Rashi on the talmud (kidushin 49a) says the aramaic translation/commentary on the torah was given at sinai, forgotten and brought back by Onkelos.

Where did Onkelos obtain the correct text?

  • 2
    First of all, it is a bit of a funny statement, as I dont recall offhand any source for it in Chazal. That being said, there are a variety of possible interpretations of this statement. One of them is that it is not the text that dates that far, but the interpretations therein. This would explain the transmission, given that I doubt Aramaic was the lingua franca among the Egyptian exiles. Also these statements in general are quote possibly non-literal, intending to demonstrate authority of a work. Accordingly the Gemara states that Neviim and Ketuvim were given at Sinai. As Rabbenu Avraham ben
    – mevaqesh
    May 1, 2016 at 17:23
  • 2
    [cont.] HaRambam writes, this is not meant as a serious statement. Similarly, we find rabbinic laws sometimes attributed to Sinai. This means (as clarified by Rambam in Shoresh Sheni to Sefer HaMitzvot) that the obligation to follow them stemmed from Sinai; not the command itself. Accordingly, references to particular rabbinic dicta stemming from sinai would be a poetic way of saying that they are authoritative.
    – mevaqesh
    May 1, 2016 at 17:25
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    @mevaqesh Megilla 3a sort of makes the claim
    – Double AA
    May 3, 2016 at 5:53
  • @DoubleAA Look at the passage again. It makes no such claim. The only thing you see is that it goes back to Nechemiah. I assume you are aware of this and therefore wrote "sort of".
    – mevaqesh
    May 3, 2016 at 19:46
  • @mevaqesh Yes. That claim should be sufficient to justify the OP's question. How did Onkelos get the correct text of that old (and pretty Meyuchas) translation?
    – Double AA
    May 3, 2016 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


This should not to be taken literally but metaphorically meaning that Onkelos' translation is considered as it were from divine origin, handed to Moses at Sinai.

See: Targum Mi'Sinai? by Rafael Binyamin Posen, available in JSTOR here.

  • who is Posen? is he orthodox?
    – ray
    May 2, 2016 at 6:20
  • The wikipedia has some information about him: he.wikipedia.org/wiki/… May 2, 2016 at 11:13
  • 3
    @ray, Rabbi Posen is in fact Orthodox (here's a video of him if you'd like to see what he looks like: youtube.com/watch?v=JllL1WQ0Zs8). For earlier authors who understood this statement about Onkelos not necessarily straightforwardly, see my answer to this question: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/34755/489
    – jake
    May 2, 2016 at 22:39
  • do you know any sources from chazal he brings to back up this claim?
    – ray
    May 3, 2016 at 5:23
  • @ray Uh.... remember ray. The statement you are trying to defend is itself not in chazal (at the minimum you have given no indication of any such chazal). Indeed, the passage in Megillah which comes closest says nothing about Sinaic origin. He does not support from Chazal; you do!
    – mevaqesh
    May 3, 2016 at 19:48

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