The Origins of the Samaritan Pentateuch

The Samaritans, adherents of a heterodox sect of Judaism who have worshipped and brought sacrifices on Mount Gerizim in Samaria since at least the 1st century BCE, possess their own version of the Torah that differs at various points from the Masoretic text (the version used by all other branches of Judaism). Examining the evidence from ancient manuscripts of the Bible discovered in the 20th century, Terry Giles speculates on the genesis of the Samaritan Pentateuch:

[Ancient] manuscript evidence, some of it dating back to the 3rd through 1st centuries BCE, indicates that the Samaritan Pentateuch is an extension of an earlier text-type, currently labeled the pre-Samaritan text, found in the Judean desert along with manuscripts of a version that would later become the Masoretic text and manuscripts similar to the Septuagint [the ancient Greek translation of the Bible]. The Samaritan Pentateuch provides an important witness to the early textual history of the first part of the Hebrew Bible. It was considered authoritative by at least some of the New Testament writers, and it remains the sacred text of the Samaritan community. . . .

The pre-Samaritan texts from the Judean desert are characterized by many of the editorial features found in the Samaritan Pentateuch (including . . . emphasis on the role of Moses and similar grammatical forms and spelling), but without the veneer of sectarian features favoring the Samaritan religious sect. The cumulative evidence points to the conclusion that the Samaritan Pentateuch is the product of a sectarian editing of the pre-Samaritan text-type, probably produced in the 1st century BCE through the 1st century CE.

Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: History & Ideas, Masoretes, Samaria, Samaritans, Septuagint, Torah

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood