Exhibition and descriptions

The James D. Purvis Collection of Samaritana

In 2000, Dr. James D. Purvis, a former professor of religion at Boston University, donated his extensive collection of Samaritana to the School of Theology Library where it is now housed in the Archives Collection. The James D. Purvis Collection of Samaritana comprises more than 150 research materials dating from 1848 to 2000, which were collected over several years of his study and travel, from graduate school to retirement.

Dr. Purvis joined the faculty at Boston University College of Liberal Arts (now the College of Arts of Sciences) in 1966 as chairman of the Religion Department. Four years earlier, he had received his doctorate in theology from Harvard University. His dissertation, The Origin of the Samaritan Sect, was later expanded and published as volume two in the Harvard Semitic Monographs series under the title The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Origin of the Samaritan Sect. In 1986, Professor Purvis won the Boston University Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching. He retired in 1997, but has remained active in the scholarly community.

Dr. Purvis’s extensive work in Samaritan studies includes papers presented at the Fifth World Congress of Jewish Studies (Jerusalem, 1969), at the Academic Conference on Hebrew Bible (Hebrew College, Brookline, MA, 1974), and at the Fifth Congress of the Société d’Études Samaritaines (Milan, 1996). He has also contributed to Festschriften for G. Ernest Wright (1977), Frank Moore Cross (1982), and H. Neil Richardson (1994). Dr. Purvis provided papers on the Samaritans at regional and national meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature between 1962 and 1995, as well as primary articles for The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible Supplementary Volume (1976), The Biblical Encyclopedia (Jerusalem, 1982), The Cambridge History of Judaism (1989), and A Companion to Samaritan Studies (1993). His reviews of Samaritan materials have appeared in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, the Journal of Biblical Literature, the Journal of Theological Studies, the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, the Critical Review of Books in Religion, and Religious Studies Review.

Samaritana at the Boston University School of Theology Library
The The James D. Purvis Collection of Samaritana compliments the William E. Barton Collection of Samaritan Materials which came to the University in 1953. The latter collection was compiled by the Rev. Dr. Barton (1861-1930), who became interested in the Samaritan community in 1904 as a member of the World Sunday School Association, which held its annual convention in Jerusalem. Dr. Purvis has studied and written extensively on the Barton Collection and donated his own materials to Boston University in hope that they might be of value to graduate students in greater Boston and be accessed as a working library by scholars using the Barton materials. Together, these collections constitute a rich resource for students and scholars in the field of Samaritan studies.

The Purvis Collection is arranged in six sections:

The exhibition is presented here according to these divisions.
The exhibit contains a few objects drawn from other areas of the Library’s Research Collections; these objects are clearly identified. Though they are not part of Dr. Purvis’s collection, they have been included here to provide other commentary on the Samaritans and their culture.

I. Photographic Reproductions of Hand-copied Samaritan Texts

1. Samaritan Text of the Pentateuch compared with the Masoretic Text. 5 volumes
Hand copied by Avraham and Ratson Sadaka
Tel-Aviv: 1961-1965.

This part of the Purvis Collection consists of Pentateuchal texts, constituting five volumes in which the Samaritan and Jewish texts appear in parallel columns in square (modern) Hebrew script. The Samaritans reject all Prophetic Biblical Literature and accept only the first five books of the Bible: the so-called “Samaritan Pentateuch.” There are about 6,000 textual variances (mostly orthographic), between the Samaritan and Hebrew texts. Of these, 1,900 follow the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic text. Given such variations and the fact that Samaritan manuscripts do not uniformly agree with one another, the task of presenting this authorized parallel version has been a difficult challenge.

The title page of Deuteronomy (note the marginalia) is displayed here alongside a sample copy from Exodus. Deuteronomy has been prepared using the text of the famous Abisha Scroll, which is housed in the synagogue at Nablus. Samaritans have believed that the scroll was written on Mount Gerizim by the Levite priest Abisha (1 Chron. 6:4), the great grandson of Aaron; most modern scholars however now date it to the eleventh or twelfth century C.E. The Sadakas worked mostly from photographs of the Abisha Scroll, but where portions were unclear, they consulted the original directly.The Abisha Scroll was the subject of international controversy during the early twentieth century when the American Samaritan Committee (ASC) obtained permission to photograph the sacred text in exchange for monetary compensation, much needed to help the Samaritan community through World War I. Permission to photograph the scroll was difficult to obtain: In the past photographers had been denied access to it or different scrolls were substituted in its place. Photographs of the Abisha Scroll were ultimately obtained by the ASC somewhat surreptitiously (for the Samaritans never received the full payment which had been promised to them) and were sent to Rev. Dr. William E. Barton and to E.K Warren in America. In 1952, the Barton family donated Rev. Dr. Barton’s entire library to Boston University. The Abisha Scroll photographs from the Barton Collection will be the subject of a future exhibition.

2. Samaritan Version of the Pentateuch. 5 volumes
Hand copied by Avraham Sadaka
Tel Aviv: 1959

Displayed here is a copy of Genesis from the Samaritan Pentateuch. Like the texts seen just previously, and as the title page indicates, it was hand copied and reproduced by Avraham Sadaka. The early Samaritan liturgy is believed to have consisted only of Pentateuchal readings; however, after the fourth century C.E., it expanded to include prayers and hymns, some of these from unknown authors, and many from the Samaritan theologian Marqah (see Section III). Aramaic and Hebrew were the languages used for the Samaritan liturgy until about 1300; after the fourteenth century, the usual linguistic practice was to mingle Hebrew with Aramaic.

The Samaritans use copies of their Bible, such as those displayed here, for study rather than worship. In service and worship, they utilize texts written on parchment. Older manuscripts of the Pentateuch often bear signs of the Samaritans’ devotion to the Bible and to worship; sections of text are commonly worn away as a result of frequent kissing and caressing of the manuscript.

3. Prayer Book: The Defter. 2 volumes
Israel Sadaka, scribe

The Defter, the Samaritan’s “Book of Common Prayer,” is displayed here in two volumes; Israel Sadaka copied and reproduced both of these in 1959. The Defter is the earliest and most important group of liturgical texts in Samaritan tradition; it is used for daily prayers in the morning and evening. As it exists today, the Samaritan liturgy as comprised in the Defter is based largely upon changes instituted by the High Priest Phinehas b. Joseph (1308-1363) in the fourteenth century. Among the most important additions to the Defter during this time were special services for festivals.

The structure of Samaritan services includes hymns from the Defter and the qetafim, which is the abbreviated recitation of biblical law and a method of reading the Bible which is exclusive to the Samaritans. Though the origins of the qetafim are not known, scholars believe that this abbreviated style of reciting scripture resulted from the inclusion of other elements in the recitation at large, such as special prayers and hymns, which would understandably consume more time in the worship services.

Our first grouping of materials comes from a collection of thirty-five volumes of texts copied by Samaritan scribes in Samaritan characters. These are photographic reproductions of mostly liturgical anthologies, including service books for daily and Sabbath prayers, songs and prayers of the major festivals or other occasions of the liturgical year, as well as songs for special occasions in the life cycle: weddings, circumcisions, and burials. The scribes for these texts were Avraham and Ratson Sadaka (who were cousins), and Israel Sadaka.

James Purvis purchased these texts from Avraham Sadaka in the early 1960s. According to Dr. Purvis, texts like these were privately produced for use in the Samaritan community following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent political isolation of the Samaritans from the mother community of Nablus in Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Today, Samaritan scribes sell copies of their work to tourists in order to raise much needed money. Historically, financial stress among the Samaritans led to the selling of original manuscripts early on. Pietro della Valle is credited with having offered Europe one of its first encounters with Samaritan culture through his purchase of two Samaritan manuscripts in 1616. Consequently, very few original or ancient manuscripts now remain in Samaritan possession, since many of these have been dispersed through Europe and throughout university libraries in the United States (see the collections of the Vatican Library, John Rylands Library, Columbia University, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Michigan State University).

In 1982, Benyamin Tsedaka and his brother Yefet visited the United States in search of their textual patrimony. In an interview with the New York Times on September 5, 1982, Benyamin lamented, “We have the stories, the folklore, but we don’t have the documents.” Though it is unlikely that the Samaritans will seek repatriation of them now, efforts by libraries and museums to catalogue, preserve, and provide access to Samaritan documents will be beneficial for their textual heritage.

II. Other Writings by Samaritans

4. Mount Gerizim, the One True Sanctuary.
Jacob Ben-Aaron; Edited by William E. Barton; Translated by Abdullah ben Kori.
Oak Park [Ill.]: The Puritan Press, 1907.

Jacob Ben-Aaron, was the high priest in Nablus from 1861-1916. In keeping with scribal tradition, Jacob left a number of revealing colophons in his manuscripts which provided useful biographical information, that may have otherwise been lost.

This essay was first published in Bibliotheca Sacra in July of 1906 as the second of ten chapters written by the high priest. In it, Jacob argues for the sanctity of Mount Gerizim. He states that Mount Gerizim is the chosen site and the true place of worship, thus countering the claims made by non-Samaritan Jews in favor of Jerusalem:
…this identical mountain is the chosen site, the house of God-Bait-u-Elah. Upon it the Shekinah was established during the life of our lord Joshua, the son of Nun (upon him be peace and the best of favors); and therefore it should be the place of worship.

Samaritan tradition upholds that on Mount Gerizim Joshua established the altar of stones upon which were written the Ten Commandments. Mount Gerizim therefore occupies a central place in Samaritan worship: Passover is celebrated there, prayers are said while facing its direction, and when a Samaritan is near death, he or she is positioned towards Mount Gerizim. In their homeland, deceased Samaritans are buried either in the cemetery on Mt. Gerizim or in the Samaritan plot of the Kiryat Shaul cemetery in Tel Aviv.

5. Samaritan Legends: Twelve Legends from Oral Tradition
Ratson Tsedaqa [Sadaka]; Edited by Dr. Dov Noy
Haifa: Haifa Municipality Ethnological Museum and Folktale Archives, 1965.

Under Roman rule in Palestine, Samaritans were forbidden to circumcise their children. The high priest, however, attempted to bring his baby to the circumciser by smuggling him in a basket. While in route he encountered Garmon, the Roman guard who after inspecting his basket, still allowed the high priest to continue on his way. The Samaritan poet Marqah composed a hymn to honor the officer’s generosity and this hymn is still sung at circumcision ceremonies.

Ratson Sadaka, a Samaritan who was deeply rooted in his community’s oral and written tradition, compiled the folktales presented in this volume. He was born at Nablus in 1922 and received his education from Samaritan Priests. Ratson Sadaka worked as a scribe, copying prayer books and editing the Samaritan Torah. He also served as the Hazan (cantor) of the Samaritan community.

The editor of this volume, Dr. Dov Noy, prefaces the book by expressing his desire for non-Hebrews to read the English translations of the legends and to explore the wealth of Samaritan narrative lore. He stresses the uniqueness of the Samaritans as a living remnant of the House of Israel and the need to promote an appreciation of their traditional lore through like publications.

The twelve legends of this volume have been recorded by the Israel Folktale Archives, which were founded in 1955. The Archives have enjoyed the success desired by Dr. Dov Noy: A decade after its founding, the archivists had amassed more than 7,000 stories from oral tradition in Israel.

6. The Celebration of Passover by the Samaritans
Avraham Tsedaqa [Sadaka]
Tel Aviv: 1962.

7. The Passover Sacrifice by the Samaritans
Avraham Tsedaqa [Sadaka]
Tel Aviv: 1968.

The booklets exhibited here are examples of many documents relating to the Passover celebration, the Samaritans’ most important feast. Because of a wealth of non-Samaritan written and visual material relating to it, from the nineteenth century through the present, it is familiar to many outside of the Samaritan community. The cover of The Celebration of Passover by the Samaritans shows priests leading the community in prayer, the palms of their hands open in the ancient manner. The Passover Sacrifice by the Samaritans displays a photo of a tannurim, the stone-lined pit which is used to roast lambs sacrificed during the celebration.

The outline for the Passover festival is found in Exodus 12, which consists of the sacrifice and consumption of lambs. As the last Israelite blood sacrifice, it draws many observers yearly. The archaic sacrifice is held on Mount Gerizim, south of Nablus in central Palestine. The number of sheep slaughtered is determined in relation to the size of the community and the sacrifice takes place while the high priest reads Exodus 12:6. During the ceremony, fathers place blood on the foreheads of their firstborn as a memorial of the evening when the Lord “smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12).

Exhibited separately is an unidentified photograph of a Passover feast with sheep being prepared for the sacrifice. The photo was found in Dr. Purvis’s Catalogue of the Samaritan Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, Manchester. Its date and provenance are not known.

Samaritan and Jewish calendars differ from one another: the next Passover to be celebrated by the Samaritans will be on April 27, 2002.

Presented here are twentieth-century publications by members of the Samaritan community, including Avraham Sadaka, the scribe through whom Dr. Purvis acquired the reproductions of hand-copied texts which are displayed in the previous section of our exhibition. Also shown is an early twentieth-century publication by the High Priest Jacob (1841-1916), edited by William E. Barton. Barton had Jacob’s essays translated and published in America, and, in turn, provided Jacob with copies of the edited translations to sell to tourists visiting Nablus. Barton corresponded extensively with Jacob during this period; the Barton-Jacob correspondence is housed in the School of Theology Library Archives.

The character of Samaritan writing and spirituality has been largely influenced by one event: Samaritan history holds that the Period of Divine Disfavor, Fanuta, commenced 260 years after the Children of Israel entered the Holy Land. Legend states that at this time, the High Priest Uzzi removed the Tabernacle containing the Ark with the Holy of Holies to a cave on Mount Gerizim. Soon afterwards, the cave closed marking the end of the Period of Divine Favor, Rahuta. In accordance with Scripture (Deuteronomy, 31:18), Samaritans have construed this as God hiding His face in displeasure. According to Samaritan tradition, His Favor will be restored when the world purges its sin through repentance. This event is considered a major turning point in the history of Samaritan spirituality and its effects echo throughout Samaritan writings.

Back to Top

III. Texts Edited and Published by Non-Samaritans

9. Chronicon Samaritanum Arabice Conscriptum cui Tituls [sic] est Liber Josuae
Edited, annotated and translated by Th. Guil. Joh. Juynboll
Lugduni Batavorum [Leiden]: 1848.

Juynboll’s text, a monumental study of the Samaritan Book of Joshua, is a Latin translation accompanied by extensive introduction and commentary. It remains a very significant work despite new and important findings of Samaritan manuscripts. The original manuscript which Juynboll used for this study was obtained from Egyptian Samaritans in 1584, and thence taken to Leiden (where it is still housed). It is a composite, the earliest and latest parts of it dating to 1362 and 1513, respectively.

The Samaritan Book of Joshua is a chronicle which is often associated with a branch of Samaritan tradition that glorified Joshua. Several of the early chapters of this chronicle bear striking resemblance to the Biblical Book of Joshua, but many of the later chapters are independent of it and fanciful in their presentation of history. One of the best-known sections of the chronicle is that which comments on the reign of Alexander the Great (see also the photograph of a coin of Alexander in this display case).

Though Juynboll asserted that a single author wrote the Chronicon Samaritanum, the discovery of additional manuscripts has led Samaritanologists to conclude that it was the work of many compilers. As is characteristic of scribal work, each time a text is recopied a scribe may make individual additions, thus altering the original text. In fact, the well-known Samaritanologist, Moses Gaster, observed that “most Samaritan writings show a constant process of adaptation and editorial manipulation.”

10. Abulfathi Annales Samaritani, quos ad Fidem Codicum Manuscriptorum Berolinesium Bodlejaniparisini
Edited by Eduardus Vilmar
Gotha: 1865.

Abulfathi Annales Samaritani, edited in 1865 by Edvard Vilmar, is a history of the Samaritan people. During the fourteenth-century C.E. the Samaritan community was in danger of becoming extinct. In 1352, the High Priest Pinhas ordered Abu’l Fath, to complete a history of the Samaritans which could be used to stimulate cultural appreciation within the community. Abu’l Fath gathered all of the documentary materials which were to be recorded so as to glorify his people, drawing primarily upon the Tolidah chronicle (which provided historical background of the community) and upon the Book of Joshua: Other sources consulted by Abu’l Fath have not survived. The period treated in Abul Fath’s historical overview spans from Adam up to 756 C.E.; other Samaritan writers subsequently expanded upon the chronicle, bringing it up into the nineteenth century. The work is generally regarded more as a popular history than as scholarship.

As with so many other peoples, the practice of using the written word in order to prevent extinction of the community is a re-occurring theme throughout Samaritan history. While they were still reasonably numerous up until the early part of the 1900s, the Samaritans sold many sacred manuscripts in order to stave off famine and preserve their dwindling population. During the twentieth century Samaritan men were permitted to marry non-Samaritan Jewish women, who were expected to convert. This revision in law has helped to greatly increase the Samaritan population, which now stands at about 600.

11. Memar Marqah: the Teaching of Marqah. 2 volumes
Edited and translated by John Macdonald
Berlin: A. Topelmann, 1963.

Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 84.
Macdonald’s translation and publication of this and other Samaritan texts has helped non-Samaritanologists to access Samaritan writings and to undertake comparative work, most especially in Johannine/Samaritan studies.

During the fourth century C.E., the Samaritan theologian Marqah, wrote the Memar which has come to be regarded as the most important Samaritan work after the Pentateuch. Marqah also contributed to Samaritan hymnody; a few of his hymns may be found in the Defter. As Macdonald explains in his introduction, the influence of the Memar was far reaching: Many Samaritan theologians, liturgists, and mystics based their work upon that of Marqah. Macdonald further notes that the Memar, written in Aramaic, is remarkable for the linguistic principles it sets forth. Late manuscripts of the text reveal “many interesting forms and loan-words, and many treasures of Aramaic syntax.” The oldest known manuscript of the Memar dates to around the fourteenth century C.E.

Among the editions of Samaritan texts edited and published by non-Samaritan writers are some of antiquarian interest – for example, the 1848 edition of Chronicon samaritana (The Samaritan Book of Joshua, in Arabic and Latin translation) by Th. Guil. Joh. Juynboll (1802-1861); and the 1865 edition of Abulfathi annales samaritani by Eduardus Vilmar (1832-1872), which contains an Arabic text with summary in Latin.

These antiquarian publications are evidence of scholarly and anthropological interest in the Samaritans which grew in the West, and which was given much impetus during the early seventeenth-century by Pietro della Valle’s expedition to Damascus and acquisition of sacred manuscripts. In his travel diary, della Valle triumphantly notes the importance of his acquisition of the two texts, and expresses his desire to retain at least one of them in his personal collection rather than offer it to the Vatican Library, where, he feared, it would be inaccessible to students. Ironically, one of these manuscripts can now be found in the Vatican collections.

Back to Top

IV. Samaritan Studies and Research Materials: Books and Monographs

13. The Origin of the Samaritan Sect
James D. Purvis
Harvard Divinity School, Doctoral Thesis, 1962.

A carbon copy of Dr. James D. Purvis’s doctoral thesis is opened to the Introduction in which Dr. Purvis defines his objective: To identify when the Samaritans emerged as a distinct religious community. Dr. Purvis set about his research at a time in the field of Samaritan studies when the question of the sect’s origin had not yet received satisfactory treatment. Through thorough examination of Samaritan script, the orthography of the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the sect’s general historical background, Dr. Purvis dated the group’s emergence as a distinct Jewish sect to the Hasmonaean period (ca. 167 B.C.), opposing earlier studies dating it to the Greek period (ca. 300 B.C.).

14. The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Origin of the Samaritan Sect
James D. Purvis
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968.

Dr. Purvis expanded upon his dissertation, and in 1968 it was published under the title shown here. This book is the second volume in the Harvard Semitic Monographs series. (It is not part of the Purvis Collection, but is in the School of Theology Library.) Dr. Purvis’s research achieved two aims: To appraise new evidence relating to the sectarian redaction of the Samaritan Pentateuch; and to evaluate conclusions drawn about the problem of origins of the Samaritan sect.

15. Studies in Samaritan Manuscripts and Artifacts: the Chamberlain-Warren Collection
Robert T. Anderson
Cambridge: The American Schools of Oriental Research, 1978.

Dr. Purvis’s review of Studies in Samaritan Manuscripts and Artifacts: the Chamberlain-Warren Collection accompanies Anderson’s work since Anderson consulted with Dr. Purvis on some aspects of his research, (see the reference to him on page 15, and note the marginalia). Dr. Purvis’s discovery of correspondence in the Barton Collection helped to establish the provenance for the “Murjan Manuscript,” which is likewise housed at Michigan State University.

The history of the Chamberlain-Warren Collection at Michigan State University is linked to the School of Theology’s Barton Collection of Samaritana: William Barton, F.W. Chamberlain, and E.K. Warren were all active in the American Samaritan Committee during the early 1900’s, and the manuscripts assembled by them were obtained during this time. The collections of Michigan State University and of Boston University constitute a rich resource for the study of the history of the Samaritan community in the early twentieth century, of philanthropic efforts related to that community and its legacy, and of the subsequent transfer of many Samaritan cultural artifacts to the United States.

16. Catalogue of the Samaritan Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, 2: The Gaster Manuscripts
Edward Robertson
Manchester: University Press, 1962.

The photograph of a Samaritan marriage contract, or Ketubah, displayed here is of high interest, given that the marriage contract is one of the most common vehicles of visual art employed by the Samaritans. Whereas such contracts are highly embellished in Jewish art, Samaritans generally adorn their own marriage contracts with simple geometrical patterns, as seen here. As noted by Dr. Purvis in his essay Uncovering Ancient Stones: Essays in Memory of H. Neil Richardson (see Section V), the Samaritans’ greatest forms of artistic expression are found in their music, especially in the tonal recitation of their texts, and hymnody. Any depictions of divine being are scrupulously avoided.

During the early 1900s, the Samaritan population reached a low of 116. Given the threat of the community’s demise, marriage laws were changed, and men were allowed to marry Jewish women who would “convert” to Samaritan custom; population steadily increased as a result, and in 1999 it exceeded 600. Samaritan couples are joined in three formal stages: consent, betrothal, and marriage. The woman and her parents must consent to the marriage proposal of the man and his parents; the woman becomes betrothed once she has testified before two witnesses that she has consented to the proposal; and, at the marriage, the Ketubah, containing the terms of marriage, is signed and read aloud. Divorce is very uncommon among the Samaritans. Those couples who part may risk being separated from the community.

    17. The Samaritans: Their History, Doctrines, and Literature
    Moses Gaster
    London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1925.

    The manuscripts at the John Rylands Library were acquired in 1954 from the family of the Samaritanologist Moses Gaster (1856-1939). Gaster studied the Samaritans extensively and delivered a series of lectures at the British Academy in 1923 entitled The Samaritans. These lectures culminated in Gaster’s monumental study, The Samaritans: Their History, Doctrines, and Literature, a copy of which is displayed here (not as part of the Purvis donation, but originating, rather, from the School of Theology Library Collections).

    The map of Samaria opposite the title page contains an enlarged detail of Mount Gerizim.

      18. The Samaritan Day of Atonement Liturgy: With Selected Translations
      John Macdonald
      Leeds: Leeds University Oriental Society, 1961.

      John Macdonald’s The Samaritan Day of Atonement Liturgy presents and discusses the basic content of the Festival as well as the liturgical contributions of medieval theologians such as Phinehas b. Abisha. The Samaritan liturgy took some of its shape in the fourteenth century when Samaritan beliefs became firmly influenced by Eastern Samaritanism as a result of Syrian immigrants settling in Nablus during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The “Eastern” ideology became accepted in Nablus, and characteristics of it can be found in the Day of Atonement Liturgy. The Festival is notable for several further reasons, one being that in the synagogue at Nablus, the famous Abisha Scroll is removed from its shrine only on this day, in order to bless the community.

      Very little was known, or written, about Samaritan liturgy until as recently as the mid twentieth century, when the Samaritanologist John Bowman established a research school at the University of Leeds, and, with help from Masters and doctoral students, translated much of the material into English. The author John Macdonald also worked closely with Bowman. In 1909, Sir A.E. Cowley produced a two-volume work of Samaritan liturgical writing in Hebrew and Aramaic, much of which was later made available to a wide English-reading audience by Bowman.

      In all, the Samaritans celebrate seven holidays mentioned in their Torah: Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), the First Day of the Seventh Month, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), and the Eighth Day of Assembly and Rejoicing of the Torah (Shemini Atzeret-Simhat Torah).

      The present segment of our collection and of this exhibition includes works in English, German, and Hebrew, all dating from between 1907 and 1996. Also presented are early publications of Dr. James D. Purvis as well as studies by Samaritanologists, some of whom cite Dr. Purvis in their work.

      Back to Top

      V. Samaritan Studies and Research Materials: Offprints and Photocopies

      19. The Last Israelitish Blood Sacrifice: How the Vanishing Samaritans Celebrate the Passover on Sacred Mount Gerizim
      John D. Whiting
      National Geographic Magazine 37:1, January 1920.

      Opened to a photo of the High Priest Jacob and to a photo of a Samaritan scribe. The first item exhibited here is the oldest in the grouping. Beyond describing the Samaritan Passover, this article succeeds in documenting the general welfare of the Samaritans as a people and a culture bordering demise. It was thus published at a critical time in the history of the Samaritan community: The Samaritans were in danger of becoming extinct; their population had dipped well below 200. Their exiguous numbers were further threatened during World War I when Samaritan men were conscripted into the Turkish army. At this time, the American Samaritan Committee (ASC) emerged to lend financial support by buying some men out of field service. Still, in 1919, one year prior to the publication of the National Geographic article, a Samaritan priest reported to the ASC that 50 people had died of starvation, or had been killed during the war; by March, disease had reduced the Samaritans to merely 116. It was hoped that the exposure provided by publications such as that which is exhibited here, and by the work of the ASC on behalf of the Samaritans, would stimulate international interest in their plight.

      The article contains a number of remarkable photographs, showing the Passover feast, daily life, and community leaders. It is opened to photographs of the High Priest Jacob and of an unidentified priest who is transcribing a Samaritan Pentateuch. The William E. Barton Collection of Samaritan Materials contains many letters from Jacob and his son pertaining to the welfare of the community. Another intimate glimpse of Jacob and his hardships, as noted earlier, may be had from colophons of the texts he transcribed. One such example is found in a manuscript of Leviticus housed in the Chamberlain-Warren Collection at Michigan State University:

      This is the end of the writing of the Targum of this Holy Book on Thursday the 7th of the 4th month which is Muharram in the year 1311 of the reign of the sons of Ishmael (A.D. 1894). And during the time I wrote this Torah grief, a great wound and exceedingly great heaviness beyond measure fell upon me. Out of this calamity I stood three difficult years of writing because when I began to write my son Zachar died. After 60 days I received some partial healing and I sought to finish it and then my next son, his name is Ahron (bring justice upon him) died and he was plucked from the saints and cut into my wound and the succor of pain lay in wait twice: When will I prosper O Yahweh?

      The author of this article eventually became a source of grief for the Samaritan community. John Whiting was the American Samaritan Committee’s representative in Palestine and was responsible for photographing the Samaritan’s famed Abisha Scroll in exchange for monetary compensation. In 1919, after securing the photographs, Whiting vanished without producing the promised payment. The Samaritans felt they had been betrayed, and relations with the ASC remained strained thereafter. Based upon correspondence found in the Barton Collection, Dr. Purvis has concluded that Whiting was involved in a British intelligence operative and that, as a foreign national in Turkish Palestine at the close of the war, he was compelled to act discreetly, without disclosing his cause.

      20. Publications by James Purvis on the Samaritans
      James D. Purvis
      [s.n., n.d.]

      21. The Hiding of the Temple Vessels in Jewish and Samaritan Literature
      Isaac Kalimi and James D. Purvis
      Reprinted from the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, October 1994.

      22. Uncovering Ancient Stones: Essays in Memory of H. Neil Richardson
      James D. Purvis; Edited by Lewis M. Hopfe

      23. The Samaritan Problem: A Case Study in Jewish Sectarianism in the Roman Era
      James D. Purvis
      Boston University [n.d.]
      Some examples of offprints and journal articles written by Dr. Purvis.

      24. The Theological Hymns of Amran Darah
      John Macdonald
      The Annual of the Leeds University Oriental Society, Volume 2: 1961.

      Open to Hymn VI, showing Dr. Purvis’s marginalia. The hymns presented in John Macdonald’s article are drawn from Amram Darah who is believed to have written in the Roman period (beginning ca. 63 B.C.). His hymns are considered to be among very few examples of purely orthodox writings from this time because they are entirely theological, in contrast to the polemical character of much of the work contemporary with them.In the fourth century, the theologian Marqah and his son Nanah contributed extensively to Samaritan hymnody; some of their hymns may be found in the Defter, the Samaritan “Book of Common Prayer.”

      This section of the collection contains a wealth of twentieth-century scholarship on the Samaritans, including articles by Dr. Purvis and by many other notable scholars, all published between 1920 and 1994. Given the extent of Dr. Purvis’s publication activity, some of his articles have been grouped together in this section with a complete bibliography of his publications on the Samaritans. Of the other articles constituting this segment of the collection, many are inscribed to Dr. Purvis by the authors.

      Back to Top

      VI. Aleph Beth: The Samaritan News

      25. Aleph Beth: The Samaritan News
      Edited by Benyamin Tsedaka and Yefet b. Ratson Tsedaka
      Holon, Israel.

      Displayed are Issues 707-710 (bound together) and the Samaritan Calendar (1999/2000).The final section of the Purvis Collection is comprised of the current periodical, Aleph-Beth: The Samaritan News, and calendars from the Samaritan community. The brothers Benyamin Tsedaka and Yefet b. Ratson Tsedaka established the publication of Aleph-Beth in 1969. It is the first Samaritan newspaper to be published by the community and is generally released on a bi-weekly basis. Each issue features articles in ancient Hebrew, modern Hebrew, Arabic and English.

      In 1981, the editors of the newspaper founded the Aleph-Beth Institute for Samaritan Studies in honor of Yefet ben Avraham Tsedaka. The Institute provides instruction and guidance for students and scholars working in the field of Samaritan studies. During the winter months, the Institute undertakes extensive scribal activities, copying and preparing Torahs and prayer books for publication.

      Back to Top

      prepared by Dawn Piscitello