Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gerizim and the Origins of Deuteronomy

This post takes up the issues raised in a previous post from a few days ago. You should probably read that one before continuing here.

After some reflection, I am prepared to accept Schenker's argument that the original LXX and the original Hebrew text of Deuteronomy featured past tense verbs for God's choice of a place for his name, and that Deut. 27:4 had the name Gerizim rather than Ebal, both now reflected in the Samaritan Pentateuch and some versional manuscripts but not in the Masoretic Text or the main Greek tradition (as in Wevers' edition of LXX Deuteronomy). To be sure, this latter point--Gerizim in place of Ebal--is more widely accepted by scholars, as I pointed out in the previous post. Schenker himself argues in favor of it more extensively in his second article (the German one) listed last time in the bibliography (pp. 105-8). By the way, in this same article, Schenker argues persuasively (and against Tov and others) that Pap. Giessen 19, a Greek manuscript of Deuteronomy from the fifth or sixth century CE, reflects a Samaritan provenance and is probably related to the Samareitikon, and thus is not a witness of the LXX (pp. 108-13).

As for the first point--past tense of "choose" rather than future--here is how Stefan Schorch summarizes Schenker's argument: 
However Adrian Schenker has pointed out in two recent articles that the reading בחר is not only found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, but is attested by some Greek Septuagint manuscripts, too, as well as by the Coptic and the Latin secondary translations of the Old Greek text of the Pentateuch. This indicates that the Hebrew Vorlage of the Old Greek translation of Deuteronomy read בחר, and in terms of textual criticism בחר is therefore certainly the original reading, while the Masoretic reading יבחר is secondary, being an ideological and maybe even an anti-Samaritan correction. (p. 32)
[For the reference to Schorch's article, see the bibliography from the previous post. The article is available here.]

But what does this mean about the origins of Deuteronomy?  Schenker himself does not deal extensively with the question, but at the end of his second article he indicates his thoughts on the matter. He says that the originality of the past tense for "choose" and the reading Gerizim in Deut. 27:4
point to a discrete but unmistakable mention of the Gerizim sanctuary in the earliest recoverable text of Deuteronomy. This strengthens the view that Deuteronomy was located originally in Ephraim-Israel. (p. 118)
This is because Schenker seems to interpret the "law of centralization" in Deuteronomy as pointing toward a solitary sanctuary which would for all time serve as the focus of Israel's worship (see his first article, p. 349). 

Schorch develops these implications further in his article referenced above. He imagines that Deuteronomy originated in the North and traveled South in the late eighth century BCE.
The only context within which the literary ambitions of Deut 27:4-8 are entirely understandable seems to be the cult on Mount Gerizim, with the author of the text being a follower of the Gerizim cult, and one may even be inclined to say: a proto-Samaritan. Thus, if we come back to our initial question regarding the origin of Deuteronomy, the altar law of Deut 27 becomes a new point of departure for approaching this problem and solving it. Against Albrecht Alt, who spoke only of Deut 12-26 when he suggested a Northern origin of Deuteronomy, chapter 27 is obviously of Northern origin, too. And most obviously, the inclusion of this chapter must have occurred before Deuteronomy became accepted in Judah. This occurred most probably during the 7th century BCE, since at least some of the core ideas of Deuteronomy seem to have been known in Judah in the late 7th century. Given this observation, the most probable explanation for Deuteronomy's southward journey seems to be the Assyrian conquest in the late 8th century BCE, when large parts of the Northern elite flew to the South. (pp. 29-30)
That all makes some sense, but then how in the world did Deuteronomy come to be accepted as scripture in late seventh-century Judah--not to mention a precipitating factor in a religious reform that had one of its goals the centralization of the cult in Jerusalem--when this very document explicitly calls for cult centralization at the Northern shrine of Gerizim? Certainly Schorch recognizes the problem:
We may imagine that the strong Deuteronomic references to the Gerizim cult must have posed a serious challenge to Judeans. Therefore, we will have to answer the question why and how Deuteronomy was adopted in the South. (p. 30)
Schorch proposes two answers (pp. 30-31). The first is that book itself had an inherent authority that demanded acceptance. The second is that the reception of Deuteronomy in the South involved a "re-contextualization" of the book. Schorch's first answer is completley unsatisfying, but the second one demands a little more attention, and Schorch develops it in more detail.

Schorch says that the re-contextualization involved connecting Deuteronomy to the Deuteronomistic History with its emphasis on Jerusalem, e.g., in 1Kings 8:16 (p. 31). Deuteronomy itself, though, still had the past tense of the word "choose" in the centralization formula (pp. 31-32) and still had the word Gerizim in Deut. 27:4. With these two aspects of Deuteronomy still in place, Nehemiah 1:8-9 quoted the centralization formula, complete with past tense of "choose," and applied it to Jerusalem, even though Gerizim was in the text of Deuteronomy. Schorch actually says that this implies that Nehemiah attests the idea of the predestination of Jerusalem even at the time of Moses (p. 32).

Schorch also argues that some sources attest "the concept of the succession of several chosen places," culminating in Jeruslaem (p. 33). Examples are found in Psalm 78:60-68; 2Kings 23:27; Jeremiah 7:14-16.
Following this succession theory, Judeans could accept that Mount Gerizim was one of the chosen places of the past, while Jerusalem was the chosen place of the present and the future. (p. 33)
According to Schorch, no one thought this was a problem until the late Second Temple period, when the editors of the Masoretic Text altered these textual elements (past tense of "choose" and Gerizim) out of anti-Samaritan ideology. 
Thus, the textual changes from בחר to יבחר in the centralization formula and from "Gerizim" to "Ebla" in Deut 27:4 seem to have taken place within the contexts of an intensified exegetical interest in the centralization formula and the total delegitimation of Mount Gerizim and the proto-Samaritan claims to its sanctity. (p. 35)
All of this makes a great deal of sense. But why, then, does Schorch insist Deuteronomy originally could not have meant what Nehemiah 1:9; Psalm 78:60-68; 2Kings 23:27; and Jeremiah 7:14-16 think Deuteronomy meant? That is, Schorch asserts that the centralization formula in Deuteronomy originally pointed toward the exclusive and permanent sanctuary at Gerizim. Whereas Gerhard von Rad had suggested that the centralization formula actually envisages a series of cultic places, according to Schorch, this cannot be the original meaning of Deuteronomy "due to the Deuteronomic concept that Israel's entry into the chosen land is the end of wandering and the beginning of a period of general rest" (p. 25).


I think a lot of this work by Schenker and Schorch is very helpful, and certainly changes the way we look at some aspects of Deuteronomy, including its call for centralization of cultic activity. But it doesn't seem to me that Schorch, especially, has quite hit upon the implications of the textual work for the origins of Deuteronomy. In a later post I'll offer some reflections on the direction I think these data point. 

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