Cult Centralization in the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Origins of Deuteronomy

In: Vetus Testamentum
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Scholars have long understood the cult centralization formula of Deuteronomy (Deut. 12:5, etc.) to limit worship to Jerusalem, “the place which God will choose for his name to dwell.” The common theory posits that though the formula, and the book in which it was contained, was written long after Jerusalem had become the primary cultic site in Judah, it was framed with an imperfect tense verb in order to keep up the pretense of Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy. However, the Samaritan Pentateuch has a perfect tense verb in this same formula in all twenty-one occurrences in Deuteronomy. Whereas scholars have typically seen this to be a strictly sectarian reading pointing to God’s prior choice of Gerizim as the holy site of the Samaritans, Adrian Schenker has recently argued persuasively for the priority of the Samaritan reading and that themt’s imperfect tense is, in fact, the sectarian alteration. This new way of understanding Deuteronomy’s centralization formula has ramifications for the origins of the book and its reception in Judah. This paper explores these issues, suggesting that the best way of understanding the authority that Deuteronomy gained in Judah is to combine Schenker’s argument about the centralization formula with E. Ulrich’s reconstruction of the text of Deut 27:4. This results in an original text of Deuteronomy that asserts that God had chosen the place for his name already at the time of Moses but did not yet identify the location. In turn, the argument presented here helps to explain the reception Deuteronomy enjoyed among both Judeans and Samaritans.

  • 6

    See, e.g., Anderson and Giles,Samaritan Pentateuch, p. 74; E. Eshel and H. Eshel, “Dating the Samaritan Pentateuch’s Compilation in Light of the Qumran Biblical Scrolls”, in Sh. M. Paul et al. (eds.), Emanuel: Studies in Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, and Dead Sea Scrolls in Honor of Emanuel Tov (VTSup 94 Leiden, 2003), p. 218. Pummer,Samaritans in Flavius Josephus, p. 24, mentions only the second and third point; S. Schorch, “Der Pentateuch der Samaritaner: Seine Erforschung und seine Bedeutung für das Verständnis des alttestamentlichen Bibeltextes”, in J. Frey, U. Schattner-Rieser, and K. Schmid (eds.),Die Samaritaner und die Bibel / The Samaritans and the Bible (Berlin, 2012), p. 11, lists all three before rejecting the first two.

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  • 9

    See J. H. Charlesworth, “What Is a Variant? Announcing a Dead Sea Scrolls Fragment of Deuteronomy”,Maarav 16 (2009), pp. 201-212, 273-274 (with images at A. Lange,Handbuch der Textfunde vom Toten Meer, Vol. 1:Die Handschriften biblischer Bücher von Qumran und die anderen Fundorten (Tübingen, 2009), p. 106, questions the authenticity of the fragment based on “paleographic inconsistencies” and the square script. However, according to Pummer,Samaritans in Flavius Josephus, p. 26: “There is no doubt that the fragment is authentic”.

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  • 14

    Schenker, “Le Seigneur”, p. 345. Schenker mistakenly has the number eleven here (failing to count 12:14), but he corrects this at “Textgeschichtliches zum Samaritanischen Pentateuch”, p. 114.

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  • 16

    Schenker, “Le Seigneur”, p. 347.

  • 17

    Schenker, “Le Seigneur”, p. 348.

  • 18

    Schorch, “Der Pentateuch der Samaritaner”, pp. 11-12; idem, “Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy”, p. 32. Knoppers,Jews and Samaritans, pp. 184-187, expresses some doubts about this text-critical argument, pointing to Josh 9:27 where the formula has an imperfect tense, and 1 Kings 8:16, where God says that he had chosen no city prior to his choice of Jerusalem. But Knoppers does say that the Samaritan readingbaḥarcan no longer be considered a clearly sectarian reading.

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  • 19

    Schenker, “Le Seigneur”, p. 350.

  • 20

    Carr,Formation of the Hebrew Bible, p. 168. On the date of the destruction of the Gerizim sanctuary, which is most probably later than 128bce, see Ingrid Hjelm, “Mt. Gerizim and Samaritans in Recent Research,” in Mor and Reiterer, Samaritans: Past and Present, p. 35.

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  • 21

    Schenker, “Textgeschichtliches zum Samaritanischen Pentateuch”, p. 118.

  • 22

    See Schenker, “Le Seigneur”, p. 349.

  • 23

    Schorch, “Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy”, pp. 29-30 (Schorch’s argument implies a Gerizim cult by the early eighth century). Many previous scholars have argued for the northern origins of Deuteronomy; see J. H. Tigay,Deuteronomy (jps Torah Comm.; Philadelphia, 1996), pp. xxiii-xxiv; and further references in J. R. Lundbom,Deuteronomy: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, 2013), pp. 10-11. On the hypothesis of northern migrations to Judah in the late-eighth century, see I. Finkelstein and N. A. Silberman, “Temple and Dynasty: Hezekiah, the Remaking of Judah and the Rise of the Pan-Israelite Ideology”,jsot 30 (2006), pp. 259-285; but see also now the cautions expressed by N. Na’aman, “Dismissing the Myth of a Flood of Israelite Refugees in the Late Eighth Centurybce”,zaw 126 (2014), pp. 1-14; and Knoppers,Jews and Samaritans, 69-70.

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  • 24

    Schorch, “Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy”, p. 29. On the origins of Samarian worship at Gerizim, see Kartveit,Origins, pp. 354-59; Knoppers,Jews and Samaritans.

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  • 26

    Schorch, “Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy”, p. 30 (emphasis his).

  • 27

    Schorch, “Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy”, pp. 30-31.

  • 29

    Schorch, “Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy”, pp. 31-32.

  • 32

    Schorch, “Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy”, p. 25; cf. Schenker, “Le Seigneur”, p. 349; Nelson,Deuteronomy, p. 148; B. M. Levinson,Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation (New York, 1997), pp. 23-24 n. 1.

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  • 33

    Schorch, “Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy”, p. 33. See also Knoppers,Jews and Samaritans, pp. 207-8, where Knoppers argues that Judeans read the altar command of Deut 27:4 in light of Exod 20:24-26, which commanded an altar distinct from the central sanctuary of Deut 12:5.

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  • 35

    Knoppers,Jews and Samaritans, p. 212.

  • 37

    Cf. Kartveit,Origins, pp. 355-356, who suggested that the command in Deut 27:4 led the Samarians to build their sanctuary on Gerizim. If Ulrich’s textual reconstruction proves convincing, Kartveit’s proposal would need to be amended to something along the lines of what I have suggested above. See also Knoppers,Jews and Samaritans, p. 206.

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  • 40

    Pummer, “Samaritans and Their Pentateuch”, p. 239, believes that the Samarians would have “considered Jerusalem a legitimate place of worship in addition to Mount Gerizim”; see also pp. 249-251. On the temple at Elephantine, see the summary in B. Porten, “Elephantine Papyri”,abd vol. 2, p. 449. On the background of the Elephantine community, see the brief comments of J. Joosten, “The Aramaic Background of the Seventy: Language, Culture and History”,bioscs 43 (2010), pp. 68-69. Cf. also the discussion of the “house of Onias” (the temple at Leontopolis; cf. Josephus,b.j.1.33; 7.420-36;a.j. 13.62-73) in the Mishnah,Menaḥot 13.10.

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  • 42

    Schorch, “Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy”, p. 35; Carr,Formation of the Hebrew Bible, p. 168.

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