Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Samaritan Pentateuch - a support for Judaism

One interesting document supporting the truth of the divine origin of Pentateuch is the Samaritan Pentateuch.

The Samaritans are a community of people who are today quite small however in ancient times they were far more numerous. According the Hebrew Bible, 2 Kings 17, they are not authentically Jews at all, but rather are Judaized gentiles who were settled in Palestine by the Assyrians, following the exile of the Ten Tribes. At their request, a priest of the Ten Tribes instructed them in Judaism. According the Samaritan tradition, they are simply descendents of the Ten Tribes who never went into exile. DNA analysis seems to indicate descent from Jewish priests who intermarried with Assyrian women. In the time of Second Temple, the Bible portrays the Samaritans as being the enemies of the Jews. According to the New Testament, Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. The Talmud calls them “Cuthim”, referring to Cuthah, were some of them had originated, and does not consider them to be Jews. According to the Samaritan tradition, they broke away from the rest of the Jewish people at the time of Eli, or slightly before the reign of Saul and David. According to Jewish tradition, their tradition diverged permanently from other Jews at the time of King Jeroboam, after the reign of Solomon.

At any rate, there exists a community of people, who, according to all accounts, have been separated from the Jewish people by mutual hatred for approximately 3,000 years. Nevertheless they possess and revere the Pentateuch in a form almost identical to the Masortic text, the most major departure being the inclusion in the Ten Commandment of a command to build the altar on Mt. Gerizim, which is obviously a sectarian interpolation. This would seem to date the Pentateuch to no later than 500 years after the Exodus. This of course makes it even more incredible that the Exodus miracles are mythical and ficticious. Can we imagine someone today writing a book claiming that Columbus split the Atlantic Ocean and crossed on dry land to America, and all Americans unanimously believing this?

According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the Samaritans should only possess the so called "E document", as has been pointed out by others.

I corresponded yesterday with Professor Richard E. Friedman, author of “Who Wrote The Bible”. I asked him as follows:

I have read your book, Who Wrote the Bible, where you state that the redactor of the Pentateuch was probably Ezra. I am curious to know how this could be the case, since the Samaritans also possess the Pentateuch with almost no substantial differences, although they were not followers of Ezra. In fact, Samaritan and Jewish traditions only diverged following the period of King Solomon, making it appear that the Pentateuch at latest dates to the time of the United Monarchy.

Jacob Stein

He was kind enough to reply:

Dear Mr. Stein:

Thank you for your letter. Perhaps I misunderstand you, but it appears that you take the Samaritans to be Israelites who lived in (Northern?) Israel as far back as the United Monarchy. The Samaritans are rather understood in the biblical text to be non-Israelite people who were brought into the territory of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians after they had conquered it and deported and/or displaced the Israelite population. This is described in 2 Kings 17, especially verses 23 to 34. As for the question of when these Samaritans came to accept the Torah as their sacred text, that is an old and complex problem in biblical scholarship. If you are interested in pursuing it, I suggest that you start with the articles on "Samaritan Pentateuch" and "Samaritans" in volume 5 of The Anchor Bible Dictionary. These articles include substantial bibliography for further study.

I wish you well in your continuing studies of these interesting questions.

Richard Elliott Friedman
Davis Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Georgia
Katzin Professor of Jewish Civilization Emeritus, University of California, San Diego

I also inquired of Dr. Israel Finkelstein, Professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University:

“Why do the Samaritans accept the entire Pentateuch, rather than only the E document?"

He kindly responded:

"I don't have a definite answer to this question, with which many great scholars contemplated. In any event, it needs to be asked on the background of the 5th or 4th centuries BCE, when the Pentateuch was put in writing including P and R; at that time the schism with the Samaritans was not final"

My understanding is that secular scholars would like to date the schism between the Samaritans and Jews to be from the time of Ezra, or even somewhat later. I don’t see any basis for this, other than a desire to assign a later date to the Pentateuch. However if anyone has access to a reference library and can provide me with more information, I would be grateful.

In fact, taking it a step further, I would say that since the Pentateuch includes no mention of Jerusalem, which was central in the times of David and Solomon, it must date from the time of Samuel at latest, or about 400 years after the Exodus.

In any case, anyone wishing to deny the historical accuracy of the miracles recounted in the first half of the book of Exodus must be able to explain why the Jewish people, fanatically and unanimously, believed in those miracles from just a few centuries after they allegedly occurred up until the time of the Jewish Enlightenment.


Bacon Eating Atheist Jew said...

Again, there is absolutely no evidence that the Exodus occurred. 600,000 plus Jews left Egypt, not very likely. And I agree with Friedman, the secular proof we have right now is that Ezra put a few myths together to start Judaism as we know it today.

It doesn't take more than a few generations to get people to buy stories. Especially if they are close to existing myths. And especially back when most people were illiterate and no internet or TV or newspapers existed.

Look how many people fell for James Frey's story.

And one more thing the OT and NT are not history books.

jewish philosopher said...

So why don't you start your own religion, Bacon? Tell people that God appeared to all Americans in 1697 on top of Mount Washington, New Hamshire and commanded them to honor Bacon Eating Jews, along with some other nonsense.

Using modern technology, it should be even easier now than it was in ancient times. You can put this on your blog and everyone can read it immediately.

If you succeed, and all Americans without dissent believe it, you can sign me up too.

Anonymous said...

You raise some good points, Jewish Philosopher.

I always understood the Samaritan priests broke away from the Temple and married into the Sanballat clan (whose origins are Assyrian?).

So obviously these priests retained most of their orignal Israeli traditions. According to the Talmud the samaritan are converts (there seems to be unanimous agreement on that-quite rare) The questions is whether they are Gerei emet (lit. true converts) or Gerei arayot (lit. people who converted out of fear of lions i.e. wild animals this is referring to the episode mentioned in Ezra (?) where God sent wild animals to attack the new non-Jewish inhabitants of Samaria.

At any rate, a very interesting and thought provoking past.

Comment on my blog sometime. Regards.

Shtreimel said...

Since your ungracious cop-out on a previous post where you subscribed to very Samaritan reasoning (not accepting the ‘drash’ of rabbinical literature), I’m weary of arguing with you, so I’ll just present the Torah perspective, and if like me you think it’s not true, then we are once again in agreement.

You know what; instead of translating this article into English, I might as well point you to the original.


READ it; you’ll enlighten yourself and hopefully realize why your reasoning is wrong.

jewish philosopher said...

My browser only allows me to view Latin characters. It doesn't read Hebrew. Sorry.

Baal Habos said...

JP, this is the second time you mentioned the Smaritans and at first I thought you had something there. I did a little research. In reality, ask yourself why, if the split happened so far back in Eli's time, how come there was only a Samaritan Temple after the destruction of the first temple said to have been built by Solomon.

Why did they not build a temple earlier in their formative years.

Obviously, as an OJ, you don't trust the Samaritans version of history, so their own hstory about themselves is also suspect.

I am interested in this topic, let me know if you come up with anything.


Baal Habos said...

. Missing books: Like the Sadducees, they accepted only the First five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch), and not any others (which generally spoke highly of Jerusalem)



So that's another possibility. Taking some thought from the Saduceess.

jewish philosopher said...

The point of this post, and I think I’m right on this, is although the Samaritan Pentateuch does not prove unequivocally that the Pentateuch is of divine origin, it surely does prove that the Documentary Hypothesis is false, since if it were true the Samaritans should only possess the E document, not the entire Pentateuch. There is not evidence that the Samaritans shared a common tradition with Jews since the time of Jeroboam.

Baal Habos said...

> The Samaritans are rather understood in the biblical text to be non-Israelite people who were brought into the territory of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians after they had conquered it and deported and/or displaced the Israelite population.

From WIKI.

The precise date of the schism between Samaritans and Jews is unknown, but was certainly complete by the end of the fourth century BC. Archaeological excavations at Mount Gerizim suggest that a Samaritan temple was built there c. 330BC, and when Alexander the Great (356-323) was in the region, he is said to have visited Samaria and not Jerusalem.

I ask you again, if they split off earlier how come there was no "first" temple simliar to Solomon's?

Baal Habos said...

Also see introduction in this


jewish philosopher said...

You're asking where did the Samaritans offer sacrifices before they built their temple on Mount Gerizim? Apparently there is archeological evidence of the Mount Gerizim temple going back to perhaps the 6th century BCE. I believe that Jewish chronology places the exile of the ten tribes in 556 BCE, so this coincides. Shechem had been the capital of the Ten Tribes and apparently the Samaritans adopted the nearby Mount Gerizim as their place of worship. Previously, the Israelite ten tribes brought offerings at the golden calves at Bethel and Dan, which were at opposite ends of the Israelite territory.

That link didn't work for some reason.

Baal Habos said...


without the s at the end.

So they found stuff from 500 BC, that's 500 years after the split, according to you. When Was Eli?

jewish philosopher said...

That's an interesting article. That is obviously what Bible critics must say - that after Ezra, the Samaritans adopted the Pentateuch from their enemies the Jews. That doesn't make sense to me.

Eli was the mentor of Samuel, and Samuel annointed Saul and David.

Baal Habos said...

>That is obviously what Bible critics must say - that after Ezra, the Samaritans adopted the Pentateuch from their enemies the Jews. That doesn't make sense to me.

It may not make sense to you, but it have not dis-proved it at all. Therefore you need to retract your statement that the Samaritan Pentateuch is a support for Judaism.

jewish philosopher said...

It doesn’t make sense to me because the Jews and Samaritans were enemies since time immemorial. In addition to that, the Samaritans are extremely conservative – they are still bringing the Passover sacrifice on Mount Gerizim. Therefore, why would the Samaritans abandon their own Document E scripture and accept the new Jewish Pentateuch published by Ezra? What shred of evidence is there to support this? It’s pure atheistic wishful thinking.

In fact, it is obvious that the Documentary Hypothesis is false and the Pentateuch could not have been authored later than the reign of Solomon, which means about four to five centuries after the Exodus. Which leads to the question: How could so much falsehood have been foisted on the Jewish people so soon? Solomon was closer to Moses than we are to Columbus.

Baal Habos said...

Primitive times, my friend.

jewish philosopher said...

Fine. Primitive people are incredibly gullible.

So why don’t you try this: Go to some primitive place – the Congo, New Guinea, whatever. Try to convince a tribe of a few hundred thousand natives that a few hundred years ago, their ancestors were slaves, they were redeemed with ten miraculous plagues, they received a very complex divine law directly from God on a mountain and they must now follow it. See how it goes. If you succeed, I’ll split a Happy Meal with you at McD’s.

Unfortunately, I think the likely outcome is that you will be the Happy Meal for some hungry primitives. They are not as dumb as you think.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>in a form almost identical to the Masoretic text

Are you kidding me? True, what "differences" mean are relative but there are many differences; they are two different versions of the same book.

>My understanding is that secular scholars would like to date the schism between the Samaritans and Jews to be from the time of Ezra, or even somewhat later. I don’t see any basis for this, other than a desire to assign a later date to the Pentateuch.

Read James Purvis' book "The Samaritan Pentateuch and the origin of the Samaritan sect" (available in the NYPL midtown branch in the non-circulating books, if you live near NYC and can spend a couple of hours reading it).

Basically, Jewish sources do not support an early separation, but one during the Hasmonean period. Josephus claims it happened only after John Hyrcanus (aka Yohanan Kohen Gadol) burned the Samaritan temple. The Samaritan script descends not from the older paleo-Hebrew of the biblical period, but from the "neo"paleo-Hebrew of the Hasmonean period.

In addition, read Lawrence Schiffman's "Who Was a Jew?" in which he documents the very ambiguous relationship between Samaritans and Jews as reflected in the rabbinic literature. In short, eventually it was decided without question that they are not Jewish. But it took a long time to reach that decision. They were long regarded as something other than gentiles. Witness the fact that the halakhah permits Samaritan edim for gittin, use of their produce etc.

jewish philosopher said...

Professor Purvis was a professor of religion at Boston University. His career concentrated on the Samaritans. His book on the Samaritans was an expanded version of the doctoral thesis he wrote in 1963. It was published in 1968.

It did, however, recieve mixed reviews. The Oxford Journal of Theological Studies in 1969 vol. XX number 2 page 569 criticized the book for relying on little more than the Samaritan style of script to make far reaching and poorly supported statements. The Journal of Near Eastern Studies likewise seems a bit critical.

The Talmudic rabbis long debated whether the Samaritan conversion was legitimate or not, however there was no question about their origin from converts as per 2 Kings.

I find it implausable that the Samaritans would have adopted any innovations of Ezra, considering that they do not accept anything else from the Bible nor the Temple at Jerusalem.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Fine, if you ignore the evidence rather than grapple with it your thesis is amazing.

>I find it implausable that the Samaritans would have adopted any innovations of Ezra, considering that they do not accept anything else from the Bible nor the Temple at Jerusalem.

The contention is that the Samaritan split did not occur until the Hasmonean period. This is the view of Josephus. It is also the opinion of paleographers who find that their script diverged from Hasmonean era paleo-Hebrew (note, the critical review you cite takes Purvis to task for unspecified far reaching and poorly [but not "un"] supported statements.) Read his book and judge for yourself.

jewish philosopher said...

Josephus doesn't seem to have anything different than the traditional Jewish opinion of the Samaritans:

3. But now the Cutheans, who removed into Samaria, (for that is the name they have been called by to this time, because they were brought out of the country called Cuthah, which is a country of Persia, and there is a river of the same name in it,) each of them, according to their nations, which were in number five, brought their own gods into Samaria, and by worshipping them, as was the custom of their own countries, they provoked Almighty God to be angry and displeased at them, for a plague seized upon them, by which they were destroyed; and when they found no cure for their miseries, they learned by the oracle that they ought to worship Almighty God, as the method for their deliverance. So they sent ambassadors to the king of Assyria, and desired him to send them some of those priests of the Israelites whom he had taken captive. And when he thereupon sent them, and the people were by them taught the laws, and the holy worship of God, they worshipped him in a respectful manner, and the plague ceased immediately; and indeed they continue to make use of the very same customs to this very time, and are called in the Hebrew tongue Cutlans, but in the Greek tongue Samaritans. And when they see the Jews in prosperity, they pretend that they are changed, and allied to them, and call them kinsmen, as though they were derived from Joseph, and had by that means an original alliance with them; but when they see them falling into a low condition, they say they are no way related to them, and that the Jews have no right to expect any kindness or marks of kindred from them, but they declare that they are sojourners, that come from other countries. But of these we shall have a more seasonable opportunity to discourse hereafter.

designeer said...

Why is it that everyone considers the Samaritans other than Israelites? I guess because they believe what they want to believe! Is it so hard to believe that any of the people from the northern kingdom of Israel survived over the years? To say that none survived the trials of life is obtuse. There is so much evidence these days to support Samaritan claims that it appears no one wants to take the time to discover it for themselves. To bad, these kind of people have learned nothing to say the least.

CuriousSkeptic said...

Easy to convince primitives? The OT text indicates that even the Israelites on hand during the miracles weren't convinced by what they saw. If you saw the pillars of fire and smoke, saw water spout from a struck stone, and survived on manna would you show the signs of unbelief they are reported to? This, far better than evidence that a new religion (complete with miracles) can arise in a short time and gain huge numbers of adherents, indicates the strong possibility that the stories of the exodus from Egypt are apocryphal. Can you say Mormonism? It's only 150 years old, and was spawned in an age of science and printing presses. Anecdoctal evidence is provably the least reliable. How much more so after the supposed eyewitnesses are dead?

khendricks said...

I thought you might be interested in a new electronic edition of the Samaritan Pentateuch. This edition contains the entire Samaritan text, a first-ever English translation, Ben-Hayyim's Grammar and the Masoretic text with differences from the Samaritan Pentateuch highlighted.

With this edition, you can link the Samaritan and Masoretic texts with each other or with the English translation for simultaneous scrolling. You can also link to the glossary of names, and follow links from the grammar to the Bible of your choice—the Samaritan Pentateuch or its translation.

Samaritan Pentateuch Bundle (5 Vols.)

Kurian said...

After studying carefully the Turing Machines, I strongly suspect that the Pentateutech is the numerical specification for the Universal Turing Machine!

Similarly, the Vedas of India are also another description of the very same Universal Turing Machine!

In fact Judaism and Hinduism are the only two religions that has a proper number theory (Gematria/Sankhya) for verifying the truths of propositions, other than Mathematics. Mathematics has the TNT (Typographical Number Theory) to test the truth of mathematical propositions.