Samaritan Pentateuch, Important Witness to the Early Textual History of the First Part of the Hebrew Bible

After the deportation of inhabitants of Samaria and the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel by Assyria in the middle of the 8th century B.C.E., pagans from other territories of the Assyrian Empire were settled there by Assyria. (2 Ki. 17:22-33) In time they came to be called “Samaritans.” They accepted the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures and in about the fourth century B.C.E. they produced the Samaritan Pentateuch, not really a translation of the original Hebrew Pentateuch, but a transliteration of its text into Samaritan characters, mixed with Samaritan idioms. Few of the extant manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch are older than the thirteenth century C.E. Of about 6,000 differences between the Samaritan and the Hebrew texts, by far the majority are unimportant. One variation of interest appears in Exodus 12:40, where the Samaritan Pentateuch corresponds to the Septuagint.

Hebrew Manuscripts of the Old Testament

The largest organized collection of Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts in the world is housed in the Russian National Library ("Second Firkovitch Collection") in Saint Petersburg. Codex Leningradensis is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew. Manuscripts earlier than the 13th century are very rare.

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