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Jews and Samaritans: The Origins and History of Their Early Relations.

Jews and Samaritans: The Origins and History of Their Early Relations. By Gary N. Knoppers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xi + 326. $55.

The discovery of different kinds of harmonistic Pentateuch texts at Qumran and of traces of a Hellenistic-period Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim have dramatically changed the way scholars assess the early history of the Samaritan community and the value and character of its Torah text. These changes have spurred the surge in Samaritan studies in the last two decades, which was facilitated by the work of the Societe d'etudes samaritaines. The book under review was written by one of the Societe's members, Gary Knoppers, who presents a re-reading of the biblical and non-biblical sources for early Samarian and Samaritan history, including the results of archeological excavations and surveys. Knoppers presents a coherent narrative of the history of the northern Israelites from the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel until Maccabean times, culminating in the emergence of a distinct community of Samaritans, and the gradual parting of the ways between them and their Jewish brethren. The book is divided into eight chapters and ends with an impressive bibliography of some fifty pages and detailed indices.

The first chapter serves as an introduction and presents the outline of the book. The many attestations for the name samerim "observers" from Christian and Jewish sources (p. 15 n. 21) can be compared to early Samaritan evidence from an Aramaic poem (Z. Ben-Hayyim, The Literary and Oral Tradition of Hebrew and Aramaic amongst the Samaritans, vol. 3B [Jerusalem: Academy of the Hebrew Language, 1967], 68 11. 18-20).

Chapter two presents the archaeological evidence for the campaigns of Tiglath-pileser III, Shalmaneser V, and Sargon II against the kingdom of Israel, whose capital city Samaria was ultimately captured in 722 B.C.E. Although the first campaign caused widespread destruction and depopulation in the Galilee and northern Transjordan, the following ones, directed against the Samarian hill country proper, had less severe effects than generally assumed. There is no conclusive archeological evidence for massive depopulation or population exchange in Samaria. The Israelite material culture continued in the countryside, while the new Assyrian presence left its mark only in larger urban centers.

Chapter three examines the multi-layered biblical evidence for the fall of the northern kingdom and its effects (2 Kings 17), and discusses Josiah's reforms in the north (2 Kings 23). Both accounts imply that some sort of Yahwism continued in the north after the fall of the kingdom of Israel, which also fits the archaeological evidence.

Chapter four discusses the Chronicler's view of Samaria and its inhabitants in the monarchic period after the fall of the northern kingdom. Knoppers argues that the Samarians were seen in the south as part of the same ethnic and religious group, the descendents of Jacob, and are not depicted as foreigners as in 2 Kings 17. The Chronicler's description of relations in the monarchic period probably reflects attitudes prevalent in the time of the author as well: in the Persian period a reunion of north and south was still hoped for by some. P. 75 n. 8 1: 1 read [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The sentence: "... there is no reason to doubt that the post-610 BCE era in the north was definitively worse than previous eras" (p. 98) hardly makes sense in the context. Perhaps read "no reason to believe"?

Chapter five surveys the history of Samaria in the Persian and early Hellenistic periods according to archeological findings and epigraphy: surveys conducted in the Samarian hill country, the Wadi Daliyeh papyri and numismatic evidence (both providing insights into the Samarian onomasticon), as well as the newly discovered temple remains from Mt. Gerizim. Samaria was much more prominent in these periods than Jerusalem and Judah, but both provinces still shared a common culture, a fact which suggests that close ties on different levels existed between them.

The phenomenon of double names discussed on p. 112 is also attested in one of the Mt. Gerizim inscriptions (no. 156:1). The fragmentary Aramaic Mt. Gerizim inscription mentioning a "house of sacrifice" (p. 128) is intriguing but problematic: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], if indeed to be read as "bulls," would be a Hebrew loan, and the two letters following it are not [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "all," but rather [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], of uncertain meaning. If numismatic evidence for the name Jeroboam does indeed point to an "attachment to the traditions of the former northern kingdom" by some inhabitants of Samaria (p. 118), this would be in stark contrast to medieval Samaritan tradition, which does not approve of this king at all; see the curse in the kitab at-tarih (E. Vilmar, Abulfathi annales samaritani [Gotha: Perthes, 1865], 53 1. 9).

Chapter six discusses the view of Samaria and the Samarians that emerges from Ezra-Nehemia. In contradistinction to Chronicles, this work does not stress the pan-Israelite stance and rather promotes a Judahite identity, against which the northern Samarians are pitted as outsiders. It is in the ideology represented in these books that we first see the crack between the communities, which would subsequently widen.

Chapter seven looks at Samarian-Judean relations in Hellenistic and Maccabean times, with the different Jewish and Samaritan versions of the Pentateuch as main sources. Knoppers argues that the Pentateuch came into being as a compromise text, which spelled out what Judean and Samarian Yahwists had in common, but showed opaque wording on contested issues, first and foremost the place for the temple. Only after Hyrcanus had destroyed the Mt. Gerizim temple and razed the adjacent Samarian city did both communities start to introduce slight changes into the text, which brought the opaque passages in line with their respective beliefs and yielded the text-types known today as Masoretic and Samaritan. P. 171 middle: In the text of the older Delos inscription read "Herakleion" for "Herakeion." P. 185 n. 43: In the quote from Neh. 1:9 read [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. P. 186 n. 46: The texts of the footnote and the reference are garbled. Dusek assumes that original [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] was changed to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and not vice versa (p. 90 of his book). He dates this change to 168-145 B.C.E. (ibid., p. 94). P. 201 n. 80: In the Mishna-reference the name of the Massekhet was omitted. P. 203 middle: Jericho, in the Jordan valley, is of course not "161 ft above sea level," but rather some 800 ft below. P. 206 n. 92: References to the Sam. Tg. should indicate the manuscript, as readings differ in the various versions, thus also in Gen. 33:18.

Chapter eight sketches aspects of Samaritan-Jewish relations after the parting of the ways in the Maccabean period. While Josephus, the Gospels, the Mishna, and other (mainly) Jewish sources provide evidence for growing mistrust and enmity, there are still signs for mutual contact and cultural exchange. Knoppers discusses parallel developments in the institution of the synagogue, ritual baths, and mezuzot as examples. But evidence for continuing contact is not restricted to the material culture (p. 238), and one could have added a reference to, e.g., M. Mishor, "Tibat Marqe y el midras: Paralelos samaritanos-rabinicos," Ilu 3 (2000): 111-26.

P. 230 n. 35: The list of synagogues attributed to Baba Rabba and their possible identification is also discussed by I. Hamitovsky, "Flavia Neapolis and the Samaritan Community during the Roman Period," Judean and Samaria Research Studies 16 (2007): 93-101. P. 239 n. 64: H. Shehadeh eventually published an edition of two main witnesses, The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1989-2001). P. 244: read "Arnold, B. T." for "Arnold, W." P. 274 ad J. Milgrom et al. 1998: Hebrew printed from left to right. P. 285: Spieckermann's book from 1982 is accidentally listed under the name of M. Smith as well. P. 308: The references to Abu l'Fath are not complete: add p. 89 n. 40.

Knoppers has produced a very readable, balanced, and stimulating description and reconstruction of the history of the relations between Judea and Samaria from the fall of the northern kingdom until Maccabean times. Incorporating new archaeological and text-critical evidence, he sketches the gradual emergence of a distinct Samaritan identity in an Israelite population, which was never completely expelled from the area. The book serves as a good introduction for Old Testament scholars and theology students to the thriving field of Samaritan Studies and is a recommended read even for non-specialists.


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Author:Stadel, Christian
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2016
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