SAMARITAN PENTATEUCH The Samaritan Pentateuch was mentioned by the fathers Eusebius. Cyril of Alexandria, Proco pins of Gaza, Diodorus, Jerome, and others. After it had lain concealed for upwards of a thousand years, its existence began to be doubted. At length Peter Della Valle, in 1616. proCured a complete copy, which De Sancy, then French ambassador at Constantinople, sent to the library of the Oratoire at Paris, in 1623. It was first described by Morin, and afterwards printed in the Paris Polyglot. Not long after, Archbishop Usher procured six copies from the East ; and so great was the number in the time of Kennicott. that he collated sixteen for his edition of the lie brew Bible.
1. In regard to the antiquity of the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the source from which the document came, various opinions have been entertained.
(1) The Opinion of Usher as to Its Origin. The hypothesis maintained by Usher was, that the Samaritan Pentateuch was the production of an impostor named Dositheus, the founder of a sect among the Samaritans, and who pretended to be the Messiah. It is thought that he compiled this copy of the Pentateuch from the I lebrew and the Septuagint, adding, expunging, and altering, according to his pleasure. Usher appeals to Ori gcn and Photius, whose testimony, however, when examined, affords no evidence of the truth of this statement. It is well known that the Alex andrian Samaritans opposed L)ositheus, and would not have received such a compilation. Besides, had he corrupted any passages, it is natural to think that he would have perverted those relating to the Messiah, that they might be more easily referred to himself. But places of this nature in the Samaritan copies agree with the Hebrew; and we may be farther assured that the Jews would not have failed to mention such a fact as a just ground of accusation against the Samar itans.
(2) Opinion of Le Clerc and Poncet. Le Clcrc and Poncet imagined that this copy of the law was made by the Israelitish priest who was sent by the king of Assyria to instruct the new inhabitants in the religion of the country. This is a mere hypothesis, unsupported by historical testimony. It was not necessary for the priest to compose a new system, but to instruct the people out of the Pentateuch as it then existed. When
the existing copy was sufficient for his purpose, he would not have undertaken the labor of prepar ing an entirely new work.
(3) Opinions of Hottinger and Others. It was the opinion of Hottinger, Pridcaux, Fitzger ald, and others, that Manasseh transcribed one of Ezra's corrected copies which he took with him from Jerusalem into the old character to which they were accustomed. In proof of this hypothesis it has been affirmed that the variations in the Samaritan copy from the Hebrew are such as were occasioned in the transcription by mis taking letters similar in Hebrew, but unlike in the Samaritan. This supposition has been com pletely set aside by Kopp, in his Bilder und Schriften der Vorzeit; and by Hupfeld, in his Belcuchtung dunkler Stellen, etc. (Studien und Kritiken, 183o), in which it is convincingly shown that the present Hebrew square character had no existence till long after Ezra ; and that, so far from owing its origin to Chaldica, and hav ing been introduced by Ezra, it was merely the gradual work of time. When Manasseh fled from Jerusalem, the Samaritan and Hebrew characters must have been substantially the same.
(4) Preserved from the Time of Rehoboam. Others are of the opinion that copies of the Pen tateuch must have been in the hands of Israel, from the time of Rchoboam, as well as among Judah: that they were preserved by the former equally as by the latter. This hypothesis, first advanced by Morin, has been adopted by Houbigant. Cap pcllus, Kennicott, Michaelis, Eichhorn, Bauer, Bertholdt, Stuart, and others, and appears to be the true one. The prophets, who frequently in veigh against the Israelites for their idolatry and their crimes, never accuse them of being destitute of the law, or ignorant of its contents. It is wholly improbable, too, that the people, when carried captive into Assyria, took with them all the copies of the law. Thus we arc brought to the conclu sion that the Samaritan. as well as the Jewish copy, originally flowed from the autograph of Moses. The two constitute, in fact, different re censions of the same work, and coalesce in point of antiquity.