Samaritan Pentateuch (Arhuta Kadishta), Land of Israel: late 14th–early 15th century
- Parchment, Ink, Leather
(2) Zedakah ben Yusha ben Matnayah (purchase note dated 835 A.H.=1431/32, p. 357), apparently by descent to:
(3) Yusha ben Zadakah ben Yusha, by descent to:
(4) His wife, Sarah bath Ibrahim Ha'Levi, sold to
(5) Ebed Ha'ashir ben Ibrahim ben Ebed Ha'ashir Demibani Abdah (purchase note dated 916 A.H.=1510/11 CE, p. 275)
(6) Puah, the wife of Abdallah (p. 113)
(7) Yusuf ben Abdallah (p. 113, dated 940 A.H.=1533 CE)
(8) David Solomon Sassoon (bookplate, stamp and his sale, Sotheby's New York, 4 December 1984, lot 95)
(9) Valmadonna Trust Library, MS 6a
David Solomon Sassoon, Ohel Dawid, Descriptive Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts (Oxford, 1932), Vol. II, no. 30, pp. 583–584;
August Freiherr von Gall, Der Hebräische Pentateuch der Samaritaner (Giessen, 1918), no. G (this manuscript), pp. XXXV–XXXVI;
Benyamim Tsedaka, The Israelite Samaritan Version of the Torah: First English Translation Compared with the Masoretic Version, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013 (commentary to Numbers 6:2,) p. 618.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Among the most notable semantic differences between the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible used by Jews and the Samaritan Pentateuch are the references to the Samaritan place of worship on Mount Gerizim. The Samaritan version of the Ten Commandments has additional text not found in the Masoretic version, more familiar to most Jews and Christians. Here, the Samaritan version of Exodus 20:17 (p. 159–160) commands that an altar be built on Mount Gerizim upon which all sacrifices should be offered.
And when you shall have crossed the Jordan you shall raise these stones, which I command you today, upon Mount Gerizim. And you shall build there the altar to the Lord your God…
This part of the commandment is absent from the corresponding text of the Ten Commandments in the Masoretic version. The Samaritan Pentateuch's inclusion of the Gerizim variation within the Ten Commandments places additional emphasis on the divine sanction given to that community's place of worship. This variation has resonance in another contested biblical text, Deuteronomy 27:4, where the Masoretic text commands that an altar be constructed on Mount Ebal, while the Samaritan version has Mount Gerizim.
Although the anonymous scribe of this small Samaritan Pentateuch completed his labors as early as the fourteenth century and certainly not later than 1431 CE (the first time the manuscript was sold), between 400 and 500 years later, in 1867, another scribe, Jacob ben Aaron ben Shalma, took it upon himself to replace the several sections of the Bible which had been damaged or torn away during the intervening centuries.
Samaritan manuscripts of the Torah of such small dimensions are exceedingly rare. Benyamim Tsedaka, an elder of the Samaritan community and author of The Israelite Samaritan Version of the Torah: First English Translation Compared with the Masoretic Version, records the existence of at least two other similarly sized Samaritan manuscript Pentateuchs (Smithsonian Libraries, Wash. D.C.; John Rylands Library, Manchester). These manuscripts were created by Samaritan scribes expressly for the use of Nazirites—avowed ascetics who abstain from marital relations, drinking wine, and cutting their hair— and contain internal testimony attesting to that fact. Tzedaka goes on to say that these miniature bible codices would be worn by the Nazirite, suspended by a string, around the neck, in order to have the words of the Torah always at hand.
According to the cataloging of noted bibliophile David Solomon Sassoon, who once owned the present manuscript, it too was written expressly for the use of a Samaritan Nazirite. Although his brief catalogue entry does not specify Sassoon’s source for this information, it is reasonable to presume that he ascertained the knowledge from the manuscript itself, perhaps from a tashkil, (an imbedded acrostic, characteristically found in Samaritan manuscripts).
The practice of wearing small books was not unique to Samaritan Nazirites. In fact, in Europe between the thirteenth and sixteenth century [a period which overlaps the late 14th–early 15th century origins of our manuscript], books were worn as a popular accessory amongst the clergy and the aristocratic nobility. Most of these were “girdle books” worn suspended from the belt but other books were indeed small enough to be worn around the neck. And while there are hundreds of artistic representations of girdle books, fewer than two dozen actual examples survive. The present example of a Samaritan Nazirite Pentateuch is rarer still.