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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Names and Character of the Ancient Versions

The ancient versions of the Bible are referred to in a variety of ways by scholars. Following is a list, by language, of the chief versions (see also “Jewish Translations of the Bible,” pp. 2005–20).

Greek. The most prominent Greek version, and the oldest surviving translation of the Bible, is the Septuagint, which was translated for use of Greek‐speaking Jews who were living in the Diaspora in Alexandria, Egypt, and other places around the Mediterranean in the centuries after the conquests of Alexander the Great. The Septuagint, from a word meaning “seventy” because of a legend that seventy or seventyℐtwo scholars worked on it, is abbreviated LXX (the Roman numeral for seventy). Three later Greek versions—by Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion—were produced for the use of Jews after Christians had taken over the Septuagint and the increasing conflict between Jews and Christians about the interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures had led Jews to stop using the Septuagint. These versions are also sometimes used by translators, though none of them has survived in its entirety.

Aramaic. The Aramaic language was the official language of the Persian empire, and the Jews who lived under Persian domination spoke Aramaic, which eventually largely supplanted Hebrew as the ordinary language of Jews. Aramaic is a Semitic language, like Hebrew, and shares some vocabulary with it, but Aramaic speakers cannot easily understand Hebrew. It was therefore necessary to provide translations of the Bible for Aramaic speakers. Read aloud in liturgical contexts, after the Hebrew had been read (see Neh. 8.7 for an early example), these translations, called Targumim (sg. Targum), reflect a wide variety of translation styles (See “The Bible in the Synagogue,” pp. 1929–37 and “Jewish Translations of the Bible,” pp. 2005–20.) Some, like Targum Onkelos, are relatively literal, while others, like the Targumim of the Torah from the land of Israel, or the late Targum to Song of Songs, are much freer.

Syriac. The Syriac language is a form of Aramaic, and was spoken by Jews in northern Syria. The Peshitta (which means “simple,” that is, a plain translation) was prepared for the use of these Jews and later taken over by Syriac‐speaking Christians.

Latin. Two Latin translations are used by scholars. The first, the “Old Latin” version, was actually a Latin translationof the Septuagint and of the New Testament dating from before the 4th century CE. More useful is the Vulgate, the translation prepared in the 4th century by the great biblical scholar and early church father Jerome. Jerome worked directly from the Hebrew text of the time, and his version therefore can be helpful in determining how his Hebrew text might have read.

It cannot be emphasized sufficiently that textual criticism is as much an art as a science. For this reason, and because the Masoretic Text has been the favored Jewish text for the Bible for over a millennium (the consonantal basis for this text is clearly ancient—it is the predominant text‐type found at Qumran), the translators of the NJPS have based their translation on the MT. Yet the MT is not perfect, nor is it the only ancient reflection of the text that has come down to us. Therefore at times notes to the NJPS text and various annotations call attention to other possible ancient readings that deserve the reader's attention.

[ADELE BERLIN AND MARC ZVI BRETTLER]

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