Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Aramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions from Mt. Gerizim and Samaria between Antiochus III and Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Aramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions from Mt. Gerizim and Samaria between Antiochus III and Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Article excerpt

Aramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions from Mt. Gerizim and Samaria between Antiochus III and Antiochus IV Epiphanes. By Jan DuSek. Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, vol. 54. Leiden: Brill, 2012. Pp. xviii + 200, illus. $135.

The first thing to note in relation to the book under review is that it does not contain editions of the Aramaic and Hebrew inscriptions from Mt. Gerizim. These formulaic texts, which number close to 400, can be found in the editio princeps: Y. Magen, H. Misgav, L. Tsfania, Mount Gerizim Excavations, Vol. I: The Aramaic Hebrew and Samaritan Inscriptions (Jerusalem: Staff Officer of Archaeology--Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, 2004). The book under review is, in fact, about these inscriptions. As with the author's previous monograph on the Samarian Papyri (Les manuscrits arameens du Wadi Daliyeh et la Samarie vers 450-332 av. J.-C. [Leiden: Brill, 2007]), this book thoroughly examines a terse and sometimes enigmatic corpus of texts and gleans as much historical information from them as possible. The results, as with the author's previous work, are often interesting; the arguments are compelling, and always seem reasonable.

The book has three main sections or chapters that address, respectively, the paleography of the inscriptions as well as their dating, the identity of those who wrote them, and the historical context in which they were made. In the first chapter, the author provides a paleographic comparison of the Aramaic scripts of the Gerizim inscriptions in order to demonstrate that the cursive and monumental-style Aramaic inscriptions were carved in approximately the same time period, the end of the third century B.C.E. to the early second century B.C.E. (p. 37). These (relatively numerous) inscriptions seem to be private inscriptions memorializing contributions to the building of the temple on Mt. Gerizim and can be contrasted with the many fewer public inscriptions which are written in Hebrew (p. 60). These latter inscriptions are mostly written in a paleo-Hebrew script and perhaps also date to this time period, if not to a slightly earlier time (p. 54).

A particularly interesting revelation of the author's close analysis is that the Hebrew inscriptions bear a parallel to the writing of Samaritan Hebrew pentateuchal manuscripts from the Middle Ages in that both corpora use vertical and horizontal lines to guide the writing, in particular with two vertical lines on the right and left sides of the inscription / page, which form columns of the space of exactly one letter (p. 56). One question I have in relation to this section concerns the author's assertion that the spelling error of 'l 'psh (for an intended 'l npsh "for himself") in one inscription is not a "result from a copying error" (p. 52). It seems to me far likelier that this is indeed a spelling error due to dittography rather than a case of an engraver mishearing dictation (as the author suggests).

The second chapter addresses the question of the identity of the people who wrote the inscriptions. The initial part of the chapter includes a detailed discussion of what might at first appear to be a superficial matter: how to refer to the people who worshipped Yahweh on Mt. Gerizim. The terms "Samarian," "Samaritan," "Israelite," "Hebrew," even "Sidonian" are used in various sources to refer to these people, but such terms are somewhat confusing since they could also refer to other groups or individuals. For instance, "Samarian" and "Samaritan" are used in Greek inscriptions to indicate Greek colonists living in the administrative district of Samaritis and in Samaria (the city and the region); similarly, Josephus uses the same terms to refer to both the Yahwists and the non-Yahwists living in these areas. The term Samaritan to refer specifically to those worshipping on Mt. …

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