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Rabbis, Language and Translation in Late Antiquity by Willem F. Smelik

Rabbis, Language and Translation in Late Antiquity


Rabbis, Language and Translation in Late Antiquity by Willem F. Smelik

Exposed to multiple languages as a result of annexation, migration, pilgrimage and its position on key trade routes, the Roman Palestine of Late Antiquity was a border area where Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic dialects were all in common use. This study analyses the way scriptural translation was perceived and practised by the rabbinic movement in this multilingual world. Drawing on a wide range of classical rabbinic sources, including unused manuscript materials, Willem F. Smelik traces developments in rabbinic thought and argues that foreign languages were deemed highly valuable for the lexical and semantic light they shed on the meanings of lexemes in the holy tongue. Key themes, such as the reception of translations of the Hebrew Scriptures, multilingualism in society, and rabbinic rules for translation, are discussed at length. This book will be invaluable for students of ancient Judaism, rabbinic studies, Old Testament studies, early Christianity and translation studies.


'A very extensive bibliography and two indices top off the book, which is bound to become the standard work on the rabbinic view on languages and translations.'
Lieve Teugels, Journal for the Study of Judaism

About the Author

Willem F. Smelik teaches in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London. He is the author of The Targum of Judges (1995).

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Book Info

Publication date

31st October 2013


Willem F. Smelik

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Cambridge University Press


591 pages





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