Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

A New Approach to the Evolution of Texts Based on the Manuscripts of the Targums

Project description

Innovative study of Targums’ evolution

Targums are Jewish Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible. They offer us a unique insight into Jewish perceptions of God’s message. The Targums are preserved in manuscripts that differ one from another and that date from many centuries after the texts' original composition. The EU-funded TEXTEVOLVE project will expand the pool of primary sources available for analysis by identifying and examining previously unstudied manuscripts of the Targums. It will also analyse the Targums using a new methodology based on techniques from evolutionary biology. This will enable researchers to reconstruct more accurately the history of the texts' development and to understand better the cultural and theological significance of changes made to the text by copyists.


TEXTEVOLVE will study the Targums. Targums are Jewish Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible. They are important because they provide a unique insight into what Jews believed God was saying to them through their sacred texts at transformative moments in Jewish history, particularly the aftermath of the First Jewish-Roman War (66–74 CE). The state of the art in the study of the Targums is defined by 1) methodology, and 2) the primary sources that are available. TEXTEVOLVE will go beyond the state of the art in both areas.

Methodology — We do not possess the author’s original copy of any Targum. Rather, in most cases we have multiple copies preserved in much later manuscripts, all of which differ one from another. Existing methodology aims to reconstruct the earliest possible form of the text. But changes made by later copyists also yield important insights into evolving Jewish culture, theology, and praxis. Therefore TEXTEVOLVE reframes the dominant research question in the field so that neither the importance of the original wording nor the significance of subsequent changes is neglected. It asks: How did the text of the Targums evolve over time and why? TEXTEVOLVE will develop a new methodology, called Evolutionary Philology, that is capable of addressing this core question. It will use techniques from evolutionary biology that have not previously been applied to texts to achieve this. This will have implications across disciplines that work with historical texts.

Primary Sources — To ensure the most robust possible dataset, TEXTEVOLVE will expand the pool of primary sources available for analysis. TEXTEVOLVE will find Targum manuscripts that have been ‘lost’ in un-catalogued or poorly catalogued collections, and will analyse for the first time recently discovered manuscripts from the ‘European Genizah’. Since the available primary sources define the boundaries of any discipline, this is the second major way in which TEXTEVOLVE goes beyond the state of the art.



Net EU contribution
€ 1 401 797,87
Oude markt 13
3000 Leuven

See on map

Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (4)