Monday, December 19, 2011

Targum Psalms in the New Testament; the Samaritans and Antiochus IV

I finished The Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume Two: The Hellenistic Age, and I have two items:

1. One source that I have been using in my weekly quiet times on the Book of Psalms has been the Targum of the Psalms, for an English translation of that is on my Bibleworks. I do not know the date of this Targum, but Roger Le Deaut on page 573 cites evidence that at least some of it is as early as New Testament times. He states that "Eph. 4:8, of which the reading 'he gave gifts unto men' tallies with the Targum of Psalm 68:19, or again Matt. 27:46 and parallels." Matthew 27:46 is where Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1 in Aramaic.

2. James Purvis wrote the chapter on the Samaritans, and on page 605 he talks about the Samaritans' stance on Hellenization. Whereas the Jews revolted against Antiochus' attempts to impose Hellenization, there were Samaritans who accepted it to "avoid the misfortunes which had come upon the Jews who had resisted Hellenization". Purvis refers to Josephus' Antiquities 12.257-264, in which the Samaritans "agreed to live by Greek customs and asked that their unnamed temple be named the Temple of Hellenic Zeus" (Purvis' words).

Purvis thinks that the letter by the Samaritans to Antiochus IV in Josephus' story was authentically Samaritan rather than made up by Josephus, for the letter contradicts Josephus' story in areas. First of all, while Josephus says that the Samaritans represented themselves to Antiochus as "colonists from the Medes and Persians" (Purvis' words), which corresponds with Josephus' story about the Samaritans' origins, the letter states that the Samaritans came from the Sidonians. Second, according to Purvis, the letter was not "as self-damning as Josephus intimated." In the letter, the Samaritans say that they are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Jews, even though they (the Samaritans) keep the Sabbath, and that they hope that Antiochus does not hold them accountable for the charges of which the Jews are guilty. As I look at the passage in Josephus, the letter does request that the Samaritan temple be named after Jupiter, and the letter from Antiochus to the Samaritans acknowledges that the Samaritans have chosen to live like the Greeks. I do not know if this means that the Samaritans (in their minds) apostasized from the worship of the one true God, the God of the Hebrew Bible. The Hellenizers among the Samaritans may have simply felt that Jupiter was another name for the most high God.

According to Purvis, II Maccabees has a different story from what Josephus presents, for II Maccabees says that Antiochus tried to impose Hellenization on the Samaritans. Purvis states: "According to Jason of Cyrene, Antiochus appointed a governor named Andronicus at Gerizim (2 Maccabees 5:23), and later sent an Athenian (or Antiochian) named Geron to enforce Hellenistic practices and to rename the sanctuary there the Temple of Hospitable Zeus...(2 Maccabees 6:1-2)." (Gerizim was the Samaritan sanctuary.) But II Maccabees does not say that the Samaritans resisted Antiochus. Despite their differences, both Josephus (and the Samaritan letter in his story) and II Maccabees agree that the Samaritans did not want to experience the same things that the Jews did at the hands of Antiochus, and so the Samaritans embraced Hellenization. On page 606, Purvis states that, whether or not most Samaritans were sympathetic towards Hellenization, the Hellenistic party of the Samaritans was more successful than the Jewish Hellenists in Jerusalem in "promoting an acceptable detente between Hellenistic and Hebraic traditions..."

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