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Appendix 4 - Some observations about the Targums

Appendix 4

Some Observations about the Targums

If the oral and written Targums had originated some time after NT times then, obviously, their relevance for the understanding of John’s Prologue and the NT as a whole would be question­able. The follow­ing are selected quota­tions from Targum and Test­ament by M. McNamara, in the chapter Origin and Transmiss­ion of the Palestinian Targum, which provide a clear under­standing on this matter:

“In any case, it is generally granted that by the first century BC Aramaic translations of the Torah, and probably of other books of the Bible as well, were being made among the Jews.

“Our main concern here is with the Targum to the Pentateuch. This was certainly the first targum to be formed. How it came into being, whether all at once or gradually over a long period, is difficult to deter­mine. It is only natural to see its origin in the synagogue service, as a rendering of those sections of the Torah read in public.” (p.80)

“Josephus can boast: ‘For our people, if anyone do but ask any of them about our laws, he will more readily tell them all than he will tell them his own name, and this in consequence of our having learned them immed­iately as soon as we be­came sensi­ble of anything, and of our hav­ing them as it were engraven on our souls (Contra Apionem II, 17 [18] sec 178).’

“This knowledge of the Law of Moses the majority of the Israel­ites would have got from the synagogue rendering of the tar­gums. It was already Ezra’s mandate and intention to bring them this knowledge of the Law of Moses, and the principle must have led the religious leaders of Judaism long before the Christian era to provide an Aramaic render­ing of the entire Law.” (p.81)

“The indications, then, are that the synagogue targumic trad­ition origin­ated at an early date in pre-Christian times.” (p.82)

“In conclusion we can say that there is a good likelihood that the present texts of the Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch transmit substantially the paraphrase of the Pentateuch formed in pre-Christian times and known to Palestinian Judaism of the early Christian period. Used in accord with strict scientific prin­ciples, this paraphrase is of immense importance in recon­structing the beliefs of those to whom Christ and his apostles preached.” (p.85)


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