Monday, March 9, 2015

Finding the Smoking Gun With Respect to the Two Powers Argument: the Jewish Heretics Used a Text of Exodus Which Resembled the Samaritan Edition

I think I have found the 'smoking gun' as it were with respect to the so-called 'two powers' debate.  When Alan Segal wrote his Two Powers in Heaven he noticed that various mekhilata used Exodus to correct the views of heretics who used what now appears to be only the book of Deuteronomy to argue that there were two powers.  In other words when Deuteronomy says that Israelites saw God in the 'great fire' and heard his voice from heaven the heretics concluded that there were two powers.  Yet the mekhilata developed arguments from Exodus to 'counter' this interpretation - in essence setting up Exodus as a 'proof text' to deny the heretical assumptions (because none of the 'insights' that the heretics seemed to draw from the parallel account in Deuteronomy appear in Exodus and in fact there are a number of statements which could be used to argue the exact opposite i.e. that there was only one power present at Sinai).

What Segal did not know or make reference to is that Samaritan version of Exodus 20 agrees in all essential details with the parallel account in Deuteronomy.  The Samaritan account of Exodus contains in itself all the elements required for the 'two powers' argument.  In other words, the one Samaritan text of Exodus 20 moves from the Israelites hearing the voice coming from 'the great fire' (cf. parallel with Deut 6:24) and then proceeds by the end of the chapter to still preserve the Masoretic text's important declaration "Then Yahweh said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites this: 'You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven."  In other words, the mekhilata make it seem as if the heretics were picking and choosing passages now divided between two separate books - i.e. Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 6 - when in fact they were using the original text of Exodus 20 preserved by Samaritans (a people who pride themselves to this day on 'preserving' or 'guarding' the true traditions of Israel).

The discovery changes the context that we should view the 'two powers' debate.  Indeed it reflects what we already see from Qumran - namely that the earliest Jewish texts of the Pentateuch often agreed or contained Samaritan readings.  In this case, we should suppose that along with the deliberate efforts to ban the reciting of the Ten Commandments (i.e. because they assisted the heretics argument that only the Ten Commandments came from heaven) the sages changed the text of Exodus away from the original still preserved by the Samaritans to this day which made it clear that there were two powers at Sinai - i.e. god spoke through Eeshu (his Man/fire) physically 'on' Sinai and he spoke as well -independently of this Eeshu - from heaven in his own voice.

For more information about the differences between the Samaritan and Masoretic texts of Exodus see Tigay's article here.  But this discovery simplifies everything.  I don't need to argue that Deuteronomy came first or any of that nonsense.  I don't need to mention the Marcionites or go on to make the claim that the Marcionite Eesu is just a Greek transliteration of Eeshu.  I don't need to mention Justin Martyr and the earliest Christian exegesis of the 'pre-history' of Jesus with the Patriarchs including Moses on Sinai.  The paper is ready to write itself.  Thank God, for my friendship with Benny Tsedaka.  Aside from being a cool guy to hang out with in all sorts of places, he will help my paper write itself.  Expect a call from me Benny, very very soon ...

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