Targum (Translation) of Onkelos or Aquila, Caesar Hadrian or Titus - a Talmudic riddle

Targum (Translation) of Onkelos or Aquila, Caesar Hadrian or Titus - a Talmudic riddle

Nowadays, we cannot imagine the pattern of the five pentacles of the Torah that does not include the translation, which anyone would guess is an Onkelos translation. Translation as is known into Aramaic and it is also known that nowadays not so many people (and Jews first of all) are familiar with this respectable language. Because when we are talking about the reading of the Gemara of the Babylonian Talmud or Midrashim, we understand that we are not talking about the entire content in Aramaic because the language of the Gemara is a particular combination of Aramaic and Hebrew. It can be said that it is actually Pombidite Hebrew or Jewish Aramaic or as Madad says Galilean Aramaic. And in the translation of Unclus there is a complete file in Aramaic of course. The Onklos translation is a respectable and impressive translation in Judaism, in contrast to, for example, the Seventy translation in Greek which was produced earlier. It is known that even in the Jewish tradition the translation of the Septuagint is defined as a failure and the day of its creation is close to the day of mourning. This is how Shulan Aruch, Orach Haim 155 says: These are the days in which troubles happened to our ancestors and it is appropriate to atone for them days.

Although the translation of Onkelos or Aquila is given a place that is respected to such an extent that there is a halacha which requires reading the original (biblical) parashat of the week twice and once in the translation of Onclos. Of course the source of the halacha close to the Wadi was found in the Talmudic period and geniuses who at that time were a spiritual center and the leadership of the exile were present in the area of ​​the Sasanian Empire where the ancient Persian language was largely used but the Jewish exile used Aramaic as an internal language.

It is also important to understand that the translation of Onkelos is actually not just a translation that allows Jews to understand the Torah at that time because Sefahit was not widely used on the streets but was used in connection with the work of Hashem such as prayers and Torah study. The Onkelos translation is actually a Pesht interpretation of the Torah using the language that is understood in the vehicles of the Babylonian exile. This we can easily feel and understand when we read a basic interpretation of the Torah nowadays and indeed it is Rashi's interpretation. Many times we can come across places whose meaning Rashi explains to us by relying on the Onkelos translation. The main point of the translation was: "To make the women and the people of the land who do not know the holy language sound" (Rashi Megillah 21, 15 in the 5th: In the prophet, even one reads and two translate), and therefore the author of the translation tried to translate in a simplistic way, in an easy and understandable language , a literal and accurate translation. Only in places where there is a sense of fulfillment, or when the scripture is not clear enough, he adds a commentary in the spirit of the HAZAL (חז"ל).

But there is a question who is the real author of this very important translation? We can find in the Midrash Tanhuma in Parshat Mishpatim a document that brings a negotiation between Onkelos and his uncle Hadrianus the emperor. In it Onkelos is also mentioned as Aquila. Contrary to that, in the Babylonian Talmud the name Aquila is not mentioned at all, but in addition it is stated that the uncle of Onkelos was Titus the emperor. The most interesting thing is that in the origin of the Land of Israel, in the Jerusalem Talmud the name Onkelos is not mentioned at all, but only the name Aquila. It's just that stories about Aquila in the Jerusalem Talmud are very similar to stories about Onkelos in the Babylonian Talmud. But the Babylonian Gemara also attributes the translation of the Torah into Aramaic to Onkelos. In contrast, in Yerushalmi, the translation of the Torah into Greek is attributed to Aquila. Of course these servitudes raise the question of whether Onkelos and Aquila are one person or two people. Over the ages there has been controversy over this question. Of course, you may say that there were two people with a similar name, from the Roman noble family. One was the nephew of Hadrian and the other was the nephew of Titus.

Both converted, one wrote a Greek translation of the Torah and the other taught an Aramaic translation. On the other hand, it is possible that it is all one story, about one person, that the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud had a disagreement about various details of his identity. And perhaps one should also imagine that the use of both names in one section of the midrash seemingly strengthens the claim that it is one person. But once again there is a problem of whose nephew is it if it is one person? And if I close my fingers on this, what language is the Aramaic or Greek translation into? At least in our hands only Aramaic is preserved. Or maybe a Greek translation was used in those Christian times? In the fact that there are translations of the Torah in Greek, the Christian commentator and theologian Origen testifies that in his day (253-185) the Jews adopted the translation of Aquila instead of the translation of the Septuagint. Origen (died in 251) collected in one book four Ionic translations that were famous in the world at the time and was called the tetrapla: they are: the Septuagint, the Aquila translation, the Somechus translation, and Theodotion's translation, and he added two more translations to them. So if there really is a translation of Aquila into Greek close to Wadi it is hard to imagine that it was the same person who also translated into Aramaic.

And the confusion that this is about one person is based on the fact that supposedly in our hands, that is, in the use of the Jews, there is only one translation - Onkelos. Although there is also a Greek translation which Jews and Judaism do not use as if they forgot even though Christians took it in use. A question is also asked here, why is it like this? Perhaps there is an explanation that there is a certain background in the attitude of Jews to the language and also to the Greek culture. First, of course, that comes to mind is the Hasmonean rebellion. The second thing, of course, is also related to this, which is the Greek translation of seventy. This is how the Soferim treatise describes the attitude to this translation: an act of G-d by the elders who wrote the Ionic Torah for King Ptolemy and today was difficult for Israel on the day the calf was made, because the Torah could not be translated for all its needs. (Treatise of Scribes, 1, 7) And in addition, a translation of Aquila into Greek may not have been so sought after among Jews because there is no Torah center in areas where Greek is used, as there were in the Land of Israel and Babylon. Of course, what we have explained is a concern that it is not a final opinion and claim, but for us, a version very close to reality - there were two living, two translators, Onkelos and Aquila, if they were so close to different Caesars, this is already another Talmudic question and riddle for other articles.


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