More on the Targumim


David Everson, who first put me on to the YouTube video about TgNeof has offered a useful comment on the previous post that I would like to elevate to post status.

I’ve read Shepherd’s article and I believe he has some basic targumic misunderstandings which were more commonplace 30 years ago (e.g. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan is a NOT a Palestinian Targum [Shepherd p. 53]). His broad conclusion that “Perhaps the NT authors were influenced in some way by targumic renderings” is immensely problematic. Kaufman, Cook, and others have linguistically shown that the targums are considerably later than Macho, Vermes, and others have believed.

When looking at targumic midrashic traditions of the Pentateuch, the PTs are reflective of Palestinian Midrash (i.e. works that were assembled long after the NT). In addition to Palestinian Midrash, TPsJ is reflective of late Jewish midrashic traditions (i.e. post-Mohammad) which take on a more apocalyptic and pseudepigraphic feel. To point to such late midrashic traditions and say that they preceded the NT and may have influenced NT authors is sheer speculation. If one seeks to use the targums in this manner, traditions that clearly pre-date the NT (or are contemporary to it) should be employed.

And I would add that even though we know that some midrashic traditions (exegetical traditions, that is) may be very early, the final form of the texts as we have received them is relatively late (2nd century CE and later). With respect to TgNeof Gen. 1:1, the debate focuses upon not midrashic traditions but the very words of the text which we can only trace back, as David notes, to the centuries after Jesus.

As an aside to this debate, the Catholic Biblical Associate meeting is going very well. We had a very informative session with those involved in the “Bible in its Traditions” project being sponsored by the Ecole Biblique. I am offering something on the rabbinic reception of Lamentations on Tuesday morning as a step towards preparing Lamentations for this project. It is a long-term project that shows lots of promise.

 

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