Old Testament Authentication – Samaritan Pentateuch

There are some would argue that a 4th Jewish Torah tradition arose (along with that of the Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Yemenite ones) which was Samaritan – named for the same Samaritan which are mentioned in the New Testament.

Read Ezra 4: 1-5 and note the problem that begins to occur with those of Samaria (@ 458BC).

“Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the Lord God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and … said, “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, 5 and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose…”

Ezra 4: 1-5

The Samaritans copied the first five books of the Bible, but wouldn’t copy the rest of it because of its mentioning Jerusalem through and through. It was written in the Samarian character style of ancient Hebrew. Incidentally, the picture on the right is of a Samaritan High priest with one of the copies It is called the Abisha Scroll and dates to 1065 AD.

Here is one of the copies of the Samaritan Pentateuch called the “Leiden Manuscript” (specifically fragment “y”) This is Numbers 22:19 – 23:25 in Samaritan. This copy dates to roughly 1351 AD…although we have copies going back to around the time of the Masoretic Text (1100 AD).

The Comparison

Samaritan Pentateuch compared with the Masoretic Text:

  • There are just under 6,000 character differences between the two collections of texts
  • This is 6,000 out of 304,805 characters or letters in the Masoretic Text (i.e., additions, changes in spelling, or deletions)
  • This equates to 98.03 % agreement (much of this is simply because of the Paleo Hebrew employed)

An example of several character additions can be seen in Exodus 12: 40:

  • Samaritan Pentateuch reads, “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers who dwelt in the land of Canaan and in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.”
  • Masoretic Text reads, “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.”

Most discrepancies are of minimal impact and the correct original text is usually easily determined. More noteworthy discrepancies are:

  • Samaritan Pentateuch seems to have tampered with the Decalogue (and Exodus 20: 17) by adding a command to build an altar on Mount Gerizim.
  • Samaritan Pentateuch has some deltas on the ages of the Patriarchs in Genesis 5.