While any translation of the Scriptures may in Hebrew be called a targum, the word is used especially for a translation of a book of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic. Before the Christian era, Aramaic had in good part replaced Hebrew in Palestine as the vernacular of the Jews. It continued as their vernacular for centuries later and remained in part as the language of the schools after Aramaic itself had been replaced as the vernacular.
The attribution, by the Babylonian Talmud, of this Targum to Jonathan ben Uzziel is suspect on several counts: among others, the silence concerning Jonathan in the parallel passage in the Palestinian Talmud, and the fanciful suggestion that Onkelos=Aquila and Jonathan=Theodotion. The attribution, therefore, is not to be taken as historical fact. The Talmud may have been attempting to enhance the authority of the Targum by claiming authorship by a disciple of Hillel, which Jonathan was.
It is generally agreed that the author of the Targum Jonathan is unknown; in fact, it is preferable to consider multiple authorship. For while language and translation techniques are uniform, there is variety from book to book.
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The Aramaic Bible series, under McNamara’s able leadership, has brought the difficult world of Targum to a larger audience of biblical scholars.
—Gary A. Rendsburg, Blanche and Irving Laurie Chair in Jewish History, Cornell University
Anthony J. Saldarini (1941–2001) was a leading Christian scholar of Late Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism.
Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, PhD, is professor of New Testament at Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and general editor of New Testament Abstracts. He wrote The Gospel of Matthew and is the series editor of the Sacra Pagina series.