Contradictions and Coherence in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan
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CitationZhakevich, Iosif J. 2016. Contradictions and Coherence in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe subject of this dissertation is the conception of congruity in the narrative of Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (Ps-J). A literary study of Ps-J reveals a two-part conundrum regarding congruity in the Targum. First, congruity seems to be disrupted with regard to the vertical dimension of the Targum, that is, between the Aramaic translation and its Hebrew Vorlage. This appearance of incongruity is considered below in the analysis of five cases of translation that seem to state in the Aramaic the exact opposite of what the corresponding passages state in the Hebrew. Second, congruity seems to be disrupted with regard to the horizontal dimension of the Targum, that is, within the literary boundaries of the Ps-J corpus itself. This appearance of incongruity is considered below in the analysis of twenty-two cases of contradiction that seem to emerge in the narrative as a result of the targumist’s interpretive translation and expansion of the text. On account of the apparent incongruities, two interrelated questions arise: As regards the vertical dimension, does Ps-J preserve continuity with its Hebrew Vorlage? As regards the horizontal dimension, does Ps-J itself render a coherent narrative?
Addressing this query, the present dissertation offers a contribution to the study of Ps-J, and to the study of ancient Jewish literature in general, by analyzing a broad variety of passages that within the surface structure seem to disrupt narratival congruity, and, moreover, by demonstrating how these passages ultimately prove to be congruous once the targumist’s presuppositions about the narrative are taken into consideration. This dissertation hopes to show that the targumist approached the Hebrew text with a particular set of assumptions, as regards both his exegetical reading of each passage and his knowledge of interpretive tradition associated with the respective passage. These assumptions, while not always obvious, are, nevertheless, discernible in the targumic text; and it is these assumptions that carry the underlying congruity of the text that may otherwise seem fractured. Inasmuch as targumic additions are often terse, they are, in effect, often difficult to reconcile at first sight with the Hebrew Vorlage and with the broader context of the Ps-J narrative. Attention to the targumist’s assumptions, therefore, is necessary to discern the manner in which the apparently discrepant passages hang together.
The presence of apparent contradictions in Ps-J also implies two characteristics about the targumist himself. First, while the targumist exegeted the Hebrew text and sought to bring clarity to ambiguity in the biblical narrative, he nevertheless had high tolerance of and exercised patience toward literary tension in the surface structure of the Aramaic text, but, to be sure, tension that is ultimately brought to resolution in the light of the targumist’s assumptions about the text. Second, the targumist maintained certain readerly expectations of his audience: he expected his audience to be able to follow his interpretive approach to the text in order to ascertain the sense of the translated and expanded text and to discern the overall coherence and logical consistency of the narrative.
Reckoning with these aspects of Ps-J, this study shows how a coherent synchronic reading of a difficult narrative is possible and, indeed, necessary for a better understanding of the literary nature of an early Jewish text as well as for the understanding of the encounter a text such as Ps-J provided for its audience.
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