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The Codex was given to the Jewish community of Jerusalem after its completion in the 10th century. During the First Crusade it was among the items that were captured and held for ransom by the Crusaders. The elders of Ashkelon were able to gain control of it and the Codex was brought to Egypt together with a group of Jewish refugees. It eventually came to reside in the Rabbanite synagogue in Cairo, where Maimonides used it in making his own copy of the Torah and in formulating his rules for writing Torah scrolls. At the end of the 14th century, Maimonides' descendants brought it to Aleppo, Syria, where it remained for five hundred years, until 1947, when Muslim anti-Jewish riots desecrated the synagogue in which it was kept. The Codex remained lost until 1958, when it was smuggled into Israel by a Syrian Jew, but parts of the Codex were missing. Since then, two additional folios (pages) of the Codex have been recovered, but more than a third of the work remains missing.
Before parts of the Aleppo Codex were lost (i.e., before 1947), the order of its books followed the Tiberian Masoretic textual tradition, similar to that of the Leningrad Codex. The books of the Torah and Nevi'im (Prophets) appeared in the same order found in most printed Hebrew Bibles; however, there are significant differences in the order of its books in Ketuvim (Writings)—the order in the Codex is: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah.
The word "Amorite" is used in the Hebrew Bible as a synonym for "Canaanite." The use of one term rather than the other is due to the preference of an author or the tradition on which the author depends. Source criticism of the Pentateuch generally assumes that "Amorite" was preferred by the Elohist tradition (E), while "Canaanite" was preferred by the Yahwist tradition (J). All Hebrew Bible references to the Amorites have one characteristic in common—the reference is always to a people living in the past.
"The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness; for thousands he maintains his kindness, forgives faults, transgression, sin; yet he lets nothing go unchecked, punishing the father's fault in the sons and in the grandsons to the third and fourth generation.'" (Ex. 34:6–7)
The Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar II (also spelled Nebuchadrezzar), conquered Jerusalem in 597 b.c.e. In 539 b.c.e., the Babylonian Empire fell to Cyrus the Great, king of Persia. Cyrus later issued a decree permitting the exiled Jews to return to their own land, and allowed their temple to be rebuilt. Under Cyrus and the subsequent Persian king, Darius the Great, Babylon became a center of learning and scientific advancement. The city was the administrative capital of the Persian Empire, the preeminent power of the then known world, and it played a vital part in the history of that region for over two centuries.
In 331 b.c.e., Babylon fell to the forces of Alexander the Great. Under Alexander, Babylon again flourished as a center of learning and commerce. But following Alexander's death, his empire was divided among his generals, causing turmoil in the country. By 141 b.c.e., when the Persian Empire took over the region, Babylon was in complete desolation and obscurity. Under the Persians, Babylon remained a province of the Persian Empire for nine centuries, until around 650 c.e.. It continued to have its own culture and peoples, who spoke varieties of Aramaic, and who continued to refer to their homeland as "Babylon." Jews remaining from the Babylonian exile formed schools that eventually became great centers of learning, and in ca. 219 c.e., one of the greatest was founded in Sura. The work at these academies eventually produced the Babylonian Talmud.
First Book of Enoch
Our present 1 Enoch comprises a number of different works. Most or all were apparently originally written in Aramaic, and parts of these Aramaic texts have turned up among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The most ancient manuscripts found—drawn from the "Book of Luminaries" (or "Astronomical Book") section (that is, chapters 72–82) of our present 1 Enoch, and the "Book of the Watchers" (1 Enoch 1–36)—have been dated well back into the third century b.c.e. (However, the composite nature of even these subsections is clear.) Versions of 1 Enoch are not attested in any of the Dead Sea Scrolls fragments, but their absence there may be due to chance: there is nothing in the contents of this book to justify a later date.
In short, the oldest parts of 1 Enoch may well constitute the most ancient Jewish writings to have survived outside the Bible itself. Newer sections were eventually blended in with the old, and the entire Book of Enoch was subsequently translated into Greek and from Greek into ancient Ethiopic (Ge'ez), in which language alone the book survives in its entirety.
Scriptural interpretation was hardly the major concern of 1 Enoch. The very figure of Enoch the sage in this book has been shown to have been influenced by Mesopotamian models, and the astronomical learning and other materials presented in this book likewise bespeak the transmission of ancient, eastern lore. Nevertheless, a number of figures and incidents associated with biblical narratives also appear, and in what is said about some of them it is possible to see the outline of some very ancient interpretation, in particular, a grappling with difficulties associated with the story of Noah and the flood.
Second Book of Enoch
It survives only in Slavonic, in two recensions, both of which are represented in various manuscripts. The origins of 2 Enoch are quite mysterious. The Slavonic texts certainly represent a translation from the Greek, which may indeed have been the original language of composition. As for its date, in view of some of the biblical interpretations found in this book, which are paralleled in ancient Jewish sources, it may well be that the earliest kernel of this text goes back (as some have suggested) to the beginning of the Common Era; on the other hand, the absence of any mention of it in Greek or Latin patristic writings is troubling.
Third Book of Enoch (Hebrew Apocalypse of Enoch)
The name 3 Enoch was coined by H. Odeberg for his 1928 edition of this mystical Hebrew treatise; it is known elsewhere as the Book of Hekhalot ("Palaces"), the Chapters of R. Ishmael, and other names. The text itself, while an early landmark in the history of Jewish mysticism, is late within the context of early biblical interpretation, belonging perhaps to the fifth or sixth century c.e.
“But Abel, he also brought from the firstborn of his flock and from the fat of them.” (Gen. 4:4)
“The cities are great, and walled up to heaven.” (Deut. 1:28)
"You shall plant vineyards and dress them, but you shall neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worm shall eat them." (Deut. 28:39)
The author of Jubilees was a bold, innovative interpreter in his own right—one might say, without exaggeration, something of a genius—and subsequent generations valued highly, even venerated, his book's insights into Scripture. In seeking to retell the book of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus, this author had a definite program: he wished to claim that this initial part of the Pentateuch, although it consists mostly of stories and does not contain any law code as such, had nonetheless been designed to impart legal instruction no less binding than the overt law codes found in the rest of the Pentateuch. In other words, by reading the stories of Genesis carefully, one could figure out all kinds of binding commandments that God had, as it were, hidden in the narrative. Reading in this fashion, the author of Jubilees was able to find a set of rules strictly defining what is permitted and forbidden on the Sabbath, regulations forbidding marriage between Jews and non-Jews, strictures against various forms of "fornication," and other subjects dear to this writer's heart. One interesting feature of the book is that it maintains that the true calendar ordained by God consisted of exactly 52 Sabbaths (364 days) per year and that the moon, whose waxing and waning determined the months and festivals for other Jews, ought rightly to have no such role in the true calendar. The author sought to show that this calendar, too, was implied by the stories of Genesis.
Apart from these pet issues, the Jubilees author ended up presenting a good deal more in the way of biblical interpretation. Some of these interpretations may likewise have been of his own creation, but others were certainly widespread traditions at the time of his writing. One way or another, the book is a treasure of ancient thinking about the Bible. The Dead Seas Scroll sect adopted the same calendar as that prescribed by Jubilees, and it is clear that the members of this group held this book in high esteem.
According to its colophon, the codex was produced in Cairo from manuscripts written by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher. Some scholars believe that it is a product of the ben Asher school itself; however, no evidence exists that ben Asher ever saw it. The most notable feature of the Leningrad Codex is the source of most of its orthography: unusually for a Masoretic work, the consonants, the vowels, and the Masoretic notes were all written by the same person, Samuel ben Jacob. The Leningrad Codex, and the Aleppo Codex which was edited by ben Asher himself, appear to be the most faithful to ben Asher's Masoretic tradition of any other surviving texts from later periods that are not based upon these two codices. Since the Leningrad Codex contains numerous corrections, alterations, and erasures, it has been postulated that the Leningrad Codex was an existing text that did not follow ben Asher's rules and was altered into conformance.
The order of the books in the Leningrad Codex follows the Tiberian textual tradition, which is followed by the later tradition of Sephardic biblical manuscripts; however, there are significant differences in the order of its books in Ketuvim (Writings)—the order in the Codex is: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah. In recent times, the Leningrad Codex was used as the source of the Hebrew text reproduced in Biblia Hebraica (1937) and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1977). It also is used by scholars as a primary source for the recovery of details in the missing parts of the Aleppo Codex.
Mekhilta deR. Ishmael
A (rabbinic) collection of interpretations of verses in the book of Exodus. The Mekhilta deR. Ishmael is one of a group of texts known collectively as the halakhic midrashim; it would thus seem to belong to the third century c.e.
Mekhilta deR. Simeon b. Yohai
One of the halakhic midrashim, a collection of interpretations of verses in the book of Exodus. For various reasons, scholars have suggested that it may in fact be somewhat later than the other halakhic midrashim, belonging therefore to the fourth or even fifth century c.e.
“When God began to create heaven and earth…” (Gen. 1:1)
"Judah is a lion cub, you climb back, my son, from your kill." (Gen. 49:9)
“Then shall you bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.” (Gen. 42:38)
"Charge, horses! Crash on, chariots!" (Jer. 46:9)
"Death and life are in the gift of the tongue, those who indulge it must eat the fruit it yields." (Prov. 18:21)
"The Lord said to Moses, 'If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do….'" (Lev. 6:1–3)
Rabbinic Judaism is based on the tradition that the law (Torah) revealed at Sinai had both a written and oral form. The written part consists in the Torah, or the five books of Moses. The oral revelation was transmitted by word of mouth from the generation present at Sinai to their descendants up to the time of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The oral law was subsequently codified in the Mishnah and Gemara, and is interpreted by subsequent rabbinic decisions and writings. Rabbinic Jewish literature is predicated on the belief that the written law cannot be properly understood without recourse to the Oral Law (the Mishnah and the Talmud). Much rabbinic Jewish literature concerns specifying what behavior is sanctioned by the law; this body of interpretations is called halakhah, "the way."
Rabbinic Judaism employs the methods of p'shat, "plain meaning," of the text; remez "implication or clue"; d'rash, "deep interpretation," based on breaking down individual words; and sod, "secret," the deeper meaning of the text (drawing on its mystical implications) to interpret the oral and written law.
For the Samaritans, only the first five books of the Bible (= the Torah) are canonized. Their Pentateuch establishes the location of the Temple and the qualifications for the priesthood and the priestly hierarchy; the status of the Samaritan priests derived mainly from their interpretation of their Pentateuch. An analysis of the Samaritan Pentateuch shows about six thousand instances where it and the Masoretic text differ; in about two thousand of these instances, however, the Septuagint agrees with the Samaritan version. This has led scholars to wonder about the value of the text of the Samaritan Pentateuch for any critical study into the origin of the Hebrew Bible, but after the discovery of the Qumran documents, it was seen that the variant readings in the text, the forms of its script, and the orthography in the text all date the Samaritan Pentateuch to a period not earlier than the Hasmoneans (142–53 b.c.e.). The Samaritan Pentateuch then evolved away from the Torah following this period but evidence from the Qumran scrolls demonstrate that correspondences between the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Torah persisted into the first century c.e.
Most Samaritan Pentateuchs are written in Hebrew, and many have adjacent columns written in Aramaic or Arabic, or even both languages. Some manuscripts exist in only Aramaic or Arabic. The oldest manuscripts are written in the Samaritan alphabet, which differs from the post-exilic Hebrew alphabet, and some authorities believe it to be an orthographic form that bridges paleo-Hebrew and the post-exilic Hebrew letter forms. The existence of the Samaritan Pentateuch became known in Europe in 1616, when a traveler named Pietro della Valle purchased a copy of the text in Damascus and brought it to Italy. This copy made its way to Paris in 1623, where it excited close interest. In 1645, an edited copy of the text was published in Paris. Several versions have been published during the last three centuries. While printed copies are available, handwritten copies of the Samaritan Pentateuch are scarce. The total number of surviving handwritten manuscripts is approximately one hundred and fifty; however, many of these texts exist only in fragmentary form. Copies date from about the ninth century c.e. to the twentieth century, with the majority being from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The most significant collections can be found at the synagogue at Nablus, Israel, and at the Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, the British Museum, the Bibliotheque Nationale, Michigan State University, and a few private collections.
Any translation by nature contains a good deal of interpretation: ambiguities in the original text can rarely be duplicated in translation and, as a result, the translator must take a stand and render the ambiguity one way or another. Moreover, translators aware of this or that traditional interpretation will sometimes incorporate it (consciously or otherwise) into their translation. For both these reasons, the Septuagint, although it may present a fairly close rendering, can frequently provide information about how a particular verse or phrase or single word was understood by Jews as early as the third century b.c.e.
However, there are great difficulties in using evidence from the Septuagint in an overall study of ancient interpretation of the Bible. To begin with, the biblical texts that were used by the Septuagint translators were often slightly, and in some cases, drastically, different from that of the traditional Hebrew text; they bear witness to the coexistence of different text-forms of the Hebrew Bible in late antiquity. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has dramatically confirmed this fact. No one of these text-forms can be said to be correct or "the best." Instead, there exists a whole branch of modern biblical scholarship, textual criticism, which is devoted to examining each and every verse of the Bible as preserved by various textual witnesses in order to understand the significance of any differences that might exist between different versions of that verse. Textual criticism is an art, not a science, and the conclusions of one textual critic are not necessarily shared by others.
All this is of some consequence to the whole matter of ancient biblical interpretation. For example, it is often far from clear whether a particular difference between the Septuagint and the MT (the Masoretic text, that is, the traditional Hebrew text of the Bible preserved by Jews through the ages) represents a case of the Septuagint translators interpreting in some nonliteral fashion the same Hebrew text as that found in the MT, or whether the difference between the Septuagint and the MT represents a difference in two different forms of the Hebrew text that were in circulation in late antiquity, the one having been used by the Septuagint translators and the other preserved in the MT. The same is true, by the way, of differences between the Septuagint and other textual witnesses such as the Samaritan Pentateuch or ancient biblical manuscripts from Qumran. Nor, for that matter, is it often easy to establish which of various forms of a biblical verse attested in different sources represents the "most original" form of the verse (and which others, therefore, might represent some secondary, often simplified or interpreted, form of the same verse). Further complicating matters is the fact that the Septuagint itself underwent a complicated process of transmission and revision, so that there is no one, single "Septuagint" to refer to.
(or Sifrei Devarim.) A (rabbinic) collection of interpretations of verses found in sections of the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy). It is one of the halakhic midrashim and thus assumed to have been put into some preliminary form in the third century c.e., though it certainly contains later additions.
(or Sifrei Bamidbar.) A midrashic collection on the book of Bamidbar (Numbers). It is one of the halakhic midrashim and thus assumed to have been put into some preliminary form in the third century c.e. Sifrei is apparently a composite text in its present form.
Ben Sira saw in Scripture a great corpus of divine wisdom; he therefore made broad use of Scripture in writing his own book, including his lengthy catalog of biblical heroes mentioned earlier. But he was a conservative in all things—a "classicist," one might say—and this catalog contains relatively little that is not explicitly stated in Scripture itself. He certainly was aware of many interpretive traditions, which, for one reason or another, he chose not to include in his book. This notwithstanding, the book does contain a number of interpretations from a relatively early stage of development.
The textual problems connected with the book are notorious. Although composed in Hebrew, it was known for centuries only through its Greek and Syriac versions and secondary translations made from these. Medieval copies of portions of the Hebrew original were discovered at the end of last century in the Cairo Geniza fragments, and these have been supplemented by further Hebrew finds at Qumran and Masada, so that now slightly less than 70 percent of the Hebrew original is extant. Recent scholarship, however, has suggested that the original text-form in Hebrew was expanded at one point, and that both the original and expanded forms are represented in various manuscripts of the subsequent translations. To complicate matters further, the medieval copies of the Hebrew themselves frequently disagree or contain obvious errors; some scholars also suspect that the medieval Hebrew copyists may at times have sought to supplement their lacunary text(s) by retroverting from one of the ancient versions.
“Your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.” (Gen. 22:17)
Babylonan Talmud (Bavli)
A massive compendium of Jewish learning and biblical exegesis redacted in Babylon in the fifth and early sixth centuries c.e. but containing a great deal of earlier material. Organized in the form of a digressive commentary on the Mishnah, it ends up citing and explaining much of the Hebrew Bible and is thus a valuable collection of rabbinic biblical interpretation.
Jerusalem Talmud (Yerushalmi)
A compendium of Jewish learning and biblical exegesis compiled in land of Israel in the late fourth or early fifth century c.e. Like the Babylonian Talmud, it takes the form of a highly digressive commentary on the Mishnah, but the Jerusalem Talmud is considerably shorter than the Babylonian. Because of the prestige power of the Babylonian centers of Jewish learning (where the Babylonian Talmud was in use), the Jerusalem Talmud came to have less influence than the Babylonian within later Judaism.
Despite the extensive research conducted over the last half century in particular, scholars have still not reached consensus as to either the dating or interrelationship of the targums. Virtually all agree, however, that the process of translating biblical texts into Aramaic must have begun long before any of our extant targums was composed; such translation began perhaps as early as the time of the return from Babylonian exile. If so, then the various individual targum texts—Onkelos, Neophyti, and so forth—most likely do not represent the work of isolated translators "starting from scratch": their translations probably contain within them many translation traditions inherited from ages long past. In that sense, at least, any dating of a targum is likely to be misleading from the standpoint of ancient biblical interpretation, since at least some of the interpretations contained within that targum may go back to a period far earlier than the targum's own composition.
A particular affinity exists among the so-called Palestinian targums Neophyti, Pseudo-Jonathan, and the Fragment Targums, along with various snippets of targum texts discovered in the Cairo Geniza, all of which arguably go back to a "proto-Palestinian targum." If, as some scholars have suggested, these various targums basically took shape late in the first or in the second century c.e., then their common ancestor should certainly be dated still earlier.
A series of targums to the Torah that are preserved only in fragmentary form. Also known as Jerusalem Targum (Targum Yerushalmi).
This targum exists in widely divergent forms produced and revised over many centuries. The oldest form goes back to before the fourth century c.e. (its Aramaic is similar to that found in the Palestinian targums), but greater precision as to the date is impossible, at least on linguistic grounds.
By Targum Neophyti is meant the main targum text elsewhere called more precisely "Targum Neophyti (or Neofiti) 1." This manuscript also contains numerous marginal and interlinear glosses. The manuscript itself is dated to the sixteenth century, but its original editor argued that the text it contains is one that goes back to pre-Christian times; however, this claim was soon disputed. The date and affiliations of Targum Neophyti have subsequently been much discussed; but many scholars fix its date roughly at the end of the first century c.e. As is the case with other targums, this one obviously contains some material older than that.
This targum of the Pentateuch eventually acquired the status of the targum and was circulated widely in Jewish communities throughout the world. Some scholars now theorize that, although not descended from the "Proto-Palestinian Targum," Targum Onkelos was originally composed in the Land of Israel in the second century c.e. and subsequently transferred to the Jewish centers in Babylon, where its Aramaic underwent a process of "easternization." Attributed to Onkelos, reputed nephew of the Roman emperor Hadrian and a convert to Judaism; the name is probably a corruption of Aquila. Onkelos translates the Torah in comparatively literal fashion, though frequently diverging from the literal in order to avoid anthropomorphisms or for other doctrinal reasons or when translating songs or highly metaphorical passages.
Targum (pseudo)-Jonathan (Yonatan)
Because of a (relatively late) misunderstanding, this targum was for a while wrongly attributed to Jonathan b. Uzziel (first centuries b.c.e.–c.e.); its present scholarly name reflects the consensus that it is not Jonathan's targum but an anonymous compilation (it is sometimes also called Targum Yerushalmi 1). This targum apparently took shape over a long period of time: while it is clearly related to the other Palestinian targums, it likewise has obvious affinities to Targum Onkelos, so that it might best be described as a hybrid of these two traditions to which a great deal of further material from rabbinic midrash has been added. For this reason, assigning any date to this work is likely to be misleading. There is little doubt that, despite the few, obvious post-Islamic references found in it, Pseudo-Jonathan's, basis goes back far earlier. The final version of this Targum may have been composed around the eighth century, though it includes materials from much earlier times. An unofficial free Aramaic translation of the Torah, erroneously ascribed to Jonathan ben Uzziel through misinterpretation of the initials "T.J." (= Jerusalem Targum). That scholar is the reputed author of the Targum to the Prophets.
Copyright © 2015 S.R.