Correcting my limitless lack of knowledge, one post at a time.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Another case of Finnegans Wake having gotten the better of me. Here's the sentence:
The quad gospellers may own the targum but any of the Zingari shoolerim may pick a peck of kindlings yet from the sack of auld hensyne.
As may be clear, with Joyce, you tend to rather seize upon the things that you think you may have a slight clue on, which in the case of 'targum' isn't saying all that much.
I did have a sense that 'targum' has a connection to Jewish teachings, probably commentary of some sort. We did discover that this was more or less right, but the most precise definition already eludes me, so I'll look it up again in a moment.
Here's the thing, though. Somehow, I have the idea in my head that the targum goes back to these little pieces of parchment or sheepskin or something that were then pasted together or glued in--I don't know. So my real curiosity here is, first, did I make that up out of whole cloth--or maybe sheepskin--and second, what is the origin of the word, since I am most likely totally wrong?
...Okay--whole cloth. What targums really are are translations, or at least explanations of Hebrew scriptures to those who had lost facility in the original language. They came into being in Jewish communities existing within larger communities where the lingua franca was Aramaic, and where people might use Hebrew only in worship. You can find a much deeper discussion of all this here. I am sorry to say it has nothing to do with sheepskin.