The Story of the Tower of Babel in the Samaritan Book Asatir as a Historical Midrash on the Samaritan Revolts of the Sixth Century C.E.

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Christian Stadel



The Asatir is a collection of Samaritan midrashim on parts of the Torah, which reached its final form in the tenth or eleventh century. It embellishes the pericope of the Tower of Babel with a number of surprising details: The Tower of Babel was built on a mountain and had a beacon attached to its top; the mount with the tower and the valley of Shinar are compared to Mt. Gerizim and the valley of Shechem. It is argued that these embellishments were introduced in order to read the story of the Tower as a blueprint for historical events surrounding the Church of Mary Theotokos, which was built by the Emperor Zenon on Mt. Gerizim and partly destroyed by the Samaritans in their revolts against Byzantium in the sixth century. The exegetical technique of reading contemporaneous history into the biblical text is discussed from a broader comparative perspective.

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