Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

Targum of the Pseudo-Jonathan.-So called from being ascribed by many to Jonathan Ben Uzziel, who wrote the much esteemed paraphrase on the Prophets. But the difference in the style and diction of this Targum, which is very impure, as well as in the method of paraphrasing adopted in it, clearly proves that it could not have been written by Jonathan Ben Uzziel, who indeed sometimes indulges in allegories, and has introduced a few barbarisms; but this Targum on the Law abounds with the most idle Jewish fables that can well be conceived; which, together with the barbarous and foreign words it contains, renders it of very little utility. Learned men are unanimous in the opinion that

it could not have been written before the seventh, or even the eighth century. Its general character may be learned from a very few specimens.

[blocks in formation]

The Jerusalem Targum.-This also paraphrases the five books of Moses, and derives its name from the dialect in which it is composed. It is by no means a connected paraphrase, sometimes omitting whole verses or even chapters; at other times explaining only a single word of a verse, of which it sometimes gives a twofold interpretation; and at others, Hebrew words are inserted without any

explanation whatever. In many respects it corresponds with the paraphrase of the Pseudo-Jonathan, whose legendary tales and rabbinical fictions are copiously interspersed throughout, though sometimes abridged and sometimes expanded. It cannot be referred to a date earlier than the seventh or eighth century, nor is any thing known of the author. The following may serve as specimens.

ENG. VERSION.

Gen. 1. 1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

v. 5. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night: and the evening and the morning were the first day.

Ch. 2. 15. And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it.

v. 18. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him an help meet for him.

Ch. 3. 9. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

v. 15. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman. and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

JERUS. TARG.

In wisdom the Lord created the heaven and the earth.

And evening was, and morning was, in the order of the work of creation, the first day.

And the Lord God took the man, and established him in the garden of Eden, and placed him there that he should be a cultivator of the law, and should keep it.

I will make for him a consort proceeding forth as it were from him.

And the word of the Lord God called un. to Adam, and said unto him: Behold, the world which I have created is laid open before ine: darkness and light are open before me, and how didst thou expect the place, in the midst of which thou art, not to be dis covered before me? where is the commandinent which I enjoined thee?

And it shall be when the sons of the woman shall attend to the law and perform the precepts thereof, they shall prepare to wound thee on thy head and shall kill thee: but when the sons of the woman shall forsake the cominandments of the law, and shall not perform the precepts thereof, thou shalt be in readiness and shall bite them upon their heel, and shalt afflict them with sickness. Nevertheless, there shall be a remedy for the sons of the woman; but for thee, O Serpent, there shall not be a remedy for they shall provide a medicine for one another in the heel, in the end of the heel of days, in the days of King Messiah.

The above mentioned Targums, but more especially those of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel, were held by the Jews in nearly as much veneration as their Hebrew Scriptures; and to give them the greater authority, they traced back their origin to the time of Moses and the ancient prophets; asserting that Onkelos and Jonathan only restored, by committing to writing, what they had received by divine tradition. But this supposition exceeds the usual extravagance of Rabbinical fictions; for it admits that Moses and the prophets dictated a Chaldee paraphrase to the Jews at a time when they could not possibly have had any knowledge of that language. But while we repudiate these extravagant claims, in regard to the antiquity and authority of the Chaldee paraphrases, and treat as they deserve the idle Rabbinical conceits, with which they are interspersed, we may admit, at the same time, that they are of considerable value in the interpretation of the sacred text. They are undoubtedly the most ancient books, next to the Hebrew Scriptures, possessed by the Jewish nation, and being ex

tremely literal, they serve to vindicate the original text, as it has come down to us, from the charge of corruption by the Jews for the sake of evading the arguments of Christians. For the same reason they often afford the interpreter important aid in determining the signification of difficult words and phrases, although from the remoteness of their period from the age when the language was vernacular, their testimony cannot have the weight of that of direct and immediate witnesses. But they undoubtedly serve as a channel for conveying down to us the earliest traditionary sense put by the Jews upon many obscure passages of the sacred writings, and correct information on this point is always exceedingly desirable. In addition to this, they often reflect considerable light on the Jewish rites, ceremonies, laws, customs, and usages mentioned or alluded to in both Testaments. But it is in establishing the meaning of particular prophecies relative to the Messiah, that these Targums are pre-eminently useful. For some striking illustrations of this remark, the reader is referred to Prideaux' Connection, vol. 4th. p. 236 (Charlest. ed. 1816), where the whole subject is fully and learnedly treated.-Walton's Polyglott Bible will present the student with all the Targums; and Buxtorf's Biblia Rabbinica will not only give these, but all the distinguished Rabbinic Commentaries, such as those of Kimchi, Jarchi, Aben Ezra, etc. to which should be added his Lexicon Chald. Talmud. Rabbinicum, an invaluable store-house of illustration in every department of Chaldee and Rabbinical literature.

(b.) THE SEPTUAGINT.-This is the title applied to the most ancient and valuable of the Greek versions. It is so called, either from the Jewish account of seventy-two persons having been employed to make it, or from its having been ordered, superintended, or sanctioned by the Sanhedrin, or great council of the Jews, which consisted of seventy, or more correctly, of seventy-two persons. Much uncertainty rests upon the real history of this version, though its date is usually referred to the second century before the Christian era; but there is no question as to its value; and in so much esteem was it held by the Jews and the early Christians, that it was constantly read in the synagogues and churches. Hence it is uniformly cited by the early fathers, whether Greek or Latin, and from it all the translations into other languages (with the exception of the Syr. iac), which were approved by the ancient Christian church, were executed, as the Arabic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Gothic, and old Italic or Latin version in use before Jerome; and to this day the Septuagint is exclusively read in the Greek and most other Oriental churches. As a source of interpretation it is invaluable. Desirous of possessing in Greek a faithful representation of the Hebrew Scriptures, and being themselves Jews, the translators retained Hebrew forms and modes of expression, while the words employed were Greek. The language therefore of the Septuagint is a kind of Hebrew-Greek, which a native of Athens might have found it difficult to understand. Such as it is, it has operated to give character to the style of the New Testament, and forms in fact one of the most important means of its critical illustration. 'The book,' says Michaelis, 'most necessary to be read and understood by every man who studies the New Testament, is, without doubt, the Septuagint, which alone has been of more service than all the passages from the profane authors collected together. It should be read in the public schools by those who are destined for the church, should form

;.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

the subject of a course of lectures at the University, and be the constant companion of an expositor of the New Testament.' This is confirmed by the testimony of Dr. Adam Clarke, who, in speaking of his biblical labours, says, 'About the year 1785 I began to read the Septuagint regularly, in order to acquaint myself more fully with the puraseology of the New Testament. The stud of this version served more to expand and illuminate my mind than all the theological works I had ever consulted. I had proceeded but a short way in it, before I was convinced that the prejudices against it were utterly unfounded; and that it was of incalculable advantage towards a proper understanding of the literal sense of the Scripture.' (Comment. vol. I. Gen. Pref.) A marked difference of style in its different parts indicates the version to have been the work not of one but of several translators, and to have been executed at different times. In all, however, the Greek abounds with Hebraisms, and errors are by no means infrequent, particularly in the right construction of the original. This in many instances can only be resolved into absolute incapacity on the score of knowledge and general qualification for the task assumed. Yet very many parts are excellently translated. The first place in the scale of merit is due to the version of the Pentateuch, which far surpasses that of the other books. The translator has for the most part religiously followed the Hebrew text, and has in various instances introduced the most suitable and best chosen expressions. Next to the Pentateuch, for ability and fidelity of execution, ranks the translation of the book of Proverbs, the author of which was well skilled in the two languages. Michaelis is of opinion that of all the books of the Septuagint this is the best; the most ingenious thoughts being clothed in as neat and elegant language as was ever used by a Pythagorean sage, to express his philosophic maxims. The books of Judges, Ruth, Samuel, and Kings, seem to have been translated by one who does not admit more Hebraisms than the other translators, but has several other peculiarities. The Psalms and Prophets, according to Jahn, have been translated by men who were unequal to their task. The version of Jeremiah he considers better than the rest; those of Amos and Ezekiel deserve the next place, and the last must be given to that of Isaiah. The version of Ecclesiastes is remarkable for its being closely literal. In that of Job, additions have been made to those parts of the books which are in prose, while the poetical parts are deficient in scores of passages. The translation of Daniel was so very erroneous, that it was totally rejected by the ancient church, and Theodotion's version substituted instead of it. The Septuagint version, however, which was for a long time supposed to have been lost, was discovered and published at Rome in 1772, from which it appears that its author had but an imperfect knowledge of the Hebrew language.-It may interest a portion of our readers to be informed that the only complete translation of the Septuagint into English was made by a countryman of our own, Charles Thomson, Esq. Secretary to Congress in the time of the Revolutionary war. Though faithfully and creditably executed, yet it is to be regarded rather as a literary curiosity, than as a work of much practical utility to the biblical student. It was printed at Philadelphia, in 1808, in 4 vols. 8vo, and has now become extremely scarce.-Our quotations from this version, in the body of the work, are so numerous as to render additional specimens, for illustrating its style, unnecessary.-Perhaps the best edition for common use is that of Leipsic by Leander Van Ess.

« PreviousContinue »