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BODOR Attila

The Theological Profile of the Peshitta of Isaiah. A Study of the Interpretative Readings

Mod.: R.P. Craig MORRISON, O.Carm.

This study explores the “theological profile” of the Peshitta translation of Isaiah (P-Isa). The notion of a theological profile is borrowed from Michael P. Weitzman and it refers to the interpretative divergences from the Hebrew source text that imply a particular theological view. After providing a review of the previous research and the methodology for the present investigation (Chapter 1), the study focuses on these P-Isa renderings. The body of the dissertation studies how P-Isa presents three significant figures in the book of Isaiah: God (Chapter 2), the Messiah (Chapter 3), and the people of Judah and Israel (Chapter 4).

The way in which P-Isa portrays God differs from that of the Hebrew source text by both highlighting and circumventing certain characteristics of the deity. On the one hand, P-Isa emphasises two divine features better than its Hebrew exemplar: God is the “mighty one” and the “sustainer” / “helper”. On the other hand, P-Isa usually circumvents the affirmation that appears to jeopardise the coherency and consistency of the representation of God. These P-Isa interpretative renderings often reflect the concerns of Second Temple Judaism, occasionally shared by both the LXX and Targum translations.
P-Isa also witnesses to how the Syriac-speaking community perceived and received the concept of messianism at the turn of the first century CE. In general, the P interpretative readings serve to make more explicit the messianic character of different passages, but this is not their only impact. Each rendering which diverges from the Hebrew text entails a particular understanding that affects the interpretation of the single passages.

The P-Isa rendering also impacts on the representation of Judah and Israel which are used as synonyms in the book of Isaiah to refer to the people of God. It is shown that this people play a particular role in P-Isa: they guarantee the future renewal. The P translation also addresses two particular aspects of human life: drunkenness and haughtiness. Through various divergent renderings, P-Isa highlights the negativity of these sins more sharply than its Hebrew source text.
The study concludes by a brief Excursus (Chapter 5), addressing the question of the origin of P-Isa. It is argued that P-Isa originates from a Jewish milieu, but it is hard to indicate the religious tradition of the translator. P-Isa is a translation that interprets its source text according to the prevailing Jewish views, and thereby points to a Jewish background. The interpretative renderings do not offer significant details about the translator’s faith. The outcomes of this research are summarised in a brief conclusion (Chapter 6).

This investigation fills a lacuna in biblical research. Until now there have not been any monographs dedicated exclusively to the study of the theological and interpretative character of a Peshitta book. Furthermore, though P-Isa has often played a significant role in the debate on the origin of the Peshitta translation, a systematic analysis of the P-Isa interpretative renderings has been lacking.