When He Comes, Will He Build It? Temple, Messiah and Targum Jonathan

in Aramaic Studies
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In exploring the possibility that ancient Judaism included an expectation that a Messiah would build the Temple, scholarship has been drawn to passages in Targum Jonathan which have been seen by some to evidence such an anticipation. The analysis of these passages offered in the present study suggests that while TgJon was exegetically interested in those ‘Anointed Ones’ whom the Hebrew tradition had expected to build the First and Second Temples, its translation manifests no contemporary expectation of a Messiah who would build a new Temple in the meturgeman’s own time or the world to come.

When He Comes, Will He Build It? Temple, Messiah and Targum Jonathan

in Aramaic Studies



L. GastonNo Stone on Another: Studies in the Significance of the Fall of Jerusalem in the Synoptic Gospels (NovTestSupps 23, Leiden: E.J. Brill1970) pp. 148–149.


S.H. LeveyThe Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation: The Messianic Exegesis of the Targum (Monographs of the Hebrew Union College 2, Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press1974) p. 31


For the former see D. JuelMessiah and Temple pp. 184 186–187; J. Ådna Jesu Stellung pp. 80–81; for the latter see L. Gaston No Stone p. 149.


Thus while D. JuelMessiah and Temple p. 187 is correct in understanding that the targumic interpretation makes clear that the actions of the Anointed One belong to the future this is nothing more than what the clearly prophetic character of the Hebrew assumes and cannot be taken as indicating the expectation of the building of an ‘eschatological temple’ (p. 184). This fact recognized by L. Gaston No Stone (p. 149) is seemingly also lost on J. Ådna Jesu Stellung p. 81 n. 202 whose criticism of the former is thus misguided.


While ÅdnaJesu Stellung p. 79 suggests that the Targum’s reading of “stone” as “Messiah” imposes a messianic interpretation which is entirely unsolicited by 4.7 the Hebrew text’s mention of Zerubbabel and the specific overtones of 4.8 make God’s revealing of his Messiah an obvious and indeed virtually inevitable interpretation for the meturgeman. (cf. also TgPs 118.22 where the rejected stone is interpreted in Davidic terms).


JuelMessiah and Temple pp. 182–183 186–197; Ådna Jesu Stellung pp. 81–86.


LeveyThe Messiah p. 80 n. 97 notes that “shepherd” becomes “leader” in TgEzek 34.23 while as Y.S. Chae Jesus as the Eschatological Davidic Shepherd: Studies in the Old Testament Second Temple Judaism and in the Gospel of Matthew. (Tübingen Germany: Mohr Siebeck 2006) pp. 153–154 notes that this same adjustment is found in 34.2 5 as part of the meturgeman’s overall approach of dissolving the pastoral metaphor of MT in Ezek. 34.


So eg. J. SkinnerThe Book of the Prophet Isaiah: Chapters XL–LXVI rev. ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1917) p. 63.


See JuelMessiah and Temple pp. 185–189; Ådna Jesu Stellung pp. 81–86.


So JuelMessiah and Temple p. 188; Ådna Jesu Stellung p. 81; and apparently Chester ‘The Sibyl’ p. 53.


JuelMessiah and Temple p. 187; Gaston’s assertion (No Stone p. 149 n. 1) that this is a gloss depends on H. Hegermann Jesaia 53 in Hexapla Targum und Peschitta (BFCT 2. Reihe 56. Band Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann 1954) p. 79 who in turn cites G. Dalman Aramäische Dialektproben (Leipzig: Hinrichs 1896) p. 10 n. 2 whose assertion is unsubstantiated.


So JuelMessiah and Temple p. 187.


J. ÅdnaJesu Stellung p. 77; The basic fidelity of the meturgeman to the MT of 2Sam 7 and the absence of a messianic interpretation has also been acknowledged by D. Juel Messiah and Temple p. 185 who nevertheless proceeds to suggest that the absence of a rejection of a messianic interpretation should be taken as evidence of its endorsement.


ChesterMessiah and Exaltation p. 354; Levey The Messiah p. 37.


Staalduine-SulmanSamuel p. 528 n. 369–370


Staalduine-SulmanSamuel pp. 528–529 notes that ‮בית‬ is missing from the Babylonian traditions (see MSS eb66 and eb76).


So A. Chester‘The Sibyl and the Temple’ p. 51 who sees this omission as ‘apparently deliberate’ and rightly denies that the text discloses the expectation of a messianic temple builder. Contrast the treatment by Juel Messiah and Temple pp. 172–179 whose argument that such an expectation is visible in the text is undermined when he omits to observe that 7.13a is itself omitted in the exegesis of 4QFlorilegium.


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