Paleo-Exodus, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1994.


Samaritan Torah

Samaritan Torah

Among the most interesting questions raised by the Qumran corpus is how extensively the Samaritan Torah reflects earlier textual traditions. This question has been asked especially of the Qumran manuscripts copied in the paleo-Hebrew script. This script was used in ancient Israel until the period of the return (sixth to fifth centuries B.C.E.), when there was a shift to the Aramaic script, called Assyrian by the Rabbis. The Samaritans continued to use the ancient script, either because they split from the rest of the Jewish community before the script changed or because they deliberately wanted to archaize their text to assert their claim as the true continuators of the biblical tradition.

Study of the Qumran manuscripts written in paleo-Hebrew script has shown that they have no special character. Use of the old script does not signify closeness to the proto-Samaritan Torah text. This finding is illustrated clearly in the Paleo-Leviticus Scroll from cave 11, which is virtually identical to the Masoretic Hebrew text, even though it is written in the old Hebrew script. In fact, texts at Qumran displaying a relationship to the Samaritan Torah come in both the old and new scripts, and some texts written in the old script are even proto-Masoretic.

However, one text, the Paleo-Exodus Scroll, is quite interesting because it is both a proto-Samaritan manuscript and is written in the old Hebrew script. This text is well preserved, with fragments of forty-three or forty-five consecutive columns extant, ranging from Exodus chapters 6 to 37. It was originally fifty-seven columns long. The manuscript has been dated to between 100 and 25 B.C.E.
Like the later Samaritan Torah, this scroll contains a text with numerous expansions, which are generally constructed out of other parts of the Torah and attempt to harmonize with those other verses the passage in question. For example, Exodus 32-10 contains God’s request that Moses stop entreating Him so that He can destroy the people of Israel for the sin of the golden calf. At this point, the Paleo-Exodus Scroll adds-

[Moreover, the Lo]rd [was angry with Aaron,] enough to have destroyed him; so Moses interceded for A[aron].

This addition is taken from Deuteronomy 9-20, the parallel description of the golden calf incident, in which Moses says, “Moreover, the Lord was angry enough with Aaron to have destroyed him; so I also interceded for Aaron at that time.” Such additions are typical of this text and of others with similar harmonizing tendencies.

This scroll has three major features that characterize the Samaritan Torah- the old script, a text in the proto-Samaritan tradition, and the extensive use of vowel letters. The tenth commandment of the Samaritans, requiring the erection of an altar on Mount Gerizim, is not found. This manuscript shows that earlier Hebrew texts provided the textual base for the Samaritan modifications. Such texts existed in the Hasmonaean period and found their way into the Qumran collection.

Pages 176-178

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