesting illustration of the interpretative method of the Targum of Jonathan is found in
Targums of the Hagiographa.
In their present form the latest targums that have been preserved are those on the Hagiographa. However, there may well have been earlier targums on these books, which have disappeared. The Talmud refers to a targum of Job as having been used by rabbis of the 1st cent., and a portion of such a targum has been found at Qumran.
Targums exist for all of the Biblical books except Ezra-Nehemiah and Daniel. The lack of a targum in these two cases is understandable since
Uses of the Targums.
The targums are not of any great value for fixing the text, since they so often use paraphrase instead of direct tr. However, they are of great interest for showing certain aspects of Jewish interpretation in the centuries immediately after the time of Christ. This value is somewhat lessened by the fact that most of them contain many additions or changes from later periods. The Palestinian Targum contains a specific reference to the city of Constantinople, which was not founded until a.d. 325, and attributes to Ishmael a wife and daughter with the same names as a wife and daughter of his famous descendant, Mohammed, who did not become prominent until the 7th cent. Sometimes a targum may give definite evidence as to the meaning of a rare Heb. word as used at the beginning of the Christian era, but such evidence must be used with great caution.
P. de Lagarde, Hagiographa Chaldaice (1873); M. Ginsburger, Das Fragmententhargum (1899); W. H. Brownlee, The Dead Sea Habaqquq Midrash and the Targum of Jonathan (1953); Biblia Polyglotta, Madrid (1957ff.); A. Sperber, The Bible in Aramaic (1959ff.); A. Diez-Macho, “The Recently Discovered Palestinian Targum,” suppl. to Vetus Testamentum (1960); J. Bowker, The Targums and Rabbinic Literature (1969).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
1. Meaning and Etymology of the Term
2. Origin of the Targums
3. Language of the Targums
4. Mode in Which the Targums Were Given
5. Date of the Targums
6. Characteristics of the Different Targums
(1) Onqelos--the Man Characteristics of His Targum
(2) The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel on the Prophets
Characteristics of His Targum--Earlier Prophets; Later Prophets
(3) Hagiographa: Psalms, Job and Proverbs
(a) The Meghilloth
(4) The Non-official Targums--Jonathan ben Uzziel and the Pentateuch
7. Use of the Targums
The Targums were explanations of the Hebrew Scriptures in Chaldaic (Western Aramaic) for the benefit of those Jews who had partially or completely ceased to understand the sacred tongue.
1. Meaning and Etymology of the Term:
By Gesenius the word methurgam, which occurs in
The word turgamanu is found, e.g., in the Tell el-Amarna Letters (Berlin edition, 21, 1. 25, Knudtzon, 154), with the meaning "interpreter." It may, none the less, be of Aramaic origin. See Muss-Arnolt, Concise Dictionary of the Assyrian Language, 1191 f, and the references there given.
The word is used as the Aramaic interpretation of shiggayon (
2. Origin of the Targums:
At the time when Nebuchadnezzar carried the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah captive to the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates, the language of everyday life in Assyria and Babylonia had ceased to be that which has come down to us in the cuneiform inscriptions, and had become Aramaic, the lingua franca of Southwestern Asia. It was the language of diplomacy, of business and of social intercourse, and had long been so. Dwelling in the midst of those who used Aramaic alone, the Jews soon adopted it for every occasion save worship. In the family they might retain their mother tongue for a time, but this would yield at length to continuous pressure from without. In Palestine a similar process had been going on in the absence of the captives. Intruders from various neighboring peoples had pressed in to occupy the blanks left by the removal of the Jewish captives to Babylon. Although it is not recorded, it is not impossible that following the example of the Assyrians, Nebuchadnezzar may have sent into Judea compulsory colonists from other parts of his empire. The language common to all these, in addition to their native dialect, was Aramaic. The Jewish inhabitants that had been left in the land would, like their relatives in Babylonia, have become accustomed to the use of Aramaic, to the exclusion, more or less complete, of Hebrew. Another process had begun among the captives. Away from the site of their destroyed temple, the exiles did not, like those in Upper Egypt, erect another temple in which to offer sacrifices. Their worship began to consist in the study of the Law in common, in chanting of the Psalms and united prayers. This study of the Law implied that it should be understood. Though some form of synagogue worship was known in the times preceding the captivity under the direction probably of the prophets (
3. Language of the Targums:
From the facts above narrated, this language was of necessity Aramaic. There were, however, forces at work to modify the language. A translation is liable to be assimilated so far, to the language from which it is made. Thus there is a difference, subtle but observable, between the English of our theof the Bible and that of Shakespeare, Bacon, or even Hooker. Or, to take an example more cognate, if less accessible to the general reader, the difference may be seen if one compares the Syriac of the Peshitta with that of the Peshitta of the . The Aramaic of the Targums is Western Aramaic, but it is Western Aramaic tinctured with Hebrew. The fact that the returned captives originally had spoken Hebrew would doubtless have its effect on their Aramaic. German in Jewish lips becomes Yiddish. One very marked feature is the presence of yath, the sign of the accusative translating the Hebrew ’eth, whereas in ordinary Aramaic, Eastern and Western, this is unused, except as supporting the oblique case of pronouns. Further, the intensive construction of infinitive with finite sense, so frequent in Hebrew, though little used in ordinary Aramaic, appears in the Targums wherever it occurs in the Hebrew text. As a negative characteristic there is to be noted the comparative rarity with which the emphatic repetition of the personal pronoun, so frequent in ordinary Aramaic, occurs in the Targumic.
4. Mode in Which the Targums Were Given:
The account given in Nehemiah (8:8) of the reading of the Law to the people not only mentions that Ezra’s helpers read "distinctly" (mephorash), but "gave the sense" (som sekhel) "and caused them to understand the reading," the King James Version (wayyabhinu ba-miqra’). This threefold process implies more than merely distinct enunciation. If this passage is compared with
5. Date of the Targums:
We have assumed that the action of Ezra narrated in
We may assume that in Judea the language commonly used in the 5th century BC was Aramaic. We may neglect then the position of Mr. Stenning (Enc Brit (11th edition), XXVI, 418b) that "probably as early as the 2nd century BC the people had adopted Aramaic." By that time Aramaic was giving place to Greek. His reason for rejecting the position above maintained is that the dates assigned by criticism to certain prophetic writings conflict with it--a mode of reasoning that seems to derive facts from theories, not theories from facts.
The fact that the necessity for translation into Aramaic existed in the Persian period implies the existence of the meturgheman and the targum. It is more difficult to know when these Targums were committed to writing. It is probable that the same movement, which led Jehudah ha-Nasi’ to commit to writing the decisions of the rabbis which form the Mishna, would lead to writing down the Targums--that is to say late in the 2nd century of our era. Aramaic was disappearing in Palestine and the traditional renderings would be liable to be forgotten. Talmudic stories as to dates at which the various Targums were written down are absolutely valueless.
6. Characteristics of the Different Targums:
The Targums that require most to be considered are the official Targums, those that are given in the rabbinic Bibles in columns parallel with the columns of Hebrew. In addition, there is for the Law the Targum Yerushalmi, another recension of which is called Targum Yonathan ben Uzziel. Thehas two Targums. Besides these, Targums of doubtful value have been written by private individuals. Certain books have no official Targums: Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles. The reason for this is supposed to be that in both Daniel and Ezra there are portions written in Aramaic. Nehemiah and Chronicles were regarded as forming one book with Ezra. A late Targum on Chronicles has been found and published separately. Some of the apocryphal additions to Esther appear in a late Targum to that book. The official Targums of the Law and the Prophets approach more nearly the character of translations, though even in them verses are at times explained rather than translated. The others are paraphrastic to a greater or less degree.
(1) Onqelos--the Man.
This is the name given to the official Targum of the Pentatuech. The legend is that it was written by one Onqelos, a proselyte son of Kalonymus or Kalonikus, sister’s son of Titus. He was associated with the second Gamaliel and is represented as being even more minutely punctilious in his piety than his friend. The legend goes on to say that, when he became a proselyte, his uncle sent company after company of soldiers to arrest him, but he converted them, one after another. It is at the same time extremely doubtful whether there ever was such a person, a view that is confirmed by the fact that legends almost identical are related of Aquila, the translator of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. The names are similar, and it may be are identical. While there may have been a person so named, the admission of this does not imply that he had any connection with the Targum of the Pentateuch named after him. Another explanation is that as the Greek version of Aquila was much praised by the Jews for its fastidious accuracy, and this Targum of the Law was credited with equally careful accuracy, so all that is meant is that it was regarded as a version which as accurately represented in Aramaic the Hebrew of the Law as did Aquila’s Greek. The probability is that whoever it was who committed the Targum to writing did little or no actual translating. It might not be the work of one unassisted author; the reference to the guidance Onqelos is alleged to have received from the rabbis Eliezer and Joshua suggests this. Owing to the fact that the Law was read through in the course of a year in Babylonian (once in three years in Pal) and every portion interpreted verse by verse in Aramaic, as it was read, the very words of the traditional rendering would be remembered. This gives the language of the Targum an antique flavor which may be seen when it is compared with that of the Palestinian lectionary discovered by Mrs. Gibson and Mrs. Lewis. Especially is this observed when the renderings of the same passage are put in comparison. Both in vocabulary and grammar there is a difference; thus mar occurs for shalleT, and yath as the sign of the accusative has disappeared in the lectionary. An analogy may be seen in the antique flavor of the language of our English Bible, even in the(British and American). If any credence were to be given to the traditional account of the alleged authors, the date of this Targum would be the end of the 1st century AD. But we have seen that it has been named Aquila and that the title means "as accurate as Aquila." He, however, lived in the beginning of the 2nd century. His Greek version must have already gained a reputation before the Aramaic Targum appeared. We cannot therefore date the actual committing of this Targum to writing earlier than late in the 2nd century, not improbably, as suggested above, contemporary with the writing down of the Mishna by Jehadah ha-Nasi’.
Characteristics of His Targum:
The characteristics of this Targum are in general close adherence to the original, sometimes even to the extent of doing violence to the genius of the language into which it has been translated. One prominent example of this is the presence of yath as the sign of the accusative; and there is also the intensive construction of infinitive with finite tense. There is a tendency to insert something between God and His worshipper, as "mimera’ Yahweh" instead of simply "Yahweh." Where anthropomorphisms occur, an exact translation is not attempted, but the sense is represented in an abstract way, as in
Committed to writing in Palestine, the Targum of Onqelos was sent to Babylon to get the imprimatur of the famous rabbis residing there. There are said to be traces in the language of a revision by the Babylonian teachers, but as this lies in the prevalence of certain words that are regarded as more naturally belonging to Eastern than Western Aramaic, it is too restrictedly technical to be discussed here. The result of the Babylonian sanction was the reception of this Targum as the official interpretation of the books of the Law. It seems probable that the mistake which led to its being attributed to Onqelos was made in Babylon where Aquila’s Greek version was not known save by vague reputation.
(2) The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel on the Prophets.
This Jonathan, to whom the Targum on the Prophets is attributed, is declared to be one of the most distinguished pupils of Hillel. The prophetic section of the Bible according to the Jews contains, besides what we ordinarily reckon prophetic books, also all the earlier historical books except Ruth, which is placed among the Hagiographa. During the persecution of the Jews by Epiphanes, when the Law was forbidden to be read in the synagogue, portions of the Prophets were read instead. There was no attempt to read the whole of the Prophets thus, but very considerable portions were used in worship. This necessitated the presence of the meturgheman. If one might believe the Talmudic traditions, Jonathan’s Targum was committed to writing before that of Onqelos. Jonathan is regarded as the contemporary of the first Gamaliel, whereas Onqelos is the friend of Aqiba, the contemporary of Hadrian. The tradition is that when he published his Targum of the Prophets, all Palestine was shaken, and a voice from heaven was heard demanding, "Who is this who revealeth my secrets to the sons of men?" As an example of the vagueness of Talmudic chronology, it may be mentioned that Jonathan was said to have made his Targum under the guidance of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. He is said to have desired to write a Targum of the Kethubhim, but was forbidden by a voice from heaven. The Targum of Job was skid to have been already written, but was buried by Gamaliel. It is said to have been exhumed and that the present Targum on that book is from Jonathan’s hand. The tomb of Jonathan ben Uzziel is shown on the face of a hill to the North of Safed, Palestine.
Characteristics of His Targum--Earlier Prophets; Later Prophets
In the former Prophets--the historical books--the style does not differ much from that of Onqelos. Occasionally there are readings followed which are not in the Massoretic Text, as
The later prophets are more paraphrastic as a whole than the earlier, as having more passages with poetic metaphors in them--a fact that is made plain to anyone by the greater space occupied in the rabbinic Bibles by the Targums of the Prophets. A marked example of this tendency to amplify is to be found in
(3) Hagiographa: Psalms, Job and Proverbs
(a) The Meghilloth
The Targums of the third division of the Hebrew sacred writings, the Kethubhim (the Hagiographa), are ascribed to Joseph Caecus, but this is merely a name. There is no official Targum of any of the Hagiographa, and several of them, Daniel, Nehemiah and Ezra, as above noted, have no Targum at all. Those of the longer books of this class, Psalms, Proverbs and Job, are very much closer to the text than are the Targums of the Meghilloth. In the Psalms, the paraphrase is explanatory rather than simply expansive. Thus in
The Targum of Proverbs has been very much influenced by the Peshitta; it may be regarded as a Jewish recension of it. Those of the five Meghilloth, as they are called, So of Songs, Ruth, Lamentation, Ecclesiates, and Esther, are excessively paraphrastic. If one compare the space occupied by the text of Canticles and Proverbs, it will be found that the former occupies about one-sixth of the latter; if the Targums of the two books are compared in Lagarde’s text, the Canticles are two-thirds of Proverbs. So Lamentations occupies in the Massoretic Text less than a quarter the space which Proverbs occupies; but the Targum of Lain is two-fifths the size of the Targum of Proverbs. Ru has not suffered such a dilatation; in the text it is a fifth, in the Targum a fourth, the size of Proverbs. The expansion mainly occurs in the first verse in which ten different famines are described. Ecclesiates in the Massoretic Text uses about three-eighths of the space occupied by Proverbs. This is increased to five-sixths in the Targum. There are two Targums of Esther, the first about five-sixths the size of Proverbs, the second, nearly double. The text is under one-half. We subjoin the Targum of La 11 from Mr. Greenup’s translation: Jeremiah the prophet and high priest said: "How is it decreed against Jerusalem and against her people that they should be condemned to exile and that lamentation should be made for them? How? Just as Adam and Eve were condemned who were ejected from the garden of Eden and over whom the Lord of the universe lamented. How? God the judge answers and speaks thus: `Because of the multitude of the sins which were in the midst of her, therefore she will dwell alone as the man in whose flesh is the plague of leprosy dwells alone! And the city that was full of crowds and many people hath been deserted by them and become like a widow. And she that was exalted among the peoples and powerful among the provinces, to whom they paid tribute, hath been scattered abroad so as to be oppressed and to give tribute to them after this." This gives a sufficient example of the extent to which expansion can go. Verse 1 of Esther in the first Targum informs us that the cessation of the work of building the Temple was due to the advice of Vashti, and that she was the daughter of Evil-merodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, and a number of equally accurate pieces of information. Yet more extravagant is the 2nd Targum; it begins by asserting that there are ten great monarchs of whom Achhashverosh was the 6th, the Greek and Roman were the 7th and the 8th, Messiah the king the 9th, and the Almighty Himself the 10th. It evidently has no connection with the first Targum.
The Targum of Chronicles, although late, is modeled on the Targums of Jonathan ben Uzziel. In cases where the narrative of Chronicles runs parallel with that of Samuel the resemblance is very great, even to verbal identity at times. The differences sometimes are worthy of note, as where in
(4) The Non-official Targums--Jonathan ben Uzziel and the Pentateuch
There is a Targum on the Pentateuch attributed to Jonathan ben Uzziel which is very paraphrastic. Fragments of another closely related Targum have been preserved, known as the Jerusalem Targum. In face the two may really be regarded as different recensions of the same Targum. It is supposed that some manuscript was denominated simply "the targum of J," which, really being the initial representing, "Jerusalem," was taken as representing Jonathan. At the end of each of the books of the Pentateuch is is stated that this Targum is the "targum Yerushalmi" Of the two the Yerushalmi is the longer. Both assert that five signs accompanied Jacob in his stay in Haran: the time was shortcried; the distance was shortened; the four stones for his pillow became one; his strength was increased so that with his own arm he moved the stone covering the well which it took all the shepherds to move; the water gushed from the well all the days he dwelt in Haran. But the narrative of ben Uzziel is expanded to nearly twice the length in the Yerushalmi. This Targum may be regarded as to some extent semi-official.
7. Use of the Targums:
The text of the official Targums is to be found in every rabbinic Bible. Berliner has published a careful, vocalized edition of Onqelos. The Prophets and the Hagiographa have been edited by Lagarde, but unvocalized. For the language Peterrnann’s grammar in the Porta Linguarum Orientalium is useful. Levy’s Chaldaisches Woterbuch is very good. Jastrow’s Diet. of the Targumim is invaluable. Brextorf’s Lexicon Talmudicum supplies information not easily available elsewhere. The Targums on the Pentateuch have been translated by Etheridge. There is an extensive literature on this subject in German. In English the different. may be consulted, especially McClintock, DB, HDB, EB, etc. The article in Encyclopedia Brit is worthy of study, as also naturally that in the Jewish Encyclopedia.