Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Aquila
Aquila (Ἀκύλας), the author of a translation of the O.T. into Greek, which was held in much esteem by the Jews and was reproduced by Origen in the third column of the Hexapla, seems to have belonged to the earlier half of 2nd cent. Little is known regarding his personal history beyond the fact that he was, like the Aquila associated with St. Paul, a native of Pontus, and probably, according to the more definite tradition, of Sinope. We learn also from Irenaeus, in whom we find the earliest mention of him (adv. Haer. iii. 24), that he was a proselyte to the Jewish faith—a statement confirmed by Eusebius (Demonst. Evang. vii. 1: προσήλυτος δὲ ὁ Ἀκύλας ἦν οὐ φύσει Ἰουδαῖος), Jerome (Ep. ad Pammach. Opp. iv. 2, p. 255), and other Fathers, as well as by the Jerusalem Talmud (Megill. f. 71, c. 3; Kiddush. f. 59, c. 1, where there can be little doubt that the Akilas referred to is to be identified with Aquila). From this circumstance he is frequently called "Aquila the proselyte."
The object of Aquila was to furnish a translation on which the Jews could rely as a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew than that of the Septuagint, which not only was in many instances loose and incorrect from the first, but had also in the course of four centuries undergone change and corruption. With this view he made his version strictly literal, striving to provide a Greek equivalent for every Hebrew word and particle, in frequent disregard of the rules of grammar and of idiom, and with the result of often rendering his meaning hardly intelligible to those who were not acquainted with Hebrew (as in Job xxx. 1, καὶ νῦν ἐγέλασαν ἐπ᾿ ἐμοὶ βραχεῖς παῤ ἐμὲ ταῖς ἡμέρας, Ps. xlix. 21, ὑπέλαβες ἐσόμενος ἔσομαι ὅμοιός σοι Ps. cxlix. 6, καὶ μάχαιρα στομάτων ἐν χερσὶν αὐτῶν). He carefully endeavoured even to reproduce Hebrew etymologies in Greek, and for that purpose freely coined new forms (as in Ps. xxi. 13, δυνάσταιΒασὰν διεδημα τίσαντό με, Ps. cxviii. 10, μή ἀγνοηματίσῃς με). Origen accordingly characterizes him as δουλεύων τῇ Εβραϊκῇ λέξει (Ep. ad Afric.), and the fragments of the version which have been preserved amply bear out the truth of the description. But the excessively literal character of the work, while impairing its value as a translation for those who were not Jews, renders it all the more valuable as a witness to the state of the Hebrew text from which it was made. (As to the nature and value of the version, see Smith's D. B. iii. 1622.)
Several scholars of eminence have recently maintained that Aquila is to be identified not only with the Akilas of the Talmud, but also with Onkelos, whose name is associated with the well-known Targum on the Pentateuch; holding that the latter is merely an altered form of the name, and that the Chaldee version came to receive what is now its ordinary designation from its being drawn up on the model, or after the manner, of that of Aquila. The arguments in support of this view, which appear to have great weight, are set forth with much clearness and force by Mr. Deutsch in his article on "Versions, Ancient, (Targum)," in Smith's D. B. iii. 1642‒1645.
The fragments of the version of Aquila—first collected by Morinus for the Sixtine edition of the Septuagint, Rome, 1587, and subsequently by Drusius, in his Veterum interp. Graec. in V. T. Fragmenta, Arnb. 1622—are more fully given in the edition of the Hexapla by Montfaucon, Paris 1714, and its abridgment by Bahrdt, 1769‒1770. A most complete and valuable edition is that by Mr. Frederick Field: Oxf. 1867‒1870 (see Field, Hexapla , xvi‒xxvii). The chief questions connected with Aquila are discussed by Montfaucon, and by Hody (de Bibliorum Textibus Originalibus, Oxf. 1705).