Targum Onkelos for Genesis 3:1a Reads Something

But I’m not completely sure what and I’m not completely sure what in the most important place for my current abnormal interest. What follows is rather technical and, worse, inconclusive. So unless your interests are extremely abnormal, use your time in a productive way. But please come back. Sometimes things are a little clearer and once in a while even interesting. This is just abnormal.
Sperber reads Targum Onkelos for Genesis 3:1a (without the Babylonian vocalization):

וחויא הוה ערים מכל חית ברא דעבד יוי אלהים

but has this in his apparatus, “1: ערים] חכים M”
I take this to mean that his principle source (Or. 2363 in the British Museum) reads ערים but that three sources (Biblia Hebraica, Lisbon 1491; Biblia Hebraica, Izar 1490 and Biblia Sacra Comlutensis, 1516.17) together designated M read חכים.
For what it’s worth and it isn’t worth very much, the online Mechon Mamre text for Targum Onkelos reads:

וְחִוְיָא הֲוָה חֲכִים מִכֹּל חַיַּת בָּרָא דַּעֲבַד יְיָ אֱלֹהִים

And the Targum Onkelos column in the בראשית volume of my old חמשה חומשי תורה reads:

וְחִוְיָא הֲוָה עָרִים מִכֹּל חַיַּת בָּרָא דַּעֲבַד יְיָ אֱלֹהִים

I hate text critical problems and this isn’t the only one in the phrase but it is the most vexing. For my purposes חכים is abnormally interesting but ערים is no more than slightly interesting. I cannot meaningfully use this in my argument for the semantic implications of ערום in Genesis 3:1a. Bummer! But it will find its way into a footnote.
Over a hundred years ago Barnstein, 66, knew of only one manuscript (Codex Montefiore # 502) that reads ערים and attributed חכים to all other manuscripts of which he was aware. This really doesn’t mean all that much but it is interesting. Barnstein also noted “We may compare [Genesis] 27, 35 where במרמה is rendered בחוכמא in the Trg.; but according to the Pathšegen חֲכִים is only applied to men.” Hmmm.
On a related topic: The Job Targum for Job 5:12 renders Hebrew ערום with Aramaic חכים. See Stec, 36*
While the construction of the phrase is quite different, the Old Syriac reading of the word in question is cognate with Sperber’s reading of ערים in Targum Onkelos.

Barnstein, Henry, The Targum of Onkelos to Genesis (London: David Nutt, 1896)
De Boer, P. A. H., ed., The Old Testament in Syriac, Accoring to the Peshitta Version, I/1, Genesis – Exodus (The Peshitta Institute; Leiden: Brill, 1977)
Sperber, Alexander, The Bible in Aramaic: Pentateuch According to Targum Onqelos I (Leiden: Brill, 1957)
Sperber, Alexander, The Bible in Aramaic: based on old manuscripts and printed texts, I-III (Leiden: Brill, 2004) [As far as this passage is concerned, this edition is exactly like the 1957 edition]
Stec, David M., The Text of the Targum of Job: An Introduction and Critical Edition (Arbeiten Zur Geschichte Des Antiken Judentums Und Des Urchristentums, 20; Brill Academic Publishers, 1994)

2 thoughts on “Targum Onkelos for Genesis 3:1a Reads Something”

  1. The word ערים is very rare in Aramaic, in fact this occurrence is the only one (si vera lectio) in Onkelos or Jonathan. The alternate word חכים is much more common (and is read by Neofiti and Pseudo-Jonathan). This suggests to me that ערים is original and that the rare word was replaced by more common one in some manuscripts. This happens a lot in textual transmission.

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