gabe at cascadeaccess.com
Sat Jan 31 14:38:42 EST 2009
This post addresses issues that have come up in three recent threads:
1. The assertion that the northern Israelites were all exiled in 722
BC,"never to return", and that the Yahwism of Samaria was a re-creation
rather than direct inheritance.
2. The argument over whether Jerusalem was devoid of all humans and
livestock for 70 years.
3. The idea that the Biblical text was fixed by 300 or 200 BC.
All three assertions are belied by the reality of the Samaritans, who
are the actual descendants of the northern Israelites, and who preserve
an ancient Torah text that differs from the Masoretic. There is by now a
large body of scholarship (and DNA evidence!) authenticating the basic
claims of the Samaritans as against the Jews.
With regard to both (1) and (2) we need to appreciate the ancient
practice of hyperbole with regard to claims of annihilation. Assyrian
monuments often speak of the same enemy being annihilated ...
repeatedly on multiple occasions! The same hyperbole is used by Biblical
writers with regard to both Israel and Judah. We know that Israel was
not completely evacuated in 722 because
a) The Assyrian records indicate the deportation of 27,000 Israelites,
whereas archaeology shows that the population was about 300,000. (In any
case the Assyrian practice was to deport the elite classes only,
anything else being logistically infeasible.)
b) The Bible reports subsequent dealings between Jerusalemites and
northern Yahwists, in which the former regard the latter as true Israelites.
Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the same hyperbole was applied
with regard to Judah, and that many Yahwists remained there in the 6th
century. (The hyperbole may also be influenced by conflicts between
Babylonian returnees and the peasantry that Ezra wanted to exclude from
the new community.)
(And by the way, the "never to return" bit about the Israelites is also
Biblically incorrect, since Jeremiah and Ezekiel assure us that Judah
and Israel will be reunited.)
With regard to (3): As George Athas has implied, the scholarly textual
studies (by Tov and others) find multiple families of text-types
existing in the period from 200 BC to 100 AD -- one of these being the
Samaritan Torah. It has both similarities and differences with the other
families (DSS, LXX, Masoretic Text, Targums). When it agrees with other
sources but not MT, there are often good reasons to prefer its reading.
(On the other hand there is a layer of the Samaritan Torah that contains
ideological emendations which are surely late.)
(And on a side note, the assertion of fixity by 200 BC also ignores the
fact that the Talmud contains many Torah variants indicating that they
did not have our MT.)
One implication of Tov's work is that the proto-MT was probably brought
to Jerusalem from Babylonia around the time of Hillel, and that the
Samaritan version is closer to what had been the dominant text-type in
the previous period.
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