Reference: Samaritan Pentateuch
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. Ga 3:17). It may be noted that the LXX. has the same reading of this text.
Illustration: Manuscript of Samaritan Pentateuch
Pietro della Valle in 1616 procured a complete copy, after it had been lost sight of since its mention by early Christian (Jerome, Prol. Kings, Ga 3:10; Eusebius of Caesarea, who observes that Septuagint and Samaritan agree (against received text) in the number of years from the flood to Abraham) and Jewish writers; M. de Sancy, French ambassador at Constantinople, obtained it for Pietro della Valle, and sent it to the library of the Orateire at Paris in 1623. Another is in the Ambrosian Library of Milan. Usher procured six copies, mostly imperfect, of which four are now in the Bodleian, one in British Museum. Two more, procured by Pierese, are in the Imperial Library of Paris. Twenty in all, but only two or three perfect, exist in our European libraries. The Paris Polyglot printed it in 1645; Walton's Polyglot in 1657; Bagster in 1821. Dr. Blayney, Oxford, in 1790, published it separately.
Grove in 1861 brought a 4to copy from Nablus for the Count of Paris, in whose library it is. These copies are in forms varying from 12mo to folio; no scroll such as are used in the synagogues is among them. The Samaritans pretend that the scroll in Nablus is inscribed: "I Abisha (or Abishua), son of Pinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron ... upon them be the grace of Jehovah. To His honour I have written this holy law at the entrance of the tabernacle of testimony on Mount Gerizim, Beth El, in the 13th year of taking possession of Canaan ... by Israel. I praise Jehovah." (Letters of Meshalmah, 19,791, British Museum). Levysohn, a Christian Jew, with Kraus, is said to have found it in this scroll. The Scroll is written in letters of gold. Ravius (Exercitt. in Houbig. Prol.,1755) and Gesenius (Pentateuch Samaritan, etc.) have settled the superiority of our Hebrew text. The variations arise from the Samaritans'
(1) imperfect knowledge of grammar and exegesis, or
(2) design to conform passages to their speech, conceptions, and faith (e.g. to make Mount Gerizim the place of worship appointed by God to Moses), or
(3) to remove obscurities and imperfections by repetitions or newly invented and inapt phrases and words. Only twice they alter the Mosaic laws: Ex 13:7, Samaritan reads "six days" for "seven"; De 23:17, "live" for "there shall not be." Quiescent letters (a h e v i, matres lectionis) are supplied.
Poetical forms of pronoun altered into common ones. Incomplete verbal forms are completed, the apocopated future changed into the full form. Paragogical letters at the end of nouns omitted. Genders arbitrarily put, from ignorance of nouns of a common gender. The infinitive absolute made a finite verb. Glosses coinciding with Septuagint, probably taken by both from an old targum. Conjectural emendations. Supposed deficiency supplied (Ge 18:29-30, "destroy" for "do it".) Names reduced to one uniform spelling, where the Hebrew has various forms, as Jethro and Joshua. Supposed historical and chronological improbabilities emended. No antediluvian in the Samaritan begets his first son after he is 150; but 100 years are subtracted before and added after the birth of the first son; so Jared in the Hebrew begat at 162, lived 800 more, and all his years were 962; in Samaritan he begat at 62, lived 785 more, and all his years were 847.
After the flood, conversely, 100 or 50 are added before and subtracted after the begetting, e.g. Arphaxad who in Hebrew is 35 when he begets Shelah, and lived 403 afterward. 438 in all, in Samaritan is 135 when he begets Shelah, and lives 303 afterward, 438 in all. The Samaritan and Septuagint interpolation (Ex 12:40), "the sojourning of Israel and their fathers who dwelt in ... Canaan and ... Egypt was 430 years" is of late date. Samaritan reads Ge 2:2 "God on the sixth, day ended His work," lest God should seem to work on the seventh day. Samaritan changes Hebrew into Samaritan idioms. 'Elohim (plural, four times joined to a plural verb in Hebrew) is in the Samaritan joined to the singular verb (Ge 20:13; 31:53; 35:7). Anthropomorphisms are removed. In De 27:4 Samaritan substitutes Gerizim for Ebal. Age. Luzatto in a letter to R. Kirchhelm observes that, in difficult readings where probably the copyist after Ezra, in transcribing from the old Samaritan characters into the modern square Hebrew letters, mistook Samaritan letters of similar form, our Samaritan Pentateuch has the same text as the Hebrew; therefore the Samaritan must be copied from a Hebrew not a Samaritan manuscript.
The changes of similar Hebrew letters, where the corresponding Samaritan letters are not alike, prove the late date of the Samaritan. The Samaritan jealousy of the worship at Jerusalem, and of the house of David, which are commended in all the other Old Testament books except Judges, Joshua, and Job, accounts for their confining their Scriptures to the Pentateuch. The Samaritan characters were used for ordinary purposes down to a late period; so the Maccabean coins bear Samaritan inscriptions. As there was no Masorah to fix the Samaritan text, it is likely each successive century added its own emendations, so that the original Samaritan text was very different from our present one. The proofs for and against each theory as to the origin and date of the Samaritan are inconclusive. It remains therefore uncertain whether
(1) the original Samaritan was inherited from the ten tribes whom the Samaritans succeeded; or
(2) from Manasseh (Josephus Ant. 11:8, section 2,4) at the founding of the temple on Mount Gerizim, for which theory are urged the idolatry of the Samaritans before they received an Israelite priest through Esarhaddon (2Ki 17:24-33) and the great number of readings common to Septuagint and Samaritan against the Masoretic Hebrew text; or
(3) that Esarhaddon's priest took the Pentateuch to Samaria with him. Gesenius thinks that both Samaritan and Septuagint were formed from Hebrew manuscripts differing from one another as well as from the authorized one of Palestine, and that many willful corruptions have crept, in latterly.
It is certain the Samaritan was distinct from the Hebrew copy in De 27:4,8, three hundred years B.C., for then the Jews and Samaritans brought their rival claims before Ptolemy Soter, appealing to their respective copies of the law as to this passage. The Samaritan characters of the Samaritan Pentateuch differ not only from the square Hebrew, but from those generally known as Samaritan. Some think they are those in which the Mosaic law was originally written. They are without vowel points. Each word is separated by a dot. Sections are closed by a space left blank. Marks distinguish peculiarities of sound and signification. The writing of the first page begins on the inside, not the outside, in imitation of the sacred roll. The whole is divided into five books. The division of the sections (ketsin) differs from that of the Jews.
(1) The original Samaritan having become to the common people a dead tongue, it was translated into the current Samaritan, dialect, a mixture of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac. They say themselves that Nathaniel their high priest, who died 20 B.C., wrote the translation. It slavishly copies the original, sometimes at the sacrifice of sense; but this close verbal adherence makes it a more valuable help for studying the Samaritan text. De la Valle brought it to Europe with the Samaritan text in 1616. Nedrinus published it with a faulty Latin translated in the Paris Polyglot, from whence Walton reprinted it.
(2) A Greek version of the Samaritan was made, as the Jews made the Septuagint from the Hebrew text. The Septuagint manuscripts preserve some fragments of it.
(3) An Arabic version by Abu Said in Egypt, A.D. 1000; a good copy is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, presented by Dr. Taylor, 1663.
An ancient recension of the five books of Moses. Though it had been mentioned by some of the early fathers, it was not till about A.D. 1616 that a MS copy of it was discovered. At first it was considered by some as far superior to the Hebrew Pentateuch, but when other copies came to light (there are now about twenty) and they were examined more carefully, the thought of its superiority was not maintained; it is now regarded only as a copy of the Hebrew, though it agrees with the LXX in many places where that differs from the present Hebrew text. The Pentateuch which the Samaritans called 'The Law' is all they have of the O.T. The characters in which it is written, by being compared with ancient coins, etc., are judged to be more ancient than the square Hebrew letters now in common use. The origin of it may have been a copy of the Pentateuch secured by the Israelites on the division of the kingdom. The Paris and the London Polyglots give the text in full.
a recension of the commonly received Hebrew text of the Mosaic law, in use among the Samaritans, and written in the ancient Hebrew or so-called Samaritan character. The origin of the Samaritan Pentateuch has given rise to much controversy, into which we cannot here enter. The two most usual opinions are --
1. That it came into the hands of the Samaritans as an inheritance from the ten tribes whom they succeeded.
2. That it was introduced by Manasseh at the time of the foundation of the Samaritan sanctuary on Mount Gerizim. It differs in several important points from the Hebrew text. Among these may be mentioned --
1. Emendations of passages and words of the Hebrew text which contain something objectionable in the eyes of the Samaritans, On account either of historical probability or apparent want of dignity in the terms applied to the Creator. Thus in the Samaritan Pentateuch no one in the antediluvian times begets his first son after he has lived 150 years; but one hundred years are, where necessary, subtracted before, and added after, the birth of the first son. An exceedingly important and often-discussed emendation of this class is the passage in
which in our text reads, "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel who dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." The Samaritan has "The sojourning of the children of Israel [and their fathers who dwelt in the Land of Cannaan and in the land of Egypt] was four hundred and thirty years;" an interpolation of very late date indeed. Again, in
And God [?] had finished on the seventh day, is altered into "the sixth" lest God's rest on the Sabbath day might seem incomplete.
2. Alterations made in favor of or on behalf of Samaritan theology, hermeneutics and domestic worship.