Current State of Samaritan Studies (Hexateuch)

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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Russell Gmirkin
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Current State of Samaritan Studies (Hexateuch)

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

The information in this discussion group on the state of Samaritan Studies appears to be somewhat dated. While it was casually assumed throughout the seventeeth through twentieth centuries that the Pentateuch was a product of Jewish scribal culture, every recent study I have run across has claimed that the Samaritans were the dominant authorial group behind the Hexateuch. The evidence is pretty clear, as many prominent scholars now note: the prominence of Gerizim, Ebal and Shechem and absence of Jerusalem as religious sites in Deuteronomy and Joshua, the prominence of “Israel” (i.e. the Northern Kingdom) and Joseph in Genesis, the minor and sometimes negative role of the patriarch Judah, etc., etc. This is pretty much standard scholarship today. So for instance:

Nihan, Christophe, “The Torah between Samaria and Judah: Shechem and Gerizim in Deuteronomy and Joshua.” Pages 187-224 in Gary N. Knoppers and Bernard M. Levinson (eds.) Pentateuch as Torah: New Models for Understanding Its Promulgation and Acceptance (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2007).

Kratz, Reinhard G., “Temple and Torah: Reflections on the Legal Status of the Pentateuch between Elephantine and Qumran.” Pages 77-104 in Gary N. Knoppers and Bernard M. Levinson (eds.) Pentateuch as Torah: New Models for Understanding Its Promulgation and Acceptance (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2007), 98-101.

Knoppers, Gary, Jews and Samaritans: The Origins and History of their Early Relations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Knoppers, Gary, “The Northern Context of the Law-Code in Deuteronomy,” Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel 4.2 (2015): 162-83.

Hjelm, Ingrid “Northern Perspectives in Deuteronomy and its Relation to the Samaritan Pentateuch,” Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel 4.2 (2015): 184-204.

Gmirkin, Russell E., Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible. London: Routledge, 2017.

Bergsma, John S., “A Samaritan Pentateuch?: The Implications of the Pro-Northern Tendency of the Common Pentateuch,” in M. Armgardt, B. Kilchör and M. Zehnder (eds.), Paradigm Change in Pentateuchal Research (BZAR 22; Ðiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2019), 287-300.

Gmirkin, Russell E., Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts: Cosmic Monotheism and Terrestrial Polytheism in the Primordial History. London: Routledge, 2022.

It is noteworthy that most of the above sources posit a joint Samaritan-Judean composition of the Hexateuch as a compromise document (which, among other things, explains why the Torah was accepted by both Samaritans and Jews).
Last edited by Russell Gmirkin on Sun Nov 06, 2022 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
Russell Gmirkin
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Re: Current State of Samaritan Studies (Hexateuch)

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

So the twentieth century idea that the Hexateuch was created by and for the Jews is not the position of 99.999% of scholarship today. The current trend appears to be quite the opposite. Samaritan authorship of the Hexateuch (or major portions thereof) is now quite mainstream, basically “yesterday’s news”.

However, there are also several important indications that Judah played a minor authorial role in creating the Hexateuch.

(1) Why else would Judah be included in the twelve tribes of Israel?
(2) Why else was Judah prominently allotted territory in the book of Joshua?
(3) Why was Caleb, the one positively regarded spy under Moses, and the only adult Israelite who didn’t die in the 40 years wandering, assigned a major chunk of territory in Judah (Josh. 14-15)?
(4) Why else would Gen. 49:10 say “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, not a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come”?
(5) Why else would Deut. 17:14-40 (“the rule of the king”) foreshadow the rise of Solomon, the king of the Jerusalem, temple city and Judah’s capital?
(6) Why does there exist both a wilderness Priestly legislation P which (in my opinion) appears to stem from the Samaritans, and the Holiness Code H (Lev. 17-26) that stems from Jerusalem (based on extensive parallels between H and Ezekiel, which devotes several chapters to Jerusalem).
(7) As noted above, why else did both Samaritans and Jews accept the Pentateuch as authoritative?

A Samaritan-only composition of the Hexateuch stumbles on these facts, which can only be explained away in a highly arbitrary, ad hoc manner. A viable theory must account for ALL the evidence. I believe a joint Samaritan-Judean composition of the Pentateuch, with the Samaritans having the leading role, economically accounts for all the facts.

My own original research uncovers and highlights the substantial Babylonian/Assyrian ethnic component of the Samaritans, which persisted into the Hellenistic Era, and which provided a channel for the transmission of many Babylonian traditions to the biblical authors. A book I am currently working on, Babylonian and Samaritan Science in the Primordial History, develops this theme as well as breaking new ground on Samaritan influences in the pseudepigrapha.
Russell Gmirkin
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Re: Current State of Samaritan Studies (Hexateuch)

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

Secret Alias wrote: Sat Nov 05, 2022 11:01 am I'd like to ask Gmirkin (as a way of taking the temperature down in this debate) does he acknowledge that IF the lack of mention of the place name 'Jerusalem' in the document confirms only an interest in Gerizim/Shechem because the document was written for a north Israelite audience THAT we need at least two 'stages' to the arrival of a 'Pentateuch' in Jerusalem:

1. an original Gerizim covenant followed later by a specifically 'Jewish' one in Jerusalem
2. the addition of Deuteronomy to a Tetrateuch (and where the Shema seems at least to be a correction towards or perhaps 'strengthening' of a monotheistic interpretation of the two divine names in the Tetrateuch).

In other words, (a) an initial composition of a Gerizim-based Tetrateuch (b) the addition of Deuteronomy sometime later by different author(s) still at the Gerizim-based covenant and then (c) a specifically Jewish 'Pentateuch' for a covenant at Jerusalem. Is that acknowledged to be the necessary timeline if the lack of reference to 'Jerusalem' in the Pentateuch means the Pentateuch was originally a northern Israelite document?
I don’t see evidence for the Hexateuch reflecting either an actual Gerizim or actual Jerusalem covenant, historically speaking. In particular, the biblical covenant language reflects Greek rather than Ancient Near Eastern political practices, as I discuss extensively in Chapter 4 of Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible. As a Greek literary trope which is unlikely to have been known in the Levant in pre-Hellenistic times, it simply does not appear grounded in historical realities.

I happen to agree that Gerizim overshadowed Jerusalem at the time of the creation of the Hexateuch, although both temples were considered acceptable centers of Yahweh worship. It is important to note that the specification of a single place of worship is found nowhere in the Hexateuch except for ONE chapter in Deuteronomy, which is probably one of the latest passages in Deuteronomy, reflecting a contest for legitimacy between Gerizim and Jerusalem, and in which—it is important to note—neither Gerizim nor Jerusalem is mentioned or identified as the place Yahweh would place his name.

Finally, the conflation of Yahweh with Elohim is already present in Exodus (for instance, in the sabbath commandment of the Decalog). I don’t see the relevance of the Shema or divine names in this discussion. Since they aren’t directly relevant to the question of Samaritan/Jewish authorship of the Hexateuch, perhaps we can leave them out of the current discussion.
Russell Gmirkin
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Re: Current State of Samaritan Studies (Hexateuch)

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

Secret Alias wrote: Sat Nov 05, 2022 11:01 am The reality is clearly:

(a) Tetrateuch with no reference to Jerusalem (so built for a cultus based at Gerizim)
(b) Tetrateuch + Deuteronomy with no reference to Jerusalem (so built for a cultus based at Gerizim)
(c) Tetrateuch + Deuteronomy with no reference to Jerusalem used at a distinct 'break off' cultus at Jerusalem

Joshua was still written with Gerizim as the cultic center of Israel.

There just isn't enough time for three developments (Deuteronomy written to reinforce or reinterpret the Tetrateuch's two divine names 'Yahweh' and 'Elohim' as one God?), developments which clearly took place over at least a century, for all of this to fit with the earliest Pentateuch fragment at Qumran used as part of (c)
I don’t much disagree with (a) or (b), but I have no idea what you mean by (c) [and I’m not particularly curious to find out]. I accept that Deuteronomy’s use of J and P points to Deuteronomy being somewhat later. As for how much time elapsed between the writing of the Tetrateuch and Deuteronomy, all one can say with assurance is one is later than the other. You say “clearly” by at least a century, while I would say more likely days or weeks (during the creation of the entirety of the Torah at Alexandria datable by external criteria to ca. 273-272 BCE). In terms of the internal biblical literary evidence, either position is equally valid.
Russell Gmirkin
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Re: Current State of Samaritan Studies (Hexateuch)

Post by Russell Gmirkin »

Secret Alias wrote: Sun Nov 06, 2022 2:51 am Let's start with lack of mention of "Jerusalem" explained. A safe topic where I apparently am in the minority. But which, when viewed with open eyes makes the assumed position of most scholars (= the Pentateuch being written for a nascent sacrificial cult at Jerusalem) untenable.

My position is as you may have discerned the lack of mention of "Jerusalem" is because Gerizim was the traditional cultic center. "90%" (I have no clue the exact number) of the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob narrative that is set in the Land so to speak takes place in the northern "Land."
I agree totally, except to add that this has now become fairly standard scholarship, unless there has been a backlash against Samari(t)an authorial contributions to the Hexateuch that I am not aware of.

That's it for me at present.
StephenGoranson
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Re: Current State of Samaritan Studies (Hexateuch)

Post by StephenGoranson »

I think someone should suggest that

"....So the twentieth century idea that the Hexateuch was created by and for the Jews is not the position of 99.999% of scholarship today. The current trend appears to be quite the opposite....."

is an exaggeration.

Added:
To be clear, I am not dismissing Samaritans, etc.
Just saying that, as description of current scholar views, whether held rightly or wrongly, it is extreme to say 99.999% .
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Secret Alias
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Re: Current State of Samaritan Studies (Hexateuch)

Post by Secret Alias »

I don’t see evidence for the Hexateuch reflecting either an actual Gerizim or actual Jerusalem covenant
Again, the lack of mention of "Jerusalem" is modesty on the part of the Jewish authors? They had pen in hand and papyrus and ... 'forgot' to mention Jerusalem? Really?

In the musical New York New York, how many references to "New York" do you think there are? More than none right? I don't have access to the text of New York New York but I found MacBeth. 287 references to "Macbeth" in Macbeth.

19 references to Shechem in Genesis. 13 references to "Bethel" as a location near Shechem (Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel) in Genesis etc. etc.
Last edited by Secret Alias on Sun Nov 06, 2022 10:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
rgprice
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Re: Current State of Samaritan Studies (Hexateuch)

Post by rgprice »

What if it was created by neither Samaritans nor Jews. When did these distinctions come into existence?

It seems a bit like asking if the Pauline letters were originally written by Christians or Gnostics. Of course they may have been written by neither.
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Secret Alias
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Re: Current State of Samaritan Studies (Hexateuch)

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But why? Why is the obvious answer not the right answer? I find my wife in bed naked with another man who also happens to be naked. Why is the right answer she was trying to be like Gandhi? Trying to overcome her passions. Who is this naive in the real world?
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Secret Alias
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Re: Current State of Samaritan Studies (Hexateuch)

Post by Secret Alias »

It's like in the other thread in the Christian section. The question of whether Josephus was identifying Vespasian as the figure from Genesis 49:10 is surely 'helped' by the fact that Vespasian's name in Aramaic adds up to 335 the number of Shilo in the more original (Samaritan) manuscripts. But we make or break the question of "whether Josephus said this about Vespasian" based on arguments from secondary sources and modern interpretation. Why? It's a Samaritan text. Can we just move on?
Last edited by Secret Alias on Sun Nov 06, 2022 10:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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