Ketuvim (/kətuːˈviːm, kəˈtuːvɪm/; Biblical Hebrew: כְּתוּבִים Kəṯûḇîm, "writings") is the third and final section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), after Torah (instruction) and Nevi'im (prophets). In English translations of the Hebrew Bible, this section is usually titled "Writings". Another name used for this section is Hagiographa.
Found among the Writings within the Hebrew scriptures, I and II Chronicles form one book, along with Ezra and Nehemiah which form a single unit entitled "Ezra–Nehemiah". (In citations by chapter and verse numbers, however, the Hebrew equivalents of "Nehemiah", "I Chronicles" and "II Chronicles" are used, as the system of chapter division was imported from Christian usage.) Collectively, eleven books are included in the Ketuvim.
In Masoretic manuscripts (and some printed editions), Psalms, Proverbs and Job are presented in a special two-column form emphasizing the parallel stichs in the verses, which are a function of their poetry. Collectively, these three books are known as Sifrei Emet (Biblical Hebrew: סִפְרֵי אֶמֶת sip̄rēi ʾemeṯ "documents of truth" - an acronym of the titles of the three books in Hebrew, איוב, משלי, תהלים yields אמ״ת Emet, which is also the Hebrew for "truth").
These three books are also the only ones in the Hebrew Bible with a special system of cantillation notes that are designed to emphasize parallel stichs within verses. However, the beginning and end of the book of Job are in the normal prose system.
The five relatively short books of Song of Songs, Book of Ruth, the Book of Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Book of Esther are collectively known as the Hamesh Megillot (Five Megillot). These are the latest books collected and designated as "authoritative" in the Jewish canon. These scrolls are traditionally read over the course of the year in many Jewish communities. The list below presents them in the order they are read in the synagogue on holidays, beginning with the Song of Solomon on Passover.
Besides the three poetic books and the five scrolls, the remaining books in Ketuvim are Daniel, Ezra–Nehemiah and Chronicles. Although there is no formal grouping for these books in the Jewish tradition, they nevertheless share a number of distinguishing characteristics:
The following list presents the books of Ketuvim in the order they appear in most printed editions. It also divides them into three subgroups based on the distinctiveness of Sifrei Emet and Hamesh Megillot.
The Jewish textual tradition never finalized the order of the books in Ketuvim. The Babylonian Talmud (Bava Batra 14b–15a) gives their order as Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Daniel, Scroll of Esther, Ezra, Chronicles.
In Tiberian Masoretic codices, including the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex, and often in old Spanish manuscripts as well, the order is Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations of Jeremiah, Esther, Daniel, Ezra.
The Ketuvim is the last of the three portions of the Tanakh to have been accepted as Biblical canon. There is no scholarly consensus as to when the Hebrew Bible canon was fixed: some scholars argue that it was fixed by the Hasmonean dynasty, while others argue it was not fixed until the second century CE or even later.
While the Torah may have been considered canon by Israel as early as the 5th century BCE and the Former and Latter Prophets were canonized by the 2nd century BCE, Michael Coogan says that the Ketuvim was not a fixed canon until the 2nd century CE. According to T. Henshaw, as early as 132 BCE some references suggesting that the Ketuvim was starting to take shape, though it lacked a formal title. Jacob Neusner argues that the notion of a biblical canon was not prominent in 2nd-century Rabbinic Judaism or even later.
Against Apion, the writing of Josephus in 95 CE, treated the text of the Hebrew Bible as a closed canon to which "no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable"; Michael Barber, however, avers that Josephus' canon is "not identical to that of the modern Hebrew Bible". For a long time, following this date, the divine inspiration of Esther, the Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes was often under scrutiny.
In the 20th century, many scholars seemed to believe that the limits of the Ketuvim as canonized scripture were determined by the Council of Jamnia (c. 90 CE). But the theory of the Council of Jamnia is largely discredited today.
There is no formal system of synagogal reading of Ketuvim equivalent to the Torah portion and haftarah. It is thought that there was once a cycle for reading the Psalms, parallel to the triennial cycle for Torah reading, as the number of psalms (150) is similar to the number of Torah portions in that cycle, and remnants of this tradition exist in Italy. All Jewish liturgies contain copious extracts from the Psalms, but these are normally sung to a regular recitative or rhythmic tune rather than read or chanted. Some communities also have a custom of reading Proverbs in the weeks following Pesach, and Job on the Ninth of Ab.
The five megillot are read on the festivals, as mentioned above, though Sephardim have no custom of public reading of Song of Songs on Passover or Ecclesiastes on Sukkot. There are traces of an early custom of reading a haftarah from Ketuvim on Shabbat afternoons, but this does not survive in any community. Some Reform communities that operate a triennial cycle choose haftarot on Shabbat morning from Ketuvim as well as Neviim.
In some Near and Middle Eastern Jewish traditions, the whole of Ketuvim (as well as the rest of the Tanakh and the Mishnah) is read each year on a weekly rota, usually on Shabbat afternoons. These reading sessions are not considered to be synagogue services, and often took place in the synagogue courtyard.
Medieval sources speak of three cantillation melodies, for Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim respectively. Today the position is more complicated. Oriental Sephardic communities preserve cantillation systems for the three poetic books, namely Psalms, Proverbs and the main part of Job (usually a different melody for each of the three books). No such systems exist in the Ashkenazi or Spanish and Portuguese traditions. However, the Ashkenazic yeshiva known as Aderet Eliyahu, in the Old City of Jerusalem, uses an adaptation of the Syrian cantillation-melody for these books, and this is becoming more popular among other Ashkenazim as well.
In all communities there are special cantillation melodies for Lamentations and Esther, and in some communities for the Song of Songs. Otherwise, the melody for the book of Ruth is considered the "default" melody for books of the Ketuvim not otherwise provided for. The "prose" passages at the beginning and end of the book of Job, as read on Tisha B'Av, may be read either to the tune of Ruth or to one resembling that for the Song of Songs.
Western targumim exist on Sifrei Emet, on the Five Megillot and on Chronicles, i.e. on all the books of Ketuvim besides Daniel and Ezra (which contain large portions in Aramaic anyway). There are several complementary targumim to Esther.
There is, however, no "official" eastern (Babylonian) targum to Ketuvim, equivalent to Targum Onkelos on the Torah and Targum Jonathan on Nevi'im. In fact, the Babylonian Talmud explicitly notes the lack of a Targum to Ketuvim, explaining that Jonathan ben Uzziel was divinely prevented from completing his translation of the Bible. A more prosaic explanation may consist in the lack of regular formal readings of Ketuvim in the synagogue (except the five Megillot), making it unnecessary to have an official system for line-by-line translation.
The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, tà biblía, "the books") is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. Varying parts of the Bible are considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans by Christians, Jews, Samaritans, and Rastafarians.
What is regarded as canonical text differs depending on traditions and groups; a number of Bible canons have evolved, with overlapping and diverging contents. The Hebrew Bible overlaps with the Greek Septuagint and the Christian Old Testament. The Christian New Testament is a collection of writings by early Christians, believed to be mostly Jewish disciples of Christ, written in first-century Koine Greek. Among Christian denominations there is some disagreement about what should be included in the canon, primarily about the Apocrypha, a list of works that are regarded with varying levels of respect.
Attitudes towards the Bible also differ among Christian groups. Roman Catholics, high church Anglicans, Methodists and Eastern Orthodox Christians stress the harmony and importance of the Bible and sacred tradition, while many Protestant churches, including Evangelical Anglicans, focus on the idea of sola scriptura, or scripture alone. This concept arose during the Reformation, and many denominations today support the use of the Bible as the only infallible source of Christian teaching. Others though, advance the concept of prima scriptura in contrast.The Bible has been a massive influence on literature and history, especially in the Western World, where the Gutenberg Bible was the first book printed using movable type. According to the March 2007 edition of Time, the Bible "has done more to shape literature, history, entertainment, and culture than any book ever written. Its influence on world history is unparalleled, and shows no signs of abating." With estimated total sales of over 5 billion copies, it is widely considered to be the most influential and best-selling book of all time. As of the 2000s, it sells approximately 100 million copies annually.Book of Daniel
The Book of Daniel is a 2nd-century BC biblical apocalypse combining a prophecy of history with an eschatology (a portrayal of end times) which is both cosmic in scope and political in its focus. In more mundane language, it is "an account of the activities and visions of Daniel, a noble Jew exiled at Babylon," its message being that just as the God of Israel saved Daniel and his friends from their enemies, so he would save all of Israel in their present oppression.In the Hebrew Bible it is found in the Ketuvim (writings), while in Christian Bibles it is grouped with the Major Prophets. The book divides into two parts, a set of six court tales in chapters 1–6 followed by four apocalyptic visions in chapters 7–12. The deuterocanon contains three additional stories: the Song of the Three Holy Children, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon.The book's influence has resonated through later ages, from the Dead Sea Scrolls community and the authors of the gospels and Revelation, to various movements from the 2nd century to the Protestant Reformation and modern millennialist movements—on which it continues to have a profound influence.Book of Esther
The Book of Esther, also known in Hebrew as "the Scroll" (Megillah), is a book in the third section (Ketuvim, "Writings") of the Jewish Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) and in the Christian Old Testament. It is one of the five Scrolls (Megillot) in the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of a Hebrew woman in Persia, born as Hadassah but known as Esther, who becomes queen of Persia and thwarts a genocide of her people. The story forms the core of the Jewish festival of Purim, during which it is read aloud twice: once in the evening and again the following morning. The books of Esther and Song of Songs are the only books in the Hebrew Bible that do not explicitly mention God.Book of Ezra
The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible; which formerly included the Book of Nehemiah in a single book, commonly distinguished in scholarship as Ezra–Nehemiah. The two became separated with the first printed rabbinic bibles of the early 16th century, following late medieval Latin Christian tradition. Its subject is the Return to Zion following the close of the Babylonian captivity, and it is divided into two parts, the first telling the story of the first return of exiles in the first year of Cyrus the Great (538 BC) and the completion and dedication of the new Temple in Jerusalem in the sixth year of Darius I (515 BC), the second telling of the subsequent mission of Ezra to Jerusalem and his struggle to purify the Jews from marriage with non-Jews. Together with the Book of Nehemiah, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible.Ezra is written to fit a schematic pattern in which the God of Israel inspires a king of Persia to commission a leader from the Jewish community to carry out a mission; three successive leaders carry out three such missions, the first rebuilding the Temple, the second purifying the Jewish community, and the third sealing the holy city itself behind a wall. (This last mission, that of Nehemiah, is not part of the Book of Ezra.) The theological program of the book explains the many problems its chronological structure presents. It probably appeared in its earliest version around 399 BC, and continued to be revised and edited for several centuries before being accepted as scriptural in the early Christian era.Book of Job
The Book of Job (; Hebrew: אִיּוֹב – ʾIyyōḇ) is a book in the Ketuvim ("Writings") section of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), and the first poetic book in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Addressing the problem of theodicy – the vindication of the justice of God in the light of humanity's suffering – it is a rich theological work setting out a variety of perspectives. It has been widely praised for its literary qualities, with Alfred Lord Tennyson calling it "the greatest poem of ancient and modern times".Book of Lamentations
The Book of Lamentations (Hebrew: אֵיכָה, ‘Êykhôh, from its incipit meaning "how") is a collection of poetic laments for the destruction of Jerusalem. In the Hebrew Bible it appears in the Ketuvim ("Writings"), beside the Song of Songs, Book of Ruth, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Esther (the Megilloth or "Five Scrolls"), although there is no set order; in the Christian Old Testament it follows the Book of Jeremiah, as the prophet Jeremiah is its traditional author. Jeremiah's authorship is no longer generally accepted, although it is generally accepted that the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BC forms the background to the poems. The book is partly a traditional "city lament" mourning the desertion of the city by God, its destruction, and the ultimate return of the divinity, and partly a funeral dirge in which the bereaved bewails and addresses the dead. The tone is bleak: God does not speak, the degree of suffering is presented as undeserved, and expectations of future redemption are minimal.The book is traditionally recited on the fast day of Tisha B'Av ("Ninth of Av"), mourning the destruction of both the First Temple and the Second; in Christianity it is traditionally read during Tenebrae of the Holy Triduum.Book of Nehemiah
The Book of Nehemiah has been, since the 16th century, a separate book of the Hebrew Bible. Before that date, it had been included in the Book of Ezra; but in Latin Christian bibles from the 13th century onwards, the Vulgate Book of Ezra was divided into two texts, called respectively the First and Second books of Ezra; a separation that became canonised with the first printed bibles in Hebrew and Latin. Mid 16th century Reformed Protestant bible translations produced in Geneva were the first to introduce the name 'Book of Nehemiah' for the text formally called the 'Second book of Ezra'. Told largely in the form of a first-person memoir, it concerns the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, a Jew who is a high official at the Persian court, and the dedication of the city and its people to God's laws (Torah).Book of Proverbs
The Book of Proverbs (Hebrew: מִשְלֵי, Míshlê (Shlomoh), "Proverbs (of Solomon)") is the second book of the third section (called Writings) of the Hebrew Bible and a book of the Christian Old Testament. When translated into Greek and Latin, the title took on different forms: in the Greek Septuagint (LXX) it became Παροιμίαι Paroimiai ("Proverbs"); in the Latin Vulgate the title was Proverbia, from which the English name is derived.
Proverbs is not merely an anthology but a "collection of collections" relating to a pattern of life which lasted for more than a millennium. It is an example of the Biblical wisdom tradition, and raises questions of values, moral behaviour, the meaning of human life, and right conduct. The repeated theme is that "the fear of God (meaning submission to the will of God) is the beginning of wisdom." Wisdom is praised for her role in creation; God acquired her before all else, and through her he gave order to chaos; and since humans have life and prosperity by conforming to the order of creation, seeking wisdom is the essence and goal of the religious life.Book of Ruth
The Book of Ruth (abbreviated Rth) (Hebrew: מגילת רות, Megilath Ruth, "the Scroll of Ruth", one of the Five Megillot) is included in the third division, or the Writings (Ketuvim), of the Hebrew Bible; in most Christian canons it is treated as a history book and placed between Judges and 1 Samuel, as it is set "in the days when the judges judged",The book tells of Ruth living in land of Moab, given by God of the Israelites as their inheritance. In Ruth 1:16–17, Ruth tells Naomi, her Israelite mother-in-law, "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me."The book is held in esteem by Jews who fall under the category of Jews-by-choice, as is evidenced by the considerable presence of Boaz in rabbinic literature. The Book of Ruth functions liturgically, as it is read during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot ("Weeks").Books of Chronicles
The Book of Chronicles (Hebrew: דִּבְרֵי־הַיָּמִים Diḇrê Hayyāmîm 'The Matters [of] the Days') is a Hebrew prose work constituting part of Jewish and Christian scripture. It contains a genealogy from the first human being, Adam, and a narrative of the history of ancient Judah and Israel until the proclamation of King Cyrus the Great (c. 540 BC).
Chronicles is the final book of the Hebrew Bible, concluding the third section of Ketuvim. It was divided into two books in the Septuagint, the Paralipoménōn (Greek: Παραλειπομένων, lit. 'things left on one side'). In Christian contexts it is therefore known as the Books of Chronicles, after the Latin name chronikon, given to the text by scholar Jerome in the 5th century. In the Christian Bible, the books (commonly referred to as 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, or First Chronicles and Second Chronicles) generally follow the two Books of Kings and precede Ezra–Nehemiah, thus concluding the history-oriented books of the Old Testament.Books of the Bible
Different religious groups include different books in their biblical canons, in varying orders, and sometimes divide or combine books. The Jewish Tanakh (sometimes called the Hebrew Bible) contains 24 books divided into three parts: the five books of the Torah ("teaching"); the eight books of the Nevi'im ("prophets"); and the eleven books of Ketuvim ("writings"). It is composed mainly in Biblical Hebrew, and its Septuagint is the main textual source for the Christian Greek Old Testament.Christian Bibles range from the 73 books of the Catholic Church canon, the 66 books of the canon of some denominations or the 80 books of the canon of other denominations of the Protestant Church, to the 81 books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church canon. The first part of Christian Bibles is the Greek Old Testament, which contains, at minimum, the above 24 books of the Tanakh but divided into 39 books and ordered differently. The second part is the Greek New Testament, containing 27 books; the four Canonical gospels, Acts of the Apostles, 21 Epistles or letters and the Book of Revelation.
The Catholic Church and Eastern Christian churches hold that certain deuterocanonical books and passages are part of the Old Testament canon. The Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Assyrian Christian churches may have minor differences in their lists of accepted books. The list given here for these churches is the most inclusive: if at least one Eastern church accepts the book it is included here. The King James Bible—which has been called "the most influential version of the most influential book in the world, in what is now its most influential language" and which in the United States is the most used translation, being still considered a standard among Protestant churches and being used liturgically in the Orthodox Church in America—contains 80 books: 39 in its Old Testament, 14 in its Apocrypha, and 27 in its New Testament.Ecclesiastes
Ecclesiastes (; Hebrew: קֹהֶלֶת, qōheleṯ, Greek: Ἐκκλησιαστής, Ekklēsiastēs) is one of 24 books of the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, where it is classified as one of the Ketuvim (or "Writings"). Originally written c. 450–200 BCE, it is also among the canonical Wisdom Books in the Old Testament of most denominations of Christianity. The title Ecclesiastes is a Latin transliteration of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Kohelet, the pseudonym used by the author of the book.
In traditional Jewish texts and throughout church history (up to the 18th and 19th centuries), King Solomon is named as the author, but modern scholars reject this. Textually, the book is the musings of a King of Jerusalem as he relates his experiences and draws lessons from them, often self-critical. The author, who is not named anywhere in the book, or in the whole of the Bible, introduces a "Kohelet" whom he identifies as the son of David (1:1). The author does not use his own "voice" throughout the book again until the final verses (12:9–14), where he gives his own thoughts and summarises what "the Kohelet" has spoken. It emphatically proclaims all the actions of man to be inherently "hevel," a word meaning "vain", "futile", […] as the lives of both wise and foolish men end in death. While Qoheleth clearly endorses wisdom as a means for a well-lived earthly life, he is unable to ascribe eternal meaning to it. In light of this perceived senselessness, he suggests that one should enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life such as eating, drinking, and taking enjoyment in one's work, which are gifts from the hand of God. The book concludes with the injunction: "Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone" (12:13).
Ecclesiastes has had a deep influence on Western literature. It contains several phrases that have resonated in British and American culture, and was quoted by Abraham Lincoln addressing Congress in 1862. American novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote:
"[O]f all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man's life upon this earth—and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth. I am not given to dogmatic judgments in the matter of literary creation, but if I had to make one I could say that Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound."Five Megillot
The Five Scrolls or The Five Megillot (Hebrew: חמש מגילות [χaˈmeʃ meɡiˈlot], Hamesh Megillot or Chomeish Megillos) are parts of the Ketuvim ("Writings"), the third major section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The Five Scrolls are the Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, the Book of Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and the Book of Esther. These five relatively short biblical books are grouped together in Jewish tradition.Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible, also called the Tanakh (; תַּנַ״ךְ, pronounced [taˈnaχ] or [təˈnax]; also Tenakh, Tenak, Tanach) or Mikra, is the canonical collection of Hebrew scripture. These texts are almost exclusively in Biblical Hebrew, except for some Biblical Aramaic passages in the books of Daniel and Ezra. The Hebrew Bible is also the textual source for the Christian Old Testament. The form of this text that is authoritative for Rabbinic Judaism is known as the Masoretic Text (MT) and it consists of 24 books, while the translations divide essentially the same material into 39 books for the Protestant Bible, and into 46 books for the Catholic Bible.
Modern scholars seeking to understand the history of the Hebrew Bible use a range of sources, in addition to the Masoretic Text. These sources include early Greek (Septuagint) and Syriac (Peshitta) translations, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Dead Sea Scrolls and quotations from rabbinic manuscripts. Many of these sources may be older than the Masoretic Text and often differ from it. These differences have given rise to the theory that yet another text, an Urtext of the Hebrew Bible, once existed and is the source of the versions extant today. However, such an Urtext has never been found, and which of the three commonly known versions (Septuagint, Masoretic Text, Samaritan Pentateuch) is closest to the Urtext is not fully determined.Major prophet
The Major Prophets is a grouping of books in the Christian Old Testament, but not occurring in the Hebrew Bible. These books are centred on a prophet, traditionally regarded as the author of the respective book. The term "major" refers only to their length, in distinction to the Twelve Minor Prophets, whose books are much shorter and grouped together as a single book in the Hebrew Bible.
The books, in order of their occurrence in the Christian Old Testament, are:
Book of Isaiah
Book of Jeremiah
Book of Lamentations (in the Ketuvim (Writings) section of the Tanakh, ascribed to Jeremiah)
Book of Baruch (not in Protestant Bibles, ascribed to Baruch ben Neriah, scribe of Jeremiah)
Letter of Jeremiah (Chapter 6 of Baruch in most Catholic Bibles, its own book in Eastern Orthodox Bibles)
Book of Ezekiel
Book of Daniel (in the Ketuvim of the Hebrew Bible).In the Hebrew Bible the Books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel are included among the Nevi'im (Prophets) but Lamentations and Daniel are placed among the Ketuvim (Writings). Baruch (including the Letter of Jeremiah) is not part of the Hebrew Bible.Nevi'im
Nevi'im (; Hebrew: נְבִיאִים Nəḇî'îm, lit. "spokespersons", ("Prophets") is the second main division of the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh), between the Torah (instruction) and Ketuvim (writings). The Nevi'im are divided into two groups. The Former Prophets (Hebrew: נביאים ראשונים Nevi'im Rishonim) consists of the narrative books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings; while the Latter Prophets (Hebrew: נביאים אחרונים Nevi'im Aharonim) include the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and The Twelve minor prophets.Song of Songs
The Song of Songs, also Song of Solomon or Canticles (Hebrew: שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים Šîr HaŠŠîrîm, Greek and Ancient Greek: Ἆισμα Ἀισμάτων, romanized: Âisma Āismátōn; Latin: Canticum Canticorum), is one of the megillot (scrolls) found in the last section of the Tanakh, known as the Ketuvim (or "Writings"), and a book of the Old Testament.The Song of Songs is unique within the Hebrew Bible: it shows no interest in Law or Covenant or the God of Israel, nor does it teach or explore wisdom like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes (although it does have some affinities to wisdom literature, as the ascription to Solomon indicates); instead, it celebrates sexual love, giving "the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy". The two are in harmony, each desiring the other and rejoicing in sexual intimacy; the women of Jerusalem form a chorus to the lovers, functioning as an audience whose participation in the lovers' erotic encounters facilitates the participation of the reader.In modern Judaism the Song is read on the Sabbath during the Passover, which marks the beginning of the grain harvest as well as commemorating the Exodus from Egypt. Jewish tradition reads it as an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel, Christianity as an allegory of Christ and his "bride", the Church.Targum
The targumim (singular targum, Hebrew: תרגום) were originally spoken translations of the Jewish scriptures (also called the Tanakh) that a meturgeman (professional interpreter) would give in the common language of the listeners when that was not Hebrew. This had become necessary near the end of the 1st century BCE, as the common language was Aramaic and Hebrew was used for little more than schooling and worship. The meturgeman frequently expanded his translation with paraphrases, explanations and examples so that it became a kind of sermon.
Writing down the targum was initially prohibited; nevertheless, some targumatic writings appeared as early as the middle of the first century CE. They were then not recognized as authoritative by the religious leaders. Some subsequent Jewish traditions (beginning with the Babylonian Jews) accepted the written targumim as authoritative translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Aramaic. Today, the common meaning of "targum" is a written Aramaic translation of the Bible. Only Yemenite Jews continue to use the targumim liturgically.
As translations, the targumim largely reflect midrashic interpretation of the Tanakh from the time they were written and are notable for favoring allegorical readings over anthropomorphisms. (Maimonides, for one, notes this often in The Guide for the Perplexed.) That is true both for those targumim that are fairly literal as well as for those that contain many midrashic expansions. In 1541, Elia Levita wrote and published Sefer Meturgeman, explaining all the Aramaic words found in the Targum.Targumim are used today as sources in text-critical editions of the Bible (BHS refers to them with the abbreviation 𝔗).