I'm curious about how the Targum was used.

I've been told that Hebrew Scriptures were the holy writ but also see that the Targum was also used. Was the Targums' use isolated to a certain region, a particular class of people, or would the Targum have been used widely throughout this period?

Also, how does it compare to the Hebrew manuscripts and would it have been used in within Jerusalem among the Kohen?.

  • I believe during the times of the Mishnah and Gemora a translator translated the words of Torah into Aramaic on-site during Kriyas HaTorah. – ezra Jan 16 '17 at 15:57
  • 2
    @msh210 isn't this pretty clearly history of Judaism? – Isaac Moses Jan 16 '17 at 17:30
  • @IsaacMoses, is it? How? (I assume "Targum" in the question means "Aramaic". If I'm mistaken, please correct me, Tonyg.) – msh210 Jan 16 '17 at 21:54
  • … but because I now realize that "Targum" might really mean a targum of Scripture, I'll undo my unilateral closure of this question. – msh210 Jan 16 '17 at 21:56

In the translation profession, a distinction is made between interpreters, who work with oral discourse, and translators, who work with written discourse. When the Bible is read aloud it is both an oral and a written text, thus making the dragoman both an interpreter and a translator. Most synagogues have long abolished the dragoman, probably because Aramaic became displaced by other languages in most of the Jewish world. The ancient custom of having both a reader for the Hebrew and a dragoman for interpretation/translation is traditionally traced back to Ezra's Torah assembly at the water gate (Neh 8). Rabbinic tradition understands the word מפרש in Neh 8.8 as a reference to the dragoman.
Rabbinic tradition sees the generation of Joshua ben Nun as the pioneers of biblical translation, accrediting them with engraving a polyglot Torah on the stones of Mount Ebal (m. Soṭ. 7.5). They based this view on Deut 27.8, where Moses commands Israel to write the Torah on stone באר היטב, very clearly. This ancient polyglot included "70 languages," a number that is probably based on the table of nations in Gen 10. If "Aram" mentioned in Gen 10.23 refers to Aramaic-speakers, then it is likely that the Joshua polyglot included Aramaic as well. Unfortunately for us, the Joshua polyglot described by the rabbis has not been found. The oldest available fragments of Bible translations are in Greek and Aramaic and date from the first century BCE. A notable Aramaic example is the Job Targum found Qumran, cave 11. A notable Greek example is the Minor Prophets scroll found at Nahal Hever.

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