EAJS Conference Grant Programme 2017/18
Targum Studies in London, IOTS 2018
The International Meeting of the IOTS at University College London, July 9-12, 2018, featured 25 papers and 4 keynote speakers. It was organised by the IOTS and the Institute of Jewish Studies (IJS) at UCL, with generous funding from several anonymous donors and the European Association for Jewish Studies (EAJS). Many of the attendees considered the meeting one of the best they had attended in years. The following report states the original abstract and event rationale for the IJS summer conference, a summary of the sessions, an outline of key themes and issues emerging from it, and a description of plans for the associated output.
The 9th meeting of the International Organization of Targumic Studies will focus on two closely related aspects of Targumic Literature which have become increasingly topical:
- the Aramaic dialects of the Targums within their Late Antique environment and
- the development of targumic literature within its wider interpretative milieu.
These aspects will be addressed in two topics each:
- Local influences on the dialect of Onqelos/Jonathan;
- The provenance and integrity of the dialect of the Late Targums;
- The relation between targumic and classical rabbinic exegesis;
- The signs of non-rabbinic, late rabbinic or local environments in the Targums.
The Aramaic language of the Targums continues to be discussed in the context of language change and language contact. The meeting will consider the following key questions:
- Local influences on the literary dialect of Onqelos and Jonathan: long considered to represent a direct development of Middle Aramaic, and sometimes held to reflect little to no signs of any specific provenance (Western, Eastern, Central Aramaic), in recent years detailed studies identified ambiguous indications of the dialect in which these Targums are written, more specifically specimens of local linguistic influence, which warrant the re-opening of the question about these Targums’ dialect and provenance.
- The literary dialects of Targums to the Writings are nowadays grouped together as Late Jewish Literary Aramaic (LJLA). While this dialect is considered to be a learned, written dialect divested from a vernacular basis, its provenance is as yet unclear. In recent years a considerable Syriac influence has been argued, as has a late, possibly European provenance for some of the Targums to the Writings. The study of syntax and exegesis may shed further light on the provenance and integrity of LJLA.
The second focal point concerns the correlation between the Targums as specimens of interpretation and the wider interpretative Jewish milieu. The Targums have usually been considered as part of the Jewish rabbinic textual and exegetical culture, despite serious questions about the exact position of the Targums within their Jewish context:
- How does targumic exegesis relate to its rabbinic parallels? To what extent is targumic exegesis paralleled in midrashic literature, and what are the differences in terms of context, presentation, and narrative arc? The mere observation of parallels does not analyse the relationship at a level that is profound enough to be meaningful.
- Does targumic exegesis reflect signs of a non-rabbinic, late rabbinic or specific local environment? In spite of the close connection between targumic and rabbinic exegesis, and the origin of the Targums in the rabbinic milieu has been called into doubt without settling the issue. Questions have always lingered about the precise relationship between the Targums and the rabbinic milieu, whether in Roman Palestine, Babylonia or local Jewish communities elsewhere.
Visit to the British Library
Monday afternoon the lecturers attended a ‘show-and-tell’ by Dr Ilana Tahan, who showcased some of the most important Hebrew and particularly Aramaic manuscripts in the collection of the British Library. Highlights included the only extant manuscript of Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (which featured heavily during the conference), a Yemenite manuscript of the Targum to the Prophets, one of the famous Peshitta manuscripts, and much more. There was a lively discussion of these manuscripts.
Summary of the papers
The Keynote papers elaborated on four highly different and yet related fields of Targum Studies: the way Targum relates to Jewish scriptural interpretation, the typology of Jewish Aramaic dialects, the study of the Targumim in the early modern period, and the archaeoacoustics of the early synagogues. These were interspersed by many lectures, which will be more briefly touched upon below.
Prof. Robert Hayward delivered the first keynote: ‘Reconsidering Targum Jonathan Malachi 1:11’. In an intricate, contextual analysis of this Targum, he demonstrated in detail not only how this verse posed serious difficulties for ancient Jewish exegetes, as it appears to contradict the commandment that sacrifice be offered in one place only, but also how it solved this conundrum. At the same time, the way this verse and its motifs are treated in early rabbinic literature shows some subtle differences in exegetical choices, most notably the aspect of prayer, which appears not to have been introduced before the Tanhuma other than in the Targum—the passage in the Babylonian Talmud that discusses this verse, in b. Men. 110a, sidesteps the issue of prayer by a reference to Torah study. Yet the church father Justin suggests that Mal. 1:11 was associated with prayer by the mid-second century CE already.
This lecture was followed by three sessions. The first session focused on the typological, linguistic and literary connections between Targum and other, contemporary literatures: Bärry Hartog (University of Groningen) on ‘Pesher and Targum: Revisiting an Old Issue’, who argued that the similarities and dissimilarities from an exegetical perspective should not obscure the fact that both are the scholarly products of an intellectual elite, and both more mainstream than sectarian. In the Q & A session there was a lively debate on the use of scribal techniques, although the authors of both corpora did not identify themselves as scribes. Srecko Koralija (University of Cambridge) spoke about ‘Targum and Peshitta: The Lexeme špr’, arguing that there is a real desideratum for a corpus-based lexicon which does not make too close connections between the targumic and syriac employments. In the Q & A Koralija questioned the interdependence between Targum and Peshitta, as it does not do justice to the different interpretative techniques and lexical meanings of lexemes shared by the two dialects of these texts. In the next lecture, David Shepherd returned to the Dead Sea Scrolls, asking the question ‘What’s ‘Targumic’ about the Genesis Apocryphon? Reflections on 1Q20 as an Aramaic version’. The Genesis Apocryphon has literary features which have long been compared to those of targumic literature, sometimes in part. Yet the features of GenAp that have been used as arguments for a comparison to the Targums do not follow the targumic practice, in keeping with the other Aramaic fragments from Qumran.
The second session dwelt on the late Aramaic translations. The first two lectures, by Leeor Gottlieb, ‘Is Pseudo-Jonathan a European Targum?’ and Gavin McDowell, ‘The Date and Provenance of Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: The Evidence of Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer’ startingly converged on very similar, well sustained, and highly innovative arguments. Both argued for a provenance in South Italy, and both related the Targum to the 12th century author of Sekhel Tov, written in 1139 CE by R. Menachem ben Solomon. Gottlieb also related the Targum to his work Even Bochan, which displays remarkably close parallels with TgPsJ. He further pointed out that there is clear knowledge of the Islamic empire, but at the same time no familiarity with the geography of Israel. McDowell pointed out that PRE does not display any knowledge of TgPsJ, while the latter uses sources that use PRE. TgPsJ also used the longer recension of the Chronicle of Moses. Altogether, the evidence points to a medieval redactor with an antiquarian mentality far beyond the end of the first millennium, and more precisely with an Italian provenance. The Q&A to both lectures were extremely lively, with a general acceptance of the main hypotheses posited by both speakers, but also questions about the nature of the dialect (LJLA) when it is pushed so close to the composition of the Zohar. The final paper in this session was delivered by Abraham J. Berkovitz, ‘The Late Antique Contexts of Targum Psalms’. In this lecture, the Targum of Psalms was set against the backdrop of late ancient rabbinic literature, selecting and developing late antique sources, joined with traditions from rabbinic literature. The Targum may be the product of the end of a long late antique process of rabbinization.
The third session was opened by Nahum Ben-Yehuda with ‘Textile and Garment Terminology in the Targumim’. In a presentation that was as detailed as it was instructive and clear, the audience was treated to the practice and terminology of weaving with warp and loom, with a profound discussion of the various technical terms used and the practice to which they refer. Matthew Morgenstern presented a survey of ‘Newly Discovered Lexemes in Mandaic’, which included a presentation of the available sources and their vicissitudes, with dates ranging from the 4th century CE (the earliest incantation bowls) to manuscripts of the premodern period. While his research will lead to a vastly improved and far more critical lexicon of Mandaic, we were treated to a selection of new Mandaic lexemes. Margaretha Folmer explored ‘The Translation of Biblical Hebrew אל in Targum Onqelos: the Complementation of Verbs of Motion and Verbs of Saying’. Among the meanings of the BH preposition, the meaning ‘to’ (direction) is the most frequent. In Onqelos, the compound preposition לות is used with verbs of motion when the motion is directed towards a person, while ל is used wherever the motion is directed towards a location (with some noted exceptions). The same distinction exists in Old Aramaic and in Official Aramaic.
The second keynote was delivered by Steven Fassberg on the topic of ‘Jewish Palestinian Aramaic: Typology, Geography, and Chronology’. His presentation carefully delineated the various strata of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, including Samaritan Aramaic and Christian Palestinian Aramaic for comparative purposes. From the dialects of the Palestinian Targums (for which an exact date is impossible to give), yo that of the Talmud Yerushalmi and the Midrashim, up to and including Late Jewish Literary Aramaic. It was noted that CPA and SamA also could be shown to belong to different periods, of which the later phases were 10-13th and 10-11th c. respectively. In fact, late Samaritan Hebrew is of a hybrid nature (from the 13th c. onwards). The development of the dialects did not stop when Aramaic was no longer a spoken language, and LJLA features within the later period of Palestinian Aramaic dialects. Lots of specific dialect features were brought into the limelight. In the Q&A the influence of copyists was noted, leading to sporadic fluctuations, as was the possibility of conscious scribal choices for the borrowing of elements belonging to a distinct dialect, for example Babylonian Aramaic.
The fourth session was opened by Shai Heijmans with an insightful paper on the western pronunciation of the Targum, ‘The segol in Targum Jonathan according to MS Reuchlin’. Although there is indeed ample reason to distrust (some of) the Western vocalisation in the manuscript tradition, but there is an argument to be made that the pronunciation reflected in other Western manuscripts does in fact represent a tradition that is genuinely Western. Portions of the text were recited in the synagogue during the medieval period, while the manuscripts were provided with cantillation signs, also suggesting their continued use in liturgical reading. The lecture focused on the occurrence of the segol in Codex Reuchlinianus 3, a vowel which has no base in the Babylonian tradition and is accordingly unique to the Western pronunciation. The Q&A to the paper dwelled on many aspects of this study, including the date for this pronunciation tradition. The next paper was delivered by Dmytro Tsolin, ‘Compound Verbal Forms in Aramaic Dialects of the Targums: Discourse Aspects’. These compound verbal forms are widely used in Jewish Aramaic dialects and occur both in translations and non-translational parts of the corpus. The question is, whether there are any tense-aspect-modal differences between these compound verbal forms and non-compound verbs. This paper analysed the compound forms in terms of discourse (narrative, prophecy, speech) and in connection with their positions in comment / narrative, recorded / anticipatory, foreground / background-clauses. The third paper was delivered by Alinda Damsma on ‘The Aramaic of the Zohar: The status quaestionis’. She gave a commanding overview of scholarship on Zoharic Aramaic which could not have been more timely in the wake of the renewed discussion on LJLA during this very conference. She proposed that the language of the Zohar can be considered a type of Late Jewish Literary Aramaic, as it bears striking similarities to the language of the Tosefta-Targums written in that dialect. She is currently conducting a research project on the language of the Zohar which will culminate in the publication of a much-needed reference grammar of this important form of Aramaic.
The fifth session opened with a paper by Michael Langlois about ‘New Aramaic Divination Texts in Light of the Targums’. Among all these important ostraca, recently discovered at Maresha and to be published by Ester Eshel and Michael Langlois, some 137 can be classified as divination texts. However, many of them are notoriously hard to decipher, as demonstrated. The paper went into some detail about the decipherment but also the parallels with targumic literature. The next paper by Miriam Kahana addressed an often overlooked topic, namely ‘Targum Jonathan to the Prophets and the Masoretic Cantillations’. She contrasted Targum with masoretic cantillations, each of which present a different way of dividing the verse, something which frequently gives a different meaning. She demonstrated the Targum’s preference for a subordinate structure, even when translating paratactic clauses. In addition, she showed a lack of correlation between cantillations and Targum in ambiguous verses. Despite the general correlation between the Targum and the cantillation signs, there are notable distinctions between the two. The last paper was delivered by Willem Smelik, ‘Targum Toledot Yeshu’, a study of a new Aramaic fragment of the Toledot Yeshu. This fragment preserves the start of the narrative, but it is presented as a Targum Yerushalmi to Isa. 66.17. Both the narrative and the dialect show up many peculiarities. Despite some notable linguistic errors, the dialect also displays signs of a genuine albeit late dialect. The narrative preserves the birth narrative and other motifs, and most importantly, it fully overlaps with the Harkavy fragment published in 1875.
In the sixth session, Dineke Houtman, ‘What’s in a Name: The Translation of Toponyms in Targum Isaiah’, pays close attention to the rendering of geographical and ethnical names. Generally, these remain unaltered, but not always, and these exceptions merit further analysis. The Targum identifies unknown ancient tribes and place names with contemporary ones, for one, which has the effect of making the Bible more accessible. Sometimes the translator obviously did not know exactly which place or people was meant and chose a quite general translation. And finally, some toponyms received a symbolic interpretation. Gary Rendsburg followed this up with a study of ‘Targumic Parallels to Variant Readings of the Book of Samuel amongst the Cairo Genizah Manuscripts’. As a pilot project, he read each and everyone of the more than 650 manuscript fragments of the book of Samuel found in the Cairo Genizah. He presented a sampling of the variant readings he recorded, in comparison with the evidence from Qumran, the Septuagint, Targum, Peshitta and Vulgate. The third lecture was delivered by Johanna Tanja, ‘Tosefta Targums in Targum Samuel’. The Tosefta Targums are not found in the extant Babylonian textual witnesses of the Targum and more of these Tosefta Targums seem to have been preserved in the European manuscripts and editions and several were attested in specific geographic areas only. The fact that these additions are attested in specific geocultural zones raises questions on the specific milieu of transmission. The Tosefta Targums are not attested in the same way, as they can be attached to different verses in the Targum text. Moreover, not all known Tosefta Targums are attested in all manuscripts.
The seventh session was devoted to Aramaic poetry, opened by Moshe Bernstein, ‘An Aramaic Poem for Purim, but It’s Not About Purim!’ This paper addressed the first poem for Purim in the collection that Yahalom and Sokoloff published, although, unlike the other poems in this section, it does not dwell in particular on the Scroll of Esther or on Purim. Instead, it presents a survey of historical attacks on the Jews, culminating in the salvation of the Jews on Purim. In the second contribution to this session, Laura Lieber addressed the soundscapes of Late Antiquity in ‘Refrains and Acclamations: The Congregational Dynamic within JPA Poetry’. This study of participation in ritual assumed that the Jews in this period would have been familiar with the widespread practice of acclamation, possessing a performative literacy. The variety of refrain structures in this literature is a good place to begin the study the intersection of acclamation structures and JPA poetry. Michael Rand spoke about ‘The Use of Aramaic in Classical (Byzantine-era) Palestinian Piyyut, and Beyond’, pointing out that Aramaic does sometimes appear in classical piyyut, but there is no transparent pattern to predict when it does or does not appear. However, piyyut is a form of versified prayer, and since the language of prayer is predominantly Hebrew the absence of Aramaic can be explained more generally. The JPA poetry is not piyyut. Finally, Eliav Grossman explored one of the possible contexts for the JPA poetry in his paper ‘Observations on the Relationship between JPA Poetry and Targumic Expansions’. He pointed out that several themes and images which seem to be specific to JPA poetry in fact also appear in Targumic expansions, sometimes in almost identical formulations.
Philip Alexander delivered the third keynote lecture, ‘The Study of the Targumim in the Early Modern Period, with particular reference to Codex Neofiti and Pseudo-Jonathan to the Torah’. There is still no history of the textual transmission of many targumic texts, especially between Late Antiquity and the invention of the printing press. There are some references to targumic manuscripts, not all of them currently known (Azariah de Rossi saw two copies of TgPsJ, only one of which is known today, assuming it is identical with the one housed in the British Library). The Targum was a book that could be creatively transmitted, whereas we only have snapshots of its transmission. We do know that copies of Onqelos and Jonathan were brought back to Israel in the Geonic period, and that Onqelos was dominant, representing the Bible of the (Jewish) Aramaic world. Hence quotations of the Torah in Aramaic that are embedded within Targum Writings often use Targum Onqelos. There is, therefore, a need for regional studies of the manuscripts (Yemenite, Egyptian, Western, etc) and the function of the Targums, which would have differed by the area. Further details followed about established representatives of these areas. It was pointed out that the ancient form of the text cannot be disentangled from its subsequent reception, with the opening of Targum Neofiti being a case in point (a Qabbalistic Targum of Genesis 1?). The lecture was followed by a lively Q&A session about various aspects of textual transmission and the later reception of the Targums.
The eight session was opened by Craig Morrison, ‘Abraham and the Fires of Gehenna in the Palestinian Targums and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16,19-31)’. This paper focused on the way early Christian and Jewish interpreters ascribed sometimes lengthy speeches to Abraham as an eschatological figure, by which means they express the theological interests of their particular communities. Abraham is a tortured soul, wondering whether he’ll make the grade for beatific afterlife. Both traditions illuminate each other and extend the traditions of Abraham, and the targumic Abraham shares some characteristics with the Lukan one. Chris Brady analysed the translation of Lam. 1.15 in ‘“The Lord Has Trodden as in a Wine Press,” A Note Regarding TgLam 1:15 and Isa. 63:3’. He made clear how several verses are brought into dialogue in this analysis, including Ezek. 36, and how the interpretation focuses on Edom, the colour and the wine-press. Finally, Eveline van Staalduine-Sulman spoke about ‘The Reception of the Tenth Commandment’. The interpretation of the tenth commandment, which teaches not to be covetous, varies over the course of the centuries. Targum Neofiti and Pseudo-Jonathan add at least two points to the whole discussion, namely one concerning individual and joint responsibility to fulfil this commandment and one concerning the punishment or consequence in cases this commandment is violated. In the Q&A session, attention was drawn to the maginalia in Codex Neofiti, some of which features halakhic annotations, while others are similar in style to TgPsJ.
The fourth keynote lecture, and the final paper of the conference, was delivered by Paul V.M. Flesher: ‘Where did the Scripture Reader and the Scripture Translator Stand in Ancient Galilean Synagogues?’ In this archaeoacoustic study of the Galilean synagogues, the potential use of an object and the possible positioning of the reciter and the interpreter were discussed on the basis of the floor-plan of these synagogues. The difference between a raised bimah and an apse for the way a voice carries was discussed in detail. It emerged that the projection of a voice, and the ability for two people standing on a raised platform, differs between an open-plan synagogue with a carpeted dirt floor and a basilica-type synagogue with mosaics on the floor. The Q&A session of this final lecture was lively and appreciative.
A statement about planned outcomes and outputs
We seek to publish selected lectures as Targum Studies in London, IOTS 2018 (Supplements to Aramaic Studies; Leiden: Brill). All contributions will be double-blind peer reviewed and vetted. The deadline for contributions is January 31, 2019.