The ‘Yemenite’ Recension in Western Manuscript

in Aramaic Studies
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‭It is well known that the various manuscripts of the Targumim of the Five Scrolls are divided into two primary families: a Western family, comprising manuscripts that were written in Europe and North Africa, and a Yemenite family, exclusively comprising manuscripts of Yemenite provenance. The present article challenges this sharp division by presenting a unique Western manuscript which has adopted a clear Yemenite recension for at least two Targumim of the Five Scrolls. A close comparison reveals unprecedented resemblance between the ‘Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurentiana, Plut. III.1’ manuscript and the Yemenite textual tradition. Various explanations have been proposed so far in order to determine the origin of the Yemenite version, but given the new evidence it seems preferable to assume that the emergence of the Yemenite recension did not take place in Yemenite or Babylonian regions, but rather in the West.‬




‭R.H. Melamed, ‘The Targum to Canticles according to Six Yemen Mss. Compared with the “Textus Receptus”’, JQR, 10 (1919–1920), pp. 377–410; 11 (1920–1921), pp. 1–20; 12 (1921–1922), pp. 57–117; see especially pp. 390–391.‬


‭P.S. Alexander, The Targum of Canticles, (The Aramaic Bible 17a; Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2002); idem, ‘Textual criticism and Rabbinic literature: the case of the Targum of the Song of Songs’, in P.S. Alexander and A. Samely (eds.), Artefact and Text: The Recreation of Jewish Literature in Medieval Hebrew Manuscripts (= Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 75.3 [1993]), pp. 159–174; C.A. Fontela, El Targum al Cantar des los Cantares (Edición Crítica), (Colección Tesis Doctorales, Madrid, 1987), pp. 134–151.‬


‭Van der Heide, The Yemenite Tradition, p. 1; see also P.S. Alexander, The Targum of Lamentations (The Aramaic Bible, 17B, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2007), pp. 5–11; C.M.M. Brady, Targum Lamentations’ Reading of the Book of Lamentations (unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Oxford, 1999), pp. 23–26; J.J.A. Sainz, Edición crítica del Targum de Lamentaciones segùn la tradición textual occidental (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 1990), pp. 67–73.‬


‭Van der Heide, The Yemenite Tradition, p. 24; Alexander, The Targum of Lamentations, pp. 6–7. Melamed, ‘The Targum to Canticles’, pp. 396–397, assumes that at least a portion of the expanded translation in Western manuscripts are an outcome of a later hand.‬


‭Van der Heide, The Yemenite Tradition, p. 25.


‭E.G. Clarke, ‘Reflections on the Preparation of a Critical Edition of the Targum of Koheleth’, Textus 16 (1991), pp. 79–94 (87, 93).‬


‭Van der Heide, The Yemenite Tradition, p. 25 (n. 66). For direct reference to this claim and a different opinion, see D.R.G. Beattie, ‘The Yemenite Tradition of Targum Ruth’, JJS 41 (1990), pp. 49–56.‬


‭Van der Heide, The Yemenite Tradition, pp. 30, 77; Alexander, The Targum of Lamentations, p. 7; Díez Merino, ‘La tradición yemeni’, p. 305; There are a few additional verses omitted by a limited number of Yemenite manuscripts (3.5, 53, 61; 4.7), but these verses do appear in the Firenze Ms.‬


‭Alexander, The Targum of Lamentations, p. 8.


‭Abudraham, The Yemenite Tradition of Targum of Ruth, pp. 52–60.


‭Beattie, ‘The Yemenite Tradition of Targum Ruth’, p. 53 (n. 11).‬


‭P.S. Knobel, The Targum of Qohelet (The Aramaic Bible 15; Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1991).


‭Alexander, The Targum of Lamentations, pp. 13–15.


‭See S. Morag, Babylonian Aramaic: The Yemenite Tradition (in Hebrew; Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 1988), pp. 36; S. Goitein, The Yemenites: History, Communal Organization, Spiritual Life (in Hebrew; Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 1983), p. 54.‬


‭Van der Heide, The Yemenite Tradition, p. 4. He notes the ‘astonishing fact that five complete and three incomplete Yemenite manuscripts […] offer so many variants of such widely different natures. This result cannot but change (or at least adjust) the accepted picture of the reliability and grammatical consistency of the Yemenite tradition of the Targumim’. I came to similar conclusions in my study on the Yemenite Tradition of the TgRuth. Already, G. Dalman (Grammatik des Jüdisch-Palästinischen Aramäisch [Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 2nd edition, 1905], p. 80) commented that the vocalization system used in the Yemenite Targumic manuscripts of the Five Scrolls is an unstable system which includes several features that might indicate a lack of knowledge of Aramaic.‬


‭Van der Heide, The Yemenite Tradition, p. 2.


‭Van der Heide, The Yemenite Tradition, p. 36.


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