is the distinctive designation of the Aramaic translations or paraphrases of the Old Testament.After the return from exile Aramaic gradually won the ascendancy as the colloquial language over the slowly decaying Hebrew until, from probably the last century before the Christian era, Hebrew was hardly more than the language of the schools and of worship.Compare also Midrash, Tanchuma, Mishpatim, 91, 92 (ed. It is not necessary to discuss here earlier views concerning this point. Thus it is not known who wrote the Targum named after Onkelos.The effort to prove the existence of an Onkelos distinct from Aquila is still made by Friedmann ("Onkelos and Aquila" in "Jahresber. Lehranstalt in Wien", 1896), but the proof adduced is not convincing (cf. In any case the Targum, at least the greater part of it, is old, a fact indicated by the connection with Rab Eliezer and Rab Josua, and belongs probably to the second, or it may be to the first century of our era.Various indication, however, show the great antiquity of the main contents of many Targums, their theology among other things. As regards age and linguistic character they may be divided into three classes: (1) Targum of Onkelos and Targum of Jonathan; (2) Jerusalem Targums; (3) Targum on the Hagiographa.That as early as the third century the text, for instance, of the Targum on the Pentateuch was regarded by the synagogue as traditionally settled is evident from the "Mishna Meg.", IV, 10, "Jer. The form of language used in the Targums is called specifically "Targum dialect".
The traditional pointing of the texts is valueless and misleading: a more certain basis was first offered by manuscripts from Southern Arabia in which the pointing for the vowels was placed above the line.As the majority of the population ceased to be conversant with the sacred language it became necessary to provide translations for the better understanding of the passages of the Bible read in Hebrew at the liturgical services.Thus to meet this need it became customary to add to the portions of the Scriptures read on the Sabbath an explanatory oral translation — a Targum.See below for particulars as to individual editions. This he did in an opinion concerning the Targum which he evidently had before him at the time in a written copy.The official Targum to the Pentateuch is designated by the name of . The designation that thus arose became customary through its acceptance by Rashi and others.