The targumim (singular: "targum", Hebrew: תרגום) were spoken
paraphrases, explanations and expansions of the Jewish scriptures
(also called the Tanakh) that a rabbi would give in the common
language of the listeners, which was then often Aramaic. That had
become necessary near the end of the 1st century BCE, as the common
language was in transition and Hebrew was used for little more than
schooling and worship. The noun "Targum" is derived from the early
semitic quadriliteral root trgm, and the Akkadian term targummanu
refers to "translator, interpreter". It occurs in the Hebrew Bible
in Ezra 4:7 "... and the writing of the letter was written in the
Syrian tongue and interpreted (tirgam) in the Syrian tongue." Besides
denoting the translations of the Bible, the term
Targum also denote
the oral rendering of
Bible lections in synagogue, while the
translator of the
Bible was simply called hammeturgem (he who
translates). Other than the meaning "translate" the verb Tirgem also
means "to explain". The word
Targum refers to "translation" and
argumentation or "explanation".
Writing down the targum was prohibited; nevertheless, some targumatic
writings appeared as early as the middle of the first century CE.
They were then not recognized as authoritative by the religious
leaders, however. Some subsequent Jewish traditions (beginning with
the Babylonian Jews) accepted the written targumim as authoritative,
and eventually, it became a matter of debate. Today, only
the republic of Yemen continue to use the targumim liturgically.
As translations, the targumim largely reflect midrashic interpretation
Tanakh from the time they were written and are notable for
eschewing anthropomorphisms in favor of allegorical readings.
(Maimonides, for one, notes this often in The Guide for the
Perplexed.) That is true both for those targumim that are fairly
literal as well as for those that contain many midrashic expansions.
Elia Levita wrote and published Sefer Meturgeman, explaining
all the Aramaic words found in the Targum.
Bible is also used in the Syriac Church (see Peshitta). In
addition, targumim are used today as sources in text-critical editions
Bible (BHS refers to them with the abbreviation 𝔗).
1 Two major genres
3 Other Targumim on the Torah
5 See also
7 External links
7.1 English translations of Targum
7.2 Other sources on Targum
Two major genres
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The two most important targumim for liturgical purposes are:
Targum Onkelos on the
Torah (Written Law)
Targum Jonathan ben Uzziel on the
These two targumim are mentioned in the Babylonian
Talmud as targum
dilan ("our Targum"), giving them official status. In the synagogues
of talmudic times,
Targum Onkelos was read alternately with the Torah,
verse by verse, and
Targum Jonathan was read alternately with the
Nevi'im (i.e., the Haftarah). This custom continues
today in Yemenite Jewish synagogues. The
Yemenite Jews are the only
Jewish community to continue the use of
Targum as liturgical text, as
well as to preserve a living tradition of pronunciation for the
Aramaic of the targumim (according to a Babylonian dialect).
Besides its public function in the synagogue, the Babylonian Talmud
also mentions targum in the context of a personal study requirement:
"A person should always review his portions of scripture along with
the community, reading the scripture twice and the targum once"
(Berakhot 8a–b). This too refers to
Targum Onkelos on the public
Torah reading and to
Targum Jonathan on the haftarot from Nevi'im.
Medieval biblical manuscripts of the Tiberian mesorah sometimes
contain the Hebrew text interpolated, verse-by-verse, with the
targumim. This scribal practice has its roots both in the public
reading of the
Targum and in the private study requirement.
The two "official" targumim are considered eastern (Babylonian).
Nevertheless, scholars believe they too originated in the Land of
Israel because of a strong linguistic substratum of western Aramaic.
Though these targumim were later "orientalised", the substratum
belying their origins still remains.
In post-talmudic times, when most Jewish communities had ceased
speaking Aramaic, the public reading of
Targum along with the Torah
Haftarah was abandoned in most communities, Yemen being a
The private study requirement to review the
Targum was never entirely
relaxed, even when Jewish communities had largely ceased speaking
Aramaic, and the
Targum never ceased to be a major source for Jewish
exegesis. For instance, it serves as a major source in the Torah
commentary of Shlomo Yitzhaki, "Rashi", and therefore has always been
the standard fare for Ashkenazi (French, central European, and German)
For these reasons, Jewish editions of the
Tanakh which include
commentaries still almost always print the
Targum alongside the text,
in all Jewish communities. Nevertheless, later halakhic authorities
argued that the requirement to privately review the targum might also
be met by reading a translation in the current vernacular in place of
the official Targum, or else by studying an important commentary
containing midrashic interpretation (especially that of Rashi).
Talmud explicitly states that no official targumim were composed
besides these two on
Nevi'im alone, and that there is no
official targum to
Ketuvim ("The Writings"). An official targum was in
fact unnecessary for
Ketuvim because its books played no fixed
liturgical role. The
Talmud (Megilah 3a) states The
Targum of the
Pentateuch was composed by Onkelos the proselyte from the mouths of R.
Eleazar and R. Joshua. The
Targum of the Prophets was composed by
Jonathan ben Uzziel
Jonathan ben Uzziel under the guidance of Haggai, Zechariah and
Malachi (Jonathan b. Uzziel was a disciple of Hillel, so he had
traditions handed down from them-Maharsha), and the land of Israel
[thereupon] quaked over an area of four hundred parasangs by four
hundred parasangs, and a Bath Kol (heavenly voice) came forth and
exclaimed, Who is this that has revealed My secrets to mankind?
Jonathan b. Uzziel thereupon arose and said, It is I who have revealed
Thy secrets to mankind. It is fully known to Thee that I have not done
this for my own honour or for the honour of my father's house, but for
Thy honour l have done it, that dissension may not increase in Israel.
He further sought to reveal [by] a targum [the inner meaning] of the
Hagiographa, but a Bath Kol went forth and said, Enough! What was the
reason? Because the date of the Messiah is foretold in it". [A
possible reference to the end of the book of Daniel.] But did Onkelos
the proselyte compose the targum to the Pentateuch? Has not R. Ika
said, in the name of R. Hananel who had it from Rab: What is meant by
the text, Neh. VIII,8 "And they read in the book, in the law of God,
with an interpretation. and they gave the sense, and caused them to
understand the reading? And they read in the book, in the law of God:
this indicates the [Hebrew] text; with an interpretation: this
indicates the targum,..." (which shows that the targum dates back to
the time of Ezra).
Nevertheless, most books of
Ketuvim (with the exceptions of Daniel and
Ezra-Nehemiah, which both contain Aramaic portions) have targumim,
whose origin is mostly western (Land of Israel) rather than eastern
(Babylonia). But for lack of a fixed place in the liturgy, they were
poorly preserved and less well known. From Palestine, the tradition of
Ketuvim made its way to Italy, and from there to medieval
Ashkenaz and Sepharad. The targumim of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job are
generally treated as a unit, as are the targumim of the five scrolls
(Esther has a longer "Second Targum" as well.) The targum of
Chronicles is quite late, possibly medieval, and is attributed to a
Other Targumim on the Torah
There are also a variety of western targumim on the Torah, each of
which was traditionally called
Targum Yerushalmi ("Jerusalem Targum").
An important one of these was mistakenly labeled "
Targum Jonathan" in
later printed versions (though all medieval authorities refer to it by
its correct name). The error crept in because of an abbreviation: the
printer interpreted the abbreviation T Y (ת"י) to stand for Targum
Yonathan (תרגום יונתן) instead of the correct Targum
Yerushalmi (תרגום ירושלמי). Scholars refer to this targum
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan. To attribute this targum to Jonathan ben
Uzziel flatly contradicts the talmudic tradition (Megillah 3a), which
quite clearly attributes the targum to
Nevi'im alone to him, while
stating that there is no official targum to Ketuvim. In the same
printed versions, a similar fragment targum is correctly labeled as
The Western Targumim on the Torah, or Palestinian Targumim as they are
also called, consist of three manuscript groups:
Targum Neofiti I,
Fragment Targums, and Cairo Geniza Fragment Targums.
Targum Neofiti I is by far the largest. It consist of 450
folios covering all books of the Pentateuch, with only a few damaged
verses. The history of the manuscript begins 1587 when the censor
Andrea de Monte (d. 1587) bequeathed it to Ugo Boncompagni—which
presents an oddity, since Boncompagni, better known as Pope Gregory
XIII, died in 1585. The route of transmission may instead be by a
certain "Giovan Paolo Eustachio romano neophito." Before this de
Monte had censored it by deleting most references to idolatry. In 1602
Boncompagni's estate gave it to the Collegium Ecclesiasticum
Adolescentium Neophytorum (or Pia Domus Neophytorum, a college for
converts from Judaism and Islam) until 1886, when the Vatican bought
it along with other manuscripts when the Collegium closed (which is
the reason for the manuscripts name and its designation).
Unfortunately, it was then mistitled as a manuscript of
until 1949, when
Alejandro Díez Macho noticed that it differed
Targum Onkelos. It was translated and published
during 1968–79, and has since been considered the most important of
the Palestinian Targumim, as it is by far the most complete and,
apparently, the earliest as well.
The Fragment Targums (formerly known as
Targum Yerushalmi II) consist
of a large number of fragments that have been divided into ten
manuscripts. Of these P, V and L were first published in 1899 by M
Ginsburger, A, B, C, D, F and G in 1930 by P Kahle and E in 1955 by A
Díez Macho. Unfortunately, these manuscripts are all too fragmented
to confirm what their purpose were, but they seem to be either the
remains of a single complete targum or short variant readings of
another targum. As a group, they often share theological views and
Targum Neofiti, which has led to the belief that they could be
variant readings of that targum.
The Cairo Genizah Fragment Targums originate from the Ben-Ezra
Synagogues genizah in Cairo. They share similarities with The Fragment
Targums in that they consist of a large number of fragmented
manuscripts that have been collected in one targum-group. The
manuscripts A and E are the oldest among the Palestinian
have been dated to around the seventh century. Manuscripts C, E, H and
Z contain only passages from Genesis, A from Exodus while MS B contain
verses from both as well as from Deuteronomium.
The Samaritan community has their own
Targum to their text of the
Torah. Other Targumim were also discovered among the Dead Sea
Main article: Peshitta
Peshitta is the traditional
Bible of Syriac-speaking Christians
(who speak several different dialects of Aramaic). Many scholars[who?]
believe that its
Old Testament is based on rabbinic targumim, although
influenced by the Septuagint, and the translation of the
usually thought to be between 1 and 300 CE.
Aaron ben Mordecai of Rödelheim
^ a b Schühlein, Franz (1912). Targum. New York: Robert Appleton
Company. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ a b c d Philip S. Alexander, (1992) "Targum, Targumim," in The
Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York:
^ Schühlein, Franz (1912). Targum. New York: Robert Appleton
Company. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ Oesterley, WOE; Box, GH (1920). A Short Survey of the Literature of
Rabbinical and Mediæval Judaism. New York: Burt Franklin.
^ Jewish "Levita, Elijah", in the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia.
^ Levita, Elijah (17 March 2018). "Sefer meturgeman". Retrieved 17
March 2018 – via Google Books.
^ Ellis R. Brotzman; Eric J. Tully (19 July 2016). Old Testament
Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction. Baker Publishing Group.
p. 77. ISBN 978-1-4934-0475-9.
^ Studi di biblioteconomia e storia del libro in onore di Francesco
Barberi, ed. Giorgio De Gregori, Maria Valenti – 1976 "(42)
Trascrivo una supplica dell'Eustachio al Sirleto : « Giovan
Paolo Eustachio romano neophito devotissimo servidor di... (44)
« Die 22 mensis augusti 1602. Inventarium factum in domo
illustrissimi domini Ugonis Boncompagni posita".
^ a b c McNamara, M. (1972)
Targum and Testament. Shannon, Irish
^ a b c Sysling, H. (1996) Tehiyyat Ha-Metim. Tübingen, JCB Mohr.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls - Browse Manuscripts".
www.deadseascrolls.org.il. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
^ For the date of translation, see Peter J. Williams (2001). Studies
in the Syntax of the
Peshitta of 1 Kings. BRILL. p. 2.
Tadmor, H., 1991. "On the role of Aramaic in the Assyrian empire", in
M. Mori, H. Ogawa and M. Yoshikawa (eds.), Near Eastern Studies
Dedicated to H.I.H. Prince Takahito Mikasa on the Occasion of his
Seventy-Fifth Birthday, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, pp. 419–426
English translations of Targum
Ecclesiastes in The
Song of Songs
Song of Songs and Coheleth, Christian David
Ginsburg (1857) pages 503-519.
Etheridge, John Wesley. "
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and
Newsletter for Targumic and
Cook, Edward M. "The Aramaic
Targum to Psalms". Targum.info. Archived
from the original on 2017-12-11.
Treat, Jay C. "The Aramaic
Targum to the
Song of Songs
Song of Songs (Shir
HaShirim)". University of Pennsylvania.
Levey, Samson H. "The Aramaic
Targum to Ruth". Targum.info.
Brady, Christian 'Chris' MM. "
Targum Ruth in English". Targuman.
————————. "The Aramaic
Targum to Lamentations".
Aramaic Targums—The Aramaic text of
Targum Onkelos and Samaritan
Targum with a new English translation for each version and critical
Other sources on Targum
"Targum". The Jewish Encyclopedia.
"The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon". HUC. —contains critical
editions of all the targumim along with lexical tools and grammatical
"Targum". Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent.
Faur, Jose. "The Targumim and Halakha" (article). Derushah. ,
analyzing the status of the Targumim in Jewish law
"Targum". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
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