Friday, April 16, 2010
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 soon after the time of Joshua. 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 Commandments of a command to build the altar on Mt. Gerizim. 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 several years ago 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.
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.
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.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 2:57 AM