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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Jonathan ben-Uzziel

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Jonathan ben-Uzziel,

the celebrated translator of the Hebrew prophetical writings into Chaldee, a disciple of Hillel I, one of the first of those thirty disciples of Hillel who, in the language of the Talmud, "were worthy to possess the power of stopping the sun like Joshua," flourished about B.C. 30. His expositions were especially on Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, a fanciful reason for which is given in the Talmud: "When the illuminating sun arose upon the dark passages of the prophets, through this translation, the length and breadth of Palestine were agitated, and everywhere the voice of God (קול בת ) or the voice of the people (vox populi vox dei) was heard asking, 'Who has disclosed these mysteries to the sons of men?' With great humility and becoming modesty Jonathan b.-Uzziel answered, 'I have disclosed the mysteries; but thou, O Lord, knowest that I have not done it to get glory for myself, or for the house of my father, but for thy glory's sake, that discussion might not increase in Israel'" (Megilla, 3, a). From these notices in the Talmud, it is manifest that Jonathan was only the Chaldee translator of the prophets; for it is distinctly declared in the last quoted passage that when Jonathan wished also to translate the Hagiographa (כתובים ), the same voice from heaven (בת קול ) emphatically forbade it (דיין ), because of the great Messianic mysteries contained therein (ביה קוֹ משיח דאית ), especially in the book of Daniel (comp. Rashi in loco). But tradition has also ascribed to him the paraphrase of the Pentateuch known under the name of Pseudo-Jonathan and the Targum of the five Megilloth.

The question of the authorship of the paraphrases will be treated in full in the article TARGUM (See TARGUM) (q.v.). We have room here only for a few points in the discussion, and will mainly speak of the work which is generally fastened upon him. Firstly, then, as to this Paraphrase on the Prophets (ואחרונים תרגים נביאים ראשנים ), which embraces Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets, its importance is not only great because it contains expositions of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, but mainly so because, dating, as it does, from a period when the Hebrew language gave place to the Aramaic dialect, and when ancient Jewish traditions and scriptural expositions were introduced in the paraphrases read during the divine services of the Jewish people, it contains very many ancient readings, which go far to explain many an obscure passage in the prophetical writings, and thus prevent false criticism and loose conjecture. A list of these various readings has been collected in the Hebrew annual entitled החלווֹ (Lemburg, 1852), 1, 109 sq. The paraphrase was first published in 1494, and afterwards with that of Onkelos on the Pentateuch (Venice). It is found in all the Rabbinic Bibles; also in Walton's Biblia Polygl. (2, 3, and 4), and in Buxtorf's Biblia Hebroea (Basle, 1720, 2-4), etc., with a Latin translation.

As to the other reputed writings of Jonathan, we have

(a) the Paraphrase on the Pentateuch (על התורה תרגום יונתן ); it is nothing more or less than a completed version of what is called the Jerusalem or Palestine Targum (תרגום ירושלמר ), which of itself is in reality only desultory glosses on Onkelos's paraphrase. This completed version was at first called Targum Jerusalem, after the fragment on which it was based, but afterwards it obtained the name of Targum Jonathan, by erroneously resolving the abbreviation ת 8י = ירושלמי תרגום into תרגים יהונתן . The additions to the work were probably not made prior to the seventh century. The work was first published in Venice 1590-91, with the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch, the paraphrase of Onkelos, the fragments of the Jerusalem glosses, the commentaries of Rashi and Jacob ben-Asher, then in Basle (1607), Hanau (1614), Amsterdam (1640), Prague (1646), etc., and has lately been printed, with a commentary, in the beautiful edition of the Pentateuch with the Rabbinic commentaries (Vienna, 1859). Explanations of it were also written by David b.-Jacob (Prague, 1609), Feiwel b.-David Secharja (Hanau, 1614), Mordecai Kremsier (Amsterdam, 1671); and it was translated into Latin by Chevallier, in Walton's Polyglot. An English translation was published by the late learned Wesleyan preacher, J.W. Etheridge (Lond. 1862, 2 vols. 8vo); but the masterly treatises on this Pseudo-Jonathan are by Seligsohn and Traub, and by Frankel, Zeitschr. f. d. relig. Int. d. Judenth. (1846), p. 100 sq. (comp. Seligsohn and Traub, in Frankel's Monatsschrift, Lpz. 1856, 6, 96-114, 138-149; Etheridge, Introd. to Jewish Lit. p. 195; Wiener, De Jonathanis in Pent. paraphrasi Chaldaica; Petermann, De duabus Pent. paraphrasibus Chaldaicis):

(b) the Paraphrase on the Five Megilloth. Some early critics have attributed this work to Mar Josef, of Sora (died 332), but of late it is assigned to a later period even than the paraphrase of the Pentateuch, and is considered simply a compilation from ancient materials made by several individuals. This version is generally published, together with the Hebrew text, in the Jewish editions of the Pentateuch, and is contained in all the Rabbinic Bibles. A rhymed version of the whole of this paraphrase was published by Jacob ben-Samuel, also called Koppelmann ben-Bonem (about 1584). A Latin version of it is given in Walton's Polyglot. Gill has given an English translation of the entire paraphrase on the Song of Songs (Comment. on the Song, 1728); and Dr. Ginsburg has lately translated the first chapter of the paraphrase of the Song (Comment. on the Song, p. 29 sq.), and the whole of Ecclesiastes (Comment. on Eccles. p. 503 sq.). Hebrew commentaries on this paraphrase have been written by Mordecai Lorca (Cracow, 1580) and Chajim Feiwel (Berlin, 1705). See also Bartolocci, Biblioth. Magna Rabbinica, 3, 788 sp.; Wolf, Biblioth. Hebroea, 2, 1159 sp.; Zunz, Die Gottesdientl. Vorträ ge d. Juden, p. 62 sq.; Geiger Urschrift u. Uebersetzungen d. Bibel; Jost, Geschichte d. Juden, 1, 269; Fü rst, Bibliotheca Judaica, 2, 105, 107; Kitto, Cyclop. Biblical Lit. 2, s.v.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Jonathan ben-Uzziel'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/jonathan-ben-uzziel.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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