Thursday, February 2, 2012

Back Issues of the Samaritan Update Available Online

I haven't been blogging much because I've been very wrapped up in my personal life.  Work has been crazy.  Nevertheless I think I have made some important progress with understanding Jesus as a divine hypostasis.  I will share those observations with readers shortly.  For the moment however I thought it would be worth sharing some back issues of the Samaritan Update.  The articles in this popular journal are a fascinating gateway to one of the most important and strangely ignored Biblical cultures.  The link is here.  There is a lot of good reading here!  At the very least, it helps avoid becoming too focused on the Jerusalem-centered interpretation of the Pentateuch (a city which - let's not forget - is never mentioned by name in the writings of Moses).  A sample article from a recent edition:

The Fragment From Qumran Related to Building an Altar for the Almighty on Mount Gerizim - A Sensational Discovery
By: Benyamim Tsedaka, A.B. - Institute of Samaritan Studies 
A.B. - The Samaritan News, 1ssue no. 1198-1099, 26.9.2011

We return to the summer of 2008, three years ago, in the university city of Papa, Hungary. At that time the 7th Congress of Samaritan Studies, where the best scholars of Samaritan Studies from many countries in the world were gathered, and also dignified representatives from Israel, among them a small group of Israelite Samaritans: The Late Israel Tsedaka, the Editors of A.B., Benyamim and Yefet Tsedaka, and Lilly Tsedaka [Yefet's wife].  Yes, it was an exciting event.  Several hours after our landing in Hungary, after two hours of travel from the airport in Budapest, the Capital of Hungary, and then a little tour that we made of the place, escorted by the organizers of the congress, the scholars Joseph Zsengeller, who lectured in the University of Papa, and Stefan Schorch from Bethel in Germany. They surprised us with a room that was totally equipped with computers and printers to be freely used by the participants in the congress.  We expressed our wonder and immediately we sat near one of the computers to check the email that was sent to us in the early hours of that same day, after we had left our homes in Holon for the flight to Hungary.

Among the many letters from all corners of the world was especially a prominent letter sent by our friend, Sharon Sullivan, from the State of Michigan, in the USA [since then Sharon has lived in Israel since August 2009].  

Sharon forwarded our attention to a new discovery of a fragment from Qumran from Cave Number 4 in the Judean Desert that included a scholarly article by the famous author of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Professor James Charlesworth, from the exclusivePrinceton University in the State of New Jersey, USA. 
The fragment was photographed originally in a way that made it hard to identify the script because of the dark color of the brown skin, and the color of the characters, which were black.  In order to brighten the script another photograph was given of the same fragment, but now in a system of infrared photography, which gave the characters a contrast of colors in black and white, leaving no doubt by identifying the script as an Aramaic script from the Book of Deuteronomy 27:4-6.

We read the news, and we could hardly believe it.  We read it again and again, and still we could not believe what our eyes were seeing, a fragment from Qumran that no doubt had been written by a Jewish scribe, like all Qumran scrolls, in the variant of the Torah we know which is the Torah in the hands of the Samaritans, regarding building the altar of the People of Israel on Mount Gerizim, similar to what is written in the ten commandments in Exodus and the Book of Deuteronomy.  The fragment was written in Aramaic script, very clear and comfortable to read, and not only did the writing contradict the Jewish MT version of the Torah in this place of Deuteronomy, but also the name HarGerizim [םיזרגרה] was written in one word of seven clear characters with the character bet [written also but not included in the seven characters].  

We recovered quickly and immediately we prepared fifty copies of an enhanced photograph of the fragment, and also the Charlesworth article that was attached to it.  We went out to the wide yard of the university where all scholars gathered and we gave five copies to the scholars.  The first reaction was that they were stunned, and after they recovered they greeted us with many blessings.  There was a feeling of euphoria.  More than the others, Professor Abraham Tal from the University of Tel Aviv greeted us and congratulated us along with several others.  There was no doubt that we felt high at that moment.  We went quickly to the computer to send an email of gratitude to Sharon Sullivan, and we remember how we wondered about the timing of the Charlesworth discovery on the same day of the opening of the Congress of Samaritan Studies.  

The first practical comment was stated by two of the lecturers that the object of their lectures regarding the Torah in the hands of the Samaritans and Qumran discoveries.  They said that following the discovery, they felt that they must change great parts of their lectures.  We must note especially the comment of Nodet Etienne, from the French School in Jerusalem for Biblical Studies, Escole Biblique, who said immediately that the discovery truly confirmed his claims about the originality of the Samaritans as Ancient Israelites.  On the same day we wrote to Professor Charlesworth and thanked him for the discovery and invited him to come and be our guest in our house on Mount Gerizim, and at the same opportunity the late High Priest Eleazar ben Tsedaka expressed his blessing and his personal gratitude for the discovery that to all viewers it is a confirmation of a Jewish scribe to the Torah version in the hands of the Samaritans, in a very ancient manuscript that contradicts the Jewish version in this regard, which is לביע רהב - 

During our correspondence with Professor Charlesworth, he suggested that he would award the High Priest with a framed photograph of the infrared form of the fragment, and a copy of it that would be dedicated to the A.B. Institute of Samaritan Studies.  The High Priest Elazar, and we as well, stated our enthusiasm for this suggestion, and at the end of 2008 Charlesworth came to Mount Gerizimand was welcomed with a respect that is reserved only for kings by the High Priest Elazar and his priestly brethren and the dignities of the community.  He gave the High Priest the photograph and told him how he got this fragment of Qumran.  

As one of the senior scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Charlesworth received thirty fragments from Qumran for research and decoding.  It was the second fragment that he decoded.  The original fragment is located in the Azuza Pacific University in the East of LA, California.  

No more than a month passed from the time of the discovery and the publication of it, when the wagging of tongues began by a number of Israeli scholars wondering about the originality of the fragment, and even expressing their suspicion that it was forged.  We had to understand their hesitation because of the wave of forged archeological findings in Israel near to that time.  The insecurity in the authenticity of the  fragment was expressed in the words of Professor Avraham Tal and Mosheh Florentinefrom the University of Tel Aviv in their long introduction to the Third Edition that they published concerning the comparative edition of the Jewish to Samaritan edition of the Torah, by the University Press 2010.  

Their hesitation is understood as it relates to the basis of their system to prefer the Jewish version over the Samaritan version.  

However, the comments of the "landlords" of the research of the Dead Sea Scrolls were totally different.  Our friend, Professor Michael Corinaldi, Professor of Law, asked the Prize of Israel holder for his research on the Dead Sea Scrolls, the LateProfessor S. Talmon, for his comment to the discovery.  Talmon, that in his initial research in the beginning of the 1950s thought the SP to be an imitation of the MT, changed his mind from one edge to the other edge, during the last sixty years of research.  He answered this question by first blessing the discovery and then he said that generally the SP and the MT are very important and they have the same state in  Biblical research.

The same comment was received from Professor Emanuel Tov, also a holder of the Israeli Prize for his research on the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Following this discovery he changed parts of his own introduction to the first translation of the English SP, promised to be published in November 2011.  

In a letter that Charlesworth sent us on June 22, 2011, he added validity to the words of Tov, saying that if the fragment is authentic then it is a sensational discovery that changes the picture of the research of the Biblical text. Therefore, we have to answer the question if this fragment of Deuteronomy is authentic or forged.  

To this question Charlesworth answered in a way that left no doubt.  The original fragment was checked by the best scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls, among them Charlesworth mentioned the Sukerman brothers, a very special test of the fragment discovered that it is authentic because the fatina which is the medal material that proves the ancientness of the fragment was discovered both in the skin of the fragment and in the ink of which the text was written.  Now there is no place to claim forgery, the fragment is authentic. 
The discussion about the authenticity of this fragment until the chemical tests that left no doubts about it, remind us of the sensational discovery of the Joash Inscription that was determined to be forged without a doubt, because the fatina was not discovered in the ink of the script.  

The scholars of the University of Azuza Pacific and Charlesworth himself finished the writing of the official research of the fragment.  The two researches are coming out soon, the first within the University publications and the second of Charlesworth in the scientific quarterly Marav, in the next issue, according to what Charlesworth wrote to us in that letter.  

Charlesworth wanted also to hear our opinion regarding this discovery, beyond the enthusiasm that it raised.  Generally we said the fact that the name of the Mountain was written in one word in this fragment by a Jewish scribe, shows that it is not what they so call typical Samaritan writing of the sacred mountain, but it is an Ancient Israelite writing that was known to Jewish and Samaritan scribes during the 2nd Temple Period.  Therefore we don't have to be so hasty in identifying special writing of the word Mount Gerizim in one word as Samaritan writing.  Talmon, for instance, thought that a fragment that was discovered in Masada, that included the name of Mount Gerizim in one word, that perhaps there were Samaritan fighters among the casualties in Masada. The truth is that the Samaritans had nothing to do in Masada, they had their own wars with the Romans. 

We have added that we have no doubt in regard to the identity of the scribe of the fragment as a Jew, adding to the fact that there were no Samaritans within Qumran sects.  The Jewish identification is expressed by the form of the writing of the word תולוע [offerings] in full writing, at the same time it is pronounced by Jews the same way that it is written "Aolot".  A Samaritan scribe since always wrote the form in this way תולע and this is the way that it is pronounced by Samaritans, “Alote”.  We will continue to follow the research in regard to this discovery. 

Email with comments or questions.

Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.