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Asbury Bible Commentary – Samaritan Pentateuch
Samaritan Pentateuch

Samaritan Pentateuch

The Samaritan Pentateuch is not a version but a rival Hebrew text type to the Masoretic text (a.d. 90). It is an independent witness to Hebrew text types. In the fifth century b.c. the Samaritans adopted and adapted the Pentateuch alone as their sacred Scriptures. Since there were some changes in the extant Hebrew manuscripts during the later centuries, the Samaritan Pentateuch is an important tool for doing textual criticism, which tries to ascertain the probable original readings of the Masoretic text. It differs from the received Masoretic text in mostly minor ways. At times it agrees with the Septuagint, at times with the Masoretic text, at times with the manuscripts among the DSS.

The diligent study of the Dead Sea Scrolls has supported Kahle's view that the Samaritan Pentateuch represents a “popular revision of an older text in which antiquated forms and constructions, not familiar to people of later times, were replaced by forms and constructions easier to be understood, difficulties were removed, parallel passages were inserted” (Cairo Geniza, 1st ed., 147ff.). The DSS have shown that before the Masoretic text was standardized (a.d. 90) several Hebrew text types were being used at Qumran. Some Hebrew texts from Qumran are similar to the “popular” text type of the Samaritan Pentateuch; so it seems that the Samaritan Pentateuch may be a popular Palestinian Hebrew text edited by the Samaritans themselves.

The Samaritan Pentateuch varies from the Masoretic text nearly six thousand times. But these variances are nearly all minor. In two thousand of these cases it agrees with the Septuagint (LXX). A couple of these variations are especially revealing about the differences between the Jews and Samaritans. Mt. Gerazim is emphasized in the Samaritan Pentateuch (cf. Dt 12:5; cf. 11:29). Mt. Gerazim replaces Mt. Ebal in Dt 27:4-8, and inserts a tendential passage right after the Ten Commandments in Ex 20:2-17 and Dt 5:6-21, which emphasizes Mt. Gerazim again.

The Samaritan Pentateuch was first acquired and published by European scholars in the seventeenth century. In 1632 it was published in the Paris Polyglot Bible. A. von Gall provided the standard printed edition of the Samaritan pentateuch in 1914-18, Giessen, Germany. It was reprinted in 1963 in Berlin.