More Evidence for a Samaritan Greek Bible: Two Septuagint Translation Traditions in the Samaritan Targum

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In Late Antique Palestine, knowledge of Greek was widespread among Jews, Christians, and pagans, and levels of proficiency presumably ranged from monolingual Greek native-speakers to Greek-Aramaic bilinguals to Aramaic speakers with only a smattering of Greek. In Samaritan circles, too, Greek was used in various contexts; it is for example surprisingly frequent in synagogue inscriptions, i.e., in one section of the religious sphere. We may safely assume, then, that Greek-speaking Samaritans both in their homeland and in the diaspora used a Greek translation of the Pentateuch, either in lieu of the Hebrew Torah or supplementing it, as a means to better understand the elusive language of their sacred scripture. Indeed, remnants of such a translation have been identified in Samaritan Greek inscriptions that contain biblical verses, and in certain glosses to Septuagint manuscripts that are tagged as τὸ Σαµαρειτικόν, Samareitikon. But since the material consists only of scattered fragments, the nature of the Samareitikon and its relation to the Septuagint are debated: Was it a complete translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch or just a collection of variant readings? And does it represent an independent translation into Greek, or rather a Samaritan reworking of the Septuagint? The fact that some Samareitikon readings include Greek words synonymous with the Septuagint and do not affect the overall meaning of the verse is difficult to reconcile with the assumption of select glosses. It would rather seem that such readings originated in a complete translation. And since other readings evince a dependency on the text of the Septuagint, or display clear idiomatic affinities, the Samareitikon is best seen as a Samaritan recension of the Septuagint.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSeptuagint, Targum and Beyond
Subtitle of host publicationComparing Aramaic and Greek Versions from Jewish Antiquity
EditorsDavid James Shepherd, Jan Joosten, Michaël van der Meer
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789004416727
ISBN (Print)9789004416710
StatePublished - Dec 2019

Publication series

NameSupplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism
ISSN (Print)1384-2161


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