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Josephus: Henry Leeming: Josephus’ Jewish War and Its Slavonic Version: A Synoptic Comparison (2003) “This volume presents in English translation the Slavonic version of Josephus Flavius’ “Jewish War, long inaccessible to Anglophone readers, according to N.A. Materskej‘s scholarly edition, together with his erudite and wide-ranging study of literary, historical and philological aspects of the work, a textological apparatus and commentary. The synoptic layout of the Slavonic and Greek versions in parallel columns enables the reader to compare their content in detail. It will be seen that the divergences are far more extensive than those indicated hitherto.”

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Die Zerstörung des Tempels von Jerusalem – Francesco Hayez (1867)


The word “targum” refers to translations of the Bible into Jewish Aramaic. In the post-exilic period, Aramaic began to be widely spoken in the Jewish community alongside the native language, Hebrew. Eventually Aramaic replaced Hebrew for most purposes, and the Bible itself required translation into the more widely familiar vernacular language. Thus the Targum was born. The Mishnah, the codified form of Jewish oral tradition, set down detailed rules for the turgeman, the reciter of Targum, to follow in the synagogue service.

The earliest known targums are texts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, most notably the Job Targum from Cave 11, although these documents were probably not used in worship. The Targums that were used in rabbinic Judaism are the following:

Targum Onkelos: Ascribed by tradition to the proselyte Onkelos, this translation, which covers the Torah or Pentateuch, is considered to be the oldest and it is the most widely used of all the Jewish targums. It most likely originated in Palestine in the first few centuries CE, but was transmitted and edited in the East, among the Jews of Babylonia. In the Babylonian Talmud it is referred to as “our Targum.”

Targum Jonathan: As with Onkelos, some traditions ascribe this targum to Jonathan ben Uzziel, a pupil of Hillel, and, like Onkelos, it probably originated in Palestine in the early centuries CE. Targum Jonathan contains renderings of the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets).

The Palestinian Targums: While Onkelos and Jonathan were used mainly in the East, a distinctively Palestinian targum, covering the Torah only, was composed and used in the West. The two complete versions of the Palestinian targum that survive are Targum Neofiti, a complete codex that was only discovered in 1956 in the Vatican Library; and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, which is extant in only one manuscript from the British Museum. (This Targum is known as “Pseudo-Jonathan,” because a common abbreviation for it in the medieval period — TY, for Targum Yerushalmi, or Jerusalem Targum — was incorrectly read as “Targum Yonatan.”) Incomplete versions of the Palestinian Targum survive, known as the Fragment-Targum and other fragmentary witnesses have been discovered in the Cairo Geniza.

Targums to the Writings: The latest of the rabbinic targums are those to the Writings, the third division of the Hebrew Bible. Judging by the dialect of Aramaic, they were composed at different times and places. The Targum of JobTargum of Psalms, and Targum of Chronicles are all similar in language to the Pseudo-Jonathan Targum. The Targums to the Five Megilloth (Festival Scrolls) — Ruth, Esther, Song of Songs, Lamentations, and Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) — all contain long interpretive additions. The Targum of Proverbs may be the latest of all; parts of it were copied from the translation of Proverbs found in the Syriac Peshitta. There are no targums of Ezra, Nehemiah, or Daniel.

The targums are important to biblical scholars for several reasons. They are a witness to the Hebrew Bible text as it existed in the first few centuries CE, and references to them are frequent in the apparatus of the Biblia Hebraica. Since it was characteristic of their method sometimes to add interpretive or folkloric material to the translation or paraphrase, many of the targums preserve valuable information about Jewish theology, practice, and interpretation of Scripture from the early centuries of the Christian era. For linguists, the targums serve as an important source for the Aramaic dialects.



“The Mishnah is the Written-Down Oral Law. The Gemarra is the major discussion of the Mishnah. Mishnah + Gemarra = Talmud.   The Babylonian Talmud was probably finished in the mid eighth century of the Common Era. It shows primarily the thoughts and beliefs of certain Jewish leaders and creators-of-legal material in Babylonia from around 200 CE to 500 CE. “ (JewishGates.org)

Historical Jewish Sources
Mishnah:  Judaism’s First Major Canonical Document Following Torah

 Torah – Or “TaNaKh”, an acronym denoting these three sections:
    –  Torah (Teaching)
–  Nevi’im (Prophets) –  Former (Deuteronomic Code); Latter (Literary)
– Ketuvim (Writings) Canonical Collection From Post-Prophetic Age
 Talmud – Documents that Comment and Expand Upon Mishnah
– Mishnah 1st-2nd Century Rabbinic Study Book of Laws/Values
– Gamara (Agadah – Tales and Morals ; Halacha – Code of Jewish Law)
          – Babylonian (“Bavli”) Gemara (200-600)
– Palestinian (“Yerushalmi”) Gemara (200-500)

 Midrash Exegetical Interpretation of the Torah’s Text
– Halakhah – Interpreting Law and Religious Practice
– Aggadah – Biblical Narrative ; Ethics, Theology, Homily (200-1000)
 Targums – Translations of the Bible into Jewish Aramaic
 Dead Sea Scrolls – Collection of Materials Found in Judean Desert
 Josephus – One of World’s All-Time Greatest Non-Biblical Historians
 Apocalyptic Genre – “Turn of Era” Lit. Exploring Eschatological Salvation
 Liturgical Texts – Routine Prayers Said Spontaneously
 Reference Works – Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Concordances

Primer: Midrash

Midrash is an interpretive act, seeking the answers to religious questions (both practical and theological) by plumbing the meaning of the words of the Torah. (In the Bible, the root d-r-sh is used to mean inquiring into any matter, including occasionally to seek out God’s word.) Midrash responds to contemporary problems and crafts new stories, making connections between new Jewish realities and the unchanging biblical text.

Midrash falls into two categories. When the subject is law and religious practice (halakhah), it is called midrash halakhah. Midrash aggadah, on the other hand, interprets biblical narrative, exploring questions of ethics or theology, or creating homilies and parables based on the text. (Aggadah means”telling”; any midrash which is not halakhic falls into this category.)

Midrash Halakhah: It is often difficult to determine, simply from reading the biblical text, what Jewish law would be in practice. The text of the Torah is often general or ambiguous when presenting laws. Midrash halakhah attempts to clarify or extend a law beyond the conditions assumed in the Bible, and to make connections between current practice and the biblical text. It made possible the creation and acceptance of new liturgies and rituals which de facto replaced sacrificial worship after the fall of the Second Temple, and the maintenance of continuity by linking those practices to the words of the Torah.

Midrash halakhah from the two centuries following the fall of the Temple was collected in three books–the Mekhilta on Exodus, the Sifra on Leviticus, and the Sifrei on Numbers and Deuteronomy–known as the tannaitic midrashim.(The tannaim were the rabbis from the time of the Mishnah, edited in approximately 200 C.E.)

Midrash Aggadah: The type of midrash most commonly referred to (as in, “There is a midrash which says…”) is from the collections of midrash aggadah, most of which were compiled between about 200 and 1000 C.E. (Many midrashim circulated orally before then). Midrash aggadah may begin its exploration with any word or verse in the Bible. There are many different methods of interpretation and exposition.

Written by rabbis both steeped in Bible and absorbed by the Jewish questions of their time, works of midrash aggadah often occupy the meeting ground between reverence and love for the wording of the fixed text of the Torah, and theological creativity. Midrashic writings thus often yield religious insights that have made Torah directly applicable to later Jewish realities, especially the concerns of its authors. Some of what midrash aggadah yields is insight into the burning, sometimes time-bound questions of those who wrote it,. Still, the interpretations produced often have more universal and timeless application to our, or any, generation.

In addition to works devoted to midrashic compilations, midrash aggadah also appears throughout the two Talmuds. Midrash Rabbah, the “Great Midrash,” is the name of the collections linked to the five books of the Torah and the “Five Scrolls” (Esther, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes) read on holidays. Some of these works read like verse-by-verse commentaries. Others may have originated in sermons linked to the weekly Shabbat Torah reading.” (source: myjewishlearning.com)

Ruth 2:14 in the Midrash Rabbah it states:

He is speaking of the King Messiah: “Come hither” draw near to the throne “and dip thy morsel in the vinegar,” this refers to the chastisements, as it is said, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.”


Pesikta de-Rab Kahana (A collection of discourses for special Sabbaths and festival days compiled and organized during the fifth century)
“God beginning to make a Covenant with him (the Messias) thus bespake him.  Those whose iniquities are hid with you, will put you into an iron yoke, with which they’ll make you like an heifer almost blind with labour, and strangle you ; for the cause of their iniquities your Tongue shall cleave (with grief and drought) to the rook of your Mouth.  Do such things as these like you?  To which the Messias answers, Perhaps those afflictions and sorrows may last for many years. God tells him, That he had decreed him to suffer them for a whole week of years, but if he did not consent thereto he would presently remove thee.  To whom the Messias returns, That he would most willingly undergo them upon condition that not one Israelite should perish, but that all of them should undergo them upon condition that not one Israelite should perish, but that all of them should be saved.  Those who lived and dyed in his days, those who were hid in the Earth, those who were dead since Adam, even all embryo’s and untimely births, finally all who had been or should be created.”  (Quoted in Jalkut on Isa. LX.1., Translated by J. Lightfoot)

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