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The New Testament and the Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch, second printing with supplement containing additions and corrections
Author: Martin McNamara
Publisher: Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome
Year: 1978
Number of pages: xxiv + 303
Format: pdf/rar
Size: 15.3 MB
The following review of the first printing (1966) was written by Joseph A. Fitzmyer:

With the identification of the Codex Neofiti I of the Vatican Library in 1956 as a complete copy of a Palestinian Targum of the Pentateuch, the study of ancient Aramaic translations (targûmîm) of the first five books of the Bible entered a new phase. Various Targums of the Pentateuch had been previously known: the Targum Onqelos (the one most commonly used and now available in the handsome critical edition of A. Sperber, The Bible in Aramaic 1 [Leiden, 1959]), the Palestinian Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan (or Jerusalem Targum I), the Palestinian Fragmentary Targum (or Jerusalem Targum ?). Fragments of Palestinian Targums had been found toward the end of the last century in the genizah (or storeroom for worn-out biblical scrolls) of the synagogue of Old Cairo. Some of them have been published by P. Kahle, A. Diez Macho, and W. Baars. Meanwhile, Codex Neofiti I lay on the shelves of the Vatican Library for decades—perhaps even for centuries— with a false label on its spine, Targum Onqélos. So labeled, it was regarded merely as another Renaissance copy of the common Targum, and in effect was disregarded. A student of P. Kahle, A. Diez Macho, M.S.C., a Spanish confrere of the author of the book under review here, came across it in 1949; after several years' work on it, he established that it was in reality not a copy of Onqelos but of a Palestinian Targum. At first it was thought to be a complete copy of the so-called Fragmentary Targum; but it has since been recognized as a different Palestinian Targum, though related to it. Codex Neofiti I has not yet been fully published. M. informs us (p. 29) that Diez Macho will soon publish the editto princeps in Israel (Academic Press) and that it will serve as the basis for the critical edition of the Palestinian Targums in the forthcoming Biblia polygioita Matritensis. The import of this newly discovered codex will not be appreciated until that text is available. Nevertheless, interest in ancient Targums has been revived by this discovery. An example of such interest is M.'s dissertation, written at the Biblical Institute under the direction of S. Lyonnet.

From the title, this book would seem to be a study of the relation of ancient Palestinian translations of the Pentateuch to the NT. This it is, indeed; but it is far more than that. It is a work that no one interested in Targumic studies will want to do without. Whether one agrees or not with the minutiae of M.'s interpretations—his comparison of NT texts and different Targumic passages—or with his conclusions, one must recognize the undoubted heuristic value of his book, and especially of its lengthy Introduction. Its brief sketch of Targumic studies (chap. 1) and its essay on Targums in general and of Palestinian Targums in particular (chap. 2) are invaluable. The brief sketch surveys Targumic study prior to the nineteenth century, during its golden age (ca. 1850-1910), at the time of its change of approach (1930-50), and the state of the question at present. The essay traces briefly the origin of Targums, the liturgical reading of Scripture, and the relationship of the different Targums. In this part one will regret the all too summary treatment of Targum Onqelos and its connection with Palestine, especially since M. will later cite it along with Palestinian Targums. One will also regret M.'s tendency to speak of the Palestinian Targum (note the title of his book), when the complexity of the material he deals with makes it clear that one must really reckon with Palestinian Targums to avoid oversimplification.

The bulk of M.'s study falls into two parts: (1) consideration of some Palestinian Targum texts apparently closely related to the NT; (2) examination of some general and particular themes in the Palestinian Targum and in the NT. In Part 1, three chapters deal with (1) traditions relating to Moses, Jannes, and Jambres in the Palestinian Targum and in Paul; (2) the divine name and the "second death" in the Apocalypse and in the Targums; (3) some examples of doctrinal and linguistic relationship between the Targums and the Gospels. In Part 2, three further chapters treat of (1) biblical personages as viewed in the Palestinian Targums and the NT; (2) certain themes in the Palestinian Targums and the Apocalypse; (3) some messianic themes in the Targums and in the NT. Chap. 9 sums up M.'s thought on the relation of the Palestinian Targums to the NT: "from what we have considered... the NT in general seems to favour an early date of the PT as a whole;... the greater part, if not all, of the PT paraphrase was already in existence in NT times and has been transmitted to us, essentially, as it then was" (pp. 257-58).

This brief survey of the contents of the main part reveals the disparate nature of the material used by the author. In some instances the relation between the Targumic material and the NT is less convincing than others. Yet this disparate data and the fluctuating validity of the comparison must be stressed, for in the long run it constitutes scant support for the sweeping claims made by M. for the age of Palestinian Targums and their influence on the NT.

The major problems in M.'s thesis are the dating of Palestinian Targums, the extent to which they incorporate Palestinian traditions "coming down from pre-Christian times," and the influence such traditions—and then Targums—have had on NT writings. These are three, perhaps four, important and distinct questions, which M. should have handled separately. Because of a tendency to say everything about a given text, his treatment suffers from a lack of clarity.

In one sense M.'s book is premature. Until we have at our disposal critical editions of the various Palestinian Targums and a mode of dating them independently of the NT material, comparison of such material with the NT will continue to repeat the arguments of circular reasoning that one meets all too frequently in this field of research. M. does well to object against the opinion of Diez Macho, who, while admitting that the Neofiti Targum was copied in the sixteenth century, insists that the text it reproduces goes back to the second century A.D. (p. 45). M.'s provisional judgment is that Neofiti has a basis that is "very old, but its present recension is from later and talmudic times" (p. 63). But how do we get back from such a period to "the PT paraphrase already in existence in New Testament times"?

One way in which M. would do this is to quote ancient texts which seem to have the same mode of translation or paraphrase of the OT that the so-called Palestinian Targum has. In this he cites rabbinical texts and the NT. His brief history of the Palestinian Targum (pp. 45-66) makes use of this method. However, it is far from certain that the texts quoted are really "citations" of the Palestinian Targum; the same Aramaic translation of an OT passage in a datable midrash may bear witness to a common Palestinian way of translating the passage. But it does not yet argue to the existence of the Palestinian Targum "as a unit" (p. 257); nor does it mean that the midrash "was citing the PT as we now have it in these texts [Peshitta, Fragmentary Targum, Neofiti glosses]" (p. 54). That such a common mode of translation of an OT passage reflects a Palestinian tradition, no one will deny; but the early attestation of it does not permit one to conclude immediately that the Targum itself existed in a text form.

A similar lack of rigorous distinction and methodology is detected at times in M.'s discussion of NT passages. His discussion of "the second death" (Ap 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8) in its Targumic parallels is vitiated by the fact that two of the six are found in Onqelos and three of them in the Targum of the Prophets (which has nothing to do with the "Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch"). Again, we may cite his treatment of Paul's argument in Rom 10:6-8, which alludes to Dt 30:12-14. Paul seeks to contrast the ease of the new righteousness through faith with the difficulty of the old righteousness tied to the Law and its commandments. Paul seems to be quoting Scripture when he says, "Who will descend into the abyss," and glosses it, "that is, to bring Christ up from the dead." The Pauline argument is involved; but the point here is that the descent into the abyss is not in the Hebrew text of Dt 30:13, "who will go over the sea for us" (RSV). M. cites, however, Neofiti, which paraphrases Dt thus: "Neither is the Law beyond the Great Sea that one may say, 'Would that we had one like the prophet Jonah who would descend into the depths of the Great Sea and bring it up for us and make us hear the commandments that we might do them.' " M. adds in a footnote that the "Great Sea" ordinarily means in the OT the Mediterranean, into which Jonah was in fact tossed in the story. But, says M., " 'The depths of the Great Sea' of PT Dt 30:13 are to be understood in the sense of 'abyss', nonetheless" (p. 75). This is far from obvious. The only reason why much is made of this Targumic phrase, "the depths of the Great Sea," in this discussion is because of Paul's reference to the abyss. Who would ever have thought of this in reading the Targum? The first step is to ascertain what the Targum itself means and not to be facilely misled by superficial, verbal similarities.

M. then proceeds to date this Targumic tradition about Dt 30:12-14 by establishing contact between its text and Pseudo-Philo's Líber antiquitatum biblicarum (15, 6) and 4 Ezra 3:18. "These two texts from the 1st cent A.D. are in themselves an argument for the early date of the PT which represents the same terminology and concepts" (p. 76). Granting for the moment (but not admitting) the first-century date of Pseudo-Philo and that the contact indicated is valid, we follow ?? argument further. "The conclusion that seems to flow from the facts of the case is that Paul knew of this paraphrase of the text of Dt and adapted it for his own purpose" (p. 77). The next paragraph begins: "The text of the PT as Paul found it was very apt for the doctrine Paul expresses in Rm 10:6-8." Thus we arrive at the point expected: from similarities in expression which may suggest the over-all relation of the Palestinian Targum to the NT and its early date we are led to the use by Paul of "the text of the PT."

I do not want to give the impression that M.'s work is wholly of this sort; but there is enough of it to warn the reader that certain interpretations and arguments need rigorous control. Minor criticism of the book must include a host of English solecisms, many typographical errors, and the omission of several frequently-used sigla from the list of abbreviations (HT, Nmg, P, etc.).

Woodstock College and Yale Divinity School JOSEPH A. FITZMYER, S.J.

Review first published in Theological Studies 29.2 (June 1968): 322-328

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