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.
There is no positive proof (Dalman, "Gramm", 13) of a corrupting influence of the Babylonian dialect as Noldeke held ["Semit. As regards the character of the translation it is, taken altogether, fairly literal.
Anthropomorphic and anthropopathic expressions are avoided by roundabout expressions or in other ways; obscure Hebrew words are often taken without change into the text; proper names are frequently interpreted, as Shinar-Babylon, Ishmaelites-Arabs; for figurative expressions are substituted the corresponding literal ones.
In the Babylonian Talmud and in the Tosephta, Onkelos is the name of a proselyte who is mentioned as a contemporary of the elder Gamaliel ("Aboda zara", 11a; cf. It is evident, however, that in the passage mentioned ("Meg.", 3a) there has been a confusion with the name of Aquila, the translator of the Bible, for the older parallel passage of the Palestinian Talmud ("Meg.", I, 11 = fol.
71c) says the same of Aquila and his Greek translation of the Bible. Thus it seems that in Babylonia the old and correct knowledge of the Greek translation of the proselyte Aquila was erroneously transferred to the anonymous Aramaic translation, that consequently Onkelos (instead of Akylas) is a corrupted form or a provincial modification of Aquila.
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.This is particularly true of the two earlier Targums; the later ones show generally an artificially mixed type of language.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.It is probably not the spoken Aramaic used as a dialect by the Jewish people, but a copy made by scholars of the Hebraic original, of which the Targum claims to give the most faithful reproduction possible.In doing this the Aramaic language is treated similarly to the Greek in the translation of Aquila, consequently the many Hebraic idioms.At first this was probably done only for the more difficult passages, but as time went on, for the entire text.