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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Translator of the canonical Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek. He was by birth a Gentile from Pontus, and is said by Epiphanius to have been a connection by marriage of the emperor Hadrian and to have been appointed by him about the year 128 to an office concerned with the rebuilding of Jerusalem as "Ælia Capitolina." At some unknown age he joined the Christians, but afterward left them and became a proselyte to Judaism. According to Jerome he was a disciple of Rabbi Akiba. The Talmud states that he finished his translations under the influence of R. Akiba and that his other teachers were Eliezer ben Hyrcanus and Joshua ben Hananiah. It is certain, however, that Aquila's translation had appeared before the publication of Irenæus' "Adversus Hæreses" i.e. , before 177.
The work seems to have been entirely successful as regards the purpose for which it was intended (Jerome speaks of a second edition which embodied corrections by the author), and it was read by the Greek-speaking Jews even in the time of Justinian (Novella, 146). It was used intelligently and respectfully by great Christian scholars like Origen and Jerome, while controversialists of less merit and learning, such as the author of the "Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila" (published in 1898 by F. C. Conybeare), found it worth their while to accuse Aquila of anti-Christian bias, and to remind their Jewish adversaries of the superior antiquity of the Septuagint. But no manuscript until quite recently was known to have survived, and our acquaintance with the work came from the scattered fragments of Origen's "Hexapla." The reason of this is to be found in the Mohammedan conquests the need of a Greek version for Jews disappeared when Greek ceased to be the lingua franca of Egypt and the Levant.
Fragments in the "Hexapla."
The "Hexapla"—a colossal undertaking compiled by Origen (died about 254) with the object of correcting the text of the Septuagint—consisted of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Hebrew text in Greek letters, the Septuagint itself as revised by Origen, and the Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, all arranged in six parallel columns. With the exception of two recently discovered fragments of the Psalms, one coming from Milan, the other from Cairo,The Milan fragments, discovered by Dr. Mercati, are described by Ceriani in "Rendiconti del Real Istituto Lombardo di Scienze e Letteratura," 1896, series ii., vol. xxix. The Cairo fragment (now at Cambridge) was edited by Charles Taylor in 1901. the "Hexapla" itself is no longer extant, but a considerable number of extracts, including many readings from Aquila, are preserved in the form of marginal notes to certain manuscripts of the Septuagint. These have been carefully collected and edited in Field's great work ("Origenis Hexaplorum quæ Supersunt," Oxford, 1875), which still remains the chief source of information about Aquila's version.
Contrary to expectation, the readings of Aquila derived from the "Hexapla" can now be supplemented by fragmentary manuscripts of the translation itself. These were discovered in 1897, partly by F. C. Burkitt, among the mass of loose documents brought to Cambridge from the geniza of the Old Synagogue at Cairo through the enterprise of Dr. S. Schechter and Dr. C. Taylor, master of St. John's College, Cambridge. Three of the six leaves already found came from a codex of Kings ( i.e. , they probably formed part of a codex of the Former Prophets), and three came from a codex of the Psalms. The portions preserved are IKings xx 7-17 2Kings 23:11-27 (edited by F. C. Burkitt, 1897) Psalm 90:17 , 103:17 with some breaks (edited by Taylor, 1900). The numbering is that of the Hebrew Bible, not the Greek. The fragments do not bear the name of the translator, but the style of Aquila is too peculiar to be mistaken. The handwriting is a Greek uncial of the sixth century. Dr. Schechter assigns the later Hebrew writing to the eleventh century. All six leaves are palimpsests, and in places are somewhat difficult to decipher.
The special value of the Cairo manuscripts is that they permit a more just conception of the general effect of Aquila's version, where it agrees with the Septuagint as well as where it differs. It is now possible to study the rules of syntax followed by Aquila with far greater precision than before. At the same time the general result has been to confirm what the best authorities had already reported.
Character of Aquila's Version.
FRAGMENT OF AQUILA'S GREEK TRANSLATION OF II, KINGS (xxiii 15-19).V02p34a001.jpgA Palimpsest with Hebrew written over the GreeK, the Tetragrammaton is written in archaic Hebrew script.By permission of the Cambridge University Press .The main feature of Aquila's version is its excessive literalness. His chief aim was to render the Hebrew into Greek word for word, without any regard for Greek idiom. The same Greek word is regularly used for the same Hebrew, however incongruous the effect. Thus καί stands for ו in all its varied significations and, as καίγε is used for , wherever (i.e. , "and also") occurs, Aquila has καὶ καίγε. Similarly the preposition means "with," and is translated by Aquila σύν. Now is also used before the object of the verb when the object is defined, an idiom rendered by Aquila, where possible, by the Greek article, so that ὃς ἐξήμαρτεν τὸν Ιςραήλ stands for . But this can not be done where the Hebrew article and stand together, or where the object is a detached pronoun. Aquila follows here Nahum of Gimzo and R. Akiba, who insisted on the importance of particles, especially . In such cases he translates this also by σύν e.g. , καὶ ἀνόητος οὐ συνήσει σὺν ταύτην corresponds to (Psalm 92:7 ). Apparently σὺν is here meant for an adverb having the force of "therewith," or some such meaning, as it does not affect the case of the word that follows. Thus Aquila has È e ν κεφαλαίῳ ἔκτισεν ὁ θεὸς σὺν τὸν οὐρανὸυ καὶ σὺν τὴν γῆν (Genesis 1:1 ), but after a verb that naturally governs the dative one finds καὶ ἐνετείλατο ὁ βασιλεὺς σὺν παντὶ τῷ λαῷ (IIKings 23:21). Other characteristic examples of Aquila's methods are τῷ λήγειν for , and εἰς πρόσωπα for (Psalm 102:26 ).It will be noted that Aquila uses the Greek article somewhat freely to express ל in cases where εἰς can not stand.
The general effect of this pedantry may be seen from the following specimen (IIKings 23:25):
|Masoretic Text .||Aquila .|
|καὶ ὅμοιος αὐτῷ οὐκ ἐγενήθη εἰς πρόσωπον αὐτοῦβασιλεὺς|
|ὃς ἐπέστρεψεν πρὸς ἐν πάσῃ καρδίᾳ αὐτου|
|καὶ ἐν πάσῃ ψυχῇ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν πάσῃ σφοδρότητι A derivative of σφόδρα, "much," the regular rendering of the adverb .αὐτοῦ|
|—||κατὰ πάντα νόμον Mωσῆ|
|καὶ μετ' αὐτὸν οὐκ ἀνέστη ὅμοιος αὐτῶ|
It would be a mistake to put down the harshness of Aquila's translation to ignorance of Greek. He resorted to mere transliteration less than any other ancient translator, and had command of a large Greek vocabulary. Field (introduction, xxiii. et seq. ) has collected a number of expressions that show Aquila's acquaintance with Homer and Herodotus. It was no doubt from classical Greek literature that Aquila borrowed the use of the enclitic δε to express the toneless ה of locality for instance, νότονδε for (Genesis 12:9 ), Ωφειρδε for (IKings 22:49). The depth of his Hebrew knowledge is more open to question, if judged by modern standards. But it is the special merit of Aquila's renderings that they represent with great fidelity the state of Hebrew learning in his own day. "Aquila in a sense was not the sole and independent author of his version, its uncompromising literalism being the necessary outcome of his Jewish teacher's system of exegesis" (C. Taylor, in Burkitt's "Fragments of Aquila," p. vi.).
Illustrations of Aquila's dependence on Jewish tradition are to be found in the Ḳeri readings adopted by him e.g. , for , Genesis 30:11 , and the euphemism in Isaiah 36:12 . The scrupulous exactness with which Aquila translates the particles is to be explained by his having been a disciple of Akiba, whose method of exegesis was to lay great stress upon the meanings hidden in the lesser parts of speech. Instances are ὡς κατήντι αὐτου for , Genesis 2:18 and ἀπὸ ἐγκάτων σου for , Deuteronomy 4:3 . This scrupulosity may be contrasted with the Targumic freedom of Aquila's ἠπληστεύσατό μοι for Jeremiah 51:34 , where the metaphor that Nebuchadnezzar had "eaten" Jerusalem has been turned into prose.
1. Consonantal Text .—The extreme literalness of Aquila's methods enables the reader to restore with confidence the Hebrew from which he translated. There are a few instances where he preserves old readings found also in the Septuagint e.g. , for (Symmachus and Masoretic Text) in Ezekiel 27:16 , and for (Masoretic Text) in Zephaniah 3:18 . But as a rule he supports the ordinary Masoretic Text e.g. , ἡ προσβόλωσις στόματα in 1Samuel 13:21 implies as in the Masoretic Text, and κατεφήρετοκαὶ ἄρμα καὶ ἵππος in Psalm 76:7 agrees with the Masoretic Text against the better reading attested by the Septuagint. The numeration of the Psalms agrees with the Hebrew against the Greek in this article, therefore, Aquila is uniformly quoted by the Hebrew reckonings.
Vocalization and Interpretation.
2. Aquila represents a period in Jewish exegesis anterior to the Masoretic vocalization. Here priority in time does not invariably mean superiority of reading: where it is a question of knowledge of Hebrew rather than of purity of transmitted text, the later scholars often do better than their predecessors. Thus Aquila can hardly have been right in connecting in Habakkuk 1:10 with κλήος, or in taking in 2Kings 23:12 as the Hiphil of ("to run"). Aquila also has an unfortunate habit of dividing rare Hebrew words. into their real or imagined component parts e.g. , in Isaiah 18:1 he renders ("a rustling") by σκιὰ σκιά, and in 1Samuel 6:8 for of the Masoretic Text he has ἐν ὔφει κουρᾶς, as if he had read On the other hand, there is much to be said for his division of ( Exodus 32:25 ) into two words. ("for a name of filth") is read or implied by the Targum, by the Peshiṭta, and by Symmachus, as well as by Aquila (compare Isaiah 28:8,13 30:22 ). The Samaritan has . In Deuteronomy 33:2 Aquila has πῦρ δόγμα for .
It is interesting to note that Aquila does not agree with the Masoretic punctuation in pointing the names of heathen gods (e.g. , and , Amos 5:26 ) with the vowels of ("abomination").
Aquila's renderings of the Hebrew tenses are often most inadequate. It is only on grounds of imperfect knowledge that the aorists can be defended in passages like καὶ ἐπιβλυσμὸς ἀνήβη ἐκ τῆς γῆς καὺἐπότισε πᾶν τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς χθονός for in Genesis 2:6 . Examples of pedantic mistranslation such as this suggest that Old Hebrew was very imperfectly understood when Akiba revived philological study by his allegorizing exegesis of the particles.
The transliterations of Hebrew words into Greek letters are of some interest as showing the pronunciation current in Palestine about the middle of the second century. The most noticeable points are the complete disappearance of all four gutturals and the representation of צ (in the Cairo fragment of the Psalms) by τ e.g. , τειών for . This feature reappears in the names of the Hebrew letters attached to the Book of Lamentations by the original scribe of "Cod. Vaticanus (B)." It may be conjectured that the scribe of the Vatican MS. took them through the "Hexapla" from Aquila's version. In some points Aquila agrees rather with the New Testament than with the older forms found in the Septuagint e.g. , for he has Βηθήλ, not Βαιθήλ (compare Βηθανία in the New Testament). In Ezekiel 30:17 , where the Septuagint has Ηλίου πόλεως, Aquila has Ωυ for , but Symmachus and Theodotion have Αυν.
Aquila's translation occupied one of the columns of Origen's "Hexapla," and so was accessible to Christian scholars. Very considerable use of it was made by Jerome in preparing the Latin version now known as the Vulgate, though (as we might expect) the more pedantic features are dropped in borrowing. Thus in Exodus 32:25 Jerome's propter ignominiam sordis comes from Aquila's εἰς ὄνομα ῥύπου ( ), and for "Selah" in the Psalms his semper follows Aquila's ἀεὶ.
Original Text of the Septuagint.
More important for modern scholars is the use made of Aquila's version in Origen's revision of the Septuagint. The literary sources of the Latin Vulgate are merely a point of Biblical archeology, but the recovery of the original text of the Septuagint is the great practical task which now lies before the textual critic of the Old Testament. Recent investigation has made it clear that Origen's efforts to emend the Greek from the Hebrew were only too successful, and that every known text and recension of the Septuagint except the scanty fragments of the Old Latin have been influenced by the Hexaplar revision. One must learn how to detect Origen's hand and to collect and restore the original readings, before the Septuagint is in a fit state to be critically used in emending the Hebrew. The discussion of this subject belongs rather to the criticism of the "Hexapla" than to a separate article on Aquila. It will suffice here to point out that Aquila's version is one of the three sources by the aid of which the current texts of the Septuagint have been irregularly revised into conformity with a Hebrew text like that of our printed Bibles. For the association of the Targum of the Pentateuch with his name see
—In Rabbinical Literature:
"Aquila the Proselyte" () and his work are familiar to the Talmudic-Midrashic literature. While "the Seventy" and their production are almost completely ignored by rabbinical sources, Aquila is a favorite personage in Jewish tradition and legend. As historical, the following may be considered. "Aquila the Proselyte translated the Torah (that is, the whole of Scripture compare Blau, "Zur Einleitung in die Heilige Schrift," pp. 16,17) in the presence of R. Eliezer and R. Joshua, who praised him and said, in the words of Psalm 45:3 [A. 5:2], 'Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.'" This contains a play upon the Hebrew word "Yafyafita" (Thou art fairer) and the common designation of Greek as "the language of Japhet" (Yer. Meg. 1:71 c ). In another place similar mention is made that Aquila announced his translation of the word in Leviticus 19:20 in the presence of R. Akiba (Yer. Ḳid. 1:59 a ). The parallel passage in the Babylonian Talmud to the first-cited passage (Meg. 3a ) shows that by "translated in the presence of" is to be understood "under the guidance of" consequently, Eliezer, Joshua, and Akiba must be regarded as the three authorities by whom Aquila governed himself. This agrees with what Jerome says (in his commentary on Isaiah 8:11 ) viz., that, according to Jewish tradition, Akiba was Aquila's teacher—a statement which was also borne out by the fact that Aquila carefully rendered the particle every time by the Greek σύν, the hermeneutical system first closely carried out by Akiba, although not original with him (B. Ḳ. 41b ). This would place Aquila's period at about 100-130, when the three tannaim. in question flourished.
This accords with the date which Epiphanius ("De Ponderibus et Mensuris, " chap. xiii-xvi. ed. Migne, 2:259-264) gives when he places the composition of Aquila's translation in the twelfth year of Hadrian (129). A certain Aquila of Pontus is mentioned in a tannaite source (Sifra, Behar 1:1 [ed. Weiss, 106b ed. Warsaw, 102 a ]). And, seeing that Irenæus (l.c. 3:21) and Epiphanius ( l.c. ) agree that Aquila came from that place, it is quite probable that the reference is to the celebrated Aquila, although the usual epithet, "the Proselyte," is missing. Aquila of Pontus is mentioned three times in the New Testament (Acts 18:2 Romans 16:3 2Timothy 4:19 ), which is only a mere coincidence, as the name "Aquila" was no doubt quite common among the Jews, and a haggadist bearing it is mentioned in Gen. R. 1:12 . Zunz, however, identifies the latter with the Bible translator. Friedmann's suggestion that in the Sifra passage a place in the Lebanon called "Pontus" is intended has been completely refuted by Rosenthal ("Monatsschrift," 41:93).
Relation to Onkelos.
A more difficult question to answer is the relationship of Aquila to the "proselyte Onkelos," of whom the Babylonian Talmud and the Tosefta have much to relate. There is, of course, no doubt that these names have been repeatedly interchanged. The large majority of modern scholars consider the appellation "Targum of Onkelos," as applied to the Targum of the Pentateuch, as a confusion (originating among the Babylonians) of the current Aramaic version (attributed by them to Onkelos) with the Greek one of Aquila. But it will not do simply to transfer everything that is narrated of Onkelos to Aquila, seeing that in the Tosefta (see index to Zuckermandel's edition) mention is made of the relation of Onkelos to Gamaliel, who (if Gamaliel II. is meant) died shortly after the accession of Hadrian, while it is particularly with the relations between the pious proselyte and the emperor Hadrian that the Haggadah delights to deal. It is said that the emperor once asked the former to prove that the world depends, as the Jews maintain, upon spirit. In demonstration Aquila caused several camels to be brought and made them kneel and rise repeatedly before the emperor. He then had them choked, when, of course, they could not rise. "How can they rise?" the emperor asked. "They are choked." "But they only need a little air, a little spirit," was Aquila's reply, proving that life is not material (Yer. Haggai 2 V. beginning 77 a Tan., Bereshit, ed. Vienna, 3 b ).
Concerning Aquila's conversion to Judaism, legend has the following to say: Aquila was the son of Hadrian's sister. Always strongly inclined to Judaism, he yet feared to embrace it openly in the emperor's proximity. He, therefore, obtained permission from his uncle to undertake commercial journeys abroad, not so much for the sake of profit as in order to see men and countries, receiving from him the parting advice to invest in anything the value of which was temporarily depreciated, as in all probability it would rise again. Aquila went to Palestine, and devoted himself so strenuously to the study of the Torah that both R. Eliezer and R. Joshua noticed his worn appearance, and were surprised at the evident earnestness of the questions he put to them concerning Jewish law. On returning to Hadrian he confessed his zealous study of Israel's Torah and his adoption of the faith, surprising the emperor, however, by stating that this step had been taken upon his, the emperor's, advice. "For," said he, "I have found nothing so deeply neglected and held in such depreciation as the Law and Israel but both, no doubt, will rise again as Isaiah has predicted" (Isaiah 49:7 , "Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship"). Upon Hadrian's inquiry why he embraced Judaism, Aquila replied that he desired very much to learn the Torah, and that he could not do this without entering the Abrahamic covenant: just as no soldier could draw his pay without bearing arms, no one could study the Torah thoroughly without obeying the Jewish laws (Tan., Mishpaṭim, V. ed. Buber, with a few variations, 2:81,82 Ex. R. 30:12 ). The last point of this legend is no doubt directed against Christianity, which acknowledges the Law, but refuses obedience to it, and is of all the more interest if taken in connection with Christian legends concerning Aquila. Epiphanius, for instance, relates that Aquila was by birth a Greek from Sinope in Pontus, and a relation (πενθερίδες) of Hadrian, who sent him, forty-seven years after the destruction of the Temple (that Isaiah 117 , the year of Hadrian's accession) to Jerusalem to superintend the rebuilding of that city under the name of "Ælia Capitolina," where he became first a Christian and then a Jew (see
A reflection of the alleged adoption of Christianity by Aquila, as related by Epiphanius, may be discerned in the following legend of the Babylonian Talmud in reference to the proselyte Onkelos, nephew of Titus on his sister's side. According to this, Onkelos called up the shade of his uncle, then that of the prophet Balaam, and asked their counsel as to whether he should become a Jew. The former advised against it, as the Jews had so many laws. and ceremonies the latter, with characteristic spitefulness, replied in the words of Scripture, "Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity" (Deuteronomy 23:7 [A. 5:6]). He then conjured up the founder of the Church, who replied, "Seek theirpeace, seek not their harm he who assails them touches the apple of God's eye." These words induced him to become a Jew (Giṭ. 56 b , 57a ). The founder of the Church (according to the Jewish legend) and the mother-church in Jerusalem (according to the Christian version) were the means of Aquila's becoming a Jew.
The traces of the legend concerning Flavius Clemens, current alike among Jews and Christians, seem to have exerted some influence upon this Onkelos-Aquila tradition but Lagarde goes so far as to explain Sinope in Pontus as being "Sinuessa in Pontia," where Dimitilla, the wife of Flavius Clemens, lived in exile. Irenæus, who wrote before 177, states that Pontus was Aquila's home. It is very questionable whether the account of Aquila in the Clementine writings ("Recognitiones," 7:32,33)—an imperial prince who first embraced Judaism, and then, after all manner of vagaries, Christianity—was merely a Christian form of the Aquila legend, although Lagarde supports the assumption. The following Midrash deserves notice: Aquila is said to have asked R. Eliezer why, if circumcision were so important, it had not been included in the Ten Commandments (Pesiḳ. R. 23:116b et seq. Tan., Lek Leka, end ed. Vienna, 20 b , reads quite erroneously "Agrippa" in place of "Aquila"), a question frequently encountered in Christian polemic literature. That Aquila's conversion to Judaism was a gradual one appears from the question he addressed to Rabbi Eliezer: "Is the whole reward of a proselyte to consist in receiving food and raiment?" (see Deuteronomy 10:18 ). The latter angrily answered that what had been sufficient for the patriarch Jacob (Genesis 28:20 ) should be sufficient for Aquila. When Aquila put the same question to Rabbi Joshua, the latter reassured him by expounding "food and raiment" as meaning metaphorically "Torah and ṭallit." Had not Joshua been so gentle, the Midrash adds, Aquila would have forsaken Judaism (Eccl. R. to 7:8 Gen. R. 70:5 Ex. R. 19:4 , abbreviated). The purport of this legend is to show that at the time Aquila had not been firmly convinced.
His work is less familiar in Rabbinical Literature than his personality for not more than a dozen quotations from his translation are mentioned. The following are interesting evidences of its general character. He translates , the name of God, by ἄξιος καὶ ἱκανός, "w
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Aquila (Βλώμβσ)'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/a/aquila-.html. 1901.