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The Targums and Other Translations.


Besides the ancient translations of the Scripture, there exist more or less free interpretations of it into Aramaic, the so called targums, i.e. interpretations.

When the ancient Hebrew went out of use by the Jews and Aramaic took its place, the rabbis had to use exactly this language to interpret the Scripture in the synagogues. But they did not want to leave the precious legacy of the fathers — the original of the Divine Law — and therefore instead of the direct translation introduced the explanatory interpretations in Aramaic. These interpretations are called the targums.

The most ancient and famous of the targums are the Babylonian Targum for the whole Holy Scripture, which was made in the 1st century BC by rabbi Onkelos and the Jerusalem tragum, written somewhat later, assigned to Joathan ben Uzziel, made for the Torah. There exist some more, later targums. Though both of the most ancient of them appeared before the Massorite reform, the text, interpreted by them, almost coincides with the Massorite one, first, because the targums went out of the same rabbis’ medium, from which originated the Massorites, and secondly, because the text of the targums (which reached us only in the latest lists) was subjected to the edition of the Massorites.

In this respect the Samaritan targum, which was made in the 10-11th centuries, but which takes as a base for the interpretation not the Massorite, but the Pre-Massorite Hebrew text, in much resembling to the text of Septuagint, is very important.

In our, Russian Church, we have at hand the first-class translations of both the variants of the Holy Scripture: the Church Slavonic translation is made from the Septuagint, and the Russian Synodal one — from the Hebrew text.

The original translation into the Church Slavonic of the Holy Scripture was made by the equal-to-the apostles brothers Cyril and Methodius, but till the present day there were preserved only those parts of the Old Testament text, which include the church services’ readings, i.e. paremias. In the 16th century, with the start of the fight of the Church with the heresy of "zhidovstvuyushie," it turned out that, in entire Russia there is no complete Bible. Therefore archbishop Gennady of Novgorod ordered to make the translation of the holy books from Greek anew. This translation with many corrections and adaptations reached us in the form of the contemporary Church-Slavonic Bible.

The Russian translation of the Bible was made from Hebrew in the 19th century. Though, in the good Synodal editions are marked the most important differences with the Septuagint, and the translations from Greek are given in brackets. The editions of the Biblical society are made absolutely from the Hebrew text without any variations in Greek.

Almost simultaneously with the Church Slavonic translation (even later that that) there was made the translation of the Holy Scripture into Arabic by Saadia ben Joseph al Fayumi (in the beginning of the 20th century). This translation was made from the Peshitta.

Such a late date of the translation of the Holy Scripture into Arabic is explained by the fact that Aramaic, which got its most recent and final shape in Palmyra among the northern Arabic tribes, was the literature language of all northern Arabs and Syrians, understandable even for the simple people. The Muslim conquest brought to the North the language of the Southern Arabs, from which originated modern Arabic language. But Arabs and Syrians-Christians for a long time still used in their church life Aramaic, so precious for them, because Christ Himself spoke it.

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