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The Chaldee word תרגום TARGUM signifies, in general, any version or explanation; but this appellation is more particularly restricted to the versions or paraphrases of the Old Testament, executed in the East Aramæan or Chaldee dialect, as it is usually called. These Targums are termed 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 law was read in the Synagogue every Sabbath day, in pure Biblical Hebrew, an explanation was subjoined to it in Chaldee, in order to render it intelligible to the people, who had but an imperfect knowledge of the Hebrew language. This practice, as already observed, originated about the epoch of the Maccabees. As there are no traces of any written Targums prior to those of Onkelos and Jonathan, who are supposed to have lived about the time of our Saviour, it is highly probable that these paraphrases were at first merely oral; that subsequently, the ordinary glosses on the more difficult passages were committed to writing; and that, as the Jews were bound by an ordinance of their elders to possess a copy of the law, these glosses were either afterwards collected together and deficiencies in them supplied, or new and connected paraphrases were formed.

There are at present extant ten paraphrases on different parts of the Old Testament, three of which comprise the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses: 1.—The Targum of Onkelos; 2.—That falsely ascribed to Jonathan, and usually cited as the Targum of the Pseudo-Jonathan; 3.—The Jerusalem Targum; 4.—The Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel (i. e., the son of Uzziel) on the Prophets; 5.—The Targum of Rabbi Joseph the blind, or one-eyed, on the Hagiographa; 6.—An anonymous Targum on the five Megilloth, or books of Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and the Lamentations of Jeremiah; 7, 8, 9.—Three Targums on the book of Esther; and, 10.—A Targum or paraphrase on the two Books of Chronicles. These Targums taken together, form a continued paraphrase on the Old Testament, with the exception of the Books of Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah (anciently reputed to be part of Ezra). These books being partly written in Chaldee, it has been conjectured that no paraphrases were written on them, as being unnecessary.

THE TARGUM OF ONKELOS

According to the Babylonian Talmud Onkelos was a proselyte who lived in the first Christian century; but there is no confirmation of this in the Jerusalem Talmud. Indeed, it seems probable that the name is a corruption of Aquila the translator. The Targum seems rather a progressive work, the work of several hands, which may have originated during the second and third Christian centuries. It is first quoted as the Targum of Onkelos by Gaon Sar Shalom in the ninth Christian century. It is sometimes called the Babylonian Targum, as it was revised at Babylon in the fourth and fifth centuries and officially authorized.

Though at times paraphrase takes the place of translation, and there are halakha and haggada in it, the translation has merit.

The first edition of it was published at Bologna in 1482. The other targums are of secondary importance.








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