Friday, April 16, 2010

The Samaritans and Torah from Sinai

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.

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.

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.


Anonymous said...

The Torah does talk a great deal about the Mishkon, which was a portable structure used by a nomadic people. This indicates that the Torah was written when the Jews were wandering in the desert, not a settled culture.

Anonymous said...

Your question is interesting, but it cannot evade the bigger question: Could it be that both the Samaritans and the Hebrew/Jews originate from the same myth? Can the Samaritans own myths prove anything about Judaism? The fact that their Pentateuch is different in key portions says something about the fidelity of text transmission in those days.

jewish philosopher said...

"The fact that their Pentateuch is different in key portions"

That's the point, it's not.

Anonymous said...

When other people compliled their holy books, they just bound them into one volume. This is what happened with the New Testimate, and the Koran. SO why did the "redactor" of the Torah feel the need to interleave the source documents in such a bizaare way. It doesn't follow the pattern.

Anonymous said...

I like how you claim to know the desires of secular scholars. No way that they are merely considering all of the evidence and trying to come up with the best explanation. No, no chance of that.

jewish philosopher said...

"No way that they are merely considering all of the evidence"

They seem to be ignoring the evidence.

Anonymous said...

"They seem to be ignoring the evidence."

Just like they ignore the "overwhelming" evidence of the Kuzari argument.

jewish philosopher said...

Secular scholars who do examine all the evidence honestly and soberly would no longer be secular.

Anonymous said...

Secular scholars who do examine all the evidence honestly and soberly would no longer be secular.

Bull. You talk of the desire of secular scholars, but about your overwhelming desire to understand Torah as divinely given and a unified document.

Have you read Friedman's *The Bible with Sources Revealed*? In it, he goes through the evidence of the documentary hypothesis and shows how all the different documents - J, E, P and D - have been put together in their modern form. He gives the entire Torah, in translation, with color coding for each of the traditions.

You cannot dismiss the DH entirely. There's too much quality evidence.

jewish philosopher said...

I have Friedman's book and I've refuted DH.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Philosopher:

Implied in your assertion is that the overwhelming majority of bible scholars and historians (Jewish or gentile), who have accepted the DH for at least 100 years, are lying, conspiring or self deceived.

Please substantiate this accusation.

jewish philosopher said...

I think they're beginning with the false assumption that the Torah is bogus and working from there.

Anonymous said...

"I think they're beginning with the false assumption that the Torah is bogus and working from there."

Translation: I actually have no substantiation and I prefer instead to offer my uninformed opinion to protect a worldview that I desire to be true.

jewish philosopher said...

How do you know that all the millions of holocaust deniers aren't simply honest, impartial historians? What basis is there to claims of them being self deceiving and anti-jewish?

Anonymous said...

"How do you know that all the millions of holocaust deniers aren't simply honest, impartial historians?"

Which millions of "historians"? I'm talking about professional scholars, not crackpots or ignorant lay people.

"What basis is there to claims of them being self deceiving and anti-jewish?"

Because their claims are in complete contradiction to widely accepted and credible evidence, and qualifies as a anti-semitic conspiracy theory.

Mr. Philosopher, I am sure that you are able to distinguish between a legitimate historical debate and a conspiracy theory.

jewish philosopher said...

So you agree that even in a great many scholars make a claim, if that claim is clearly preposterous, we are free to reject it and assume that they have been influenced by personal bias.

Anonymous said...

Which "great many scholars"? A dozen in the past 60 years? Out of thousands of historians who have produced tens of thousands of papers and books? No other scholars take them seriously. I mean serious academics who publish in peer reviewed literature whose ideas have to stand up to scrutiny and rebuttal.

jewish philosopher said...

I think I'll make up my mind by looking at the facts, now by what most or some scholars think.

Anonymous said...

"I think I'll make up my mind by looking at the facts, not by what most or some scholars think."

Fair enough.

Do you exhibit the same critical thinking regarding what the "scholars" of the Talmud say, relying only on the "facts" and human reason, rather than just what the scholars think?

jewish philosopher said...


ksil lo yavin said...

This is why the zoo rabbi has been banned...when you go down this road it beomes a very slippery slope. JP, what would happen if you came across some very compelling evidence AGAINST your holy and pure beliefs....based on this "rationlist" free-thinking analysis - you would leave orthodox judaism.

jewish philosopher said...

"you would leave orthodox judaism."

Of course. And if I came across compelling evidence that I'm really in China I would convert all my dollars to yuan.

Anonymous said...

I get so upset at calling the Israelites that wondered the desert, Jews, this is not correct, Where in the Torah does it call them Jews, it never does.
'When the Samaritans separated from the Jews during the 5th -4th century ...' This statement has been written over and over again. Another phrase used, is Samaritan Jews" Another typical sentence, 'The Samaritan faith and that of other Jews diverged over a millennium ago.' And let us not forget the most used words,, "Samaritan schism." Are there any truths to these statements?
First, the Samaritan never have and never will say they were once Jews. Since the Jews originated from the southern kingdom known as Judea, it would therefore be incorrect to say that the origins the Samaritans were Jewish, since the Samaritan beginnings derived from the Northern Kingdom of Israel. In the fourth century CE most all of Israel belonged to the northern kingdom except for the territory of Judea (see the The Survey of Western Palestine from the Palestine Exploration Fund 1881). at this time there was over 1,200,000 people of the Northern Kingdom.
The division of Israel 1st come about with Eli, this is the most important issue on the splitting of Israel. Israel has been split from this time, even under Solomon there were those that apposed the original location of the Tabernacle. It is therefore can be said since the Northern Kingdom remained faithful to the location where Joshua pitched the Tabernacle and built the Altar as instructed. If this location was incorrect then, would not the God of the Israelites informed him or the High Priest? Since the Samaritan can prove that they are of the Northern Kingdom, then there cannot be a schism that came from them!
The Jewish version of say in 2 Kings 17 that the Samaritans intermarried with foreigners. There were only 27, 290 people taken from the Northern Kingdom, a small percentage of the populous of the land. One must admit that there were some pagans living in the land at the time and even some Jews in the north. But still today the Samaritans do not marry outside of the faith except when taking Jewish wives that convert to their faith.
Most scholars and authors do not investigate when making statements concerning the Samaritans but revert to old statements made by uninformed men.

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