TRADITION KEPT: THE LITERATURE OF THE SAMARITANSWritten by R. T. Anderson and T. Giles Reviewed By Nathan MacDonald
Tradition Kept is a selection of translations of major Samaritan works that is a companion volume to Anderson and Giles’ previous volume on the Samaritans, The Keepers. This is not a scholarly edition and each of the translations is provided with an introduction, aimed at the non-specialist reader. The first chapter discusses the Samaritan Pentateuch. Understandably the whole of the Samaritan Pentateuch is not reproduced, but some interesting examples of differences from the MT are given. This is followed by the Samaritan Joshua, the Samaritan account of their history from the death of Moses to the Roman period. There are excerpts from the Annals of Abu’l Fath (Kitab al-Tarikah), a history stretching from Adam to Muhammed. The historical works are concluded with selections from the New Chronicle (Chronicle Adler) and Chronicle II. These trace Samaritan history from early times to the modern day. Nearly one hundred pages are given to the important Samaritan theological work, Tibat Marqe (Memar Marqu). Tibat Marque has been a significant resource for Samaritan liturgy, and the following chapter gives extracts from, and a discussion of, Samaritan liturgy. A final chapter sweeps up some of the remaining Samaritan literature, including amulets, inscriptions and astronomical texts.
Samaritan literature is not easily accessible and any collection of it would have to be welcomed. Unfortunately in most cases Anderson and Giles have not provided fresh translations, but only revised work done by previous scholars. The notes to the text tend to list only biblical references, even where there are interesting interpretative issues or where the texts are quite opaque to the novice reader. Additionally at a variety of point the authors make questionable assertions or rely on arguments that look dated. Not only is Every much alive, but the hypothesis that the Samaritans would have been familiar with an E document is entertained (272). Apparently Judaism (unlike the Samaritans) humanizes God (277)! One supposed illustration of this is Exodus 15:3 which in the Samaritan is ‘Yhwh is the mighty one of war’ rather than the Jewish (MTI), ‘Yhwh is a man of war’. The Targums’ renderings that attempt to tackle this apparent anthropomorphism in similar ways are presumably not representative of Judaism. The account of Christian traditions about Adam is similarly attenuated (287). These examples are sufficient to illustrate the traps this volume has for the unwary.
St Andrews University