Friday, October 14, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- {{citation needed}}

In 1851 the Bagster edition of Brenton’s English translation of Septuagint included an introduction from the translator, in which he makes a claim about Samaritan Pentateuch – which I believe he never saw.
Brenton claimed that when Samaritan Pentateuch and Torah differ, Septuagint is much more like Jewish Hebrew than it is like Samaritan Hebrew.  Brenton weasel-words this claim by restricting it to “important and material points.”  He never defines what he means by important or material.
He also said that in “many” places where Samaritan Hebrew and Septuagint both differ from Biblical Hebrew, they resemble each other.  As you know, “many” is the classic weasel wording that earns the remark {{citation needed}} in so many places on so many Wikipedia pages.
{{citation found}}, I think.  After digging around online a while, I found an 1848 publication with an article on this exact subject.  The author of the article, Rev. Walter Fitzgerald, said that, taking both similarities and differences into account (my emphasis), he believes that it’s a wash (my phrase) as to which of Septuagint or Samaritan more closely resembles Jewish Hebrew.  Brenton didn’t quote that part. 
And Brenton sneers at the “crooked” letters of the Samaritan alphabet.  I have traced this sneer, I believe, to another 1848 publication which is available online.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Brenton copied this information – and he did it without attribution – and that he not only could not read Hebrew, but he had never seen Samaritan.
To do that, he would have to access Rev. Brian Walton’s Biblia Sacra, also known as the London Polyglot, published by Bagster’s in the 1600s, 2 centuries earlier.  This work had eight versions of the Torah, including the Samaritan Hebrew and Samaritan Aramaic, each with a separate Latin translation.  The polyglot is available free on Internet Archive in 10 sections. 
Not only would Brenton have to see this work, but he would also have to know how the Samaritans pronounce and interpret their Pentateuch to evaluate how much it was like Jewish Hebrew.  He could only do that in his time if he worked among the Samaritans to find these things out.  Apparently Ze’ev ben Hayyim was the first person ever to do this – after 1950 -- and his five-volume work was available only in Hebrew until 2000 CE when an English translation of Volume V was published. 
And so Brenton’s urban legend about the relationship between Torah, Septuagint, and Samaritan requires him to do work that he probably could do only if he could read both versions of Hebrew.  But if he could read Jewish Hebrew and wanted to do an accurate translation from the Greek, he failed abysmally. 
But it gets worse. 
In 2014 I discovered information that shows Rev. Fitzgerald was also wrong.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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