ANCIENT HEBREW, LANGUAGE OF THE ISRAELITE SAMARITANS
Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic
According to the Hebrew Bible, the scribe Ezra changed the language and the script. However, the historical facts differ: the change occurred when the Jews adopted the Aramaic script. At this time, the Samaritans adhered to their ancient Hebrew script. But the change happened much later than the period of Ezra the Scribe, who flourished in the 5th century BCE.
The Jews gradually ceased using the Ancient Hebrew script and adopted the Aramaic script (sometimes mistakenly called ‘Assyrian script’) in the 1st century CE, following the Jewish-Samaritan rift. At this time Aramaic was supplanting Greek as the regional lingua franca. The Samaritans, on the other hand, abandoned Aramaic script, and continued to use the Ancient Hebrew script. Most of the inscriptions found on Mount Gerizim were written in Aramaic. This shows that at some time, both scripts where in common use by both communities.
Film: see Jeff Benner’s A History of Hebrew, Part 4
The change of script took place over a lengthy period of time. The change did not depend on the decision of one individual, but derived from the needs of two differing communities – Jews and Samaritans- to establish separate identities.
Both use the same Hebrew language, but the pronunciation of Hebrew and Aramaic by the Samaritans considerably predates the Jewish pronunciation. In fact, scholars such as Zeev ben Hayeem, the greatest scholar of Samaritan Aramaic and Hebrew of our generation, claim that the reading of the Torah by the Samaritans represents the pronunciation of Hebrew as it may have sounded in the last centuries BCE.
Yefet HaCohen speaks Samaritan (and some English) and explains mezzuza placement (You Tube)
Late Samaritan Hebrew: a linguistic analysis of its different types by Moshe Florentin