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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [1]

A name given to the Chaldee paraphrases of the books of the Old Testament. They are called paraphrases, or expositions, because they are rather comments and explications than literal translations of the text. They are written in the Chaldee tongue, which became familiar to the Jews after the time of their captivity in Babylon, and was more known to them than the Hebrew itself; so that when the Hebrew text was read in the synagogue, or in the temple, they generally added to it an explication in the Chaldee tongue for the service of the people, who had but a very imperfect knowledge of the Hebrew tongue. It is probable, that even from the time of Ezra, this custom began: since this learned scribe, reading the law to the people in the temple, explained it, with the other priests that were with him, to make it understood by the people,  Nehemiah 8:7;  Nehemiah 8:9 . But though the custom of making these sorts of expositions in the Chaldee language, be very ancient among the Hebrews, yet they have no written paraphrases or Targums before the aera of Onkelos and Jonathan, who lived about the time of our Saviour. Jonathan is placed about thirty years before Christ, under the reign of Herod the Great. Onkelos is something more modern.

The Targum of Onkelos is the most of all esteemed, and copies are to be found in which it is inserted verse for verse with the Hebrew. It is so short, and so simple, that it cannot be suspected of being corrupted. This paraphrast wrote only upon the books of Moses; and his style approaches nearly to the purity of the Chaldee, as it is found in Daniel and Ezra. This Targum is quoted in the Misna, but was not known either to Eusebius, St. Jerom, or Origen. The Targum of Jonathan, son of Uziel, is upon the greater and lesser prophets. He is much more diffuse than Onkelos, and especially upon the lesser prophets, where he takes greater liberties, and runs on in allegories. His style is pure enough, and approaches pretty near to the Chaldee of Onkelos. It is thought that the Jewish doctors, who lived above seven hundred years after him, made some additions to him. The Targum of Joseph the Blind is upon the Hagiographia. This author is much more modern, and less esteemed, than those we have now mentioned. He has written upon the Psalms, Job, the Proverbs, the Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, and Esther. His style is a very corrupt Chaldee, with a great mixture of words from foreign languages. The Targum of Jerusalem is only upon the Pentateuch; nor is that entire or perfect. There are whole verses wanting, others transposed, others mutilated; which has made many of opinion that this is only a fragment of some ancient paraphrase that is now lost. There is no Targum upon Daniel, or upon the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

These Targums are of great use for the better understanding not only of the Old Testament, on which they are written, but also of the New. As to the Old Testament, they serve to vindicate the genuineness of the present Hebrew text, by proving it to be the same that was in use when these Targums were made; contrary to the opinion of those who think the Jews corrupted it after our Saviour's time. They help to explain many words and phrases in the Hebrew original, and they hand down to us many of the ancient customs of the Jews. And some of them, with the phraseologies, idioms, and peculiar forms of speech, which we find in them, do, in many instances, help as much for the better illustration and better understanding of the New Testament, as of the Old; the Jerusalem Chaldee dialect, in which they are written, being the vulgar language of the Jews in our Saviour's time. They also very much serve the Christian cause against the Jews, by interpreting many of the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament in the same manner as the Christians do. Many instances are produced to this purpose by Dr. Prideaux in his Connexions of the History of the Old and New Testament. These Targums are published to the best advantage in the second edition of the great Hebrew Bible set forth as Basil by Buxtorf, the father, anno 1610.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [2]

The name given to the Chaldee version or paraphrase of the O.T. It was made professedly because the Jews who returned from exile knew that language well. Explanations were added, which crept into the text. There are ten Targums of parts of the O.T. The principal ones are the Pentateuch by Onkelos, and the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and the Prophets (except Daniel), by Jonathan Ben Uzziel.

The language agrees with the Chaldaic or Aramaic parts of Daniel and Ezra. It is easy to understand that pious Jews who did not return under Ezra and Nehemiah, and were gradually losing the use of the Hebrew tongue (as well as their descendants born in captivity) would value such a translation; and it has been stated that for centuries the Targums were publicly read on the Sabbaths, festivals, etc., their language being the only one understood by the greater part of the Jews even in Palestine.

As an illustration  Genesis 22:10-13 is quoted from the Pentateuch of Onkelos, and from the one known as the Pseudo-Jonathan. This latter is of much later date, as far as dates are known, and has words of other languages here and there.


And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to immolate his son. And the angel of the Lord called him from the heavens and said, Abraham, Abraham. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Stretch not forth thy hand to the youth, nor do aught to him, for now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thine only son for my sake. And Abraham lifted up his eyes after these [words] and looked, and behold a ram caught in a tree by his horns. And Abraham went and brought the ram, and offered him for a burnt offering instead of his son.


And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. And Isaac answered and said to his father, Bind me properly, lest I should tremble through the affliction of my soul, and be cast into the pit of destruction, for profaneness shall be found in thy offering. The eyes of Abraham were intent upon the eyes of Isaac; and the eyes of Isaac were intent upon the angels on high. Isaac beheld them, but Abraham saw them not. The angels on high answered, Come, behold how these are alone in the world; the one slays the other; he who slays delays not; he that is slain reaches forth his neck. And the angel of the Lord called him from the heavens, and said to him, Abraham, Abraham. And he said, Here am I. Then he said, Stretch not out thy hand to the young man, nor do him any harm, for now it is manifest before me that thou fearest the Lord, and hast not withheld thy son, thy only-begotten from me. Then Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold a ram, which had been created between the evenings of the foundation of the world, was caught in the entanglement of a tree by his horns. So Abraham went and took him, and offered him for a burnt offering instead of his son.

It will be seen that while the one is a comparatively correct translation of the Hebrew, the other has useless and undignified additions. A third translation, known as the Jerusalem Targum, has also some of thesame additions.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [3]

This word is not in the Bible, but as the Jews very much prize their Targum, it may not be amiss, just in a cursory way to notice it. The name itself signifies explanation. Sometimes the word is found in the plural number, Targumim, meaning that more than one subject is explained. No doubt, the Targum, took its rise from the Chaldee Paraphrase of the books of the Old Testament. And it is more than probable that this Targum was read to the people at the reading of the Scriptures after their return from Babylon; for it is said that when they read in the book of the law, "they gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading."‘ ( Nehemiah 8:8)

The Jews speak with great confidence of the Targum. They have what is called the Targum of Jonathan, and the Targum of Onkelos. Jonathan was about 30 years before the coming of our Lord, and Onkelos somewhat later. They are said to be but short; the former chiefly on the prophecies, and the latter on the five books of Moses.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

Tar'gum. See Versions, Ancient, of The Old and New Testaments; Versions, Authorized .

Webster's Dictionary [5]

(n.) A translation or paraphrase of some portion of the Old Testament Scriptures in the Chaldee or Aramaic language or dialect.

Holman Bible Dictionary [6]


Stephenson Humphries-Brooks

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [7]

See Jews .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [8]

( תִּרְגּוּם , i.e. Translation, Interpretation) Is the name given to a Chaldee Version or paraphrase of the Old Test., of which there are several extant.

I. Origin Of The Targums. The origin of the Chaldee paraphrase may be traced back to the time of Ezra. After the exile it became the practice to read the law in public to the people, with the addition of an Oral paraphrase in the Chaldee dialect. Thus we read in  Nehemiah 8:8, מפורש ושום שכל ויקראו בספר בתורת האלהים , which expression the Talmud, Bab. Megillah, fol. 3, Colossians 1, explains מפורש זו תרגום , i.e. "to explain means Targum." This ecclesiastical usage, rendered necessary by the change of language consequent on the captivity, was undoubtedly continued in aftertimes. It rose in importance, especially when the synagogues and public. schools began to flourish, the chief subject of occupation in which was the exposition of the Thorah. The office of the interpreter ( מתורגמן , תורגמן , אמורא , less frequently דרשן , comp. Zunz, Die Gottesd. Vortrage, p. 332) thus became one of the most important, and the canon of the Talmud, that as the law was given by a mediator, so it can be read and expounded only by a mediator, became paramount (Jerus. Megillah, fol. 74). The Talmud contains, even in its oldest portions, precise injunctions concerning the manner of conducting these expository prelections. Thus, "Neither the reader nor the interpreter is to raise his voice one above the other;" "They have to wait for each other until each have finished his verse;"

"The methurgeman is not to lean against a pillar or a beam, but to stand with fear and with reverence;" "He is not to use a written Targum, but he is to deliver his translation viva voce;" "No more than one verse in the Pentateuch and three in the prophets shall be read or translated at a time;" "That there should be not more than one reader and one interpreter for the law; while for the prophets one reader and one interpreter, or two interpreters, are allowed" (Mishna, Megillah, 4:5, 10; Sopherinm, 11:1). Again (Megillah, ibid., and Tosiphta, c. 3), certain passages liable to give offence to the multitude are specified, which may be read in the synagogue and translated; others which may be read but not translated; others, again, which may neither be read nor translated. To the first class belong the account of the creation a subject not to be discussed publicly on account of its most vital bearing upon the relation between the Creator, and the Cosmos, and the nature of both; the deed of Lot and his two daughters ( Genesis 19:31); of Judah and Tamar (ch. 38); the first account of the making of the golden calf (Exodus 32); all the curses in the law; the deed of Amunon and Tamar (2 Samuel 13); of Absalom with his father's concubines ( 2 Samuel 16:22); the story of the woman of Gibeah (Judges 19). These are to be read and translated, or נקדאין ומתרגמין . To be read but not translated, נקראין ולא מתרגמין , are the deed of Reuben with his father's concubine ( Genesis 25:22); the latter portion of the story of the golden calf (Exodus 32); and the deed of David and Bathsheba ( 2 Samuel 11:12).

At what time these paraphrases were written down we cannot state; but it must certainly have been at an early period. Bearing in mind that the Hellenistic Jews had for a long time been in possession of the law translated into their language, and that in the 2nd century not only had the Jews themselves issued Greek versions in opposition to the Alexandrian version, which were received with decided approbation even by the Talmudists, as the repeated and honorable mention of Aquila in the Talmud proves, but that also the Syrians had been prompted to translate the Holy Scriptures, it would indeed be strange had not the Jews familiar with the Aramsean dialect also followed the practice at that time universally prevalent, and sought to profit by it. We have, in point of fact, certain traces of written Targums extant at least in the time of Christ. For even the Mishna seems to imply this in Yadacim, 4:5, where the subject treated is the language and style of character to be used in writing the Targums. Further, the Talmud, Shabbaih, fol. 115, Colossians 1, mentions a written Targum on Job of the middle of the 1st century (in the time of Gamaliel I), which incurred the disapprobation of Gamaliel. Zunz here justly remarks, "Since it is not likely that a beginning should have been made with Job, a still higher antiquity as very probably belonging to the first renderings of the law may be assumed" (loc. cit. p. 62). Gritz, in his Monatsschrift, 1877, p. 84, believes that this Targum of Job, mentioned four times in the Talmud, can only refer to a Greek translation of that book, and Derenbourg, in his Essai sur l' Histoire et la Geographie de la Palestine, p. 242, accounts for the action of Gamaliel, because it was written avec des caracteres non- hebraiques. But as Delitzsch, in Ioorne lebr. et Talmucd. (Zeitschrift f Ü r die luth. Theologieu. Kirche [Leips. 1878], p. 211), remarks," תרגום כתב means in Targum,' i.e. written in the Aramaean and refers not to the characters with which, but to the language in which, it was written. Gamaliel acted according to old principle, דברים שבעל פה אי אתה רשאי לכותכן , i.e. all that belongs to oral tradition was not to appear in written form. This principle included also the Targum, but it was not strictly observed, and, like the Mishna, so, also, Targums were clandestinely circulated in single copies. That this was the case we see from the fact that Gamaliel of Jabneh, the grandson of Gamaliel I or elder, having been found reading the Targum on Job, was reminded of the procedure of his grandfather, who had the copy of the Job Targum, which was brought to him while standing on the mountain of the Temple, immured in order to prevent its further use. Dr. Frarikl, in Die. Zusdtze in der Sept. zu Hiob (in Grlitz, Monatsschrift,. 1872, p. 313), says, "There is no doubt that the additions in the Sept. were made according to an old Aramaean Targum," and in corroboration of his statement he quotes Tosiphta Shabbath, c. 14; Shabbath, fol. 115, Colossians 1; Jerus. Shabbath, 16, 1; Sopherin, v, 1.5. We are thus obliged to assume an early origin for the Targums, a fact which will be corroborated further on, in spite of the many objections raised, the chief of which, adduced by Eichhorn, being the silence of the Christian fathers, of whom none, not even Epiphanius or Jerome, mention the subject. But this silence is of little weight, because the fathers generally were ignorant of Hebrew and of Hebrew literature. Nor was any importance attached to them in comparison with Greek translations. Besides, in truth, the assertion in question is not even supported by the facts of the case; for Ephraem Syrus, e.g., made use of the Targums (comp. Lengerke, De Ephraemi S. Arte Hermeneut. p. 14 sq.; Assemani, Bibl. Orient. 1, 66).

II. The Targum Of Onkelos. There is a Targum of Onkelos on the Pentateuch which has always been highly valued by the Jews.

1. Authorship. In regard to the author, the notices of him are meagre and uncertain. We now approach one of the most mooted questions as to the identity of Onkelos with Akilas or Aquila; but before solving it we must hear the different witnesses. The first mention of Onkelos is found in the Tosipohta, a work drawn up shortly after the Mishna. From this we learn:

a. That Onkelos the Proselyte ( אנקלוס הגר ) was so serious in his adherence to the newly adopted (Jewish) faith that he threw his share of his paternal inheritance into the Dead Sea, הולי ִחלקו לים המל ( ִ Tos. Demci', 6:9).

b. At the funeral of Gamaliel the elder he burned more than seventy mince worth of spices in his honor (Tos. Shabbath, 100. 8; the same story is repeated with variations Semchoth 100. 8, and Talm. Aboda Zarah, fol. 11, Colossians 1).

c. He is finally mentioned, by way of corroboration to different Halachas, in connection with Gamaliel in- three more places, viz. Chagigah, 3, 1; Mikvaoth, 6:1; Kelim, 3, 2,2. In the Babylonian. Talmud, Onkelos is mentioned in the following passages:

(1.) Gittin, fol. 56, Colossians 2; fol. 57, Colossians 1, where we read, "onkelos the Proselyte, the son of Kalonikos (Callinicus or Cleonicus?), the son of Titus's sister, who, intending to become a convert, conjured up the ghosts of Titus, Balaam, and Jesus [the latter name is omitted in later editions, for which, as in the copy before us, is substituted פושע ישראל , but not in Bomberg's and the Cracow editions], in order to ask them what nation was considered the first in the other world. Their answer that Israel was the favored one decided him."

(2.) Aboda Zarah, fol. 11, col. I, here called the son of Kalonymos (Cleonymos?); and we also read in this place that the emperor sent three Roman cohorts to capture him, and that he converted them all.

(3.) Baba Bathra, fol. 99, coil. 1, where Onkelos the Proselyte is quoted as an authority on the question of the form of the cherubim (comp.  2 Chronicles 3:10).

(4.) Megillah, fol. 3, Colossians 1, where we read, "II Jeremiah, or, according to others, 1t. Chia bar-Abba, said the Targum, on the Pentateuch was made by the proselyte Onkelos; from the mouth of R. Eliezer and R. Jehoshna; the Targum on the prophets was made by Jonathan ben-Uziel from the month of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.... But have we not been taught that the Targum existed from the time of Ezra?... Only it was forgotten and Ollelos restored it. In the Miidrash Tanichuma, section ל ִל i ִ n ( Genesis 28:20), we read, "Onkelos the Proselyte asked an old man whether that was all the love God bore towards a proselyte, that he promised to give him bread and a garment? The old man replied that this was all for which the patriarch Jacob prayed." In the book of, Zohar, section אחרי מות ( Leviticus 18:4), Onkelos is represented as a disciple of Hillel and Shammai. Finally a MS. in the library of the Leipsic Senate (B. H.) relates that Onkelos, the nephew of the wicked Titus ( נכדו של טיטוס הרשע ), asked the emperor's advice as to what merchandise he thought it was profitable to trade in. Titus told him that that should be bought which was cheap in the market, since it was sure to rise in price. Onkelos went to Jerusalem and studied the law under R. Eliezer and R. Jehoshua, and his face became wan ( והיו פניו עהובות ). When he returned to Titus, one of the courtiers observed the pallor of his countenance, and said to Titus, "Onkelos appears to have studied the law." Interrogated by Titus, he admitted the fact, adding that he had done it by his advice. No nation had ever been so exalted, and none was now held cheaper among the nations than Israel; "therefore," he said, "I concluded that in the end none would be of higher price" (comp. Anger, De Onkelo, pt. 2 [Lips. 1846], p. 12, where the whole passage in the original is copied). In all these passages the name of Onkelos is given. But there are many passages in. which the version of Akilas ( תרגם עקילס ) is mentioned, and the notices concerning Akilas bear considerable likeness to those of Onkelos. Akilas is mentioned in Siphra ( Leviticus 25:7), and in Jerus. Talmud, Demai, 27 d, as having been born in Pontus; that, after having embraced the Jewish faith, he threw his paternal inheritance into an asphalt lake (Jerus. Demaz, 25 d); that he translated the Torah before R. Eliezer and R. Jehoshua, who praised him ( וקילסו אותו ) and said to him, "Thou art fairer than the sons of men" ( יפיפית מבני אדם ); or, according to the other accounts, before R. Akiba (comp. Jerus. Kiddushin, 1, 11, etc.; Jerus. Megillah, 1, 9; Babyl. Megillah, fol. 3, Colossians 1). We learn,. further, that he lived in the time of Hadrian ( Chag. 2, 1), that he was the son of the emperor's sister (Tanchun, ed. Prague, fol. 34, Colossians 2), that he became a convert against the emperor's will (ibid. and Shemoth Rabbah, fol. 146 c), and that he consulted Eliezer and Jehoshua about his conversion (Bereshith Rabba, fol. 78 d; comp. Midrash Coheleth, fol. 102 b).

That Akilas is no other than Aquila ( Ἀκύλας ), the well-known Greek translator of the Old Test., we need hardly add. He was a native of Pontus (Iren. Adv. Haer. 3,24; Jerome, De Vir. Ill. C. 54; Philbstr. De Icer. § 90). He lived under Hadrian (Epiph. De Pond. Et Mens. § 12). He is called the Πενθερίδες ( Chronicles Alex. Πενθερός ) of the emperor (Ibid. § 14), becomes a convert to Judaism ( § 15), whence he is called the Proselyte (Iren. Loc. Cit.; Jerome to  Jeremiah 8:14, etc.), and receives instructions from Akiba (Jerome, Loc. Cit. ). He translated the Old Test., and his version was considered of the highest import and authority among the Jews, especially those unacquainted with the Hebrew language (Euseb. Praep. Evang. loc. cit.; Augustine, De Civ. Dei, 15:23; Philostr. De Her. § 90; Justin, Novell. 146). Thirteen Distinct quotations from this version are preserved in the Talmud and Midrash; and we may classify the whole as follows:

Greek Quotations.  Genesis 17:1, in Beresh. Rab. 51 b;  Leviticus 23:40, Jelrs. Sukkah, 3, 5, fol. 53 d (comp. Iaj. Rab. 200 d); Isaiah 3, 20, Jerns. Shabb. 6, 4, fol. 8 b;  Ezekiel 16:10, Mid. Thren. 58, 100;  Ezekiel 23:43, Vaj. Rab. 203 d: Psalms 48, 15 (Masor. text 47, according to the Sept.), Jers. Meg. 2, 3, fol. 73 b;  Proverbs 18:21, Vaj. Rab. fol. 203 b;  Esther 1:6, Midr. Esth. 120 d; Daniel 5, 5, Jerns. Yoma, 3, 8, fol. 41 a.

Hebrew Quotations (retranslated from the Greek).  Leviticus 19:20, Jerus. Kid. 1, 1, fol. 59 a;  Daniel 8:13, Beresh. Rab. 24 c.

Chaldee Quotations.  Proverbs 25:11, Beresh. Rab. 104 b; Isaiah 5, 6, Midr. Coh. 113 c, d.

All these quotations are treated at: length by Anger, De Onkelo, 1, 13, sq., and the variations adduced there show how carefully they have to be perused, and the more so since we have as yet no critical edition of the Talmud.

The identity of Akilas and Aquila having been ascertained, it was also argued that, according to the parallel accounts of Onkelos and Aquila, Onkelos and Aquila must be one and the same person, since it was unlikely that the circumstances and facts narrated could have belonged to two different individuals. But who will warrant that the statements are correct? There are chronological differences which cannot be reconciled, unless we have recourse to such means as the Jewish historian Dr. Gratz, who renders ר 8 8 ג הזקן (i.e. R. Gamaliel I, or elder) "Gamaliel II." Is it not surprising that on one and the same page Onkelos is once spoken of as "Onkelos the Proselyte," and "Onkelos the son of Kalonymos became a convert" (Aboda Zarah, fol. 11, Colossians 1)? It has also been stated that Onkelos was neither the author of the Targum nor a historical person, but that Targum Onkelos means simply a version made after the manner of Akils, the Greek translator. Aquila's translation was a special favorite with the Jews, because it was both literal and accurate. Being highly valued, it was considered a model or type after which the new Chaldee one was named, in commendation, perhaps, of its like excellences. This view is very ingenious, but it is hardly probable. Now the question arises, how is it that there is only a version of Onkelos on the Pentateuch, while Aquila translated the whole Old Test.? If Onkelos's Targum was really made after the manner of Aquila, how is it that the latter is so slavishly literal, translating even the את , sign of the accusative, or, as Jerome states (De Opt. Genesis Interpret.), "Non solum verba sed et etymologias verborum transferre conatus est... Quod Hebrsei non solum habent Ἄρθρα sed et Πρόαρθρα , ille Κακοζήλως et syllabas interpretetur et litteras, dictatque '''''Σ''''' '''''Ὺ''''' '''''Ν''''' Τὸν Οὐρανὸν Καὶ '''''Σ''''' '''''Ὺ''''' '''''Ν''''' Τὴν Γῆν quod Graeca et Latina lingua non recipit," while Onkelos is freer, adding sometimes here and there a word or phrase for the better understanding?

That the Targum Onkelos cannot mean a Targum after the manner of Aquila is also evident from the fact that while Aquila made a recension of the then existing Sept., nothing of the kind can be said of Onkelos. The latter wrote for the people in a language which it understood better than the original Hebrew; the former wrote for polemical purposes, to counterbalance the arguments of the Christians, who made use of the Alexandrian version against the Jews. That the author of the Chaldee paraphrase was not a proselyte, but a native Jew, is sufficiently proved from the excellence and accuracy of his work; for without having been bred up from his birth in the Jewish religion and learning, and long exercised in all the rites and doctrines thereof, and being also thoroughly skilled in both the Hebrew and Chaldee languages, as far as a native Jew could be, he could scarcely be thought thoroughly adequate to that work which he performed. The representing of Onkelos as having been a proselyte seems to have proceeded from the error of taking him to have been the same with Aquila of Pontus, who was indeed a Jewish proselyte. A comparison of both versions must show the superiority of Onkelos's over that of Aquila. The latter, on account of his literal adherence to the original, makes his version often nonsensical and unintelligible, and less useful than the former, as the following will show:


 Genesis 2:6. ואיד Aq. Ἐπιφλυγμός ; Onk. יעננאּ .

 Genesis 2:7. נשמת -Aq. Ἀναπνοή ; Onk. נשמתא .

 Genesis 6:4. הנפילים -Aq. Ἐπιπίπτοντες ; Onk. גבוריא .

 Genesis 6:16. צוהר Aq. Μεσημβρινόν ; Olk. ניהור .

 Genesis 8:1. וישבו Aq. Καὶ Ἐστάλησαν ; Onk. ונחו

 Genesis 12:8. ויעתק -Aq. Μετῆρε Onk. ואסתלק .

 Genesis 15:2. ובן משק -Aq. Υἱὸς Τοῦ Ποτίσοντος ; Onk. פרנסא ובַר .

 Genesis 18:12. בקרבה Aq. Κατ᾿ Αὐτῆς ; Onk. במעהא . בלותי -Aq. Κατατριβῆναι ; Onk. דסיבית .

 Genesis 22:2. אר המוריה -Aq. Τὴν Γῆν Τὴν Καταφανῆ ; Onk. לארעא פולחנא .

 Genesis 22:13. בסב —ִ Aq. Ἐν Συχνῷ ; Onk. באאּלנא .

 Genesis 26:33. באר שבע -Aq. Φρέαρ Πλησμονῆς ; Onk. שבע באר .  Genesis 30:8. נפתולי אלהים נפתלתי -Aq. Συνέστρεψέν Με Ό Θεός ; Onk. קבלח בעותו .

 Genesis 26:11. בגד (Keri בא גד )-Aq. Ηλθεν Ζῶσις ; Onk. אתא גד .

 Genesis 32:25. ויאבק -Aq. Ἐκυλίετο ; Onk. Λδτ v Ας .

 Genesis 34:21. שלמים -Aq. Πηρτισμένοι ; Onk. שלמין .

 Genesis 35:16. כברת אר -Aq. Καθ᾿ Ὅδον Τῆς Γῆς ; Onk. כרוב ארעא .

 Genesis 36:24. את הימים Aq. Τοὺς Ι᾿Αμεῖν ; Onk. גבריא ית .

 Genesis 37:27. מה בצע -Aq. Τὶ Πλεονέκτημα ; Onk. נתהני לנא מה ממון .

 Genesis 38:18. ופתיל - ִ Aq. Στρεπτόν ; Onk. שישיפא .

 Genesis 42:4. אסון Aq. Σύμπτωμα ; Onk. מותא .


 Exodus 1:9. ועצום Aq. Ὀστοῖνον (id.  Deuteronomy 9:1); Onk. תקיפין .

 Exodus 1:11. ערי מסכנות -Aq. Πόλεις Σκηνωμάτων ; Onk. קרוי בית אוצרא .

 Exodus 1:13. בפר - ִ Aq. Ἐν Τρυφήματι ; Onk. בקשיו .

 Exodus 4:12. והורותי - ִ Aq. Φωτίσω Σε (id.  Exodus 4:15;  Exodus 24:12 always Φωτίζειν , taken from אור ); Onk. אלפינ ( ִ id.  Exodus 4:15;  Exodus 24:12).

 Exodus 8:12. הערוב -Aq. Παμμυῖαν ; Onk. עירובין .  Exodus 14:27. לאיתנו - Aq. Εἰς Ἀρχαῖον Αὐτοῦ ; Onk. לתוקפיה .

 Exodus 15:8. נערמו Aq. Ἐσωρεύθη ; Onk. חכימא .

 Exodus 24:6. באגנות -Aq. Ἐν Προθύμασιν ; Onk. במזרקיא .

 Exodus 28:8. שני -Aq. Διάφορον (id.  Exodus 35:22;  Exodus 35:35); Onk. זהורי .

 Exodus 29:6. נזר -Aq. Τὸ Πέταλον ; Onk. כלילא . 36. על כפורים וחטאת -Aq. Ἐξιλασμοῦ Περὶ Ἁμαρτίας ; Onk. על כפוריא ותדכי .

 Exodus 30:12. כופר Aq. Ἐξίλασμα ; Onk. פדרקן .

 Exodus 30:35. פרוע הוא כי פועה Aq. Ἀποπετασμένος Αὐτὸς Ὁτι ; Onk. בטיל הוא . Aq. Ἀπεπέτασεν Αὐτόν ; Onk. אריאבטליניה .

 Exodus 34:24. שלוש פעמים Aq. Τρεῖς Καθόδονς ; Onk. תלת זמנין .


 Leviticus 3:1. שלמים -Aq. Εἰρηνικῶς ; Onk. נכסת קידשׁא .

 Leviticus 13:6. פשה תפשה -Aq. Ἐπιδώση Ἐπίδομα ; Ouk. אוספא תוסי .

 Leviticus 17:7 . לשעירים -Aq. Τοῖς Τριχιοῦσιν (id.  Isaiah 13:21); Onk. לשידין .

 Leviticus 25:33. ואשר יגאל -Aq. Ὅς Ἄν Ἐγγίζων Ἐστιν ; Onk. ודי יפרוק .

 Leviticus 27:2. יפליא Aq. Θανμαστώση ; Onk. יפרש .


 Numbers 1:47. למטה -Aq. Εἰς Ῥάβδον ; Onk. לשבטא .

 Numbers 11:8. לשד השמן Aq. Τοῦ Μαστοῦ Ἐλαίου ; Onk. דליש במשחא .

 Numbers 23:12. הפסגה Aq. Λαξευτήν ; Onk. רמתא .


 Deuteronomy 1:40. פנו לכם Aq. Νεύσατε Αὐτοῖς ; Onk. אתפנו לכון .  Deuteronomy 22:9. כלאים Aq. Ἀνομοιόμενος ; Onk. עיריבין . שעטנז Aq. Ἀντιδιακείμενον ; Onk. שעטנזא .

 Deuteronomy 23:15. ולתת אויכי ִלפני - ִ Aq. Τοῦ Δοῦναι Τοὺς Ἐχθρούς Σου Εἰς Πρόσωπόν Σου ; Onk. בעלי דבב ִקדמ ִולממסר .

 Deuteronomy 28:20. את המארה ואת המהומה Aq. Σπανὴ Καὶ Φαγέδαινα ; Onk. שגושיא ית מאירתא וית .

It has been urged that while Akilas's version is always cited in the Talmud by the name of its author, תרגום עקילס , the Targum of Onkelos is never quoted with his name, but introduced with כד מתרגמינן , "as we translate," or תרגום דדן , "our Targum," or כתרגומו , "as the Targum has it;" but this only shows the high' esteem in which Onkelos's Targum stood. And as to the quotations of Aquila, almost all which are cited are on the prophets and Hagiographa, while Onkelos's Targum is only on the law; and a close examination of the sources themselves shows that what is said there has reference only to the Greek version, which is fully expressed in the praise of R. Eliezer.and R. Jehoshua when saying יפיפית מבני אדם , "Thou art fairer than the sons of men," thereby alluding to  Genesis 9:27, where it is said that Japheth (i.e. the Greek language) should one day dwell in the tents of Shem (i.e. Israel) (Megillah, 1, 11, 71 b and c; Bereshith Rabba, 40 b).

There is another very important point, which has been overlooked by all favoring the identity of Akilas with Onkelos, and thus putting the origin of the Targum of Onkelos at a late date, viz. the use of the mentra = Λόγος by Onkelos; and this peculiarity of the Targum shows that its origin belongs to the time of Philo and the New Test. period. It is not unlikely that, in this respect, Onkelos was followed by the other Targumists, and that his intention was to reconcile Alexandrian with Palestinian theology. John's doctrine of the Logos would be without any foundation or point of departure if we could not suppose that at the time of Jesus a similar doctrine concerning the Word of God, as it can be deduced from the Targum, was known among the Palestinian Jews. That later Judaism has put aside this important moment of older theology must be explained from its opposition to Christianity. In the Targum of Onkelos we find not the least indication that it was made after the destruction of Jerusalem; we find neither the least trace of hostility to the Romans nor of opposition to Christianity. The Temple is regarded as still standing, the festive days are still celebrated, the Jews are still a nation which never ceases to resist its enemies. This may be seen from the prophetic passages, as Genesis 49; Numbers 24; Deuteronomy 33; the explanation of which, as given by Onkelos, could have hardly originated after A.D. 70.

Onkelos uses for Argob (Deuteronomy 3, 4, 14; so also Jonathan,  1 Kings 4:13) the name Trachona ( טְרָכוֹנָא )=Trachonitis ( Luke 3:1); Josephus writes Τραχωνίτις , sometimes Τράχων (Ant . 15:10, 1 and 3; 18:4, 6; 20:7, 1). The Peshito of the Pentateuch did not follow this explanation (Luke 3, 1, אתרא דטרכונא ), probably because the division of Palestine at the time of Jesus did not exist in the Syrian translator's days, or it was unintelligible to him (among the rabbins טרכונא is used in the sense of "palace," פלטין [Buxtorf, Lex. p. 913 sq.]). All this indicates, or rather confirms, the supposition that this Targum belongs to the time of Jesus. There is a similar indication in Onkelos's rendering of Bashan by מתנן (Syr. מתנין ), Batansea (see Gesenius, Comm. Zu Jes. 2, 13); ים כנרת , by Gennesaret, גינוסר . This reminds one of the language of the New Test.; so also ממונא (Mammon), "the injustice with the Mammon" ( בישין בממונּה ון ; it is said, in  Genesis 13:13, of the Sodomites). When Paul speaks of that "spiritual rock" that followed the children of Israel in the wilderness ( 1 Corinthians 10:3), he undoubtedly refers to the tradition preserved by Onkelos (also by Pseudo Jonathan), "The well which the princes digged, the chiefs of the people cut it, the scribes with their staves; it was given to them in the wilderness. And from [the time] that it was given to them it descended with them to the rivers, and from the rivers it went up with them to the height, and from the height to the vale which is in the field of Moab" ( Numbers 21:18 sq.). Hence the expression of the apostle, "spiritual, following rock." The Syriac retains the proper names of the Hebrew text. After what has been said, we believe the Targum of Onkelos originated About The Time Of Philo-An opinion which is also held by Zunz ( Gottesd. Vortrige, p. 62). This being true, Onkelos and Akilas (or Aquila) Are Not One And The Same Person-A view also expressed by Frankel ( Zudem Targum dera Propheten [Breslau, 1872.] p. 6); and the Talmudic notices concerning Onkelos, the disciple of Gamaliel I (or elder), the teacher of the apostle Paul, are corroborated by our argument, minus the notice that Onkelos was a proselyte, as we have already stated above. For with the identity of Onkelos with Akilas (or Aquila), it is hardly conceivable that a man like Aquila, who, from a Christian, became a Jew, and such a zealous one that he prepared another Greek version for polemical purposes against the Christians, should have spent so much money at the death of Gamaliel I, whose liberal and friendly attitude towards Christianity was known, and who is even said to have become a Christian, as a tombstone covering his remains in a church at Pisa indicates:

"Hoc in sarcophago requiescunt corpora sacra Sanctorumn... Sainctus Gamaliel. Gamaliel divi Patuli didascalus olim, Doctor et excellens Israelita fuit, Concilii mnagui fideique per omnia cultor." We now come to the work itself.

2. Style, Etc. The language of Onkelos greatly approaches the Biblical Chaldee, i.e. it has still much of Hebrew coloring, though in a less degree than the other. It also avoids many Aramaisms (such as the contraction of nouns), which at a later period became prevalent, and comprises a comparatively small number of Greek words, and of Latin words none whatever. Of Greek words we mention,  Exodus 28:25 , ברלא = Βήρυλλος ;  Exodus 28:11, גל = Γλυφή ;  Genesis 28:17, הדיוט = Ἰδιώτης ;  Leviticus 11:30, חלטתא = Κωλώτης ;  Exodus 28:19, טרקיא = Θρακίας (Pliny, 37:68); 39:11, כרכדינא = Καρχηδόνιοι ;  Deuteronomy 20:20, כרכום = Χαράκωμα ;  Exodus 28:20, כרום = Χρῶμα ;  Numbers 15:38,  Deuteronomy 22:12, כרוספדא = Κράσπεδον ;  Exodus 30:34, כשת = Κἰσιος ;  Genesis 37:28, לטום = Λῆδον ;  Exodus 24:16, פרסא = Φάρσος ;  Exodus 26:6, פורפא = Πόρπη ;  Genesis 6:14, קדרוס = Κέδρος  ;  Exodus 28:19, קנכרי = Κέγχρος (Pliny, 37:14). There are, besides, some obscure expressions which were partly unintelligible to the Talmudists, as םסגונא for תחש , etc., in  Exodus 35:23;  Exodus 28:4, מרמצא for תשב ;  Exodus 28:17, ירקן for פטדה ;  Exodus 28:18, קנכירי for לשם ;  Leviticus 22:20, חילין בעיניה for בעיניו תבלל , etc.

The translation of Onkelos is, on the whole, very simple and exact. It is obvious from the character of the work that the author was in possession of a rich exegetical tradition; hence we never find him omitting any passage of the original. His elucidations of difficult and obscure passages and expressions, perhaps less satisfactory, are commonly those most accredited by internal evidence, and in this particular he is worthy of a more careful regard and assent than have usually fallen to his lot.  Genesis 3:15 he translates מה דעבת ליה מלקדמין ואת תהינטר ליה הוא יהי דכיר לסופא ל , ִ I.E. "He shall remember thee what thou hast done to him from the beginning, and thou shalt watch him unto the end;"  Genesis 4:7 he translates עובד ִישתנק ל ִואם לא תיטב עובד ִליום הלא אם תיטב דינא חטא ִנטיר ודעתיד לאתפרעא מנ ִוכ 8, ".shall not pardon be given to thee if thou doest well; but if thou doest not well, thy sin shall be preserved till the day of judgment, when it will be exacted of thee," etc. Here שאת is taken from נשא , in the sense of Tollere Peccata. i.e. "taking- away of sin," and not in the sense of "lifting-up of the countenance." Onkelos did not understand the meaning of the verse, but- (says Winer) "sensum hujus loci prudentissimos etiam interpretes mirifice vexavit."  Genesis 6:3, Onkelos, like the Sept., Syr., Saad., and many

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

tar´gum ( תּרגּוּם , targūm ):

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) Onkelos - the Man

Characteristics of His Targum

(2) The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel on the Prophets

Characteristics of His Targum - E arlier Prophets; Later Prophets

(3) Hagiographa: Psalms, Job and Proverbs

( a ) The Meghilloth

( b ) Chronicles

(4) The Non-official Targums - J onathan 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 methurgām , which occurs in   Ezra 4:7 , is interpreted as derived from rāgham , "to pile up stones," "to throw," hence, "to stone," and then "to translate," though no example is given. Jastrow derives it from the Assyrian r - g - m , "to speak aloud," an etymology which suits the origin of the Targums. It is unfortunate that he gives no reference to any Assyrian document.

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 shiggāyōn (  Psalm 7:1 ), a term the precise force of which is yet unfixed. From this rāgham comes meturghemān , "an interpreter," and our modern "dragoman." Whatever the original meaning of the root, the word came to mean "to translate," "to explain."

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 (  2 Kings 4:23 ), it must have become weak and ineffective. With the arrival of Ezra there was a revival of the study of the Law, and with that the necessity for the interpretation of it in language which the people could understand.

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 the King James Version of 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 New Testament Peshitta with that of the Peshitta of the Old Testament. 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 'ēth , 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 ( Nehemiah 8:8 ) of the reading of the Law to the people not only mentions that Ezra's helpers read "distinctly" ( mephōrāsh ), but "gave the sense" ( sōm sekhel ) "and caused them to understand the reading," the King James Version ( wayyābhı̄nū ba - miḳrā' ). This threefold process implies more than merely distinct enunciation. If this passage is compared with  Ezra 4:18 it would seem that mephōras̄h ought to mean "interpreted." The most natural explanation is that alongside of the readers of the Law there were interpreters, meturghemānı̄m , who repeated in Aramaic what had been read in Hebrew. What interval separated this public reading of the Law from the reading of the Law as a portion of synagogue worship we have no means of knowing. The probability is that in no long time the practice of reading the Law with an Aramaic interpretation was common in all Jewish synagogues. Elaborate rules are laid down in the Talmud for this interpretation; how far these were those actually used we cannot be absolutely certain. They at least represent the ideal to which after-generations imagined the originators of the practice aspired. The Law was read by the reader verse by verse, and each verse was followed by a recitation by the meturgheman of the Aramaic version. Three verses of the prophetic books were read before the Aramaic was recited. The Talmudists were particular that the reader should keep his eye on the roll from which he read, and that the meturghemānı̄m should always recite his version without looking at any writing, so that a distinction should be kept between the sacred word and the version. At first the Targum was not committed to writing, but was handed down by tradition from meturghemānı̄m to meturghemānı̄m . That of the Law became, however, as stereotyped as if it had been written. So to some extent was it with the Prophets and also the Psalms. The Targums of the rest of the Kethūbhı̄m seem to have been written from the beginning and read in private.

5. Date of the Targums:

We have assumed that the action of Ezra narrated in  Nehemiah 8:8 implied not only the reading of the Law, but also the interpretation of its language - its translation in fact from Hebrew to Aramaic, and that, further, this practice was ere long followed in all the synagogues in Judea. This view is maintained by Friedmann ( Onkelos u. Akylas , 1896) and was that assumed to be correct by the Talmud. Dr. Dalman assures his readers that this is a mistake, but without assigning any reasons for his assertion. Dr. Dalman is a very great authority, but authority is not science, so we venture to maintain the older opinion. The fact is undeniable that, during the Persian domination all over Southwestern Asia, Aramaic was the lingua franca , so much so that we see by the Assouan and Elephantine papyri the Jewish garrison at Assouan in Egypt wrote to their co- religionists in Judea, and to the Persian governors, in Aramaic. Moreover, there is no trace that they used any other tongue for marriage contracts or deeds of sale.

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 meturghemānı̄m 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 Jehūdāh ha - Nāsı̄' 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 Yerūshalmı̄ , another recension of which is called Targum Yōnāthān ben Uzziel . The Book of Esther has 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) Onkelos - T he 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 mār occurs for shallēṭ , 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 Revised Version (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 " mı̄merā' 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   Genesis 11:5 , where instead of "The Lord ( YHWH ) came down" there is "The Lord ( yiyā' ) was revealed." At the same time there is not a total avoidance of paraphrase. In  Genesis 4:7 the Targum renders, "If thou doest thy work well, is it not remitted unto thee? if thou doest not thy work well, thy sin is reserved unto the day of judgment when it will be required of thee if thou do not repent, but if thou repent it shall be remitted to thee." It will be observed that the last clause of the Hebrew is omitted. So in   Genesis 3:22 , instead of "Man has become as one of us," Onqelos writes "Man has become alone in the world by himself to know good and evil.' A more singular instance occurs in  Genesis 27:13 , where Rebekah answers Jacob, "Upon me be thy curse, my son"; in the Targum it is, "Unto me it hath been said in prophecy, there shall be no curse upon thee my son." Sometimes there is a mere explanatory expansion, as in  Exodus 3:1 , where instead of "the mount of God," Onqelos has "the mountain on which the glory of the Lord was revealed." In the mysterious passage,  Exodus 4:24-26 , later Jewish usage is brought in to make an easy sense: "And it was on the way in the inn (house of rest) that the angel of the Lord met him and sought to slay him. And Zipporah took a flint knife and cut off the foreskin of her son and came near before him and said 'In the blood of this circumcision is the bridegroom given back to us,' and when therefore he had desisted she said, 'Had it not been for the blood of this circumcision the bridegroom would have been condemned to die.'" Here ḥāthān (" bridegroom") is used according to later custom of the child to be circumcised. Sometimes reasons of propriety come in, as when the sin of Onan is described "corrupting his way on the earth. It is, however, in the poetical passages that the writer gives loose rein to paraphrase. As an example the blessing of Judah in Jacob's blessing of his sons may be given: "Judah, thou art praise and not shame; thee thy brethren shall praise. Thy hands shall be strong upon thine enemies, those that hate thee shall be scattered; they shall be turned back before thee; the sons of thy father shall come before thee with salutations. (Thy) rule shall be in the beginning, and in the end the kingdom shall be increased from the house of Judah, because from the judgment of death, my son, thy soul hast thou removed. He shall rest, he shall abide in strength, as a lion and as a lioness there is nothing may trouble him. The ruler shall not depart from the house of Judah nor the scribe from his son's sons for ever till the Messiah come whose is the kingdom and whom the heathen shall obey. Israel shall trade in his cities, the people shall build his temple, the saints shall be going about to him and shall be doers of the Law through his instruction. His raiment shall be goodly crimson; his clothing covering him, of wool dyed bright with colors. His mountains shall be red with his vineyards, his hills shall flow down with wine, and his valleys shall be white with corn and with flocks of sheep."

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 meturghemān . If one might believe the Talmudic traditions, Jonathan's Targum was committed to writing before that of Onḳelos . Jonathan is regarded as the contemporary of the first Gamaliel, whereas Onḳelos is the friend of Aḳiba , 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 Kethūbhı̄m , 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 - E arlier 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  Joshua 8:12 , where the Targum has "the west side of Ai" instead of as in the Massoretic Text, "the west side of the city." Sometimes two readings are combined, as in  Joshua 8:16 , where the Massoretic Text has "all the people which were in the city," the Targum adds "in Ai." Again, the Targum translates proper names, as, in  Joshua 7:5 , "Shebarim" ( shebhārı̄m ) is rendered "till they were scattered." Such are the variations to be seen in the narrative portion of the Targum of the earlier Prophets. When, however, a poetical piece occurs, the writer at times gives rein to his imagination. Sometimes one verse is exceedingly paraphrastic and the next an accurate rendering without any addition. In the song of Deborah (Jdg 5) the 1st verse has only a little of paraphrase: "Then sang praises Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on account of the lifting up and deliverance which had been wrought in that day, saying..."The verse which follows is very paraphrastic; instead of the 7 words of the verse in the Massoretic Text the Targum has 55. it is too long to quote in full, but it begins, "Because the house of Israel rebelled against His Law, the Gentiles came up upon them and disturbed their assemblies, and because they refused to obey the Law, their enemies prevailed against them and drove them from the borders of the land of Israel," and so on, Sisera and all his host being introduced.  Judges 5:3 reads thus, "Hear O kings who are with him, with Sisera for war, who obey the officers of Jabin the king of Canaan; with your might and your valor ye shall not prevail nor go up against Israel, said I D eborah in prophecy before the Lord. I will sing praise and bless before Yahweh the God of Israel."

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  Jeremiah 10:11 : "Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, these shall perish from the earth, and from under the heavens." As this verse is in Aramaic it might have been thought that it would have been transferred to the Targum unchanged, but the Targumist has made of the 10 words of the original text 57. Sometimes these expansions may be much shorter than the above example, but are illuminative, showing the views held by the Jewish teachers. In   Isaiah 29:1 , "Ho Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped!" the Targum has "Woe to the altar, the altar which David built in the city in which he dwelt." In this rendering we see the Jewish opinion that "Ariel," which means "lion of God," in this connection stood for the "altar" which David erected in Jerusalem. It seems unlikely that this whole Targum was the work of one writer, but the style gives little indication of difference. The paraphrase of the synagogal haphṭārōth being traditional, the style of the person who committed it to writing had little scope. The language represents naturally an older stage of development than we find in the contemporary Christian lectionaries. As only portions of the Prophets were used in synagogue worship, only those portions would have a traditional rendering; but these fixed the style. In the Revised Version (British and American) of the Apocrypha the 70 verses which had been missing from 2 Esdras 7 are translated in the style adopted by the translators under King James. It is impossible to fix the date at which the Targum of any of the prophetic books was written down. It is probable that it was little if at all after that of Onqelos. The completion of the paraphrases of the prophetic writings, of which only portions were used in the synagogue, seems to imply that there were readers of the Aramaic for whose benefit those Targums were made.

(3) Hagiographa: Psalms, Job and Proverbs

(A) The Meghilloth

The Targums of the third division of the Hebrew sacred writings, the Kethūbhı̄m (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 Meghillōth . In the Psalms, the paraphrase is explanatory rather than simply expansive. Thus in   Psalm 29:1 , "ye sons of the mighty" is rendered "ye companies of angels, ye sons of the mighty."  Psalm 23:1-6 is further from the text, but it also is exegetic; instead of "Yahweh is my shepherd, I shall not want," the Targum reads, "The Lord nourished His people in the wilderness so that they lacked nothing." So the last clause of the last verse of this psalm is, "'I shall indeed dwell in the house of the holiness of the Lord for the length of days." Another example of exegesis is   Psalm 46:4 , in which the "river whose streams make glad the city of our God" is explained as "the nations as rivers making glad the city of Yahweh." Much the same may be said of Job, so examples need not be given.

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 Meghillōth , as they are called, Song 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. Ruth 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   Lamentations 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 2Targum; 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.

(B) Chronicles

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  1 Chronicles 21:2 , instead of "Dan" the Targum has "Pameas" (Paneas), which affords an evidence of the lateness of this Targum. In the rabbinic Bible, Chronicles appear, as do Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel, without a parallel Targum.

(4) The Non-Official Targums - J onathan 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 Yerūshalmı̄ " Of the two the Yerūshalmı̄ 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 Yerūshalmı̄ . This Targum may be regarded as to some extent semi-official.

7. Use of the Targums:

As the Targums appear to have been committed to writing after the Massoretic Text was fixed, textual differences are few and unimportant. Kohn mentions that in a few cases Onqelos agrees with the Samaritan against the Massoretic Text; they are, however, few, and possibly may be explained by differences of idiom, though from the slavish way in which Onqelos follows the Hebrew text this is improbable. The Palestine Targum agrees with the Samaritan and the versions in adding "Let us go into the field" in  Genesis 4:8 . The main benefit received from the Targums is the knowledge of the views of the Jewish rabbis as to the meaning of certain passages Thus in  Genesis 49:10 there is no doubt in the mind of the Targumist that "Shiloh" refers to the Messiah. Some other cases have been noted above. The frequency with which the word of the Lord ( mı̄merā' yeyā' ) is used in Onqelos as equivalent to YHWH , as  Genesis 3:8 , "They heard the voice of the word of the Lord God," mı̄merā' dheyeyā' 'Ělōhı̄m , requires to be noted from its bearing on Christian theology. There is a peculiar usage in  Genesis 15:1 : YHWH says to Abraham, "Fear not, Abram, my word ( mı̄merā' ) shall help thee." Pharaoh is represented as using this periphrasis: "The word of the Lord ( mı̄merā' yeyā' ) be for your help when I send away you and your little ones" ( Exodus 10:10 ). A striking use of this phrase is to be found in  Deuteronomy 33:27 , where instead of "Underneath are the everlasting arms," we have "By His word the world was made." This is at once seen to resemble the usage of Philo and the apostle John. As the Targums had not been committed to writing during the lifetime of either of these writers, it might be maintained that the Targumists had been influenced by Philo. This, however, does not follow necessarily, as both apostle and philosopher would have heard the Targum of the Law recited Sabbath after Sabbath from their boyhood, and the phrase mı̄merā' yeyā' would remain in their memory. The Targums of the pseudo-Jonathan and that of Jerusalem have a yet more frequent use of the term. Edersheim has counted 176 occurrences of the phrase in Onqelos and 321 in that of the pseudo-Jonathan and in the fragments of the Yerūshalmı̄ 99. This is made the more striking by the fact that it rarely occurs in the rest of Scripture. In  Amos 1:2 , instead of "Yahweh ... will utter his voice from Jerusalem," we have "From Jerusalem will He lift up His word" ( mēmerı̄h ). The usual equivalent for the prophet's formula "the word of the Lord" is pithgām YHWH . An example of the usage before us may be found in  Psalm 56:4 ,  Psalm 56:10 : "In the righteousness of the judgment of God will I praise his word" ( mēmerı̄h ). There was thus a preparation for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity imbedded in the most venerated Targum, that of the Law.


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 Dict. 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 Bible Dictionaries. 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 .