The Samaritan Pentateuch
The Samaritan Pentateuch are the five books of Moses (Pentateuch) which the
Samaritans took over from the Jews when they gained their independence in the
4th century B.C.
Following this, the Samaritans separated themselves and restricted their canon
to the first five books of Moses using their own alphabet. In this way the
manuscripts they handed down remained independent of the history which led to
the massoretic text which is a matter of great interest for textual criticism. A
manuscript of the Samaritan Pentateuch was found at Damascus in 1616. It is a
popular copy of the original text and contains some 6000 variants.
It is not impossible that the Samaritan Pentateuch came into the hands of the
Samaritans as an inheritance from the ten tribes whom they succeeded. However,
it is much more probable to conclude that it was introduced by Manasseh
(Josephus Ant. 11.8. 2, 4) at the time of the foundation of the Samaritan temple
on Mt. Gerazim.
The Samaritans rejected all the Old Testament except the Pentateuch, and they
claimed to have an older copy than the Jews and that they observe the precepts
Scholars have often wondered about the value of the text of the Samaritan
Pentateuch for any critical study. The MSS from Khirbet Qumran (Dead Sea
Scrolls) have now solved the problem. The variant readings in the text, the
forms of its script, and the orthography in the text all date the Samaritan
Pentateuch not earlier than the second generation of the Maccabees.
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