What is the Targum?

Question
What is the Targum? Please describe it.
Answer
The "targum" (derived from the early semitic quadriliteral root trgm, and the Akkadian word targummanu meaning, "interpreter," cf. the Hebrew word, "interpreted" (tirgam) in Ezra 4:7) was originally a spoken interpretation or explanation of the Jewish (OT) Scriptures (called the Tanakh). It is similar to a spoken commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, but originally written in Arabic.

These targumim (pl. of targum) were not meant to carry equal authority to the Word of God. Originally they weren't even suppose to be written to ensure no one would equate them with Old Testament Scripture. However, by the mid-first century, some were written down and even the spoken forms were considered authoritative earlier by many.

So, some rabbis put them on par with Scripture (cf. Mark 7:8). As Jesus stated:

... "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' But you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, "Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban"' (that is, given to God) - then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do" (Mark 7:9-13).

As one can clearly see, Jesus condemned putting the commandments of men above the Word of God. While commentaries, Bible notes, the apocrypha, the confessions, catechisms, and even some versions of the Bible may be accurate in some of their comments, they should never be placed above the original Scriptures (called the autographs). These other type writings are not inspired and therefore do not and should not carry the same authority to the reader. The Bible declares itself to be God-breathed, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative (2 Tim 3:15-17). Scripture is the highest and supreme authority on any matter on which it speaks (2 Pet. 1:19; cf. Col. 2:6-8).

Related Links:

What is Sola Scriptura vs. Tota Scriptura?
The Catholic Bible?
Apocrypha Accounts?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).