Sunday, March 24, 2013

An Ensign for the Nations II

Last week I discussed Isaiah 11:12 and the idea that the ensign could also be understood as a sign or miracle. As interesting as it is, the Septuagint does not have the most interesting take on Isaiah 11:12. That honor goes to the Aramaic, and not the Syriac version either (Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic), which is no more informative than the Septuagint. The more interesting reading belongs to the Targum Jonathan. This is a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic from around the time of Jesus. It is generally thought to preserve the folk understanding of the biblical text from Palestine in the first century A.D. The passage in question consists of three words:
wa-zqup 'at la-`amamaya'
One could translate this as "and a sign will be lifted up to the nations" but other understandings are possible. The term 'at has a slightly wider meaning than sign or miracle. In Genesis 1:14, the term is used for the constellations. The term can also be used for letter as a unit of writing, not as a synonym for epistle.

The verb zqap also means to crucify or to hang. And aleph-taw, the two letters used to write 'at are the first and last letters of the Aramaic alphabet. There is an Aramaic saying about going from aleph to tav meaning from beginning to end. The Greek equivalent would be alpha and omega. That provokes some interesting speculation, but not any that would not be appropriate for a Sunday.