Are The Samaritan Scriptures More Authoritative Than The Masoretic Text?

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Are The Samaritan Scriptures More Authoritative Than The Masoretic Text?

The various Greek (spelling) term Σαμαρίτης, Σαμαρῖτις, Σαμαρῖται, and Σαμάρεια (Samaritan, Samaritan. Samaritan and Samaria) did not come into existence until the end of the 1st-century CE. At the time of Paul, the word Samaritan did not yet exist to refer to the religiously defined group. 

The Jews and the Samaritans have had periods of persecution from time immemorial. There is no doubt the worst offender of persecution of the Jews has been Christianity from the earliest Christian era. Yet, it was the Jews, after the Israelite diaspora to the present day, who have persecuted the Samaritans. One can say the persecuted, becoming the persecutors and the abusers. The Torah loving Samaritans refer to themselves as Bene Yisrael (“Children of Israel”), or Shamerim (“Observant Ones”) or Israelites or Guardians, Keepers, Watchers (of the Torah). By the Jews today, they are known as the Shomronim but, in the Talmud, a religious text of Rabbinic Judaism, the Samaritans are known as the Cuthites or Cutheans (Hebrew: כּוּתִים‎, Kutim), referring to the ancient city of Kutha, geographically located in what is today Iraq. 

Today, Kutim, Gentile and Foreigner are how Jews in the 21st-century see the Samaritans, all based on their Hebrew Old Testament, a corrupted* text equivalent to that of the New Testament. 

Both Samaritism and Judaism claim Moses as the author of the Pentateuch/Torah, yet, the evidence does not match as scholars both, Jewish and Christian, say that the Torah came about after the Babylonian exiles return. A thousand years after Moses supposedly lived, and a figure that both Jewish and Christian scholars claim as a mythical figure. 

*For the meaning of why I use the term corrupt text, see 

There is no historical evidence outside of the Bible, no mention of Moses outside the Bible, and no independent confirmation that Moses ever existed.’ —  Michael D. Coogan (c.2010), lecturer on the Old Testament at Harvard Divinity School.

On the subject of, is the Samaritan Pentateuch more reliable than the Jewish Pentateuch aka the Masoretic text.? There are 6,000 differences between the Samaritan text and the Masoretic text!  

In Exodus 12:40, for example, the Masoretic text reads: ‘The length of the time the Israelites lived in Egypt was 430 years,’ a sentence that has created massive chronological problems for Jewish historians since there is no way to make the genealogies last that long. In the Samaritan version, however, the text reads: ‘The length of time the Israelites lived in Canaan and in Egypt was 430 years.’ 

Until the 1950s, Bible scholars turned to the Jewish Masoretic text as the definitive version of the Torah, virtually ignoring the Samaritan text. However, in the winter of 1947, a group of archaeological specialists searching through 11 caves in Qumran happened upon the Dead Sea Scrolls. After a rigorous study of the scrolls, researchers have come to believe there were several versions of the Torah studied throughout Jewish history, according to Eugene Ulrich, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame.

The scrolls they found in Qumran matched the Samaritan text more closely than the Masoretic text, leading some researchers to believe the Samaritan text held validity in the minds of Jews during the Second Temple period and that both texts were once studied together. [ibid] 

Another source on the same topic states: Not long after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE began the eventual end of a long history of textual competition between variations of the Pentateuch. For nearly two millennia, the Masoretic Text has held a singular dominant position as the most authoritative text. However, it should never be forgotten that the earliest history of the Pentateuch is a history of several variant Pentateuch texts that held high authority in different regions of the Near East. The Samaritan Pentateuch is one such text, with an ancient history of the competition with the Jewish Masoretic Text. It contains many similarities to the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition, the Samaritan Pentateuch offers new perspectives on problematic Biblical passages. Far too often the Samaritan Pentateuch is relegated to an inferior position, designated as a borrowed and edited text of the Jews. The Septuagint, a Greek translation composed around the second century BCE, actually shares over 6000 commonalities with the Samaritan Pentateuch and less with the Jewish Masoretic Text. See abstract in the link! 

We only have the Jewish version of the Jerusalem Temple being the holy of holies. We know that the Priest-King John Hyrcanus (134 BCE-104 BCE) circa 110/111 BCE attacked Samaria and destroyed the Samaritan Holy Temples on Mount Gerizim. Documented in the Jewish Old Testament as the most revered place for the Egyptian exodus of the Israelites in what was the land of Cannan.

 See Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:12-13; Joshua 8:33 and Judges 9:7.

The Masoretic work enjoyed an absolute monopoly for 600 years and experts have been astonished at the fidelity of the earliest printed version (late 15th century) to the earliest surviving codices (late 9th century). The Masoretic text is universally accepted as the authentic Hebrew Bible. 

However, since 2013, a new Englisce version of the Samaritan Torah has been available, translated by the Samaritan scholar, Binyamin Tsedaka. But, at this moment, it is not accepted by Protestant Old Testament translators, who maintain the 9th-century CE, Masoretic text. A thousand years later than the Samaritan Pentateuch, which is dated from at least the 2nd-century BCE, if we take the Septuagint date.

Scholars on the Samaritan scriptures did not acknowledge it until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. Then scholars’ attitudes change dramatically. One can say it happened overnight and that the Samaritan Pentateuch was no longer discriminated against, as it is now seen as an authoritative text. What do you say?

For Eric (July 12th 1939—July 10th 2021)



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