The Samaritans only adhere to the Pentateuch – the first five books of the holy bible, and it is one of the five principles of the Samaritan faith. Every Samaritan member, mentions these five principles of faith in each prayer: “I have faith in you, YHWH, and in Moses son of Amram your servant, and in the holy Torah,  and in the mountain of Greazim, the house of the Lord, and on the day of  Vengeance and Recompense”.{“אימנותי בך יהוה, ובמשה בן עמרם עבדך, ובתורה הקדושה, ובהרגריזים בית אל, וביום נקם ושלם”}.

The  Samaritan Torah – the version of the Pentateuch in the hands of the Samaritanswritten in the ancient Hebrew script. Every child or girl starts studying the reading of the Torah, at a very young age. The reading of the Torah will always begin with the preface of the verse from Deut 32:3 – 4 ( The quote is according to the Samaritan

Page of the Samaritan Torah
Page of the Samaritan Torah

Version),  “For I shall proclaim the name of the Yhwh and ascribe ye greatness unto our God. The Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice; a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is He.”{” כי בשם יהוה אקרא; והבו גדל לאלהינו; הצור תמים פעלו; כי כל דרכיו משפט; אל אמונה ואין עול, צדיק וישר הוא -}. The verse ends with a non-biblical addition of “Blessed be our God forever, and blessed be his name forever.” {“ברוך אלהינו לעולם וברוך שמו לעולם”}.

The ancient manuscripts of the  Torah, are written on adapted paper from pure beasts, while the daily use copies of the Torah, are written on a regular paper. In the last three decades, after designing several forms of computerized fonts, it is even printed by computers. The Scroll of the Torah, used by the priests, during the prayer services, is placed in a decorated metal cylinder, divided into three parts. These scrolls, called ‘Maktab’ {‘מכתב’}, are in use only while prayer services, are always opened upon the place of the verse in Leviticus 9:22, and are waved by the priests, in front of the crowd, during the prayer services.

The Samaritan version Vs The Masoretic Version of the Torah

The scroll of the Samaritan Torah
The scroll of the Samaritan Torah

The Samaritan Pentateuch differs, from the Jewish Masoretic Text, with approximately 7000 differences, most of it, due to the different orthography of the words. After a deep comparing research, of the two versions of the Pentateuch, to that of the Septuagint (The Greek Old Testament), it has been discovered that 1900 places of the differences of the Septuagint from the Masoretic Text, the text of the Septuagint is identical with the Samaritan Pentateuch.

The most fundamental differences between the two versions of the Torah ( Mt – Masoretic text, SP – Samaritan Pentateuch)  regarding the holy chosen place.  In twenty-one occurrences {The verses of Deut: 12:5, 11,14, 18, 21, 26; 14:23 ,24,25; 15:20; 16:2, 6, 7, 11 ,15 ,16;17:8,10;18:6;;26:2;31:11} of the Samaritan Pentateuch, it is written: “the place that Yhwh  your God has chosen (בחר)“, in past tense while in the Masoretic  Jewish version it is written: “the place that Yhwh your God will choose (יבחר)in future tense.This matter connects, to the difference between the two religious conceptions regarding the holy chosen place. The Samaritans claim that the place of God dwelling has been chosen since the day of the creation, and is Mount Gerizim (“הרגריזים” -written in one word in the SP), the Mount of the blessing (Deut 11:29)  and where Abraham and Jacob had built altars, while the Jews claim that the place of residence has been chosen only during the days of King David.   Points to think about, which actually reinforces the Samaritan version, are the traces left by the scribes, in these places:

Exodus 15:17– “Thou bringest them in, and plantest them in the mountain of Thine inheritance, the place, O LORD, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established“.

Exodus 23:20 ” Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee by the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.” In this example, it is interesting to read the verses before, which command on the third pilgrimages of the year to the holy chosen place, Indicates that this verse refers to the chosen place.

Nehemia 1:9-10 :” Remember, I beseech Thee, the word that Thou didst command Thy servant Moses, saying: If ye deal treacherously, I will scatter you abroad among the peoples;  but if ye return unto Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though your dispersed were in the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to cause My name to dwell there.” 
In these verses, it is noted that the holy place was already chosen, before the days of David and Solomon the kings, and there is no place or reason for the future tense unless it was changed in later periods. 

Professor Adrian Schenker, from the University of Fribourg, has reached the conclusion that “has chosen” must have been the original reading. By analyzing ancient Greek, Coptic, and Vetus Latina readings, as well as by taking into account the reference in Nehemiah 1:9, he came to the conclusion that the reading “will choose” in the Masoretic text is a theologically motivated correction.{See Adrian Schenker :{http://biblicalauthorship.blogspot.com/2012/04/le-seigneur-choisira-t-il-le-lieu-de.html}. 
He underlines that the manuscripts contain the perfect form are independent from each other, and the LXX, translated in the third-century B.C.E, cannot have been influenced by the Samaritan Pentateuch. Thus the reading of the Masoretic text must date from after the third-century B.C.E. 

According to Schenker, In Judah, and in particular in Jerusalem, the tension between the Deutronimic formula on the one hand, and 2 Samuel 24:18 and  1 Chronicles  21:18-28, on the other, led to change in the Masoretic tense from the future to the perfect tense, that is to say, later scribes wanted to avoid the conflict with the passages in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, and made the modifications in order to justify the Temple of Jerusalem.  

it is more plausible to explain the  TM as a modification made to the formula in order to remove an important theological tension, than to suppose a reverse modification which would have affected the Hebrew model of the old Lxx before the 3rd century.
  { Adrian Schenker, “Le Seigneur choisir -t-il le lieu de son nom ou l’a-t-il choisi? L’apport de la Bible Grecque ancienne a’ l’histoire du texte samaritainan et massore’tique ” in Scriptue in Tradition:Essays on Septuagint ,Hebrew Bible, and Sea Scrolls in Honor of Raija Sollamo,ed.Anssi Viotila and Jutta Jokiranta (JS)Sup,126;Leiden;Boston:Brill, 2008}

The second significant difference between the SP and the MT version is the reading ” “Gerizim”  in Deut 20:24 rather than “Ebal” of the Masoretic version. This reading of “Mount Gerizim” (in one word in the Samaritan Pentateuch) was likewise thought, by modern scholars in the past, to be a Samaritan sectarian correction from the Masoretic text – “Mount Ebal”, however after it was realized that the old Latin translation of the Pentateuch also reads ” Gerizin”  in codex 100 as does the Papyrus Giessen from the fifth/sixth-century C.E, it was surmised that this reading is based on an old Greek reading and possibly an old Hebrew reading that was a general Jewish, and not particularly Samaritan reading. { Eugen Charles Ulrich , “4QJoshua” and Joshua’s First Altar in the promised land”, in New Qumran text and studies” , Paris 19992}

In July 2008, James Charlesworth, one of the scholars of the Dead Sea Scroll, published a fragment from cave 4 at Qumran, of Deut 27:4-6, which similar to the Samaritan Version of the verse, and suggests the text: “on Mount Gerizim” (“בהרגריזים”), in one word as the Samaritans, write it in their version of the Torah. The genuineness of the fragment doesn’t see to be in doubt and point to an identification of the text as a general Jewish text. There were scholars who concluded that “Gerizim” in Deuteronomy 27:4 was the original text, and was later changed by Jewish writers out of animosity against the Samaritan place of worship on this mountain.

((See also https://foundationjudaismchristianorigins.org/ftp/dead-sea-scrolls/unpub/DSS-deuteronomy.pdf))

  In the Ten Commandments [Ex. 20:1-14 , Duet. 5:18], comes the third and most known difference between the two versions.  The Tenth Commandment of the Pentateuch in the hands of the Israelite Samaritans, commands a building of an Altar on Mount Gerizim. this commandment is missing in the Jewish Masoretic text. However, to complete the number of the Commandments to ten, the Jews made the opening words “I am Yhwh your God” as the first Commandment although there is no command in these words but rather presentation words. 

The  Ancient Scroll of Abisha

The Samaritans hold the scroll of the world’s oldest scroll of the Torah, which according to the Samaritan tradition, is attributed to Abishah Ben Pinchas Ben Aharon Cohen. The scroll contains several renewed parts, which were rewritten and completed, mainly due to the intention of preserving the integrity of the Torah scroll. That happened in the days of the late high priest Jacob ben Aharon (1874-1916).

The Late High Priest, Aharon son of Ab Hisada With the scroll of Abisha.
The Late High Priest, Aharon son of Ab Hisada With the scroll of Abisha.

Because of Its age, most of the time the scroll is kept in a well-protected safe, and presented to the general public, only during the holidays. It is not being waved anymore in front of the crowd but kept in a special cupboard. 

The scroll contains, a Tashkil  –A signature which is added to the scroll, by way of typical word processing, without adding letters to book text, Indicates the story of the scroll:

“I am Abisha son of Pinchas son of Elazar, son of Aharon The priest, To them, the will of God and His honor wrote this Holy book, at the entrance of the Tabernacle, on the year of the kingdom of the Israelites, in the land of Israel and around. May I thank God”.

{אני. אבישע. בן. פנחס. בן. אלעזר. בן. אהרו. הכהן: להם. רצון. ה’. וכבודו. כתבתי. ספר הקדש. בפתח. אהל. מועד בהר. גריזים. בשנת. שלש. עשרה. לממלכת. בני. ישראל. ארץ. כנען. לגבולותיה. סביב: אודה. את. ה’.}

Various scholars, who have examined the nature of the scroll, dated the old part of it to the 11th century.

 

Listen to the Samaritan Torah reading.

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