Samaritan Torah Scroll (Aktaba Kadisha), Land of Israel [ca. 1166, Scribe: Shalmah ben Abraham bar Yosef of Sarepta]
- Parchment, Ink, Leather Case
Valmadonna Trust Library, MS 5
Alan David Crown, “Abisha Scroll” in A Companion to Samaritan Studies, ed. Alan D. Crown, Reinhard Pummer and Abraham Tal, Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1993, pp. 4-6.
Alan David Crown, Samaritan Scribes and Manuscripts, Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001;
Benyamim Tsedaka, The Collection of Samaritan Manuscripts in the Klau Library of the HUC, 2011
Sharon Sullivan Dufour, "Variants in the Samaritan Pentateuch of the Hebrew Bible as Compared to the Masoretic Text" (2009);
M. Gaster, The Samaritans, London, 1925, plate 12;
Marina Rustow, "The Samaritans," Scripture and Schism: Samaritan and Karaite Treasures from the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York: 2000, pp. 6-59;
David Solomon Sassoon, Ohel Dawid, Descriptive Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts (Oxford, 1932), Vol. II, no. 734, p. 603.
Dating back more than 2,500 years, the Samaritans are the longest-lived religious sect in Jewish history, and their traditions, beliefs and practices are still maintained by a small community of fewer than a thousand adherents. As they have for nearly their entire history, most Samaritans continue to live in the vicinity of the biblical city of Shechem (Nablus) near Mount Gerizim in Israel. The Mountain is central to Samaritan worship and beliefs and is the site of the sect's annual Passover sacrifice.
The Samaritans, like the Jews, venerate the Torah Scroll as a sacred object, and both groups use Torah Scrolls for liturgical purposes, though in different manners. While there are thousands of mostly minor textual variants between the Samaritan and Hebrew versions of the Torah, the most obvious difference between them is the unusual and distinct Samaritan script. The Samaritan script is directly derived from the paleo-Hebrew alphabet used in the Land of Israel in the days of the First Temple. Paleo-Hebrew was the only way Hebrew was written, by both Samaritans and Jews, until the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BCE, when the Jews began gradually to adopt Aramaic as a spoken language and along with it, adapted its script to Hebrew. By the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE, the Jews had abandoned the paleo-Hebrew script entirely, but the Samaritans continued to use it for the writing of Hebrew, Aramaic, and eventually even Arabic.
Whereas Jewish Torah Scrolls never contain a colophon which might indicate the name of the scribe or the date of completion, Samaritan scrolls often contain a tashkil—an imbedded colophon in an acrostic format. While there is no tashkil in the surviving section of the present scroll, according to Professor Stefan Schorch, of Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, one of the leading scholars in the field of Samaritan Studies, the distinctive script of this scroll indicates that it was written by the same scribe as the Aktaba Kadisha currently in the Spiro collection (formerly Sassoon 735). The tashkil of that scroll indicates that it was written by Shalmah ben Abraham in 1166 CE. It is reasonable to assume then, that the present scroll, also written by Shalmah ben Abraham, was written very near to the same date.
In addition to these two Shalmah ben Abraham scrolls, the oldest known Samaritan scrolls are a fragment at Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati (HUC Sam. 61), dated 1145 CE, and the Abisha scroll, in Nablus (though the majority of the Abisha scroll is no younger than the fourteenth century, there is a section which has been determined by Alan David Crown to have been written “within a short time after 1150.") These four early Samaritan scrolls were written within the span of a single scribal generation and are among the oldest surviving witnesses to this ancient biblical tradition.