Targum Onkelos

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Interlinear text of Hebrew Numbers 6.3–10 with Aramaic Targum Onkelos from the British Library.

Targum Onkelos (or Onqelos), תרגום אונקלוס‬, is the official eastern (Babylonian) targum (Aramaic translation) to the Torah. However, its early origins may have been western, in Israel. Its authorship is attributed to Onkelos, a famous convert to Judaism in Tannaic times (c. 35–120 CE).[citation needed]

According to Jewish tradition, the content of Targum Onkelos was originally conveyed by God to Moses at Mount Sinai. However, it was later forgotten by the masses, and rerecorded by Onkelos.[1]

Some identify this translation as the work of Aquila of Sinope in an Aramaic translation (Zvi Hirsch Chajes), or believe that the name "Onkelos" originally referred to Aquila but was applied in error to the Aramaic instead of the Greek translation. The translator is unique in that he avoids any type of personification. Samuel David Luzzatto suggests that the translation was originally meant for the "simple people". This view was strongly rebutted by Nathan Marcus Adler in his introduction to his commentary to Targum Onkelos Netinah La-Ger. In Talmudic times, and to this day in Yemenite Jewish communities, Targum Onkelos was recited by heart as a verse-by-verse translation alternately with the Hebrew verses of the Torah in the synagogue.

The Talmud states (Gemara Brachos 8a-8b) that "a person should complete his portions of scripture along with the community, reading the scripture twice and the targum once (Shnayim mikra ve-echad targum)." This passage is taken by many to refer to Targum Onkelos. This directive is codified in Jewish Law (Rambam Hilchos Tefilla Ch. 13:25; Tur & Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 285:1).

Hebrew text (right) and Aramaic Onkelos (left) in a Hebrew Bible dating from 1299 held by the Bodleian Library

In matters of Halakah, the targum entirely agrees with Rabbi Akiva's opinions. Some authors suggest that Akiva provided for a revised text of the essential base of Targum Onkelos.[2]



  1. ^ Talmud, Megillah 3a
  2. ^  Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "AKIBA BEN JOSEPH". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. , citing F. Rosenthal, Bet Talmud, ii. 280

External links[edit]

  • English Translation of Targum Onkelos at the Newsletter for Targumic and Cognate Studies - English translations by John Wesley Etheridge
  • Mechon Mamre has the entire Aramaic text of Targum Onkelos with vowels according to Yemenite manuscripts. The Targum appears as digital text in two different user-friendly versions: (1) The Aramaic targum text with vowels can be viewed in its entirety on its own, either book-by-book or chapter by chapter. (2) The Aramaic targum can be viewed verse-by-verse parallel to the Hebrew text, within files that contain one weekly portion (parshat ha-shavua) at a time. The index to both versions is here; there is also an older version without vowels.
  • Sefaria has the entire Aramaic text of Targum Onkelos, with some of it translated into English, and each verse hyperlinked to various other texts