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Study Resources :: Dictionaries :: Versions, Ancient, of the Old and New Testaments

Dictionaries :: Versions, Ancient, of the Old and New Testaments

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Below are articles from the following dictionary:
Smith's Bible Dictionary

Versions, Ancient, of the Old and New Testaments:

In treating of the ancient versions that have come down to us, in whole or in part, they will be described in the alphabetical order of the languages.


Christianity was introduced into Aethiopia in fourth century through the labors of Frumentius and Aedesius of Tyre, who had been made slaves and sent to the king. The AEthiopic version which we possess is in the ancient dialect of Axum; hence some have ascribed it to the age of the earliest missionaries, but it is probably of a later date. In 1548‐9 the AEthiopic New Testament was also printed at Rome, edited by three Abyssinians.


(I.) Arabic Versions of the Old Testament.

(A.) Made from the Hebrew Text. Rabbi Saadiah Haggaon, the Hebrew commentator of the 10th century, translated portions (some think the whole) of the Old Testament into Arabic.

(B.) Made from the Peshito‐Syriac. This is the base of the Arabic text contained in the Polyglots of the Books of Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, and Nehemiah.

(C.) Made from the LXX. The version in the Polyglots of the books not specified above. Another text of the Psalter in Justiniani Psalterium Octuplum, Genoa, 1516.-

(II.) Arabic versions of the New Testament.

(1.) The Roman editio princeps of the four Gospels, 1590-91.

(2.) The Erpenian Arabic. The whole New Testament edited by Erpenius, 1616, at Leyden, from a MS. of the 13th or 14th century.

(3.) The Arabic of the Paris Polyglot, 1645. In the Gospels, this follows mostly the Roman text; in the Epistles, a MS. from Aleppo was used. The Arabic in Walton's Polyglot appears to simply taken from the Paris text.

(4.) The Carshuni Arabic text (i.e. in Syriac letters) the Syriac and Arabic New Testament, published at Rome in 1703. There are four versions. The first, the Roman, of the Gospels only, was printed in 1590‐1.


Before the 5th century, the Armenians are said to have used the Syriac alphabet; but at that time Miesrob is stated to have invented the Armenian letters. Soon after this, it is said that translations into the Armenian language commenced, at first from Syriac. Miesrob, with his companions, Joseph and Eznak, began a version of the Scriptures with the Book of Proverbs, and completed all the Old Testament; and in the New, they used the Syriac as their basis, from their inability to obtain any Greek books. But when, in the year 431, Joseph and Eznak returned from the Council of Ephesus bringing with them a Greek copy of the Scriptures, Issac, the Armenian Patriarch, and Miesrob, threw aside what they had already done, in order that they might execute a version from the Greek. But now arose the difficulty of their want of competent acquaintance with that language; to remedy this, Eznak and Joseph were send with Moses Chorenensis (who is himself the narrator of these details). to study that language at Alexandria. There they made what Moses calls their their third translation. The first printed edition of the Old and New Testaments in Armenian appeared at Amsterdam in 1666, under the care of a person commonly termed Oscan or Uscan, and described as being an Armenian bishop.



(I.) The Memphetic Version.

The version thus designated was for considerable time the only Egyptian translation known to scholars; Coptic was then regared as a sufficiently accurate and definite appellation. But, when the fact was established that there were at least two Egyptian versions, the name Coptic was found to be indefinite, and even unsuitable for the translation then so termed: for in the dialect of Upper Egypt there was another; and it is from the ancient Coptos in Upper Egypt that the term Coptic is taken. Thus Copto‐Memphetic is taken. Thus Copto‐Memphetic, or more simply Memphitic, is the better name for the version in the dialect of Lower Egypt. When Egyptian translations were made we do not know; probably before the middle of the 4th century. When attention of European scholars was directed to the language and races of modern Egypt, it was found, that while the native Christians use only Arabic vernacularly, yet in their services, and in their public reading of the Scriptures, they employ a dialect of the Coptic. This is the version now termed Memphitic.-

(II.) The Thebaic Version.

The examination of Egpytian MSS. in the last century (1700's). showed that, besides the Memphitic, there is also another version in a cognate Egyptian dialect. To this the name Sahidic was applied by some, from an Arabic designation for Upper Egypt and its ancient language. It is, however, far better to assign to this version a name not derived from the language of Arabian occupants of that land; thus Copto‐Thebaic (as styled by Giorgi) or simply Thebaic, is far preferable.

(III.) A Third Egyptian Version.

Some Egyptian fragments were noticed by both Münter and Girogi amongst the Borgian MSS., which in dialect differ both from the Memphitic and Thebaic. These fragments of a third Egyptian translation were edited by both these scholars independently in the same year (1789). In what part of Egypt this third dialect was used, and what should be its distinctive name, has been a good deal discussed. Arabian writers mention a third Egyptian dialect under the name of Bashmuric, and this has by some assumed as the appellation for this version. Giorgi supposed that this was the dialect of the Ammonian Oasis; in this, Münter agreed with him; and thus they called the verssion the Ammonian.

The Character and Critical Use of the Egyptian Versions.

It appears that the Thebaic version may reasonably claim a higher antiquity than the Memphitic. The two translations are independent of each other, and both spring from Greek copies. The Thebaic has been considered to be the older of the two. The probable conclusions seem to be these:

that the Thebaic version was made in the early part of the third century, for the use of the common people among the Christians in Upper Egypt;

that it was formed from MSS. such as were then current in the regions of Egypt where were distant from Alexandria;

that afterwards the Memphitic version was executed in what was the more polished dialect, from the Greek copies in Alexandria; and

that thus, in the process of time, the Memphetic remained alone in ecclesiastical use.

A few remarks only need be made respecting the third Egyptian version. The fragments of this follow the Thebaic so closely as to have no independent character. This version does, however, possess critical value, as furnishing evidence in a small portion not known in the Thebaic.


In the year 318, the Gothic bishop, and translator of Scripture, Ulphilas, was born. He succeeded Theophilus as bishop of the Goths in 348; when he subscribed a confession rejecting the orthodox creed of Nicea; through him it is said that the Goths in general adopted Arianism. The great work of Ulphilas was his version of the Scriptures. In 388, he visited Constantinople to defend his heterodox cree, and while there he died. In the later part of the 16th century, the existence of a MS. of this version was known, though Morillon having mentioned that he had observed one in the library of the monastery of Werden on the Ruhr in Westphalia. In 1648, almost at the conclusion of the Thirty‐Years' War, amongst the spoils from Prague was sent to Stockholm a copy of the Gothic Gospels, known s the Codex Argenteus. This MS. is generally supposed to be the same that Morillon had seen at Verden. On the abdication of Queen Christina of Sweden, a few years late, it disappered. In 1655, it was in the possession of Isaac Vossius in Holland. In 1662, it was repurchased for Sweden by Count Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie, who placed it in the library of the University of Upsal. While the book was in the hands of Vossius, a transcript was made of its text, from which Junius, his uncle, edited the first edition of the Gothic Gospels at Dort in 1665. The MS. is witten on vellum that was once purple, in silver letters, except those at the beginning of sections, which are golden. The Gospels have many lacunae. It is calculated, that, when entire, it consisted of 320 folios: there are now but 188. It is pretty certain that this beautiful and elaborate MS. must have been written in the 6th century, probably in Upper Italy, when under the Gothic sovereignty. Knittel, in 1762, edited from a Wolfenbüttel palimpsest some portions of the Epistle to the Romans in Gothic, in which the Latin stood by the side of the version of Ulphilas. New light dawned on Ulphilas and his version in 1817. While the late Cardinal Mai was engaged in the examination of palimpsests in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, of which he was at that time a librarian, he noticed some traces of some Gothic writing under that of one of the codices. This was found to be part of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. In making further examination, four other palimpsests were found which contained portions of the Gothic Version. Mai deciphered these MSS. in conjunction with Count Carlo Ottavio Castiglione; and their labors resulted in the recovery, besides a few portions of the Old Testament, of almost the whole of the thirteen Epistles of St. Paul and some parts of the Gospels. The edition of Gabelents and Loeb (1836‐45). contains all that has been discovered of the Gothic Version, with a Latin translation, notes and a Gothic dictionary and grammar. In 1845, Uppström published an excellent edition of the text of the Codex Argenteus, with a beautiful facsimile. In 1855‐56, Massmann issued an excellent small edition of all the Gothic portions of the Scriptures known to be extant. This edition is said to be more correct than that of Gabelenta and Loebe. As an ancient monument of the Gothic language, the version of Ulphilas possesses great interest; as a version, the use of which was once extended widely through Europe, it is a monument of the Christianization of the Goths; and as a version known to have been made in the 4th century, and transmitted to us in ancient MSS., It has its value in textual criticism. In certain passages, it have been thought that there is some proof of the influence of the Latin; but its Greek origin is not to be mistaken. The Greek from which the version was made must in many respects have been what has been termed the transition text of the 4th century.


(1.) Septuagint. SEE [SEPTUAGINT].

(2.) Aquila.

It is a remarkable fact that in the second century there were three versions executed of the Old Testament Scriptures into Greek. The first of these was made by Aquila, a native of Sinope in Pontus, who had become a proselyte to Judaism. The Jerusalem Talmud describes him as a disciple fo Rabbi Akiba; and this would place him in some part of the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117‐138). It is supposed that his object was to aid the Jews in their controversies with the Christians. This is a probable account of the origin of his version. Extreme literality and an occasional polemical bias appear to be its chief characteristics. It is mentioned that Aquila put forth a second edition (i.e. revision). of his version, in which the Hebrew was yet more servilely followed; but it is not known if this extended to the whole, or only to three books, namely, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, of which there are fragments.

(3.) Theodotion.

The second version of which we have information as executed in the second century, is that of Theodotion. He is stated to have been an Ephesian, and he seems to be most generally described as an Ebionite: if this is correct, his work was probably intended for those semi‐Christians who may have desired to use a version of their own instead of employing the LXX. with the Christians, or that of Aquila by the Jews. But it may be doubted if the name of the translation can be rightly applied to the work of Theodotion; it is rather a revision of the LXX. with the Hebrew text, so as to bring some of the copies then in use into more conformity with the original. The statement of Epiphanius, that he made his translation in the reign of Commodus, accords well with its having been quoted by Irenaeus; but it cannot be corrrect if it is one of the translations referred to by Justin Martyr as giving interpretations contrary to the Christian doctrine of the New Testament. In most editions of the LXX., Theodotion's version of Daniel is still substituted for that which really belongs to that translation.

(4). Symmachus.

Symmachus is stated by Eusebius and Jerome to have been an Ebionite; so too in the Syrian accounts given by Assemani. Epiphanius, however, and others, style him a Samaritan. It may be that as a Samaritan he made this version for some of that people who employed Greek, and who had learned to receive more than the Pentateuch. Epiphanius says that he lived under the Emperor Severus. The translation which he produced was probably better than the others as to sense and general phraseology.

(5.) The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Versions.

Besides the translations of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, the great critical work of Origen comprised, as to portions of the Old Testament, three other versions, placed for comparison with the LXX.; which from their being anonymous, are only known as the fifth, sixth, and seventh-designations taken from the places which they respectively occupied in Origen's columnar arrangement. Eusebius says that two of these versions were found, the one at Jericho, and the other at Nicopolis on the Gulf of Actium. Epiphanius says that the fifth was found at Jericho, and the sixth at Nicopolis; while Jerome speaks of the fifth as having been found at a latter place. The contents of the fifth version, appear to have been the Pentateuch, Psalms, Canticles, and the minor prophets. The existing fragments prove that the translator used the Hebrew original; but it is also certain that he was aided by the work of former translators. The sixth version seems to have been just the same in its contents as the fifth (except 2 Kings). Jerome calls the authors of the fifth and sixth, "Judaicos translatores;" but the translator of this must have been a Christian when he executed his work, or else the hand of a Christian reviser must have meddled with it before it was employed by Origen. Of the seventh version, very few fragments remain. It seems to have contained the Psalms and minor prophets; and the translator was probably a Jew. The existing fragments of these varied versions are mostly to be found in the editions of the relics of Origen's Hexapla, by Montfaucon and Bardht.

(6.) The Veneto‐Greek Version

A MS. of the 14th centure, in the Library of St. Mark at Venice, contains a peculiar version of the Pentateuch, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, and Daniel. All of these books, except the Pentateuch, were published by Villoison at Strasburg in 1784; the Pentateuch was edited by Ammon at Erlangen in 1790&8208;91. It may be said briefly that the translation was made from the Hebrew, although the present punctuation and accentuation is often not followed; and the translator was no doubt acquainted with some other Greek versions.






In the year 862 A.D. there was a desire expressed, or an inquiry made, for Christian teachers in Moravia, and in the following year the labors of missionaries began amongst them. These missionaries were Cyrillus and Methodius, two brothers from Thessalonica. To Cyrillus is ascribed the invention of the Slavonian alphabet, and the commencement of the translation of the Scriptures. He appears to have died at Rome in 868, while Methodius continued for many years to be the bishop of the Slavonians. He is stated to have continued his brother's translation although how much they themselves actually executed is quite uncertain. The Old Testament is, as might be supposed, a version from the LXX.; but what measure of revision it may since have received seems to be by no means certainl As the oldest known MS. of the whole Bible is of the year 1499, it may reasonably be questioned whether this version may not in large portions be comparatively modern. The oldest MS. of any part of this version is an Evangeliarium, in Cryillic characters of the year 1056. The first printed portion was an edition of the Gospels in Wallachia, in 1512; in 1575, the same portion was printed at Ostrog in Volhynia. The general text is such as would have been expected in the ninth century; some readings from the Latin have, it appears, been introduced in places.


(9.) Of the Old Testament.

(A.) From the Hebrew.

In the early times of Syrian Christianity, there was executed a version of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew, the use of which must have been as widely extended as was the Christian profession among that people. Ephraem the Syrian, in the latter half of the 4th century, gives abundant proof of its use in general by his countryman. When he calls it OUR VERSION, it does not appear to be in opposition to any other Syriac translation, but in contrast to the original Hebrew text, or to those in other languages. At a later period, this Syriac translation was designated Peshito (Simple). It is probable that this name was applied to the version after another had been formed from the Hexaplar Greek text. This translation from the Hebrew has always been the ecclesiastical version of the Syrians. Its existence and use prior to the divisions of the Syrian churches is sufficiently proved by Ephraem alone. It is high improbable that any part of the Syriac Version is older than the advent of our Lord; those who placed it under Abgarus, king of Edessa, seem to have argued on the account that the Syrian people then received Christianity. All that the account shows clearly is that it is believed to belong to the earlies period of the Christian faith among them. Ephraem, in the fourth century, not only shows that is was then current, but also gives explanations of terms which were even then obscure. This might have been from age (if so, the version was made comparatively long before his days) or it might be from its having been in a dialect different from that to which he was accustomed at Edessa. In this case, then, the translation was made in some other part of Syria. Probably the origin of the old Syriac Version is to be compared with that of the old Latin; and that it differed as much from the polished language of Edessa as did the old Latin, made in the African Province, from the contemporary writers at Rome. The old Syriac has the peculiar value of being the first version from the Hebrew original made for Christian use. The proof that this version was made from the Hebrew was twofold: we have the direct statements of Ephraem, and we find the same thing as evident from the internal examination of the version itself. The first printed edition of this version was that which appeared in the Paris Polyglot of Le Jay in 1645; it is said that the editor, Gabriel Sionita, a Maronite, had only an imperfect MS. In Walton's Polyglot, 1657, the Paris text is reprinted, but with the addition of the Apocryphal books which had been wanting. In the punctuation given in the Polyglots, a system was introduced which was in part a peculiarity of Gabriel Sionita himself. De. Lee collated for the text which he edited for the Bible Society six Syriac MSS. of the Old Testament in general, and a very ancient copy of the Pentateuch; he also used in part of the commentaries of Ephraem and of Bar‐Hebraeus. From these various souces he constructed his text, with the aid of that found in the Polyglots. But we have now in this country, in the MS. treasures brought from the Nitrian valleys, the means of far more accurately editing this version. It has been much discussed whether this translation were a Jewish or a Christian work. There need be no reasonable objection made to the opinion that it is a Christian work. It may be said that the Syriac in general supports the Hebrew text that we have. A resemblance has been pointed out between the Syriac and the reading of some of the Chaldee Targums; If the Targum is the older, it is not unlikely that the Syriac translator examined the Targums in difficult pasages. If existing Targums are more recent than the Syriac, it may happen that their coincidences arise from the use of a common source-an earlier Targum. But there is another point of inquiry of more importance; it is, How far has this version been affected by the LXX.? and to what are we to attribute this influence? It is possible that the influence of the LXX. is partly to be ascribed to copyists and reviser; while in part this belonged to the version originally made. When the extensive use of the LXX. is remembered, and how soon it was superstitiously imagined to have been made by direct inpiration, so that it was deemed canonically authoritative, we cnnot feel wonder that redings from the LXX. should have been from timt to time introduced. Some comparison with the Greek is probable even before the time Ephraem; for as to the Apocryphal additions to Daniel and the Books of the Maccabees were not yet found in the Syriac. Whoever translated any of these books from the Greek may easily have also compared with it in some places the books previously translated from the Hebrew. In the Book of Psalms, this version exhibits many peculiarities. Either the translation of the Psalter must be a work independent of the Peshito in general, or else it has been strangely revised and altered, not only from the Greek, but also from liturgical use. It is stated that, after the divisions of the Syrian Church, there were revisions of this one version by the Monophysites and by the Nestorians. The Karkaphensian recension mentioned by Bar‐Hebraeus was only known by name prior to the investigations of Wiseman. It is found in two MSS. in the Vatican, and was formed for the use of Monophysites.

(b). The Syriac version from the Hexaplar Greek text.

The only Syriac version of the Old Testament up to the sixth century was apparently the Peshito. Moses Aghelaeus, who lived in the middle of the 6th century speaks of the versions of the New Testament and the Psalter, "which Polycarp, (rest his soul!). the Chorepiscopus, made in Syriac for the faithful Xenaias, the teacher of Mabug, worthy of the memory of the good." It is said that the Nestorian patriarch, Marabba, A.D. 552, made a version from the Greek. The version by Paul of Tela, a Monophysite, was made in the beginning of the 7th century: for its basis he used the Hexaplar Greek text-that is, the LXX., with the corrections of Origen, the astrisks, obeli, etc., and with the references to the other Greek versions. The Syro‐Hexaplar version was made on the principle of following the Greek, word for word, as exactly as possible. It contains the marks introduced by Origen, and the references to the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, etc. In fact, it is from this Syriac version that we obtain our most accurate accquaintance with the results of the citical labors of Origen. It is from a MS. in the Ambrosian Library at Milan that we possess accurate means of knowing this Syriac version. The MS. in question contains the Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, minor prophets, Jeremiah, Baruch, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. Norberg published at Lund, in 1787, the Books of Jeremiah an dEzekiel, from a transcript which he had made of the MS. at Milan. In 1788, Bugati published at Milan the Book of Daniel; he also edited the Psalms, the printing of which had been completed before his death in 1816; it was published in 1820. The rest of the contents of the Milan Codex (with the exception of the Apocryphal books). was published at Berlin in 1835, by Middeldorpf, from the transcript made by Norberg; Middeldorpf also added the 4th (2nd). Book of Kings from a MS. at Paris. Besides these portionsof this Syriac version, the MSS. from the NItrian monasteries now in the British Museum would add a good deal more; amongst these there are six, from which might be drawn, so that part of the Pentateuch and other books may be recovered. To enumerate the supposed versions is needless. It is only requisite to mention that Thomas of Harkel seems to have made a translation from Greek into Syriac of some of the Apocryphal books&38212;at least, the subscriptions in certain MSS. state this.

(II.). The Syriac New Testament Versions.

(A.). The Peshito Syriac New Testament.

It may stand as an admitted fact, that a version of the New Testament, in Syriac, existed in the second century; and to this we may refer the statement of Eusebius respecting Hegesippus, that he "made quotations from the gospel according to the Hebrews and the Syriac." It seems equally certain that in th efourth century such a versino was a well known of the New Testament as of the Old. To the translation in common use amongst the Syrians (orthodox, Monophysite, or Nestorian) from the fifth century and onward, the name of Peshito has been as commonly applied in the New Testament as the Old. There seem to be but few notices of the old Syriac Version in early writers. Cosmas Indicopleustes, in the former half of the sixth century, incidentally informs us that the Syriac translation does not contain the Second Epistl of Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude. In 1552, Moses of Mardin came to Pope Julius III., commissioned by Ignatius the Jacobite (Monophysite). patriarch to stat his religious opinions, to effect (it is said). a union with the Roman Church, and to get the Syriac New Testment printed. In this last object he failed, both at Rome and at Venice. At Vienna, he was however, successful. Widmanstadt, the chancellor of the Emperor Ferdinand I., had himself learned Syriac from Theseus Abbrosius many years previously; and through his influence the emperor undertook the charge of an edition, which appeared in 1555, through the joint labors of Widmanstadt, Moses, and Postell. In having only three Catholic epistles, this Syriac New Testament agreed with the description of Cosmas; the Apocalypse was also wantin, as well as the section John 8:1-11. One of the principal editions is that of Leusden and Schaaf. The lexicon which accompanies this edition is of great value. The late Professor Lee published and edition in 1816, in which he corrected or altered the text on the authority of a few MSS. In 1828, the edition of Mr. William Greenfiel was published by Messrs. Bagster. This Syriac Version has been variously estimated; some have thought that in it they had a genuine and unaltered monument of the second, or perhaps even of the first century. Others, finding in it indubitable marks of a later age, were inclined to deny that it had any claim to a very remot antiquity. The fact is, that this version, as trasmitted to us, contains marks of antiquity, and also traces of a later age. The two things are so blended, that, if either class of phenomena alone were regarded, the most opposite opinions might be formed. The judgment oformed by Griesbach seems to be certainly the correct one as to the Peculiarity of the text of this version. He says (using the terms proper to his system of recensions) -Nulli harum recensionum Syriaca versio, prout quidem typis excusa est, similis, verum nec ulli prorsus dissimilis est. In multis concinit cum Alexandrina recensione, in pluribus cum Occidentali, in nonnullis etiam cum Constatinopolitana, ita tamen ut quae in hanc posterioribus demum seculis invecta sunt, pleraque repudiet.Diversis ergo temporibus ad Graecos codices plane diversos iterum iterumque recognita esse videtur." (Nov. Test. Prolog. lxxv.)

Whether the whole of this version prodeeded from the same translator has been questioned. It appears probable that the New Testament of the Peshito is not from the same hand and the Old. Not only may Michaelis be right in supposing a peculiar translator of the Epistle to the Hebrews, but also other parts may be from different hands; this opinion will become more general the more the version is studied. The revisions to which the version was subjected may have succeeded in part, but not wholly, in effacing the indications of a plurality of translators. The Acts and Epistles seem to be either more recent thatn the Gospels, though far less revise; or else, if coeval, far more corrected by later Greek MSS. The MSS. of the Karkaphensian recension (as it has been termed). of the Peshito Old Testament, contain also the New with a similar character of text.

The Curetonian Syriac Gospels.

Among the MSS. brought from the Nitrian monasteries in 1842, Dr. Cureton noticed a copy of the Gospels, differing greatly from the common text; and this is the form of text to which the name of Curetonian Syriac has been rightly applied. Every criterion which proves the common Peshito not to exhibit a text of extreme antiquity equally proves the early origin of this. Dr. Cureton considers that the MS. of the Gospels is of the fifth century, a point in which all competent judges are probably agreed. The MS. contains Matt. i.-viii. 22, x. 31-xxiii. 25; Mark, the four last verses only; John i. 1-42, iii. 6-vii. 37, xiv. 11-29; Luke ii. 48-iii. 16, vii. 33-xv.21, xvii. 24-xxiv. 41. Bar Salibi, bishop of Amida in the twelfth century, says, "There is found occasionally a Syriac copy, made out of the Hebrew, which inserts these three kings in the geneology; but that afterwards it speaks of fourteen, and not of seventeen generations, because fourteen generation has been substituted by the Hebrews on account of their holding to the septenary number," etc. It shows then that Bar Salibi knew of a Syriac text of the Gospels in which Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah were inserted in Matt. I. 8: there is the same reading in the Curetonian Syrias; but this might have been a coincidence. But in verse 17, the Curetonian text has, in contradiction to verse 8, fourteen generations, and not seventeen; and so had the copy mentioned by Bar Salibi; the former point might be mere coincidence; the latter, however, shows such a kind of union in contradiction as proves the identity very convincingly. In examining the Curetonian text with the common printed Peshito, we often find such identity of phrase and rendering as to show that they are not wholly independent translations; then, agian, we meet with such variety in the forms of words, etd., as seems to indicate that in the Peshito the phraseology had been revised and refined. But the great (it might be said characteristic). difference between the Curetonian and the Peshito Gospels is in their readings; for while the latter cannot in its present state be deemed an unchanged production of the second century, the former bears all the marks of extreme antiquity, even though in places it may have suffered from the introduction of readings current in very early times. A comparison of the two not only shows the antiquity of the text of the Curetonian Syriac, but it also affords abundant proof that the Peshito must have been modernized and revised. The antiquity of the Curetonian text is also shown by the occurrence of readings which were, as we know early current, even though rightly repudiated as erroneous: it may suffice to refer to the long addition after Matt. xx. 28. the Curetonian Syriac presents such a text as we might have concluded would be current in the second century; the Peshito has many features which could not belong to that age; unless, indeed, we are ready to reject established facts, and those of a very numerous kind; probably, at least, two thousand. Bar Salibi tells us, when speaking of this version of St. Matthew, "there is found occasionally a Syriac copy made out of the Hebrew:" we thus know that the opinion of the Syrians themselves in the twelfth century was, that this translation of St. Matthew was not made from the Greek, but from the Hebrew original of the evangelist; such, too, was the judgment of Dr. Cureton. The more the evidenc, direct and indirect, is weighed, the more establishe, it appears, will be the judgment that the Curetonian Syriac of St. Matthew's Gospel was translated from the apostle's Hebrew (Syro‐Chaldaic). original, although injured since by copyists or revisers.

(B.) The Philoxenian Syriac Version and its Revision by Thomas of Harkel

Philoxenus, or Xenaias, a Monophysite, Bishop of Hierapolis or Mabug at the beginning of the 6th century, caused Polycarp, his Chorepiscopus to make a new translation of the New Testament into Syriac. This was executed in A.D. 508, and it is generally termed Philoxenian from its promoter. This version has not been transmitted to us in the form in which it was first made; we only possess a revision of it, executed by Thomas of Harkel in the following century (the Gospels, A.D. 616). From the subscriptions, we learn that the text was revised by Thomas with three (some copies say two Greek MSS. One Greek copy is similarly mentioned at the close of the Catholic Epistles. In describing this version as it has come down to us, the text is the first thing to be considered. This is characterized by extreme liberality; the Syriac idiom is constantly bent to suit the Greek, and every thing is in some manner expressed in the Greek phrase and order. As to the kind of Greek text that it represents, it is just what might have been expected in the 6th century. The work of Thomas in the text itself is seen inthe introduction of obeli, by which passages which he rejected were condemned; and of asterisks, with which his insertions were distinguished. His model in all this was the Hexaplar Greek text. It is probable that the Philoxenian version was very literal, but that the slavish adaptation to the Greek is the work of Thomas.

(C.) Syriac Versions of Portions wanting in the Peshito.

(I.)The Second Epistle of Peter, the Second and Third of John, and that of Jude. The fact has been already noticed, that the old Syriac Version did not contain these epistles. There were published by Pococke, in 1630, from a MS. in the Bodleian. The suggestion of Dr. Davidson that the text of Popocke is that of Philoxenus before it was revised by Thomas, seems most probable.

(II.) The Apocalypse.

In 1627, De Dieu edited a Syriac version of the Apocalypse, from a MS. in the Leyden Library, written by one "Caspar from the land of the Indians," who lived in the latter part of the 16th century. A MS. at Florence, also written by this Caspar, has a subscription stating that it was copied in 1582 from a MS. in the writing of Thomas of Harkel, in A.D. 622. But the subscription seems to be of doubtful authority; and, until the Rev. B. Harris Cowper drew attention to a more ancient copy of the version, we might well be somewhat uncertain if this were really and ancient work. It is of small critical value, and the MS. from which it was edited is incorrectly written. This book, from the Paris Polyglot and onward, has been added to the Peshito in this relation.

(III.) The Syriac Version of John viii. 1-11.

From the MS. sent by Archbishop Usser to De Dieu, the latter published this section in 1631. From De Dieu, it was inserted in the London Polyglot, with a reference to Ussher's MS., and hence it has passed with the other edition of the Peshito, where it is a mere interpolation. Probably the version edited is that of Paul of Tela, the translator of the Hexaplar Greek text into Syriac.


The MS. in the Vatican containing this version was pretty fully described by S. D. Assemani in 1756, in the catalogue of the MSS. belonging to that library. The MS. was written in A.D. 1031, in peculiar Syriac writing; the portions are of course those for the different festivals, some parts of the Gospels not being there at all. The dialect is not common Syriac; it was termed the Jerusalem Syriac from its being supposed to resemble the Jerusalem Talmud in language and other points. The grammar is peculiar; the forms almost Chaldee rather than Syriac; two characters are used for expressing F and P. For critical purposes, this lectionary has a far higher value than it has for any other: its readings often coincide with the oldest and best authorities. In Adler's opinion, its date as a version would be from the 4th to the 6th century; but it can hardly be supposed that it is of so early an age, or that any Syrians then could have used do corrupt a dialect. The first volume of an edition of this lectionary, containing the Syriac text, with a Latin translation has been published by Count Miniscalchi Erizzo.


Targum, a Chaldee word of uncertain origin; the general term for the CHALDEE, or more accurately ARAMAIC VERSIONS, of the Old Testament. The injunction to -read the Book of the Law before all Israel…the men, and women, and children, and the strangers," on the Feast of Tabernacles of every sabbatical year, as a means of solmn instruction and edification, is first found in Deuteromony 31:10-13. How far the ordinance was observed in early times we have no means of judging. It would appear, however, that such readings did take place in the days of Jeremiah. Certain it is that among the first acts undertaken by Ezra towards the restoration of the primitive religion and public worship is reported in his reading "before the congregation, both of men and women," of the returned exiles, "in the Book in the Law of God" (Nehemiah 8:2, 8.) Aided by those men of learning and eminence, with whom, according to tradition, he founded that most important religious and political body called the Great Synagogue, or Men of the Great Assembly, he appears to have succeeded in so firmly establishing regular and frequent public readings in the Sacred Records, that later authorities almost unanimously trace this hallowed custom to times immemorial-Nay, to the times of Moses himself. To these ancient readings in the Pentateuch were added, in the course of time, readings in the Prophets (in some Babylonian cities even in the Hagiographa) which were called Haftaroth; but when and how these were introduced is still a matter for speculation. If, however, the primitive religion was re‐established, together with the second Temple, in more than its former vigor, thus enabling the small number of the returned exiles-and these, according to tradition, the lowest of the low, the poor in wealth, in knowledge, and in ancestry, the very outcasts and refuse of the natiion as it were-to found upon the ruins of Zion on of the most important and lasting spiritual commonwealths that has ever been known, there was yet one thing which neigher authority nor piety, neither academy nor synagogue, could restore to its original power and glory-the Hebrew language.

Ere long it was found necessary to translate the national books, in order that the nation from whose midst they had sprund might be able to understand them. And it for the Alexandrine, or rather the whole body of Hellenistic Jews, Greek translation had to be composed, those who dwelt on the hallowed soil of their forefathers had to receive the sacred word through an Aramaic medium. If the common people thus gradually had lost all knowledge of thetongue in which were written the books to be read to them, it naturally followed (in order "that they might understand them"). that recourse must be had to a translation into the idom with which they were familiar-the Aramaic. That further, since a bare translation could not in all cases suffice, it was necessary to add to the translation an explanation, more particularly of the more difficuld and obscure passages. Both translation and explanation were designated by the term Targum. In the course of time there sparnd up a guild, whose special office it was to act as interpreters in both senses (Meturgeman) while formerly the learned alone volunteered their services. Those interpreters were subjected to certain bonds and regulations as to the form and substance of their renderings. Again: certain passages liable to give offence to the multitude are specified, which may be read in the synagogue, and translated; other, again which may neither be read nor translated. Altogether, these Meturgeman do not seem to have been held in generally in very high respect; one of the reasons being probably that they were paid, and thus made the Torah "a spade to dig with." A fair notion f what was considered a proper Targum may be gathered from the maxim preserved in the Talmud: "Whosoever translates [as Meturgeman] a verse in its closely exact form [without proper regard to its real meaning] is a liar; and whosoever adds to it is impious, and a blasphemer: e.g. the literal rendering into Chaldee of the verse, 'They saw the God of Israel;' (Exodus 24:10) is as wrong a translation as 'They saw the angel of God;' the proper rendering being, 'They saw the glory of the God of Israel.'" The same causes which, in the course of time, led to the writing down-after many centuries of oral transmission-of the whole body of the Traditional Law, engendered also, and about the same period, as it would appear, written Targums; for certain portions of the Bible, at least. The fear of the adulterations and mutilations which the Divine Word-amid the troubles within and without the Commonwealth-must undergo at the hands of incompetent or impious exponents, broke through the rule, that the Targum should only be oral, lest it might acquire undue authority. The gradual growth of the code of the written Targum, such as now embraces almost the whole of the Old Testament, and contains, we may presume, but few snatches of the primitive Targums, is shrouded in deep obscurity. Before, however, entering into a more detailed account, we must first dwell for a short time on the Midrash itself, of which the Targum forms a part.

The centre of all mental activity and religious action among the Jewish community, after the return from Babylon, was the Scriptural Canon collected by the Soferim, or Men of the Great Synagogue. These formed the chief authority on the civil and religious law, and their authority was the Pentateuch. Their office as expounders and commentators of the Sacred Records was twofold. They had, firstly, to explain the exact meaning of such prohibitions and ordinances contained in the Mosaic Books as seemed not explicit enough for the multitude, and the precise application of which in former days had been forgotten during the Captivity. Secondly, laws neither specially contained nor even indicated in the Pentateuch were inaugurated by them according to the new wants of the times and the ever shifting necessities of the growing commonwealth. This juridical and homilectical expounding and interpeting of Scripture is called darash; and the avalanche of Jewish literature which began silently to gather from the time of the return from the exile, and went on rolling uninterruptedly, until about a thousand years after the destruction of the second Temple, may be comprised under the general name&&38212;Midrash-"expounding." The two chief branches indicated are, Halachah, the rule by which to go, = binding, authoritative law; and Haggadah = saying, legend,- flights of fancy, darting up from the Divine Word. The Halachah, treating more especially the Pentateuch as the legal part of the Old Testament, bears towards this book the relation of an amplified and annotated code. The Haggadah, on the other hand, held especial sway over the wide field of ethical, poetical, prophetical, and historical elements of the Old Testament, but was free even to interpret its legal and historical passages fancifully and allegorically. The aim of the Haggadah being the purely momentary one of elevating, comforting, edifying its audience for the time being, it did not pretend to possess the slightest authority. The first collections of the Halach-embracing the whole field of juridico‐political, religious, and practical life, both of the individual and the nation, the human and divine law to its minute and insignificant details-were instituted by Hillel, Akiba, and Simon B. Gamaliel: but the final redaction of the general code, Mishna, to which the later Toseftahs and Boraighas form the supplements, is due to Jehuda Hannasi in 220 A.D. The masters of the Mishnaic period, after the Soferim, are the Tannaim, who wer followed by the Amoraim. The discussions and further amplifications of the Mishna by th elatter form the Gemara (Complement) a work extant in two redactions, viz. that of Palestine or Jerusalem (middle of 4th century) and of Babylon (5th century A.D.) which, together with the Mishna, are comprised under the name Talmud. From this indispensible digression, we return to the subject of Targum. The Targums now extand are as follows:


Onkelos is the same name as Aquila, the Greek translator of the Old Testamtent, and the Targum was so called because the new Chaldee Version was started under the name which had become expressive of the type and ideal of a Bible‐translation; so that, in fact, it was a Targum done in the manner of Aquila,-Aquila‐Targum. With regard to the date, the Targum was begun to be committed to writing about the end of the 2nd century A.D. So far, however, from its superseding the oral Targum at once, it was, on the contrary, strictly forbidden to read it in public. Nor was there any uniformity in the version. Down to the middle of the 2nd century, we find the masters most materially differing from each other with respect to the Targum of certain passages, and translations quoted not to be found in any of our Targums. We shall not be far wrong in placing the work of collecting the different fragments with their varians, and reducintg them into one-finally authorized version-about the end of the 3rd or the beginning of the 4th century, and in assigning Babylon to it as the birthplace. We now turn to the Targum itself. Is language is Chaldee, closely approaching in purity of idiom to that of Ezra and Daniel. It follows a sober and clear, though not a slavish exegesis, and keeps as closely and minutely to the text as is at all consistent with its purpose, viz. to be chiefly, and above all, a version for the people. Its explanations of difficult and obscure passages bear ample witness to the competence of those who gave it its final shape, and infused into it a rare unity. It avoids the legendary character with which all the later Targums intwine the biblical work, as far as ever circumstances would allow. Only in the poetical passages it was copelled to yield-though reluctantly-to the popular craving for Haggadah; but even here it chooses and selects with rare taste and tact. In spite of its many and important discrepancies, the Targum never for one moments forgets its aim of being a clea, though free, translation for the people, and nothing more. Wherever it deviates from the generalness of the text, such a course, in such case, is fully justified-nay, necessitated-either by the obscurity of the passage, or the wrong construction that naturally would be put upon its wording by the multitude. The explanations given agree wither with the real sense, or develop the current tradition supposed to underlie it. As to the Bible Text from which the Targum was prepared, we have no certainty whatever on this head, owing to the extraordinarily corrupt state of our Targum texts. It would appear, however, that, broadly speaking, our present Masoretic text has been the one from which the Onk. Version was, if not made, yet edited. at all events. Of the extraordinary similarity between Onkelos and the Samaritan Version, we have spoken under SAMARITAN PENTATEUCH.


viz. Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets,-called Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel. We shall probably not be far wrong in placing this Targum some time, although not long, after Onkelos, or about the middle of the 4th century,-the latter years of R. Joseph, who it is said, occupied himself chiefly with the Targum when he had become blind. This Targum may fairly be described as holding, in point of interpretation and enlargement of the text, the middle place between Onkelos, who only in extreme cases deviated into paraphrase, and the subsequent Targums, whose connection with their texts is frequently of the most flighty character. The interpretation of Jonathan, where it adheres to the text, is mostly very corret in a philosophical and exegetical sense, closely literal even, provided the meaning of the original is easily to be understood by the people. When, however, similes are used, unfamiliar or obscure to the people, it unhesitatingly dissolves them, and makes them easy in their mouths like household words, by adding as much of explanation as seems fit; sometimes, it cannot be denied, less sagaciously, even incorrrectly, comprehending the original meaning.


Onkelos and Jonathan on the Pentateuch and Prophets, whateve be their exact date, place, authorship, and editorship, are the oldest of existing Targums, and belong, in their present shape, to Babylon and the Babylonian academies flourishing between the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. But precisely as two parallel and independent developments of the Oral Law have sprung up in the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds respectively, so also recent investigation has proved to demonstration of the existence of two distinct cycles of Targums on the Written Law-i.e. the entire body of the Old Testament; the one first collected, revised, and edited in Babylon, called-more especially that part of it which embraced the Pentateuch (Onkelos)-the Babylonian. The other, continuing it oral life, so to say, down to a much later period, was written and edited-less carefull, or rather with a more faithful retention of the oldest and youngest fancies of Meturgemanim and Darshanim-on the soil of Judea itself. Of this entire cycle, however, the Pentateuch and a few other books and fragmentary pieces only have survived entire, while of most of the other books of the Bible a few detached fragments are all that is known, and this chiefly from quotations. As not the least cause of the loss of the great bulk of the Palestinian Targum may also be considered the almost uniterrupted martyrdom to which those were subjected who preferrred, under all circumstances, to live and die in the Land of Promise. However this may be, the Targum on the Pentateuch has come down to us; and not in one, but in two recensions. More surprising still, the one hitherto considered a fragment, because of its ebracing portions only of the individual books, has in reality never been intended to embrace any further portion; and we are thus in th epossession of two Palestinian Targums, preserved in their original forms. The one, which extends from the first verse of Genesis to the last of Deuteronomy, is known under the name of Targum Jonathan (ben Uzziel). or Pseudo‐Jonathan on the Pentateuch. The other, interpreting single versed, often single words only, is extant in the following proportions; a third on Genesis, a fourth on Deuteronomy, a fifth on Numbers, three‐twentieths on Exodus, and about one‐fourteenth on Leviticus. The latter is generally called Targum Jerushalmi, or, down to the 11th century (Hai Gaion, Chananel) Targum Erets Israel, Targum of Jerusalem or of the land of Israel. Not before the first half of this century did the fact become full and incontestably established, that both Targums were in reality one-that both wer known down to the 14th century under no other name than Targum Jerushalmi-and that some forgetful scribe about that time must have taken the abreviation 'T. J.' over one of the two documents, and, instead of dissolving it into Targum Jerushalmi, dissolved it erroneously into what he must till then have been engaged in copying-viz., Targum Jonathan, sc. ben Uzziel (on the Prophets). Of the intermediate stage, when only a few MSS. had received the new designation, a curious fact, which Azariah de Rossi (Cod. 37 b) mentions, gives evidence. "I say," he says, "two complete Targums on the whole Pentateuch, word for word alike; one in Reggio, which was described inthe margin, 'Targum of Jonathan b. Uzziel;' the other in Mantua, described at the margin as 'Targum Jerushalmi.'" Yet the difficulty of their obvious dissimilarity, if they were identical remained to be accounted for. Zunz tries to solve it by assuming that Pseudo‐Jonathan is the original Targum, and that the fragmentary Jerushalmi is a collection of variants to it. Frankel has gone a step farther, and concludes that Jerushalmi is a collection of emendations and additions to single portions, phrases, and words of Onkelos, and Pseudo‐Jonathan a further emended and competed edition to the whole Pentateuch of Jerushalmi Onkelos. The Jerushalmi, in both its recensions, is written in the Palestinian dialect. It is older than the Masora and the conquest of Western Asia by the Arabs. Syria or Palestine must be its birthplace, the second half of the 7th century its date. Its chief aim and purpose is, especially in its second edition, to form an entertaining compendiumof all the Halachah and Haggadah, which refers to the Pentateuch, and takes its stand uon it. And in this lies its chief use to us. There is hardly a single allegory, parable, mystic digression, or tale, in it, which is not found in the other haggadistic writings-Mishna, Talmud, Mechilta, Sifra, Sifri, etc.


"When Jonathan ben Uzziel began to paraphrase the Cethubim" (Hagiographa) we read in the Talmud, "a mysterious voice was heard, saying It is enough. Thou has revealed the secrets of the Prophets-why wouldst thou also reveal those of the Holy Ghost?" It would thus appear that a Targum to these books (Job excepted). was entirely unknown up to a very late period. Those Targums on the Hagiographa which we now possess have been attributed vaguely to different authors, it being assumed in the first instance that they were the work of one man. Popular belief fastened upon Joseph the Blind. Yet, if ever he did translate the Hagiographa, certain it is that those which we possess are not by his or his disciples' hands-that it, of the time of the 4th century. Between him and our hagiographical Targums, many centuries must have elapsed. Yet we do not even venture to assign to them more than an approximate round date, about 1000 A.D. Besides the Targums to the Pentateuch and the Prophets, those now extand range over Psalms, Proverbs, Job, the five Megilloth, i.e. Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Ecclesiastes; the Chronicles and Daniel. Ezra and Nehemiah alone are left without a Targum at present.


This Targum was unknown up to a very recent period. In 1680, it was edited for the first time from Erfurt MS. by M. F. Beck; and in 1715 from a more complete as well as correct MS. at Cambridge, by D. Wilkins. The name of Hungary occurring in it, and its frequent use of teh Jerusalem‐Targum to the Pentateuch, amounting sometimes to simple copying, show sufficiently that its author is neither "Jonathan b. Uzziel" nor "Joseph the Blind," as has been suggested. But the language, style, and the Haggadah, with which it abounds, point to a late period, and point out Palestine s the place where it was written. Its use must be limited to philological, historical, and geographical studies.


It is for the first time that this Targum is here formally introduced into the regular rank and file of Targums, although it has been known for now more than five and twenty years. Munk found it, not indeed in the original Aramaic, but in what appears to him to be an extract of it written in Persian.

(VIII.). There is also a Chaldee translation extant of the apocryphal pieces of Esther.


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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