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Āl-Asāṭīr

ĀL-ASĀṬĪR

ĀL-ASĀṬĪR (Ar. اﻻﺳﺎﻃﻴﺮ), Samaritan work in Aramaic of unknown authorship, date, and provenance ascribed by the Samaritans themselves to Moses. Written in the form of a chronicle, the work is a legendary account of 26 generations from Adam to Moses. The story is focused on the four patriarchs – Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses – the "Fundamentals of the World." The book is divided into 12 chapters. The first ten, from Adam to Israel's victory over the Midianites, span a period of 2,800 years according to Samaritan chronology. The first half of the 11th chapter contains a description of the borders of the Holy Land that has still not been satisfactorily explained. The last part consists of prophecies about the future of the world until the advent of the taheb ("the restorer"; see Religion of *Samaritans). The composition of the book gives the impression that it was written by one hand without interpolations. In some places its genealogical lists and chronological data conflict with those found in the Pentateuch or in other Samaritan chronicles, but these discrepancies may well have been caused by the inaccuracy of copyists. The title of the work, al-Asāṭīr, is Arabic and means legends or tales, as in the Koranic expression asāṭīr al-Awwalīn ("the Legends of the Ancients"). This fact in itself is not proof of the late origin of the book, as the title may have been a later addition. No express mention of al-Asāṭīr is found in the list of source material enumerated by *Abu al-Fatḥ in the introduction to his Annal, but it might be included in the summarizing expression "some histories." The language of the book, influenced by the Arabic language and Muslim terminology, is difficult to understand. Although the narrative may contain many old midrashic motifs, it could not have been composed before the end of the tenth–the beginning of the 11th century c.e., when Aramaic was still used in the Samaritan community but Arabic had already begun to supersede it. The author seems familiar with the geography of northern Ereẓ Israel and Syria and probably lived in this region, where large Samaritan communities then flourished in Acre, Tyre, and Damascus. Ismāʿīl al-Rumayḥī was the first to attribute the composition of al-Asāṭīr to Moses in his Molad Moshe (beginning of the 16th century). The work is often cited in the Bible commentary of Muslim al-Danāfi (who attributes it once to Adam) and Ibrahim al-Ayya (17th, 18th centuries, respectively). The book is not highly esteemed by the modern Samaritan community. There exist a translation into Arabic and one into Samaritan modern Hebrew (see Language and Literature of *Samaritans) called Pitron. M. Gaster edited the book together with the Pitron. He translated it into English, and appended a commentary (The Asatir, The Samaritan Book of the Secrets of Moses, 1927). An edition with Hebrew translation and commentary was published by Z. Ben-Ḥayyim (Tarbiz, 14 (1942/43), 104–25, 174–90; 15 (1943/44) 71–87).

bibliography:

J. Macdonald, Theology of the Samaritans (1964), 44.

[Ayala Loewenstamm]

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