New Tsiyon Edition Targum Isaiah Reveals Theology of the 2nd Temple Synagogue

Targum Isaiah reveals theology of the 2nd Temple Synagogue. In anticipation of the coming Passover season, Zarach Publishing has released Tsiyon Edition Targum Isaiah in English with Parallel Jewish and Christian Texts, by Eliyahu ben David and Dawn.
By: Tsiyon Radio
March 16, 2012 - PRLog -- Most people assume that the teachings of major religions are the same today as they have always been, but this is not exactly true. Religious concepts have changed and evolved over time. Targum Isaiah, an Aramaic paraphrase of the Bible book of Isaiah, authored about 30 BCE, gives us a window into the ancient past, through which we can view mainstream teachings of the Second Temple Synagogue. Both Jewish and Christian readers have a stake in this material, since the first century period is historically important to both groups. However, to date, Targum study has been reserved mostly to the academic domain, due to inaccessibility of this material to the ordinary person. Now that has changed.

The development of the Targums relates to changes in language in the post-exile period. When the remnant Jews returned to Judea from the Babylonian Exile, Aramaic gradually became dominant as the colloquial language, while Hebrew declined, eventually becoming the language of the schools and of worship. To aid understanding of the predominantly Aramaic listeners, when a portion of the Tanakh (a/k/a/ “Old Testament”) was read on the Sabbath an explanatory paraphrase – a Targum – was offered with it. The Targums thus arose to make the Scriptures more understandable to the Aramaic speaking Jews just before and after the turn of the first century.

Targum Isaiah was authored by Jonathan ben Uzziel (not the same as Pseudo-Jonathan). According to the Jewish Encyclopedia Jonathan ben Uzziel was “Hillel's most distinguished pupil.” It is said that Jonathan ben Uzziel was so holy that birds that happened to fly over his head would die, apparently due to the force of his great piety. While such stories are fantastic, they demonstrate the high esteem in which Jonathan ben Uzziel is held in Judaism. Given this high esteem, it is not surprising that Targum Isaiah is considered to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. (Jewish Encyclopedia - Jonathan ben Uzziel - Suk. 28a; B. B. 134a)

The Targums paraphrase the Scriptures. A paraphrase expresses what is believed by the translator to be the meaning of a given passage. This meaning can vary considerably from the literal word-for-word translation of the verses. The theology of Jonathan ben Uzziel was molded according to the Hillel School that dominated the thinking of the Pharisees of first century Judea. Thus, Targum Isaiah is essentially a commentary on the Bible book of Isaiah from the perspective of the mainstream Hillel School of the first century BCE/CE period. It reveals the theology of that period and allows modern readers to compare the teachings of that era to the teachings they are familiar with today.

Unfortunately, most of us do not speak Aramaic, so cannot access this information in the original language. English versions are available but they typically cost one hundred dollars and more per volume, which is too expensive for many ordinary readers. Now, with the release of Tsiyon Edition Targum Isaiah In English with Parallel Jewish and Christian Texts this information is made available in English at the cost of an ordinary book. Finally, ordinary readers can access Targum Isaiah for themselves.

Tsiyon Edition Targum Isaiah In English with Parallel Jewish and Christian Texts is available at online retailers such as and others, and is also available at

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