The Aramaic Bible is coming to Logos. This is a series I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time, so the sales team asked me to answer some basic questions, like “What’s a Targum and why should I care?” and “What’s so special about this particular edition?”
What are the Targums?
The Targums are early translations of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic. They cover the entire Hebrew Bible except Ezra–Nehemiah (probably originally one book) and Daniel, portions of which are already in Aramaic; some of the books of the Bible have several different Targums. Some follow the Hebrew text very closely, while others contain significant additions and explanations. They’re useful for textual criticism or for resolving difficult passages in the Hebrew Bible (particularly those Targums that are older or stay closer to the source material), as well as for learning the diverse ways that the ancient Jews understood their Scriptures. Quite often, when I read someone commenting on places where a New Testament author “must” have been using the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures), looking at the Targums will demonstrate that the tradition being followed may have been alive and well in synagogues without the need to reference the Greek text at all. The Targums also demonstrate the diversity of ancient Judaism, sometimes disagreeing with each other, sometimes differing in interpretation from material found in the Mishnah or the Talmuds. Some of the Targums, particularly Onqelos on the Torah and Jonathan on the Prophets, are still used extensively in Orthodox Judaism today. [Read more…]