The Samaritans , use the ancient Hebrew script, which was used, as we believe,  by  Moses  to write the Torah. The script was developed and preserved throughout the centuries, and was used by both, Samaritans and Jews till the beginning of the 1st C.E..  All of our  holy scriptures, as the torah, prayer books, inscriptions , liturgical compositions and marriage documents  written in this  holy  and ancient script. 

See the Samaritan letters..

According to the Jerusalem Talmud, the scribe Ezra, was the one to change the script and the language of the Torah : (Sanhedrin,11,2)

 

There is a Boraitha: R. Jose said: Ezra was worthy that the Torah should be given through him, if Moses had not preceded him. Concerning Moses it reads [Ex. xix. 3]: “And Moses went up unto God”; and concerning Ezra it reads [Ezra, vii. 6]: “This Ezra went up.” The term “went up” concerning Moses means to receive the Torah, the same being meant by the same expression concerning Ezra. Farther on it is written [Deut. iv. 14]: “And me the Lord commanded at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances.” And it is also written [Ezra, vii. 10]: “For Ezra had directed his heart to inquire into the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances.” And although the Torah was not given through him, the characters of it were changed through him. As it is written [ibid. iv. 7]: “And the writing of the letter was written in Aramaic, and interpreted in Aramaic.” And it is also written [Dan. v. 8]: “They were not able to read the writing, nor to make its interpretation.” (Hence we see that the new characters the Aramaic people could not read.) And why are they named Assyrian? Because they were brought from the country of Assyria.

However the the historical and archaeological evidences, show that the change occurred when the Jews finally adopted the Aramaic script, while the Samaritans adhert the ancient Hebrew script. That happend at the 1st C.E.. Till than, both Samaritans and Jews used the both scripts, Hebrew and Aramaic.

In the Samaritan historical chronicles, the scribe Ezra described in  mentioned a very negatively way :

And Ezra the priest took  along with  his friend Nehemiah, and all the head of  his community, re wrote  the Book of the Holy Torah in wrote it in the language of the Assyrians and  in their letters.  He also made a lot of changes inside the Holy Book, and  intensified the hatred between the sons of Joseph and the sons of Judah. In doing so, he passed the prohibition mentioned in the Torah:  “Do not add to it or subtract from it”.

{The “History book by Ab Sikua son of Asa’ad”, 1900,pp 43-44}

The Samaritan Hebrew script has two types, named in arabic: mujallas (literally “well set”) for the majuscule  and tarish for the minuscule. The majuscule script  is the original script,  and  used  usually for copying  the Torah, while the minuscule is a development of the original script, and used in prayer and other books and documents.

The Development of the script .

Most  scholars assume that the Samaritan script , was developed from the palaeo-Hebrew script, in the first century C.E.  The french archaeologist ,Charles Simon Clermont- Ganneau, identified the script written  on the coins, from the first and second  Jewish revolts, as similar to the one used by the Samaritans. { Charles Simon Clermont- Ganneau,”Note II: Expedition to Amwas (Emmaus-Nicopolis),PEFQS 14-1882:22-37}.

The excavations  on Mt.Gerizim have brought to light eight inscriptions from the second-third centuries B.C.E , in Palaeo-Hebrew script. This script represents an intermediary stage between the Palaeo-Hebrew script pf the persian period  and the script on the Hasmonean and later Jewish coins. The Samaritan script proper, as we know it from later epigraphic and still later manuscript evidence, evolved  from the script that is used in Mt.Gerizim Palaeo-Hebrew inscriptions. 

There is no a decisive proof, when the Samaritan script first developed. Some think it was in the Hasmonean period, while the Jews started to stop using it. Others think it was in the first century C.E because they date the Emmaus inscription in that Period.(The inscription now dated  to the fifth-sixth centuries),and still others after the second Jewish war. {Mark D.McLean, ” The use and Development of Palaeo-Hebrew  in the Hellenistic and Roman Times”,Ph.D,diss, Harvard University ,1982, p.106}

Recently, Dan Barag has suggested that the Samaritan script was consciously created by the Samaritans in the forth century C.E., since no Samaritan inscription can be dated to an earlier period, and because of a passage ( a baraitha) in the Babylonian Talmud, which implies that Samaritans used the Palaeo-Hebrew script to write their pentateuch still in the third century : 

Rav Hisda said,Mar Uqba said: Originally the Torah  was given to israel in Hebrew script and the holy tongue; later in the time of Ezra, the Torah was given in the Assyrian script and the Aramaic language.They selected for Israel the Assyrian script and the holy tongue, leaving the Hebrew script and the Aramaic language to the simple folk. Who are the simple folk – Rav Hisda said Cutheans. {b.Sanhedrin 21b}

By “Hebrew Script”, paleo-Hebrew is meant; “Assyrian” script connotes the Jewish “square Hebrew “derived from Aramaic”.

{Dan Barag,” Samaritans Writing and Writings”, in “From Hellneism to Islam: Cultural and linguistic Change in the Roman Near East,ed.Hannah M.Cotton,Robert G.Hoyland, Jonathan J Price, and David J. Wasserstein ( Cambridge University Press 2009) pp 313-314}

The inscriptions found on Mt. Gerizim  attest that at least  until the conquest of Samaria by John Hyrcanus , Jews and Samaritans  shared the same writing systems, that is , both provinces used both scripts, the Aramaic script and the Hebrew script. 

The Jewish rabbis frowned upon the scribes who wrote in Palaeo-Hebrew script, that is because their rivals used it.The negative attitude of  the rabbis comes to the fore in the idea that the Torah was originally given in Assarian script, but when the Israelites sinned, it was changed into ro’az ( Palaeo-Hebrew). When they repented, it was changed back to the Assyrian script.(See  the above text from Sanhedrin 21b), an assertion that is not supported by the historical findings found over the years.

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