The Samaritans

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John2
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The Samaritans

Post by John2 »

I'm taking a fresh and closer look at the Samaritans and am curious what anyone here might make of their origin.

For example, I'd never given much thought to the Mt. Ebal vs. Mt. Gerizim debate regarding Dt. 27:4 before (summarized here: https://www.thetorah.com/article/an-alt ... ian-debate), and now I'm persuaded that it originally did say Mt. Gerizim, as per the Samaritan Torah.

And after perusing some books and other articles online and filtering them through my pro-Documentary Hypothesis bias of the origin or the Torah, this is how it looks to me.

The version of the DH I like is that Jeremiah (or his scribe Baruch) was the one who wrote "D" (Deuteronomy along with Joshua through 2 Kings). The similarity between the language of Jeremiah and Deuteronomy through 2 Kings and the lost text found in Jeremiah's time that sounds like Deuteronomy make this seem likely to me. And as noted here about Jeremiah's background:

Jeremiah was born in the year 650 B.C. at Anathoth, a small town situated three miles north of Jerusalem, in the territory of Benjamin. He belonged to a priestly family, probably the same one as cared for the Ark of the Covenant after the return from Egypt, and the one to which the high priest Eli had belonged, but which had retreated to Anathoth when Abiathar, David's priest, was banished by Solomon (I Kings ii. 26).

https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8586-jeremiah


Given that Jeremiah was related to the priesthood of the Northen Kingdom of Israel, he could have had access to Northern writings, like the one found in his time. And given that Jeremiah's ancestor Eli is blamed by the Samaritans for causing the schism between them and Jews, Jeremiah would have been in a position to "correct" the lost text in a way that was anti-Samaritan (or anti-proto-Samaritan) and pro-Judah (e.g., by changing Gerizim to Ebal and saying the place God "will" choose (i.e., Jerusalem) instead of the place God had already chosen (Mt. Gerizim) "to put his name."

I imagine the Deuteronomistic History was Jeremiah's attempt to blend writings from the Northern Kingdom of Israel ("D") with the writings and views of the Southern Kingdom of Judah and that the Northern refugees in Judah were in no position to reject it. But Israelites who remained in what used to be the Northern Kingdom became the Samaritans and used the original version of Deuteronomy, and the pro-Judah bent of what would become the rest of the OT would not have appealed to them (excepting Joshua).

But now I see a problem for the DH. Why do the Samaritans use other writings in their Torah that are thought to be from pre-exile Judah or post-exilic Persian times ("J" and "P"). Was this a concession they made when the exiles from Judah returned? Was a J, E, D, and P Torah the only Torah around by then and thus the only way Samaritans could have Northern writings (E and D)? Was it a gesture of brotherly unity on their part? As noted on Wikipedia, for example:

The similarities between Samaritans and Jews was such that the rabbis of the Mishnah found it impossible to draw a clear distinction between the two groups. Attempts to date when the schism among Israelites took place, which engendered the division between Samaritans and Judaeans, vary greatly, from the time of Ezra down to the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the Revolt of Bar Kochba of 130-135 CE. The emergence of a distinctive Samaritan identity, the outcome of a mutual estrangement between them and Jews, was something that developed over several centuries. Generally, a decisive rupture is believed to have taken place in the Hasmonean period.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritans


In any event, Samaritanism seems like a legitimate form of "Judaism" (so to speak) to me now, as far as history and genetics go. And even if Samaritans had no (or only a little) genetic connection to ancient Israel, they still would seem "Jewish" (or Hebrew) to me, since they live according to an ancient version of the Torah, and how exactly that came to be doesn't affect that status.

And I'm all ears for other ideas that anyone here may have about how the Samaritans and their Torah came to be.
Last edited by John2 on Thu Sep 08, 2022 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Secret Alias
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Re: The Samaritans

Post by Secret Alias »

The Pentateuch was written in or at Shechem. There can be no debate about that. Kind of like debating whether porn is a masturbation aid.
John2
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Re: The Samaritans

Post by John2 »

Secret Alias wrote: Thu Sep 08, 2022 2:29 pm The Pentateuch was written in or at Shechem. There can be no debate about that. Kind of like debating whether porn is a masturbation aid.

I agree that at least parts of the Torah were written in or around Shechem or at least somewhere in the Northern Kingdom (E and D), but I recall that the "J" part seems to reflect Judah in the way E and D seem to be Northern, so for me the Torah appears to be a hybrid text, with someone in Judah being ultimately in control of the narrative (e.g., IIRC, whenever there are doublets in the Torah, a "J" or "P "version is given first).

But I should refresh my memory of the argument for seeing a pro-Judah origin of the "J" part. Maybe it wouldn't work for me now, and I gather from your comment that it doesn't work for you.
Last edited by John2 on Thu Sep 08, 2022 3:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
John2
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Re: The Samaritans

Post by John2 »

And by the way, I just came across this interesting article and I think it mentions an acquaintance of Stephan's.
A small, ancient sect known as the Samaritans rely on the Torah, and the Torah alone, as their sole religious text—and the Samaritans use a somewhat different version. Two weeks ago, the first English translation of this Hebrew text was published by Samaritan historian and scholar Binyamin Tsedaka: The Israelite Samaritan Version of the Torah. There are some 6,000 instances where this version of the Torah differs from the Masoretic text; the question for scholars is which version is more complete, or more accurate.


https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/beli ... ther-torah

I don't know why I never gave much thought to the Samaritan story until now. It seems quite remarkable any way you slice it, and why they were shunned by Jews seems baffling to me now. As the article concludes:

“Outside of the Samaritan community, most believe the Samaritan Torah was an editorial revision of the Masoretic text,” Koller said. “But they are a group that consider themselves heirs to biblical Israel, just like the Jews. It’s important just to learn the remarkable tradition they’ve preserved for 2,500 years.”
John2
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Re: The Samaritans

Post by John2 »

Going by the idea that primarily the elite classes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were deported while common people remained behind, I wonder what kind of Torah they had or how much of it they could remember, given what Neh. 8:7-8 and 14-15 says about how little the common people among the returned exiles of Judah knew about the Torah (including Sukkot!) and how it had to be explained to them.

The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law as they stood in their places. So they read from the Book of the Law of God, explaining it and giving insight, so that the people could understand what was being read ... And they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month. So they proclaimed this message and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem ...



If there is any truth to this, and if the Samaritans really are a remnant of common people from the Northern Kingdom, how did they retain their Torah, when the remnants of Judah and the non-elites of the returned exiles of Judah did not retain much knowledge of theirs? And if they too did not, perhaps that would explain why they use (more or less) the Torah as we know it, with Southern writings and all. Like for the common people of Judah, there wasn't a Torah-as-we-know-it until the one read and/or redacted by Ezra.

Then somewhere between that time and Hasmonean times the Samaritan Torah was developed by remnant northerners from one of the various textual streams that existed after Ezra's time (as per Qumran). And they accepted this Torah because it was northern enough (with E and D) and/or was the only Torah extant, and they rejected the rest of the OT (excepting Joshua) because it is pro-Judah and does not pertain to them.
rgprice
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Re: The Samaritans

Post by rgprice »

@John2 It seems that you don't subscribe to Gmirkin's thesis. But consider that the Torah was created around 270 BCE and that virtually all of the works of the Jewish/Samaritan scriptures were produced after that time.

The stories about Ezra are likely from the 2nd century BCE. Much was produced during the Hasmonean period. Interestingly, the passage you cite is one that I think is quite important. Its a passage that is designed to explain how a set of unknown traditions were introduced to the people of Jehud. The essentially explains that the Torah was unknown to the population and was introduced to them.

It seems somewhat likely to me that what is described in Nehemiah 8-10 is similar to what actually took place, but that this didn't happen until after the fall of the Persians.

So of course any split with Samaritans couldn't have happened until after this. It is of course during the Hasmonean period that the split likely occurred. I have not extensively studied the Samaritans, but agree that they are an important piece of the puzzle. I would not be surprised if the Samaritans do retain older more original traditions than the Jews. At this late date, they have no doubt developed some new ones of their own, but I would not be surprised if during the Hellenistic and early Roman period, the Jews were greatly expanding upon the Jewish story and modifying their religion, while the Samaritans were sticking closer to whatever the teachings were when the Torah was introduced in the 3rd century BCE without reliance upon additional materials.
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John T
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Re: The Samaritans

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The Samaritans were the remnants of the lost 10 tribes of Israel. The Assyrian empire under Sargon II (722-705 BCE) conquered and removed 27,290 people from the capital city of Samaria and rebuilt the city.

"This community [Samaritans] differs from mainstream Judaism by claiming that followers only accept the five books of Moses (Torah), and not the books of the Prophets or later texts. Referring to themselves as "keepers (guardians) of the Torah" (shomrei ha-torah), their rituals and practices are claimed to be the most ancient and valid of Jewish tradition. Hebrew shomerim may have led to the Latinized 'Samaritans'."...https://www.worldhistory.org/Samaritans/

Before the Samaritans there were the Canaanites around 2,000 BCE.

"Biblical scholar Mark Smith notes that archaeological data suggests "that the Israelite culture largely overlapped with and derived from Canaanite culture... In short, Israelite culture was largely Canaanite in nature."...https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaan
ABuddhist
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Re: The Samaritans

Post by ABuddhist »

John T wrote: Fri Sep 09, 2022 7:00 am The Samaritans were the remnants of the lost 10 tribes of Israel. The Assyrian empire under Sargon II (722-705 BCE) conquered and removed 27,290 people from the capital city of Samaria and rebuilt the city.
Why should we accept that as the truth rather than as anti-Samaritan polemic by Jews, though? Such a narrative associates Samaritans for foreign, non-Hebrew, intrusions into a pure Hebrew religion - exactly what anti-Samaritan Jews would want them to be condemned as.
rgprice
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Re: The Samaritans

Post by rgprice »

There were no lost 10 tribes. The twelve tribes are a myth that never existed. It would appear that a split between the Jews and Samaritans had not yet taken place when the Torah was produced in the 3rd century BCE.
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John T
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Re: The Samaritans

Post by John T »

ABuddhist wrote: Fri Sep 09, 2022 7:32 am
John T wrote: Fri Sep 09, 2022 7:00 am The Samaritans were the remnants of the lost 10 tribes of Israel. The Assyrian empire under Sargon II (722-705 BCE) conquered and removed 27,290 people from the capital city of Samaria and rebuilt the city.
Why should we accept that as the truth rather than as anti-Samaritan polemic by Jews, though? Such a narrative associates Samaritans for foreign, non-Hebrew, intrusions into a pure Hebrew religion - exactly what anti-Samaritan Jews would want them to be condemned as.

The palace of Khorsabad contained many reliefs regarding the conquests of Sargon II. One relief portrays Sargon’s capture of Ashdod in 711 BC. The inscription in room 14 reads:

"I conquered and sacked the towns Shinuhtu (and) Samaria, and all Israel (Omri-Land Bit Hu-um-ri-ia). I caught, like a fish, the Greek (Ionians) who live on islands amidst the Western Sea."...Sargon II

https://thinkingtobelieve.com/2011/08/1 ... criptions/

This is a common theme by mythicists. No such event happened because there is no evidence. Then when evidence shows up the charge is interpolation.

Wet, lather, rinse, and repeat.
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