TARGUM (Chaldee, from tirgem, a word of uncertain origin, designating to translate, explain), the general term for the Aramaic versions of the Old Testament, which became necessary when, after and perhaps during the Babylonian exile, Hebrew began to die out as the popular language, and was supplanted by " Chaldee," an idiom, or rather a. family of idioms, on which we have spoken under SIIEMITIC LANGUAGES.
The origin of the Targum itself is shrouded in mystery. The first signs of it—as an already fixed institution—have been found by some in the book of Nehemiah, and according to tradition, Ezra and his coadjutors were its original founders. However this be, there can be no doubt that its beginnings belong to a comparatively early period. The Mishna (q.v.) contains a number of strict injunctions respecting it, and also respect ing a certain guild of meturgemans (whence dragoman) or interpreters, who had sprung up as professional followers of those learned men who, at a previous period, had volun teered their services in the translation and paraphrastic interpretation, both activities, as we said, implied by the term. At first, and indeed for many centuries, the Targum was not committed to writing, for the same reason that the " oral law" itself was not at first intended ever to become fixed as a code for all times. In the course of time, however, both had to yield to circumstances, and their being written down was considered pref erable to their being utterly forgotten, of which there was no small danger. Yet a small portion only of the immense mass of oral targums that must have been produced, has survived. All that is now extant are three distinct targums on the Pentateuch, a targum on the prophets, targums on the Hagiographa, viz., on Psalms, Job, Proverbs, the five " Megilloth" (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Ecclesiastes), two targums on Esther, one on Chronicles, one on Daniel, and one on the apocryphal pieces of Esther. The most important of the three Pentateuch targums is the one named after Onkelos (q.v.), probably a corruption of Akylas, whose Greek version had become so popular that this Chaldee version was honored with being called after it. In its present shape, this translation dates probably from the end of the 3d or beginning of the 4th c. A.D., although snatches of it were collected and written down more than a hundred years earlier. We have spoken of its language and its general character already under ONKE Los, and may here briefly state that it is composed in an Aramaic closely resembling that of Daniel, and that it is as excellent a translation "for the people," which it meant to be, as can well be conceived. Occasionally, when the subject imperatively demands it, it introduces some paraphrastic by-work, and it only deviates from the text where the divine dignity would have appeared to suffer in the eyes of the multitude by a literal.
interpretation. Its value for exegetical purposes is no less great than it would be for linguistic and antiquarian purposes, were it more explored with that view than has been. the case as yet.
The two other Targums on the Pentateuch, hitherto known as Targum Jonathan ben Uzziel, and Targum Jerushalmi, are merely recensions of one and the same version— the name of the first recension being merely a perpetuated error of a single scribe— which owes its origin to Palestine or Syria (Onkelos being of Babylonian origin), and cannot well have been redacted before the 7th c. A.D. There is no doubt that origin ally this "Jerusalem Targum" embraced the whole of the Old Testament, as did the Babylonian; but nothing-has survived beyond these two recensions of the Pentateuch, the first complete, the second in a fragmentary condition: the former probably intended as an emendation of Onkelos, chiefly in the direction of homiletic paraphrase and legendary lore, and the latter as a further emended emendation of single portions. As •a version, this Targum is of small importance; but it is invaluable as a storehouse of allegories, parables, sagas, and the like popular poetry of its time. Its language and grammar are exceedingly corrupt; it abounds, moreover, with foreign—Greek, Latin, Persian, and Arabic—terms; and its general use lies more in the direction of Jewish literature itself, as well as of archeology and antiquities of the early Christian centuries, than in that of a direct interpretation of the Bible text itself. The Targum on the prophets is generally an erroneously ascribed to Jonathan ben Uzziel, an eminent mas ter of the law at the time of Hillel the elder; the fact being that, except one spurious Talmudical passage, in which mention is made of his having translated the Prophets, this Targum is everywhere else, from the Talmud down to the authorities of the 10th c. A.D., ascribed to one R. Joseph, president of a Babylonian academy in the 4th century. And it would indeed seem as if this statement was completely in accord ance with the real facts—if not the writing, but the collection and final redaction of this Targum is ascribed to him. Respecting the nature of this version, it may be said that, while being tolerably literal in the first—historical—books, it gradually becomes a mere frame-work of Midrash (q.v.) or Haggada, which it introduces at every turn and at great lengths. It further contains historical bits, disguised, or rather typified, and some lyrical pieces of rare poetical value. In language and general manner, it resembles Onkelos, with which it is of one growth, place, and date, and of which it forms only a kind of continuation.