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Ho, Ahuva


The Targum of Zephaniah. Manuscripts and Commentary.


Leiden-Boston: Brill 2009. XI, 460 S. gr.8° = Studies in the Aramaic Interpretation of Scripture, 7. Geb. EUR 152,00. ISBN 978-90-04-17180-0.


Hector M. Patmore

Ahuva Ho’s work, the first extended study dedicated exclusively to the Targum of the book of Zephaniah, is concerned with two separate problems: First, the pluriformity of and relationship between the extant textual witnesses to Targum Jonathan; and secondly, the techniques of translation and exegesis used in the Targum, and what these might tell us about the historical situation or theological concerns of the targumist.
Chapter 1 provides a general introduction to Targum Jonathan covering issues such as its nature and origins and providing an overview of some previous research on the text. H. also outlines her methodology. In Chapter 2 H. describes the 21 manuscripts exa­-min­ed in the study, providing codicological and other historical details (including transcriptions and translations of the colophons, where available). H. then proceeds to a comparison of the manu­-scripts. H. identifies common omissions, pluses, substitutions, and metathesis and on the basis of these criteria establishes the genealogical relationship between the texts (i. e. a stemma). Chapter 3 provides a verse-by-verse translation and commentary on the text, which highlights the Targum’s ideological or theological position as well as dealing with technical matters. A concluding chapter draws together the preceding material.
H.’s work makes a number of positive contribution to the study of Targum Jonathan. Her serious attempt to group the extant manuscripts into families based on textual features is a welcome and important step forward in the field of Targum Studies. Equally her approach to the extant textual witnesses, treating them as social artefacts rather than merely textual witnesses, represents a novel development. Particularly interesting too is H.’s attempt to map the declining comprehension of Aramaic and the declining role of Targum among Jewish communities by analysing the level of scribal competence exhibited in the manuscripts. This analysis is enriched by attention to developments within the vocalization systems found in the manuscripts.
There are nonetheless a number of areas of the thesis that are open to question.
H. gives no consideration to recent stemmatological studies on Targum Jonathan (e. g. Houtman, ›Textual Tradition of Targum Jonathan to Isaiah‹, in Borrás [ed.], Jewish Studies at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Brill, 1999, 145–53; Smelik, ›How to Grow a Tree‹, in Cook [ed.], Bible and Computer, Brill, 2002; etc.). Staalduine-Sul­man’s article (›Vowels in the Trees: The Role of Vocalisation in Stemmatology‹, Aramaic Studies 3.2, 2005, 215–240) may have helped clar­ify the place of vocalization within stemmatological research: H. does not make a clear distinction between variants in the consonants and variants in vocalization in her analysis.
The starting point of H.’s stemma analysis is a grouping of all the manuscripts into five major traditions. The basis upon which the manuscripts are grouped is not clear. The vocalization they carry apparently plays a role because Codex Reuchlinianus is placed in a separate ›Palestinian‹ category. This is somewhat misleading. Al­-though Codex Reuchlinianus carries a vocalization system that originated in Palestine (as a later development of the Tiberian system, Morag, ›The Vocalization of Codex Reuchlinianus‹, Journal of Semitic Studies IV.3, 1959, 216–237), the manuscript itself was almost certainly produced in Italy, so H.’s claim that it represents an »ancient Palestinian version of the Prophets in both Hebrew and Aramaic« [38] is misleading. Its vocalization no more reflects a Palestinian version ipso facto than those texts that contain the Tiberian vocalization do. This grouping is problematic in a fundamental way not only be­cause H.’s stemma analysis deals primarily with affinities and differences between manuscripts within each individual group, but more im­portantly because she repeatedly uses the attestation of a reading in Codex Reuchlinianus as an indication that the reading is of Pales­tinian origin and pre-dates the Babylonian redaction.
This leads to some surprising conclusions concerning the transmission history of Targum Jonathan. According to H., where certain European manuscripts and certain Yemenite manuscripts share common variants compared to the Yemenite manuscript Ms Or. 2211 of the British Museum these reflect a Palestinian text-form that predates the Babylonian redaction, suggesting that Targum Jonathan was transmitted to Europe before it was edited in Babylon [e. g. 72– and frequently]. On the contrary, such readings probably reflect variants post-dating the Babylonian redaction that have entered the text tradition reflected in Ms Or. 2211. Targum Jonathan may have reached parts of Europe via Pales­-tine, but this was only after the text had received its official redaction in the Babylonian Academies.
This problem stems from H.’s choice of Ms. Or. 2211 of the Brit­ish Library to serve as her base-text. Her claim that »in spite of harsh criticism … [t]he value of Ms V [i. e. Ms. Or. 2211] has been acknowledged by scholars« (2–3) is disingenuous (see for example the detailed review of Díez Macho, JSJ 6.2, esp. 225). Not only is it of tiberian-yemenite type, and therefore the value of its vocalization for H.’s purposes is to be questioned, but this manuscript contains a number of isolated readings (Barthélemy, Critique Textuelle de l’Ancien Testament. III. Ezechiel, Daniel, et les 12 Prophètes OBO 50.3, Fribourg, 1992, CCIX). Ribera Florit adopted Ms. Or. 1474 of the British Museum for his ›La versión aramaica del Profeta Sofonías‹ (Estudios Bíblicos 40, 1982, 127–158) on the grounds that preserves more of the Babylonian characteristics of the vocalization than Ms. Or. 2211 (as he explains in his ›La versión aramaica del profeta Ageo‹, Anuario de Filología 4 (1978), 290–291). Incidentally, H.’s own analysis puts Ms. Or. 1474 closer to the two Babylonian fragments [83]. The problem is not per se H.’s selection of Ms. Or. 2211, but her tendency to treat this manuscript as a reliable witness to the text that resulted from the Babylonian redaction.
In short, H.’s analysis of relationship between the manuscripts is plausible, but the conclusions she draws from this concerning the transmission history of Targum Jonathan are often not.
The argumentation that leads to the identification of historical allusions [420–423] is also in many places quite unconvincing. In some cases allusions are identified on the basis of readings unique to one manuscript or – in one case – on a textual emendation that is almost certainly incorrect [210.421]. In other cases they are simply implausible. For example, H. claims that the future tense »You, too, Cushites, shall be the slain of My sword« alludes to the invasion of Jerusalem by Ptolemy in 302 B. C. E., though this feature is really to be explained by a difficulty in the underlying Hebrew. In another case, H. suggests that the use of a singular noun (though only in some manuscripts!) in place of the plural of the MT, where the text is in any case obviously corrupted, alludes to Beitar, where the last stand of the Bar Kochba revolt took place [226.422].
The book contains some minor inaccuracies. I noticed the fol­-low­ing in the manuscript descriptions:
– Ms hébreu 75 (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale) is said to contain Onkelos, and Targum Jonathan to Kings, Jeremiah, and the Twelve (64). It also contains Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Isaiah, and Ezekiel.
– Marginal variants in Codex Reuchlinianus are said to be found under the heading ›another copy‹ (38). In fact there are seven sepa­-rate headings. The larger aggadic additions to which H. refers normally appear under the headings ›targum jerushalmi‹, ›another targum‹, or ›another book‹, as is clear in Bacher’s article, which H. cites.
– H. claims that it is a mark of distinction that Obadiah and Jonah begin a new leaf in Codex Reuchlinianus [38]. In fact, a new leaf is begun by pure coincidence.
– To her observation that Sperber had corrected errors in de Lagarde’s edition of Codex Reuchlinianus H. adds »We would add that the divine name is marked יי and not by יהוהי.« (39) This observation had already been made by Sperber in the work that H. cites (i. e. Sperber, Bible in Aramaic, IV B, The Targum and the Hebrew Bible, 18).
Despite these reservations, H.’s monograph makes a useful contribution to the field, in particular to the study of Targum Jonathan’s various textual traditions and to the decline in its usage and comprehension.