The Israelite Samaritan Version of the Torah: First English Translation Compared with the Masoretic Version.

Author:Stadel, Christian
Position:Book review

The Israelite Samaritan Version of the Torah: First English Translation Compared with the Masoretic Version. Edited by Benyamim Tsedaka and Sharon Sullivan. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013. Pp. xxxvii + 522, illus. $26.

A book like the present one is difficult to review. Although it opens with forewords and short introductory essays by such well-known academic figures as Emanuel Tov and Steven Fine, it is by no means a scientific work. The journal, however, to which the book was sent for review, is a scholarly journal, and its readership is made up of academics. This fact determines the scope of this review. It will only address the question of whether the book is useful for the scholarly world. There are other aspects to the work, such as inner-Samaritan issues of theology, which are deliberately not considered here.

The editor and translator, Benyamim Tsedaka, himself a Samaritan, certainly did achieve his primary aim "to present the Israelite-Samaritan version of the Pentateuch for the first time in English" (pp. xxxiii-xxxiv). However, his expectation that "through this translation the Israelite Samaritan version will be available for critical examination by scholars of many fields--Jewish studies, religious studies, Near Eastern and biblical studies, linguistics" (p. xxxiv)--is not shared by the present reviewer. Why this is so will be explained in the following.

The structure of the book at hand is simple. The short introduction (pp. xxi-xxxvi) opens with some cursory remarks on the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP), details the manuscripts from which the translation was made, and explains the idiosyncratic transcription in which proper names have been rendered. The bulk of the book is made up of the translation itself, which is set in two parallel columns: One gives the SP according to Tsedaka's rendering, while the other represents the Masoretic text (MT) based on the English translation published by the Jewish Publication Society in 1917 (p. xxxiii). Differences between the versions are highlighted in bold typeface and are occasionally explained in marginal notes. Two appendices (pp. 491-503) compare the SP to the Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls fragments; they are hardly the original work of the editor, but no source is quoted. The book ends with an index of proper names.

Before tackling the translation itself, a general caveat lector on the historical and linguistic explanations given in the marginal notes and introduction...

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