The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Scribal Culture of Second Temple Judaism

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism

The Samaritan Pentateuch (sp), along with its Qumran forebears, has deservedly been regarded as a key source of information for understanding the scribal culture of early Judaism. Yet studies have tended to emphasize the relative uniformity of the characteristic pre-sp readings as evidence of a scribal approach distinct within Second Temple Judaism. This article argues that both the uniformity and the distinctiveness of these readings have been overstated: there is more internal diversity within pre-sp than is usually recognized, and similar or identical readings are also preserved in other manuscript traditions. Rather than representing a distinctive scribal approach or school, the readings of pre-sp are better taken as a particularly concentrated example of scribal attitudes and techniques that appear to have been widespread in early Judaism.

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    On the one hand, D. CarrWriting on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press2005), and K. van der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), have used comparative data to shed light on the scribal apparatus of pre-exilic Israel and Judah as well as post-exilic Judea; on the other hand, E. Tov provides a window into Second Temple scribal practice through his comprehensive treatment of the evidence of the Qumran scrolls, Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts Found in the Judean Desert (stdj 54; Leiden: Brill, 2009).

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  • 4

    See E. Eshel and H. Eshel“Dating the Samaritan Pentateuch’s Compilation in Light of the Qumran Biblical Scrolls,” in Emanuel: Studies in Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, and Dead Sea Scrolls in Honor of Emanuel Tov (ed. S. Paul et al.; Leiden: Brill2003), 215-40and Sidnie White Crawford, “The Pentateuch as Found in the Pre-Samaritan Texts and 4QReworked Pentateuch,” in Changes in Scripture (ed. H. von Weissenberg et al.; bzaw 419; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011), 123-36; J. Ben-Dov, “Early Texts of the Torah: Revisiting the Greek Scholarly Context,” jaj 4 (2013): 210-34; and M. Kartveit, The Origin of the Samaritans (VTSup 128; Leiden: Brill, 2009), respectively.

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  • 7

    M. Segal“The Text of the Hebrew Bible in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Materia Giudaica 12 (2007): 5-20; Zahn, Rethinking, 147-48; Ben-Dov, “Early Texts,” 213.

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  • 8

    See for example Ben-Dov“Early Texts,” 220, 224; Zahn, Rethinking, 176; Kartveit, Origin, 276, 280; E. Tov, “Rewritten Bible Compositions and Biblical Manuscripts, with Special Attention to the Samaritan Pentateuch,” dsd 5 (1998): 334-54, at 351; J. Sanderson, An Exodus Scroll from Qumran: 4QpaleoExodm and the Samaritan Tradition (hss 30; Atlanta: Scholars, 1986), 311.

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  • 13

    See Tov“Rewritten Bible Compositions,” 340; A. Rofé, “Historico-Literary Aspects of the Qumran Biblical Scrolls,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls Fifty Years After Their Discovery (ed. L. H. Schiffman et al.; Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2000), 30-39, at 31; Segal, “Text of the Hebrew Bible,” 16; Kartveit, Origins, 275-76; Zahn, Rethinking, 147; Ben-Dov, “Early Texts,” 221.

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  • 14

    More details are presented by ZahnRethinking159-60.

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    Segal“Text of the Hebrew Bible,” 16-17.

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    D. CarrThe Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction (Oxford: Oxford University Press2011), 260. See also Rofé, “Historico-Literary Aspects,” 32.

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  • 20

    CarrFormation103; contra Rofé, “Historico-Literary Aspects,” 33, and B. Sommer, “Translation as Commentary: The Case of the Septuagint to Exodus 32-33,” Textus 20 (2000): 43-60, at 46.

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  • 23

    See ZahnRethinking25-74.

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  • 34

    Eshel and Eshel“Dating,” 234-35. Note that the creation rationale is inserted in different places in Vaticanus and 4QDeutn.

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    See also Crawford“Pentateuch as Found,” 133.

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    KnoppersJews and Samaritans194-212.

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    For this line of thinking, see KnoppersJews and Samaritans208.

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    KnoppersJews and Samaritans184.

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    On the terminology, see KnoppersJews and Samaritans14-17.

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    Ibid.188-89; see also Knoppers, “Parallel Torahs and Inner-Scriptural Interpretation,” in The Pentateuch: International Perspectives on Current Research (ed. T. Dozeman, K. Schmid, and B. Schwartz; fat 78; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 507-31, at 525-30.

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    Crawford“Pentateuch as Found,” 131.

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    For a description, see A. LangeHandbuch der Textfunde vom Toten Meer, Vol. 1: Die Handschriften biblischer Bücher von Qumran und den anderen Fundorten (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck2009), 62. This point is also noted by Ben-Dov, “Early Texts,” 221 n. 42.

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  • 53

    Ben-Dov“Early Texts,” 212; for earlier periods see D. A. Teeter, Scribal Laws: Exegetical Variation in the Textual Transmission of Biblical Law in the Late Second Temple Period (fat 92; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014), 210-18.

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  • 54

    Ben-Dov“Early Texts,” 221. Note Ben-Dov takes account of the manuscript evidence that not all changes happened at the same time by describing this as an “initial wave” (p. 220) that was later expanded upon.

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  • 55


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  • 57

    M. NiehoffJewish Exegesis and Homeric Scholarship in Alexandria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2011), esp. 9-12, 26-30, 38-74.

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  • 59

    Ben-Dov“Early Texts,” 226.

  • 60

    J. H. TigayThe Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press1982), 81-103; H. J. Tertel, Text and Transmission: An Empirical Model for the Literary Development of Old Testament Narratives (bzaw 221; Berlin: De Gruyter, 1994), 20-56; Carr, Formation, 40-48, 90-91. Note especially Tertel’s statement (pp. 54-55) that “increasing parallelism and repetition . . . dominates the literary development of all epics investigated above” (i.e., Anzu, Atrahasis, Etana, and Gilgamesh).

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  • 61

    See KugelTraditions4-14; in more detail, see the chapter by Kugel “Early Interpretation: The Common Background of Late Forms of Biblical Exegesis,” in J. Kugel and R. A. Greer, Early Biblical Interpretation (ed. W. Meeks; lec 3; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986), 9-106, esp. 27-39.

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