On the Samaritan Pentateuch

Many people recognize that the Samaritan Pentateuch contains quite a bit of harmonization and revision, but in some places it gets it right where MT does not. Here are a few examples. The picture above is of one of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments recently acquired by Azusa Pacific University. It contains a portion of Deuteronomy 27, specifically Deut 27:3–6. In line with the Samaritan Pentateuch, this particular fragment designates Mount Gerizim, rather than the MT’s Mount Ebal, as the place where the altar was to be set up by Joshua and the Israelites. The Samaritan Pentateuch may actually preserve the earlier reading.

The New Testament also occasionally supports SP against MT. In Acts 7:4, where Stephen describes a brief history of Israel, he states that Abraham left Haran and entered Canaan after his father died. Gen 11:32 says Terah lived to be 205, but Abraham was born when Terah was 70 (Gen 11:26) and moved to Canaan when he was 75 (Gen 12:4), giving Terah another 60 years before his death. The Samaritan Pentateuch says Terah died at 145 years, though, which would put Abraham’s entry into Canaan in the same year as his father’s death.

More interesting is Heb 9:4, which states that the altar of incense stood inside the Holy of Holies with the ark of the covenant, rather than in the Holy Place. This may reflect a reading found in SP and in 4QpaleoExod(m) where the description of the incense altar is given immediately following the description of the Holy of Holies (between Exod 26:35 and 36) rather than four chapters later in Exod 30:1–10, where it appears in MT. Leviticus 16 describes the incense altar as being “inside the curtain” (12–13) just as the ark of the covenant (15). The smoke from the incense altar is also intended to “cover the mercy seat,” which it cannot do from outside the Holy of Holies. The Samaritan Pentateuch has long been maligned as derivative, ideological, and late, but in some cases it seems to present better readings.

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5 responses to “On the Samaritan Pentateuch

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