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L.a. Rabbi Joins Dublin Priest and Other Scholars in First English Translation of the Aramaic Bible

Father Martin McNamara, a Dublin priest whose aides include Rabbi Samson Levey of the Hebrew Union College here, has arranged for the first English translation in 16 volumes of all the Targums comprising the Aramaic Bible (Old Testament). Aramaic was the common language of the Jewish people in Palestine from the second century before the birth of Jesus.

McNamara, editorial director of the translation project, is scholar-teacher with the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Dublin. He has been on a sabbatical this summer doing research at the Claremont, Calif., Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center.

Levey is one of the three American Jews among leading Targumic scholars in the English-speaking work who have written books for the project. His book covers Ezekiel, on which he spent four years.

The scholars said their project is important because, unlike the Greek account, it is more than a mere literal translation of the Hebrew Bible. “In the Aramaic tex you find a lot of additional material because the scholars of that period, in their oral translations of the Hebrew into Aramaic, would add many interpretations and paraphrases,” they said.

Publication of the first books in the series, which include Levey’s Ezekiel, is scheduled for the fall by publisher Michael Glazier, Inc., of Wilmington, Del.