Abisha is the Samaritan form; in Hebrew Bibles and English translations thereof, it is Abishua.


B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era), used by this author, are the alternate designations corresponding to B.C. and A.D. often used in scholarly literature.


The Jews in antiquity maintained that the Samaritans were the offspring of intermarriage with the imported foreign population.



Jerome refers to this meaning in Homily 42, “A Samaritan (Samarites) that is a guardian,” in Jerome, Homilies on Psalms (Psalm 127), Fathers of the Church, vol. 48, trans. Marie Ewald (Washington. D.C.: Catholic Univ. of America Press, 1964).


August F. Von Gall, Der hebraische Pentateuch der Samaritaner (Giessen, 1914–1918; repr. 1966).


Edward Robertson, “Concerning the Abisha Scroll,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library (BJRL) 19:2 (1935), pp. 412–437.


See Moses Gaster Manuscript 863, Fol. 138, in the John Rylands Library. Also in Alan D. Crown, “A Critical Reevaluation of the Samaritan Sepher Yehoshua,” Ph. D. dissertation, Sydney Univ., 1967.


John Mills, Nablus and the Modern Samaritans (London, 1864), pp. 308–315.


Described in Georg Rosen, “Alte Handschriften des samaritanischen Pentateuch,” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gessellschaft 18 (1864), pp. 582–589.


A photograph is reproduced in John Whiting, “The Last Blood Sacrifice, a Samaritan Rite in Palestine,” The National Geographic Magazine, January 1920.


See R. E. Moody, “Samaritan Material at Boston University: The Boston Collection and the Abisha Scroll,” Boston University Graduate Journal 5:10 (June 1957), pp. 158–160; James Purvis, “Studies in the W.E. Barton Collection in the Boston University Library,” Proceedings of the Fifth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 1965 (Jerusalem 1972), vol. 1, pp. 134–143; Paul Kahle, “The Abisha Scroll of the Samaritans,” in Studia Orientalia Ioanni Pederson, Septuagenario (Helsinki: E. Munksgaard, 1953), pp. 188–192.


Robertson, “Concerning the Abisha Scroll,” p. 27, note 2.


Father Federico Perez Castro, Sefer Abisa, Textos y Estudios del Seminario Filologico Cardenal Disneros (Madrid, 1959).


See Paul Stenhouse, The Kitab al-Tarikh of Abu’l Fath (Sydney: Mandelbaum Publications, 1982).


Ytzchak Ben Zvi, “Sepher Abisha,” Eretz Israel 5 (1958), pp. 240–252 (in Hebrew).


I refer here to the older Arabic version (the oldest extant manuscript is dated to the 14th century, but the version may be a century earlier); the Hebrew version is a very late translation from the Arabic (the date of the translation is unknown, but all our manuscripts belong to the late 19th and earliest 20th centuries, and the translation cannot be much earlier than these manuscripts). For published editions, see T.W.J. Juynboll, Chronicon Samaritanum Arabice conscriptum, cui Titulus est Liber Josuae (Leiden, 1848); a translation is published in Oliver T. Crane, The Samaritan Chronicle or the Book of Joshua, the Son of Nun (New York: John Alden, 1890). Quotations from the Arabic version appear in the 15th-century Jewish history Sepher Yuchasin by Abraham Zacuto.


Robertson (in his review of Father Castro’s Sefer Abisa in Vetus Testamentum 12.2 [1962], pp. 228–235) claims to have found such a reference, but it is not in the J.C. Scaliger manuscript published by Juynboll (see endnote 13). He may have been looking at some later version of the Book of Joshua.


Kahle (“The Abisha Scroll of the Samaritans” and The Cairo Geniza [Oxford: Blackwell, 1959]) and John Bowman (Transcript of the Original Text of the Samaritan Chronicle Tolidah [Leeds, UK: Leeds Univ. Oriental Soc., 1954]) have argued the opposite, namely that the end part of the scroll is the only original part and that all the rest was lost and replaced. The actual text reads:

“This Abisha b. Pinhas has written the book of the Torah and it is found until the present day in the town of Shechem in the house of the high priests and its history is very surprising and is reported by those handing down daily events. The resting place of this holy book was in the Stone Synagogue situated in Elon Moreh and the community used to come round to see it on the Monday called Yom Awerta. And it happened on this day that the priest who had the duty to carry it had a nocturnal pollution early in the day. He washed himself in the morning secretly, carried [the scroll] from the synagogue up to Gilgal in Ephraim where they used to glorify it and were standing in file at Gilgal. And at the time when the scroll was opened there happened a great earthquake with thunder and lightnings and a mighty storm pulled out the scroll from the weak case in which it was housed; it was lifted up and whirled away into the air by the storm while the community saw it, trembling and crying, They strengthened their hearts and seized the end of the book which is preserved in the house of the priest in Shechem until this day. …”

A supergloss has been added that reads as follows: “A little was torn from it and that is from Numbers 35.2–Deuteronomy 34.10.”


Castro, Sefer Abisa.


Gaster, The Samaritans, Their History, Doctrines and Literature, Schweich Lectures for 1923 (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1925; repr. 1976, 1980).


Robertson, review of Sefer Abisa.


The standard edition of the tashqil cryptogram is probably that published by Castro in Sefer Abisa, p. XL. He indicates the text to be “I am Abisha the son of Phineas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron, the High Priest, upon them be the favor of the Lord and His glory. I wrote this sacred book at the entry to the Tent of Assembly on Mount Gerizim, Bethel, in the thirteenth year of the rule of the Israelites in the land of Canaan and all its surrounding borders. Thanks to God. Amen.”

In a letter to Moses Gaster (Appendix IV in Gaster’s The Samaritans), the Samaritan high priest, Jacob ben Aaron, set out the tashqil but omitted the words “and all its surrounding borders” and changed the word “rule” to “settlement.” The word “all” in the phrase “all its surrounding borders” is omitted by several readers. The differences between Castro’s and Gaster’s versions are highlighted by all transcriptions. (See the long discussion of the form of the tashqil in Ben Zvi, Sefer Hasomronim [Tel Aviv, 1935], pp. 233–250.) It is clear that the disputed words cannot be read, but can only be guessed at.


Robertson, in his review of Sefer Abisa, however, argues hand A is later than the hand of columns 21–43 and 88–92.


Given the difference in size of the scripts between a codex and a scroll, and the freedom that the scribe of the codex had to use ligatures, the script of the main part of the Abisha scroll may even be the same hand as that of Cambridge Add. MS 1846, which dates from close to 1149 C.E. See Alan D. Crown, “Samaritan Majuscule Palaeography,” BJRL 60:2 and 61:1 (1978), pp. 1–55, esp. p. 30 and pl. 1A, 1B.


Likewise, the disputed word “dominion” (read either as malikhut or mamlechet) represents part of the formulary used by the Samaritans for expressing dates after the Hegira.


Von Gall, Der hebraische Pentateuch der Samaritaner


Ben Zvi, “Sepher Abisha,” pp. 240–252.


See Benjamin Z. Kedar, “The Frankish Period,” in The Samaritans, ed. Crown (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1989), pp. 82–94, for a discussion of these events.


Kedar, “The Frankish Period,” pp. 89–90.


If there was, he wrote nothing else known to us. See Crown, “Index of Scribes, Witnesses, Owners and Others Mentioned in Samaritan Manuscripts”, BJRL 68.2 (1986), pp. 317–372.


This hypothesis would also account for the silence of the author of the Tolidah concerning the Abisha Scroll. The scroll would have been known to him, but since he would have known its origin he would hardly have wanted to attribute it to Abisha in his chronicle.