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By Samson H. Levey / Liturgical Press / 1990
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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 Targum of Ezekiel, when critically analyzed, offers a vivid insight into an area of Jewish theological speculation stretching far back into the history of Jewish religious thought. The complexity of the document, however, compounded by a difficult Mosoretic text, abundant grammatical and syntactical problems, and an infusion of strange language and linguistic peculiarities, challenges the most incisive biblical analysts. Like the Book of Ezekiel, it poses literary, exegetical, and theological problems.
The Targum belongs to the same genre as the other official Targumim, designated in Jewish Tradition as Onqelos on the Pentateuch and Jonathan on the Prophets. Its language, basically Palestinian Aramaic, was revised and edited in Babylon; its vocabulary, idiom, grammatical form, and rendering of the Hebrew text are essentially the same as we find in the official Targumim on the other books. But beyond this, the Targum of Ezekiel has some peculiarities distinctly its own.
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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
Samson H. Levey graduated from the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California and taught both as professor and as rabbi. He was professor emeritus of Rabbinics and Jewish religious thought at Hebrew Union College. He passed away in 1998.