Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Samaritan Pentateuch

The Samaritan Pentateuch was known to some of the Church Fathers such as Eusebius (265-340) and Jerome (340-420) but until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls its antiquity had been in question. The most important variants are the ones which reveal the fundamental points at issue between the Samaritans and Jews. The Samaritans emphasized the importance of Shechem and Mount Gerizim and declared that God had chosen them to be the center of the nation. Thus, where Moses in Deuteronomy 12:5 and other places, speaks of “the place which the Lord your God shall choose” (later identified as Jerusalem), the Samaritan edition translates it "the place which the Lord your God has chosen" - meaning Mount Gerizim, which has already been specified in Deuteronomy 27:4-8 where Moses commands that the stones bearing the words of the Law and an altar of unknown stones are to be set up on Mount Ebal, the Samaritan text has Gerizim for Ebal.

Exodus lies at the center of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Thus the most important difference occurs in Chapter 20, which contains the extraordinary 10th Commandment, reads as follow (translation of the SP provided by Moses Gaster, 1923):

“And it shall come to pass when the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land of the Canaanites whither thou goest to take possession of it, thou shalt erect unto thee large stones, and thou shalt cover them with lime, and thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this Law, and it shall come to pass when ye cross the Jordan, ye shall erect these stones which I command thee upon Mount Gerizim, and thou shalt build there an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones, and thou shalt not lift upon them iron, of perfect stones shalt thou build thine altar, and thou shalt bring upon it burnt offerings to the Lord thy God, and thou shalt sacrifice peace offerings, and thou shalt eat there and rejoice before the Lord thy God. That mountain is on the other side of the Jordan at the end of the road towards the going down of the sun in the land of the Canaanites who dwell in the Arabah facing Gilgal close by Elon Moreh facing Shechem.”

Exodus 20 of the SP at three points includes material not found in the MT. At the first point, Exodus 20:17 includes Ex 13:11a; Deut 27:2b-3a; 27:4-7; and Deut 11:30. The second one in Deut 20:19 include Deut 5:24-27. The third point at Exodus 20:22a include 5:28b-29; 18:18-22 and 5:30-31. The third instance with the same order of verses can be found in several different fragments from Qumran. The Qumran material clarified the eschatological function of the prophet like Moses.

In verse 37, Stephen appears to quote Deuteronomy 18:15 by including a saying about God raising up a prophet like Moses. Those scholars who are attentive to the Samaritan nuances recognize that Luke had essentially been following Genesis and Exodus. Thus they recognize that Deuteronomy 18:15 is out of place and furthermore that Exodus 20 of the SP, which would not be out of place, includes this same prediction about God raising up a prophet like Moses. Exodus 20 SP, included what is called the Samaritan tenth commandment, established Mount Gerizim as the sacred place that God has chosen. Stephen must have been following the Samaritan Pentateuch.

Scharlemann noted: “That is to say, Stephen quotes the passage as it is found in Exodus 20:21b of the Samaritan Pentateuch, at a point immediately after the account of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. . . . There can be little doubt, therefore, that Stephen is here echoing a Samaritan context dealing with the revelation on Mount Sinai. We must add here the notice that certain fragments of a Samaritan recension were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. They contain the same kind of transposition as we have noted, including the expansion at Exodus 20:21.”

The Samaritan community understood this saying about God raising up a prophet like Moses in a messianic sense. Judaism did not. The Samaritans believed that Moses will return and lead the wilderness generation into the Promised Land into a new age of righteousness. Perhaps they interpreted the Malachi tradition to mean that when Elijah returns, Moses will return with him. The Transfiguration experience partially vindicates the Samaritan understanding of the role of Moses. Stephen’s use of the Righteous One as a term for Jesus may imply that Stephen understood Jesus to be a combination Moses-Joshua-Messiah.

Witherington rejects the argument because “the speech does not contain any real elements of what could be called distinctive Samaritan belief.” Since the familiar themes traceable to Jewish Christianity include the eschatological Mosaic prophet and the Righteous One, it is important to understand the significance of Stephen quoting Exodus 20 of the SP.

This is a work in progress.

Religion and Technology Center has made available on its web site the Samaritan Pentateuch edited by von Gall:

Click on List of Titles to see other documents.

Copyrighted 2007


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