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Zsengellér, József [Ed.]
Samaria, Samarians, Samaritans. Studies on Bible, History and Linguistics.
Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter 2011. XII, 323 S. 23,0 x 15,5 cm = Studia Judaica, 66; Studia Samaritana, 6. Geb. EUR 99,95. ISBN 978-3-11-026804-1.
The book contains the papers presented at the 7th (not 6th, as in the Preface) International Congress of the Société d’Études Samaritaines (SES), held in Pápa, Hungary, in July 2008. It was published »In memoriam G. D. Sixdenier« (died 2007, not 2008, as in the Preface), co-founder of SES under whose auspices the congresses are held. The »Esquisse Biographique« of Sixdenier was written by H. Tawa and is here reprinted from the Proceedings of the 2nd and 3rd Congresses. The subsequent contributions are all in English and grouped according to the areas enumerated in the subtitle plus two more: Artifacts and Texts, and Arabica.
The first article in the section Bible, »Genesis 4 and the Pentateuch’s Reiterative Discourse: Some Samaritan Themes«, by Th. L. Thompson is indirectly related to Samaritan studies: it aims to show that major themes from the Cain story recur over and over in the Pentateuch and »feed its never-ending allegory about Samaria and Jerusalem«. In his well-argued contribution, »The Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy and the Origin of Deuteronomy«, S. Schorch agrees with Albrecht Alt that Deuteronomy originated in the North, and maintains, moreover, that originally it focused on Mount Gerizim, was then brought to Judea by the refugees from the Assyrians, and, in the course of the 2nd c. BCE, was adapted to the Southern view of Jerusalem as the central cult place. G. N. Knoppers, »Did Jacob Become Judah? The Configuration of Israel’s Restoration in Deutero-Isaiah«, shows, with his usual thoroughness, that Second Isaiah in certain instances preserves the inclusive meaning of Israel.
The largest portion of the book, History, opens with J. Dušek’s paper on the »Administration of Samaria in the Hellenistic Period«. Alas, he informs his readers at the beginning that his position has changed and his current understanding will be found in a book about to be published. M. Mor, »The Building of the Samaritan Temple and the Samaritan [sic] Governors – Again«, once more takes issue with certain reconstructions of the sequence of Samarian governors, but this time he concludes that the discussion has ar-rived at an impasse and only new evidence can lead us out of it. In »Josephus on the Samaritans – his Tendenz and Purpose« M. Kartveit surveys some of Josephus’ texts and suggests several methodological points to take into account when reading these passages. In the longest essay of the book, »Israelites, Samaritans, Temples, Jews«, É. Nodet argues that »the Samaritans of Shechem are the heirs of the early Israelites, and not a downgraded Jewish sect«. He believes that the Jews coming from Babylonia were the ones who introduced new features and that the Samaritan temple was an imitation of the Jerusalem temple, never of much importance to the Samaritans. I. Hjelm, »Samaritans. History and Tradition in Relationship to Jews, Christians and Muslims: Problems in Writing a Monograph«, discusses recently published books on the history of ancient Israel and renews her call for new paradigms to replace the traditional models of Scripture formation and of the origin of the Samaritans.
The section on Linguistics begins with a discussion of »›Hebrew Language‹ and ›Holy Language‹ between Judea and Samaria« by A. Tal. He concludes, Samaritans and Jews, despite all rivalry, »have not only common traditions, but some traces of common hopes and even common terminology.« M. Florentin discusses and presents »An Unknown Samaritan Poem of the Type FATIḤA« from the Samaritan »Book of Mourning«, containing poems once recited at funeral ceremonies, asking the sinner to repent so that he will be vindicated at the last judgment. In the final article, »Different Pronunciations of the Same Word in the Torah Reading of the Israelite Samaritans in Comparison to Its Significant Attributes«, B. Tsedaka presents lists of words that are spelt the same way but pronounced differently to distinguish the meanings according to their respec-tive contexts.
Artifacts and Texts, the fifth section, consists of two short chapters. In »The Samaritans in Caesarea Maritima« S. Dar presents five pages of illustrations of archaeological finds that testify to the presence of Samaritans in the city, underlining the dearth of evidence compared to the written information. A possible reason for this is the common culture shared by Jews and Samaritans which makes the identification of artifacts as belonging to the one or the other community difficult. In the second chapter, »An Elusive Samaritan Manuscript in Utrecht«, J. Zsengellér shows that MS 1423 (var. 160) in the university library of Utrecht was incorrectly ascribed to the Samaritans. It contains instead a short tractate on Sama-ritan Hebrew.
The problem of the early Samaritan beliefs about resurrection is discussed in the first article of the section Arabica by P. Stenhouse under the title »Reflections on the Samaritan Belief in an After-Life«. Stenhouse casts doubts on the accuracy of the Rabbinic and early Christian claims regarding the non-belief of the Samaritans in resurrection before the 1st century CE without, however, trying to account for the reasons why these claims were made. In his opinion, it would stretch our credulity to accept that the Jews of the Hellenistic period believed in it and the Samaritans denied it. Al-though the available Samaritan sources affirming resurrection are late, they may well hark back to more ancient information, and maybe older writings yet to be discovered will shed additional light on the issue. In »Abū l-Ḥasan aṣ-Ṣūrī and his Inclinations to Mu‘tazilite Theology« G. Wedel, the editor and translator of that author’s work Kitāb aṭ-Ṭabbāḫ from the 11th/12th century CE, demonstrates that Abū l-Ḥasan was strongly influenced by Islamic Mu‘tazilite theology, at least in his treatment of certain topics. He conjectures that it was Karaites who introduced Mu‘tazilite ap-proaches into Judaism and Samaritanism in Palestine. Until more Samaritan-Arabic texts are published, however, it must remain an open question whether Abū l-Ḥasan was the only Samaritan scholar to incorporate Mu‘tazilite elements in his theology. In a short chapter, »A Samaritan Legend in the Alhambra Stories?«, H. S. Jamgotchian raises the question whether the tale of the speaking bird on Mt. Gerizim underlies a similar story in Washington Irving’s The Alhambra. In the last article, »The Samaritan High Priest ‘Imrān ben Salāma and his Poem Against Mubārak al-Mufarraǧī. Who Became a Convert to Islam in 1841«, H. Shehadeh presents the poem against a Samaritan apostate written by the high priest ‘Imrān ben Salāma ben Ghazāl al-Ḥiftāwī (1809–1875) and sets out the data that are preserved about the life and work of this important Samaritan scholar.
As with many a congress proceedings, in this book, too, both length and quality of the contributions vary over a wide spectrum. In reading through it, two issues stand out: First, new insights into the history of the biblical text have changed our understanding of the Samaritan Pentateuch and its relationship to the Masoretic text; and second, the ongoing in-depth analysis of the evidence recently unearthed on Mt. Gerizim has led to a situation where a paper presented at the Congress in 2008 no longer represents the views of the author barely two years later, illustrating the fast pace of developments in contemporary Samaritan studies. Taken as a whole, the volume is a good reflection of the current preoccupations in the field.