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Judaic Studies | Classics | Studies in Religion | Philosophy | Brooklyn College Library

JUST/CLAS/RELG 3022 and PHIL 3729: Searching for God: Week 8: Rabbinic Judaism 1

Ancient Greeks, Jews, and Christians

Topic for the week

Topic: Rabbinic Judaism Part 1: Targum

Primary Sources: Rabbinic Judaism Part 1: Targum

Rabbinic Judaism Part 1: Targum

Cf. original verses with the Targum on the following verses (We will focus primarily on Targum Onqelos, though Targum Neofiti and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan are also relevant). We shall note six main issues:

  1. Passive verbs replace active ones for God’s actions (esp. for seeing, hearing,smelling, and knowing (i.e., for gaining new knowledge?)—though not always and not for other verbs like to do or destroy, though the latter is in the causative): Gen. 18:19, 20:6, Ex. 2:24-25, 3:7,  19:17-19:20, Deut. 9:13. Or some other circumlocution: Gen. 18:21. For exceptions, see Gen. 6:12, 9:16, 22:12 . Notice that Roslyn Weiss is correct that these exceptions happen when God sees that something is… (and also when God knows that something is…, though RW does not note that case). RW argues that this is to avoid confusion that it is actually with an eye, but if that were so, then why does knowing follow the same pattern. It would seem that it must be to avoid too direct of an acquisition of new knowledge, whereas seeing knowing that… is already indirect. Yet, note “knowing that” translated as “revealed before me that”: Ex. 3:19, and 4:14 Perhaps the issue is knowing something abstract vs. concrete.
  2. When God is said to move or exist in space, the Targumists will either translate the movement into non-movement or replace God with His Word or Glory: Gen. 3:8, 3:10, 7:16, 11:5, 11:7, 18:20-22, 18:33, 19:27, 20:3, 20:6, Exodus 3:8, 3:12, 19:17-19:20. (same for God “showing himself” [causative] on earth becomes the passive “was revealed”: Gen. 12:7, 17:1, 18:1). **Judges 16:20**
  3. Covenants are established between the people and the Word of God, not God Himself: Gen. 9:12, 13, 16, and 17; 17:2, 7, and 10; 22:16, 24:3 (Similarly, belief is in the Word of God rather than God Himself: Gen. 15:6,). (But notice exceptions: Gen. 6:18, 15:18, 17:4 Ex. 19:5,--It seems “My covenant” will remain as such, but “the covenant between Me and you” will be changed to “between My Word and you.” Why does the latter require alteration for the Targumist while the former does not?). It would seem that the covenant can still be possessed by God (His covenant), but it cannot be between Him and anyone else. The Targumists always change that latter to make it between His Word and people.
  4. When God is said to “regret” his actions, the Targum will use the circumlocution that he “returns”: 6:1-8 (esp. 6:3 and 6:6-8), Num. 23:19, 1 Sam 15:11 and 15:35 (Note: the previous link did not include a translation of the Targum to 1 Sam; if you are logged on to your library account, you will be able to access the translation to 1 Sam 15:11 here and 1 Sam 15:35 here; also, contrast Peshitta on 1 Sam 15:11 and 35, which can be accessed in the original Syriac here). Contrast these with the creation story (which are not Aristotelian in Targum): Gen. 1 (Keep this contrast in mind when we get to Maimonides).
  5. God’s anger (contrast this with Rab. theology): Dt. 9:8 and 9:10, 1Kings 15:30, 16:2, 16:13, 16:26

Note: These comparisons require a very close reading of the text that is hard to do in translation. Do your best on your own, and we will discuss them in detail when we meet for class. I will likely provide an MS Word document with my own translations which I am currently working on.

Secondary Sources: Rabbinic Judaism Part 1: Targum