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In the Torah, the first five books of the bible, there are various narratives that bear strong resemblance to various Babylonians myths. Notably the story of creation, Adam and Eve, and the flood all have Babylonian precursors. These are discussed in various papers and works, such as the recent book "Hebrew and Babylonian Traditions" by Morris Jastrow (2022). The presumption seems to be that the reason we find this shared tradition is because during the Babylonian Captivity the two cultures exchanged ideas.

However, we find much the same stories in the Samaritan Torah as we find in the Masoretic text and the Septuagint. So, how could this be if the Samaritans were never made exiles in Babylon? The whole tradition of the Samaritans is given as being one continuously occupying Israel and never deported to Babylon. If the Samaritans never emigrated to Babylon, then why would we find the same Babylonian-related narratives in the Samaritan bible, as we find in the books of Hebrews who were exiled?

Example of similar storyline text:

Exodus 12:40 in both the Samaritan and the Septuagint reads: "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers which they had dwelt in the land of Canaan and in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." In the Masoretic (Jewish) text, the passage reads: "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years."

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  • example from wikipedia... Exodus 12:40 in both the Samaritan and the Septuagint reads: "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers which they had dwelt in the land of Canaan and in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." In the Masoretic (Jewish) text, the passage reads: "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." Oct 17, 2022 at 22:42
  • Because Samaritan Torah is not a new independent book but just a version of the same Christian Torah we use which originated from babylonian Abraham.
    – Michael16
    Oct 19, 2022 at 5:54
  • Babylon had two golden eras, and the proposed Babylonian precursor texts date to 1000 years before the Jewish exile. They would have circulated through the middle east long before the exile.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 19, 2022 at 10:13

2 Answers 2

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After the Jews returned from Babylonian exile they interacted with the people who would come to be known as Samaritans. According to the Book of Ezra, the future Samaritans (called "adversaries of Judah and Benjamin") worshiped the God of Israel wanted to help rebuild the Temple.

When the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of families and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of King Esar-haddon of Assyria, who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of families in Israel said to them, “You shall have no part with us in building a house for our God, but we alone will build for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus of Persia has commanded us.” (Ezra 4)

The fact that the future Samaritans wanted to help rebuild the Temple implies that they wished to join in worship with the Jews. So naturally they would want copies of the Jewish scriptures. When Ezra arrived on the scene and instituted formal Torah study, it is likely the Samaritans would have obtained copies. If one accepts that Babylonian ideas are present in the Samaritan Torah, this would explain it.

However it does not explain why the Samaritan Pentateuch follows the Septuagint in some places, since the Septuagint was produced in Alexandria centuries later. Based on studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls, this article suggests the Samaritans may have used a version of the Torah which predates the Septuagint, and upon which the Septuagint is based. Alternatively, the Samaritan Torah could have reached its final form after the Septuagint became available.

The Samaritans themselves insist that their version of the Pentateuch is the oldest and most authentic.

Conclusion: If there is Babylonian content in the Samaritan Torah, it was inherited from the time the Jews returned from the Exile. Influence from the Septuagint version would have been from a later date but could also have resulted from an earlier text upon which the LXX is based.

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  • In your answer you refer to the Samaritans as though they are not Jews. My understanding is that the Samaritans are descended from Abraham and the others led out of Egypt, so how are they not Jews? Or are you drawing a distinction between a Jew and a Hebrew and defining a Jew as only somehow descended from those who suffered the Babylonian Captivity? Mar 18 at 17:39
  • In my answer, "Jews" means those who followed the Jewish religion as taught by Ezra, including not only the Torah but the prophets and wisdom/historical writings as well. Samaritans did not accept these as legitimate scriptures. They also rejected the Temple of Jerusalem, affirming that their Temple on Mt. Gerizim was the only authorized place of sacrifice. Mar 18 at 21:32
  • btw, the first time the Bible uses the word "Jew" is in the Book of Ezra. Samaritans themselves derive their name from Samaria, the name of the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, while Jews derive their name from Judah and Judea, the southern tribe/kingdom. Mar 18 at 21:36
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This question does not have a specific Bible text is so is likely to be closed. However, I direct the OP to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritan_Pentateuch

This means that the actual origin of the Samaritan Pentateuch is during the time AFTER the Babylonian exile and so was certainly subject to Babylonian influences.

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