When you compare the Samaritan Pentateuch with the Masoretic Text and the rest of the manuscripts that serve as the basis for Bible translations today, they are virtually identical!
Let’s look at one of the more interesting episodes of history:
Ezra 4:1-5 “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the LORD God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”
But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers’ houses of Israel said to them, ‘You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.’ Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”
To set the context of this, let’s look at some background:
930BC – there was a split between the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah
722BC– the Northern Kingdom was carried off into captivity by Assyria, leaving behind a mixture of Israelites and those who followed pagan religions (soon thereafter, the area was thoroughly influenced/corrupted with paganism)
586BC – the Southern Kingdom was carried off into captivity by Babylon
536BC – the Jews returned from captivity after the Persians took Babylon
Shortly thereafter, the Jews started to rebuild the Temple and later the rest of Jerusalem. When they first began, they were approached by those from the former Northern Kingdom territories (referred to as Samaria) so as to join in. They were rebuffed however, due to their having compromised in their religious worship.
The Samaritans produced their own copies of the Pentateuch (i.e., the first five books of the Bible). However, they didn’t copy any of the other books comprising the Old Testament. This is because once you get to the Book of Joshua, Jerusalem begins to come into play. They so deeply resented the Jews’ rejection that they wanted no reminders of Jerusalem.
Written in an ancient Hebrew style that is called “paleo-Hebrew” (it’s actually the Samarian character style of ancient Hebrew), there is a copy that dates back to the 1st Century.
Here’s an article for further reading: Has the Bible Been Changed?
Once you take into account vowel inclusion within the Pentateuch (use of vowels did not show up until much later in history), there is a discrepancy of 6000 out of 304,805 letters between the Masoretic text and the Samaritan Pentateuch. In other words, there is about 99% agreement between the Masoretic texts and the Samaritan Pentateuch.
The only significant discrepancies found between the Masoretic Text and the Samaritan Pentateuch is that the latter adds 100 years to the age of some of the patriarchs identified in Genesis Chapters 5 and 11. A few other age discrepancies exist as well. The Samaritan Pentateuch has tampered with Exodus 20: 17 and has added a verse which speaks about the importance of Mt. Gerazim. Since the Samaritans could not worship in Jerusalem, they focused on Mt.Gerazim in Samaria.
Remember, the more agreement there is among ancient documents – the more certain we can be as to the manuscript’s authenticity!