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Samaritan Text

The Samaritan Torah or Samaritan Pentateuch is a version of the Torah or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) that is used by the Samaritans.

Scholars consult the Samaritan Pentateuch when trying to determine the meaning of text of the original Pentateuch and to trace the development of text-families. Scrolls among the Dead Sea scrolls have been identified as proto-Samaritan Pentateuch text-type.[1]

Samaritan practices are based on their version of the Five Books of Moses, which is slightly different from the Jewish or Christian texts. Some differences are minor, such as the ages of different people mentioned in genealogy, while others are major, such as the commandment to be monogamous which appears in the Samaritan text. (cf Lev 18:18)

Special importance is attached to the Abishua Scroll, which is used in the Samaritan synagogue of Nablus, and the Samaritans claim was penned by Abisha, great-grandson of Aaron, (1 Chronicles 6:3) the brother of Moses thirteen years after the entry into the land of Israel under the leadership of Joshua, son of Nun. Modern scholars, however, have observed that the scroll appears to include scraps of work by different scribes from different centuries, with the oldest texts dating to the 12th century A.D.[2]



Samaritan and the Samaritan Torah

Samaritans claim that they are descended from the northern Israelite kingdom of Israel. There was a political division between the southern kingdom of Judah and northern kingdom of Israel, which took place after the death of King Solomon (see 1 Kings 12). They maintain that the northern kingdom, the capital of which was Samaria, never joined the kingdom of David and Solomon. Eventually the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians, and the southern by the Babylonians.

Today's Samaritans identify as the remnants of those who were not exiled from the land during the Assyrian period, and continuously practiced the ancient religion of Moses and passed it down even in the most difficult oppressed times.

Jews have never accepted this account of Samaritan origins, relying instead on the account given in II Kings 17:24-41:

24 The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns. 25 When they first lived there, they did not worship the LORD; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. 26 It was reported to the king of Assyria: "The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what he requires." 27 Then the king of Assyria gave this order: "Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires." 28 So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the LORD. 29 Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places. 30 The men from Babylon made Succoth Benoth, the men from Cuthah made Nergal, and the men from Hamath made Ashima; 31 the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 They worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. 33 They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. 34 To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the LORD nor adhere to the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands that the LORD gave the descendants of Jacob, whom he named Israel. 35 When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: "Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. 36 But the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. 37 You must always be careful to keep the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. 38 Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. 39 Rather, worship the LORD your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies." 40 They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. 41 Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.

Samaritans do not accept the oral law of the Jews , namely the Talmud. They use their own oral law, which has been practiced over the generations; and which they believe is the original practice that Moses taught the children of Israel at Mount Sinai assembly. There have been numerous conflicts between Jews and Samaritans in history.

Differences with the Masoretic text

Detail of Samaritan Pentateuch

The Samaritan Pentateuch is written in the Samaritan alphabet, which differs from the Hebrew alphabet, and was the form in general use before the Babylonian captivity. There are other peculiarities in the writing.

It is claimed that there are significant differences between the Hebrew and the Samaritan versions in the readings of many sentences. In about two thousand out of the six thousand instances in which the Samaritan and the Jewish texts (Masoretic text) differ, the Septuagint (LXX) agrees with the Samaritan. For example, Exodus 12:40 in the Samaritan and the LXX reads:

"Now the sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers which they had dwelt in the land of Canaan and in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years."

In the Masoretic text, the passage reads:

"Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." (Exodus 12:40)

The Samaritan version of the Ten Commandments commands them to build the altar on Mount Gerizim, which would be the site at which all sacrifices should be offered.[3]

Wider interest in the Samaritan Pentateuch commenced in 1616, when the well-known traveler Pietro della Valle brought from Damascus a copy of the text. Subsequently, other copies were brought to Europe and later, America. In 1645, an edited copy of the text was published in the Le Jay's (Paris) Polyglot by Jean Morin, a Jesuit-convert from Calvinism to Catholicism, who believed that the Septuagint and the Samaritan texts were superior to the Hebrew Masoretic text. It was republished again in Walton's Polyglot in 1657.

Scholarly evaluation of the Samaritan Pentateuch has changed after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some manuscripts of which display a text that corresponds closely to that of the Samaritan Pentateuch. This shows that, apart from the clearly Samaritan references to the worship of God on Mount Gerizim, the distinction at that date between the Samaritan and non-Samaritan versions was not as clear-cut as previously thought.

Support for the Masoretic Text

Deuteronomy 5:1-25 (known as 4Q41(981)) of the Dead Sea Scrolls does not contain any reference to Mount Gerizim, but matches the Mesoretic Text.

If Mesoretic text was altered, it would have been inclined towards the view of the Jews. However, it is neutral in regards to "place of worship", while the Samaritan text is biased towards Mt. Gerizim.

See also


  1. ^ The Canon Debate, McDonald & Sanders editors, 2002, chapter 6: Questions of Canon through the Dead Sea Scrolls by James C. VanderKam, page 94, citing private communication with Emanuel Tov on biblical manuscripts: Qumran scribe type c.25%, proto-Masoretic Text c. 40%, pre-Samaritan texts c.5%, texts close to the Hebrew model for the Septuagint c.5% and nonaligned c.25%.
  2. ^ "The Abisha Scroll-3,000 Years Old?" Bible Review, October 1991
  3. ^ Overview of the Differences Between the Jewish and Samaritan Versions of the Pentateuch


  • The Torah: Jewish and Samaritan versions compared (Hebrew Edition, December 2008). Compiler Mark E. Shoulson. Evertype. ISBN 1904808182 / ISBN 978-1904808183.
  • Die Vokale Des Gesetzes: Die Samaritanische Lesetradition Als Textzeugin Der Tora (Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Fur Die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft) (German Edition) by Stefan Schorch. Pub. Walter de Gruyter (June 3, 2004). ISBN 3110181010 / ISBN 978-3110181012

External links

This article incorporates text from Easton's Bible Dictionary (1897), a publication now in the public domain.


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

On the return from the Exile, the Jews refused the Samaritans participation with them in the worship at Jerusalem, and the latter separated from all fellowship with them, and built a temple for themselves on Mount Gerizim. This temple was razed to the ground more than one hundred years B.C. Then a system of worship was instituted similar to that of the temple at Jerusalem. It was founded on the Law, copies of which had been multiplied in Israel as well as in Judah. Thus the Pentateuch was preserved among the Samaritans, although they never called it by this name, but always "the Law," which they read as one book. The division into five books, as we now have it, however, was adopted by the Samaritans, as it was by the Jews, in all their priests' copies of "the Law," for the sake of convenience. This was the only portion of the Old Testament which was accepted by the Samaritans as of divine authority.

The form of the letters in the manuscript copies of the Samaritan Pentateuch is different from that of the Hebrew copies, and is probably the same as that which was in general use before the Captivity. There are other peculiarities in the writing which need not here be specified.

There are important differences between the Hebrew and the Samaritan copies of the Pentateuch in the readings of many sentences. In about two thousand instances in which the Samaritan and the Jewish texts differ, the LXX. agrees with the former. The New Testament also, when quoting from the Old Testament, agrees as a rule with the Samaritan text, where that differs from the Jewish. Thus Ex. 12:40 in the Samaritan reads, "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers which they had dwelt in the land of Canaan and in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years" (comp. Gal. 3:17). It may be noted that the LXX. has the same reading of this text.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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