Comparing: Samaritan / Hebrew Bible

The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Hebrew Bible

The Samaritan Pentateuch is the sacred text of the Samaritan community. That community, made famous to the West in the New Testament stories of the “good Samaritan” and the “woman at the well,” is of ancient origin, yet it persists to this day. Throughout its long history, the Samaritan community has always recognized as sacred only the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, the Pentateuch, but in a version quite distinct from the other two better known ancient versions of the Hebrew Bible: the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint. The Samaritan Pentateuch shows its distinctiveness most noticeably through a number of scattered readings supporting the Samaritan insistence that worship be conducted on Mount Gerizim, recognized as God’s chosen site instead of Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

Less noticeably, the Samaritan Pentateuch is differentiated from the Masoretic text and the Septuagint by resisting an anthropomorphic representation of God, emphasizing the role of Moses, and preserving harmonistic editorial practices that, thanks to the witness from the scrolls recovered near the Dead Sea, are now known to be commonplace in the Second Temple period. Today the Samaritan Pentateuch is assuming a central role in the critical examination of the textual history of the Bible. We now know that it and its predecessors played a vibrant part in the stream of textual witnesses to the Pentateuch prior to the turn of the eras.