The Samaritan Arabic Pentateuch   2 comments

انّ بأيدي السامريّة توراة غير التوراة التي بأيدي سائر اليهود ويدّعون انها المنزلة على موسى ويقطعون بأن التي بأيدي سائر اليهود محرّفة مبدّلة

The Samaritans have a Pentateuch different (ġayr) from that of the rest of the Jews. They claim that it was sent down [from heaven] to Moses and assert confidently that the one the rest of the Jews have is corrupted and altered (muḥarrafa mubaddala).

(from Ibn Ḥazm’s Al-Fiṣal, more text and trans. [adapted here] in Shehadeh 1989, 491)

If within biblical studies research on the Bible in Arabic is somewhat of a fringe field, within Arabic biblical studies, research on the Samaritan Arabic version of the Bible is a niche even further away. There are, nevertheless, some secondary sources and at least the beginnings of publishing critical editions, scholarly attention to the language and text reaching back, however, to De Sacy (1758-1838) and even earlier. As will be obvious from the bibliography below, Haseeb Shehadeh is the most active scholar in this area currently. His survey article from 1989 (on which much of the information in the following paragraph is based) offers a good introduction to the subject.

The lines above from Ibn Ḥazm (994-1064), while unclear as to which language or languages — Hebrew, Aramaic, or Arabic — the pentateuchal text in question was in, at least reveal recognition of the uniqueness of the community and their biblical literature. As in much of Arabic studies, especially Arabic studies outside the classics of Islamic literature, in this particular branch of study scholars must have frequent recourse to manuscripts, and as elsewhere in the study of biblical texts and versions, cross-linguistic comparison is absolutely necessary at almost every point. (As intimated above, there are Samaritan biblical texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic, all generally written in Samaritan script, but there are also copies of the Arabic in Arabic script.) Many manuscripts bear witness to the Arabic version, the oldest dated copy being Shechem Synagogue 6 from 1204 CE in Samaritan script, and the oldest copy in Arabic script being BL Or. 2688 from 1223/4 CE. There are in fact two Samaritan Arabic versions, an old translation and a revision (with scholia) of the translation then current among Samaritans in Egypt by Abū Saʿīd (this version mostly in Arabic-script copies); the old translation relies more heavily on the Samaritan Aramaic Targum than the later revision, itself undertaken because the older version was considered stylistically poor from an Arabic point of view and because of its connection to Saʿadya’s translation. Fortunately, for some people these two endeavors — studying manuscripts and comparing textual versions — are interesting and rewarding work! To be discovered in this research, at least, are matters linguistic, text-critical, religious, and historical.

The beginning of Gen 49 in Samaritan script, Arabic script, and the Polyglot text for comparison; from Hwiid 1780 (see below).

For those who may be interested in looking into the subject further, here are some texts and studies:

J. Bloch, Die samaritanisch-arabische Pentateuchübersetzung. Deuteronomium I-X, nach Handschriften in Berlin, Gotha, Kiel, Leiden und Paris mit Einleitung und Noten (Berlin, 1901).
A.D. Crown, The Samaritan Scribes and Manuscripts (Tübingen, 2001), pp. 22-25.
A.S. Halkin, “The Scholia to Numbers and Deuteronomy in the Samaritan Arabic Pentateuch,” Jewish Quarterly Review 34 n.s. (1943-44): 41-59.
A.C. Hwiid, Specimen ineditae versionis Arabico-Samaritanae, Pentateuchi e codice manuscripto Bibliothecae Barberinae (Rome, 1780).
T.G.J. Juynboll, “Commentatio de versione Arabico-Samaritana, et de scholiis, quae codicibus Parisiensibus n. 2 et 4 adscripta sunt,” Orientalia 2 (1846), pp. 113-157.
A. Kuenen, Libri Exodi et Levitici secundum arabicam Pentateuchi Samaritani versionem ab Abu-Saido conscriptam (Leiden, 1854).
________, Specimen e literis orientalibus exhibens librum Geneseos, secundum arabicam Pentateuchi samaritani versionem ab Abu-Saido conscriptam (Leiden, 1851).
________, Specimen theologicum continens Geneseos libri capita triginta quatuor priora ex Arabica Pentateuchi Samaritani Versione nunc primum edita cum prolegomenis (Leiden, 1851).
R. Macuch, “On the Problems of the Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch,” Israel Oriental Studies 9 (1979): 147-173.
E. Robertson, “The Relationship of the Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch to that of Saadya,” in E.I.J. Rosenthal, ed., Saadya Studies (Manchester, 1943), pp. 166-176.
S. de Sacy, “Mémoire sur la version arabe des livres de Moïse à l’usage des Samaritains et sur les manuscrits de cette version,” Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 49 (1808), pp. 1-149, 783-786.
G. Schwarb, “Samaritan Acquaintance with Qaraite Bible Translations: Fact or Fiction,” Journal of Intellectual History in the Islamicate World 1 (forthcoming, 2013).
H. Shehadeh, “The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch,” in A.D. Crown, ed., The Samaritans (Tübingen, 1989), pp. 481-516.
________, The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch [in Hebrew], PhD thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1977.
________, “The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz, 52.1 (1982): 59-82.
________, The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch edited from Manuscripts, vol. 1, Genesis-Exodus (Jerusalem, 1989).
________, The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch, vol. 2, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (Jerusalem, 2002).
________, “Arabic Versions of the Pentateuch,” in A. Crown, R. Pummer, and A. Tal, eds., A Companion to Samaritan Studies (Tübingen, 1993), pp. 22-24.
________, “The Classification of the Versions of the Samaritan Arabic Translation of the Pentateuch and Identifying Nomenclature of the Fauna” [in Hebrew, English summary], Leshonenu, 48-49.1 (1984): 35-48.
________, “The Groups of the Samaritan Manuscripts of the Arabic Translation of the Pentateuch,” in J.-P. Rothschild and G.D. Sixdenier, eds., Études samaritaines, Pentateuque et Targum, exégèse et philologie, chroniques (Paris, 1988), pp. 205-218.
________, “A New Group of Manuscripts including an Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch (ATSP),” in A. Tal and M. Florentin, eds. Proceedings of the First International Congress of the Société d’ Études Samaritaines, Tel-Aviv, April-13, 1988 (Tel-Aviv, 1991), pp. 275-292.
________, “A New Unknown Version of the Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch?” in M. Macuch, et al., eds., Studia Semitica necnon Iranica Rudolpho Macuch septuagenario (Wiesbaden, 1989), pp. 303-327.
W. van Vloten, Specimen philogicum continens descriptionem codicis MS Bibliothecae Lugduno-Batavae partemque inde excerptam versionis Samaritano-arabicae Pentateuchi Mosaici (1803).
A.S. Zhamkochian, A.S. Vnov’ identifitsirovannye i neopublikovannye fragmenty arabskikh versij samaritianskogo Piatiknizhija iz sobranija Rossijskoj Natsional’noj biblioteki [Newly Identified and Unpublished Fragments of the Arabic Versions of the Samaritan Pentateuch from the collection of the National Library of Russia] (Moscow, 2001).
________, Neopublikovannye fragmenty arabskikh versij samaritianskogo Piatiknizhija iz sobranija RNB [Newly Identified and Unpublished Fragments of the Arabic Versions of the Samaritan Pentateuch from the collection of the National Library of Russia] (Ph.D. dissertation, Yerevan University, 1994).

2 responses to “The Samaritan Arabic Pentateuch

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  1. Thank you very much for this post, plus bibliography. As you say, we’re some way away from the mainstream here, and for that very reason posts on such topics are invaluable.

  2. Pingback: Pentateuch hebrew | Mytowns

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