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Samaritan Pentateuch

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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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, Galatians 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: Exodus 13:7, Samaritan reads "six days" for "seven"; Deuteronomy 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 (Genesis 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 (Exodus 12:40), "the sojourning of Israel and their fathers who dwelt in ... Canaan and ... Egypt was 430 years" is of late date. Samaritan reads Genesis 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. 'Εlohim (plural, four times joined to a plural verb in Hebrew) is in the Samaritan joined to the singular verb (Genesis 20:13; Genesis 31:53; Genesis 35:7). Anthropomorphisms are removed. In Deuteronomy 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 (2 Kings 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 Deuteronomy 27:4; Deuteronomy 27:8, 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.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Samaritan Pentateuch'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​fbd/​s/samaritan-pentateuch.html. 1949.
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