Samaritan Self-Consciousness in the First Half of the Second Century b.c.e. in Light of the Inscriptions from Mount Gerizim and Delos

in Journal for the Study of Judaism
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Yitzhak Magen and his team have secured 395 inscriptions and fragments of inscriptions in Hebrew and Aramaic on the summit of Mount Gerizim. The number of inscriptions in one place is noteworthy, and calls for attention. Another find was made on the island of Delos in the Aegean Sea. Two inscriptions which praise benefactors for their support for the “Israelites who send their temple tax to Argarizein” were uncovered. The author suggests a new understanding of these inscriptions, and by reading them together it is possible to have a unique glimpse of how early Samaritan self-consciousness took shape by distancing itself from the Jewish position. Many of the phrases in the Gerizim corpus find parallels in comparable material from Egypt, the Sinai peninsula, Mesopotamia and Turkey. The phrase “in this place,” however, has no parallels in other inscriptions, and together with the references to the home village of the dedicators this gives an impression of a community dedicated to their own place of worship, Mount Gerizim, and living in its vicinity. The community behind the Delos inscriptions term themselves “Israelites,” and directs their religious focus towards Mount Gerizim. This is the earliest attestation of this name for the Samaritans.

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    Magen Misgav and TsfaniaInscriptions14; Magen Temple City 167; Jan Dušek Aramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions from Mt. Gerizim and Samaria between Antiochus III the Great and Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Culture and History of the Ancient Near East 54; Leiden: Brill 2012).

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    Magnar KartveitThe Origin of the Samaritans (VTSup 128; Leiden: Brill2009) 218 n. 43.

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    Bob Becking“Is There a Samaritan Identity in the Earliest Documents?” in Die Samaritaner und die Bibel/The Samaritans and the Bible: Historische und literarische Wechselwirkungen zwischen biblischen und samaritanischen Traditionen/Historical and Literary Interactions between Biblical and Samaritan Traditions (ed. Jörg Frey, Ursula Schattner-Rieser, and Konrad Schmid; Studia Judaica 70; Studia Samaritana 7; Berlin: de Gruyter2012) 51-65; Anne Katrine de Hemmer Gudme Before the God in this Place for Good Remembrance: A Comparative Analysis of the Aramaic Votive 0Inscriptions from Mount Gerizim (bzaw 441; Berlin: de Gruyter 2013).

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    DušekAramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions26.

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    DušekAramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions10.

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    Magen Misgav and TsfaniaInscriptions145.

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    Mark LidzbarskiHandbuch der nordsemitischen Epigraphik: Nebst ausgewählten Inschriften (2 vols.; Weimar: Emil Felber, 1898; repr., Hildesheim: Georg Olms1962) 1:166-68; Magen Misgav and Tsfania Inscriptions 16.

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    Text in GudmeBefore the God119; my translation here and in the following. The system of numbering is according to Delbert R. Hillers and Eleonora Cussini Palmyrene Aramaic Texts (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 1996).

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    Text from GudmeBefore the God122.

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    Text in GudmeBefore the God120-21.

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    Text in GudmeBefore the God119.

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    GudmeBefore the God131.

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    Steven Fine“From Meeting House to Sacred Realm: Holiness and the Ancient Synagogue,” in Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World (ed. Steven Fine; New York: Oxford University Press 1996): 21-47 at 31.

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    Magen Misgav and TsfaniaInscriptions19.

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    Bruneau“ ‘Les Israélites de Délos’ ” 465-504. The translations here are mine.

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    Becking“Is There a Samaritan Identity” 53.

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