Targum Jonathan (Hebrew: תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל), otherwise referred to as Targum Yonasan/Yonatan, is the official eastern (Babylonian) targum (Aramaic translation) to the Nevi'im ("prophets").[1]

It is not to be confused with "Targum Pseudo-Jonathan", an Aramaic translation of the Torah, which is often known as "Targum Jonathan" due to a printer's error or perhaps because it is so stylistically similar to Targum Jerusalem, named "Jonathan" to differentiate the two later translations.


It originated, like Targum Onkelus for the Torah, in the synagogue reading of a translation from the Prophets, together with the weekly lesson.

The Talmud[2] attributes its authorship to Jonathan ben Uzziel, a pupil of Hillel the Elder. According to this source, it was composed by Jonathan ben Uzziel "from the mouths of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi," implying that it was based on traditions derived from the last prophets. The additional statements that on this account the entire land of Israel was shaken and that a voice from heaven cried: "Who has revealed my secrets to the children of men?" are legendary reflections of the novelty of Jonathan's undertaking and of the disapprobation it evoked. The story adds that Jonathan wished to translate the Ketuvim also but that a heavenly voice bade him to desist. The Targum to Job, which was withdrawn from circulation by Gamaliel I, may have represented the result of his attempts to translate the Ketuvim.[3]

Jonathan ben Uzziel is named as Hillel's most prominent pupil,[4] and the reference to his Targum is at least of historical value, so there is nothing to controvert the assumption that it served as the foundation for the present Targum to the Prophets.[5]

It was thoroughly revised, however, before it was redacted in Babylonia. In the Babylonian Talmud it is quoted with especial frequency by Joseph, head of the Academy of Pumbedita,[6] who writes, with reference to two biblical passages:[7] "If there were no Targum to it we should not know the meaning of these verses".[8] This shows that as early as the beginning of the fourth century the Targum to the Prophets was recognized as of ancient authority.

The targum is sometimes cited with the introduction "Rav Yosef has translated", suggesting a tradition of authorship by Rav Yosef bar Hama.[9][10]

Linguistic analysis

The language of Targum Jonathan is Aramaic. Its overall style is very similar to that of Targum Onkelos (to the Pentateuch), though at times it seems to be a looser paraphrase of the Biblical text.[11]

It is the result of a single redaction.[5]

Like Targum Onkelos, it gained general recognition in Babylonia in the third century; and from the Babylonian academies it was carried throughout the Diaspora. It originated, however, in the Land of Israel, and was then adapted to the vernacular of Babylonia; so that it contains the same linguistic peculiarities as the Targum Onḳelos, including sporadic instances of Persian words.[12] In cases where the Land of Israel and Babylonian texts differ, this Targum follows the latter.[13]

Although Targum Jonathan was composed in antiquity (probably in the 2nd Century CE), it is now known from medieval manuscripts, which contain many textual variants.[14] The earliest attestation appears as citations of Jer 2:1–2 and Ez 21:23 on an Aramaic Incantation bowl found in Nippur, Babylonia.[15]

Liturgical use

In Talmudic times (and to this day in Yemenite Jewish communities), Targum Jonathan was read as a verse-by-verse translation alternately with the Hebrew verses of the haftarah in the synagogue. Thus, when the Talmud states that "a person should complete his portions of scripture along with the community, reading the scripture twice and the targum once",[16] the passage may be taken to refer to Targum Jonathan and Targum Onkelos.

See also


  1. ^ TBMegillah 3a;Maharsha
  2. ^ Megillah 3a
  3. ^ see Bacher, "Ag. Tan." i. 23 et seq.; 2d ed., pp. 20 et seq.
  4. ^ Sukkah 28a
  5. ^ a b Jewish Encyclopedia, Targum
  6. ^ see Bacher, "Ag. Bab. Amor." p. 103
  7. ^ Isaiah 8:6 and Zechariah 12:11
  8. ^ Sanhedrin 94b; Moed Kattan 28b; Megillah 3a
  9. ^ תרגום יונתן לנביאים
  10. ^ Hai Gaon, Commentary on Taharot, quoted in the Arukh; see Kohut, "Aruch Completum," ii. 293a, 308a
  11. ^ A. Shinan, "Dating Targum Pseudo- Jonathan: Some More Comments", JJS 61 (1990) 60 (57-61), comments, such a conclusion ...
  12. ^ e.g., "enderun," Judges 15:1, 16:12; Joel 2:16; "dastaka" = "dastah," Judges 3:22
  13. ^ "madinḥa'e"; see Pinsker, "Einleitung in die Babylonische Punktuation," p. 124
  14. ^ Hector M. Patmore, The Transmission of Targum Jonathan in the West: A Study of Italian and Ashkenazi Manuscripts of the Targum to Samuel (Oxford University Press, 2015)
  15. ^ Stephen A. Kaufman, "A Unique Magic Bowl from Nippur," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 32 (1973), pp. 140–143.
  16. ^ Berakhot 8a-b