Type: Commentary

Targum "Onkelos" to the Torah:


A "Targum" is a translation, but the term is usually used specifically to designate Aramaic translations of the Bible. According to an ancient Jewish tradition, the public reading of the Bible in the synagogue must be accompanied by a translation into Aramaic, which was the spoken language of most Jews in Israel and Babylonia during the Talmudic era. The normal practice was that after each verse was read from the written scroll, an official known as the "Turgeman" or "Meturgeman" would then recite orally an Aramaic rendering of the previous verse.

As the use of Aramaic declined, the practice of reciting the Targum in the synagogue fell into disuse in most Jewish communities.


The name "Onkelos" was attached to the present work in early medieval times on account of a mistaken identification with a translation by "Onkelos the Proselyte" that is mentioned in the Talmud. It is clear that the Talmudic reference is really to the Greek translation of the Torah by Aquila, portions of which are cited in the Palestinian Talmud and in Christian sources.

The current Aramaic translation has no known author, and was evidently the standard version that was in use in Babylonian synagogues during the Talmudic era. Several quotations of the Targum in the Babylonian Talmud agree with our "Targum Onkelos"; most of them are brought in the name of the third-century Babylonian scholar Rav Joseph, indicating perhaps that he took an active part in its compilation.


The Aramaic dialect of Targum Onkelos seems to be that of second-century Israel, though many scholars believe that it underwent subsequent development in Babylonia during the Talmudic era.


Israel and Babylonia


Targum Onkelos is for the most part a literal, word-for-word translation of the Hebrew. There are however a number of conditions when it departs fromthe plain sense of the Biblical text. These include:

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