It is impossible to write an accurate history of the Samaritans because their
records are so scarce, and their references are sometimes contradictory. The
name Samaritans appears only once in the Old Testament, in II Kings 17:29 where
it is used for those colonist newcomers, planted by the Assyrians, who persisted
in their pagan ways. However, the majority of the population consisted of
Israelites who had not been deported and who continued in their Israelite faith.
The beliefs brought by the newcomers did not survive and, from a Jewish
standpoint, no paganism is found in later Samaritan theology.
The mixed population of Samaria was not accepted as Jewish by the Jews of the
south. When the Jews returned from the Babylonian Exile and began to rebuild the
Temple, the Samaritans offered to help but were rejected, and then they
proceeded to prevent or delay the project (Ezra 4:1-6).
When the returned exiles began to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the Samaritans
protested to the authorities in Persia (Artaxerxes) that this constituted an act
of rebellion and the work was stopped until the arrival of Nehemiah, who King
Artaxerxes commissioned as governor (Ezra 4:7-24).
The Samaritans maintained their hostile attitudes and actions which were now
directed against Nehemiah (Neh 6:1-13). Their opposition proved unsuccessful but
the division was now complete. Samaritans were forbidden to offer sacrifices at
the Jerusalem Temple or to intermarry with Jews, while the Samaritans built
their own temple on Mount Gerazim, near Shechem. Their Bible consisted of the
Pentateuch alone; the text featured minor deviations from the accepted Hebrew
text and also contained an additional verse specifically mentioning Mount
Gerazim as the site of the temple.
(also see Samaritan
In the following centuries, the Samaritans suffered when Shechem was destroyed
by Alexander the Great, while in 128 B.C. John Hyrcanus captured Shechem and
destroyed the Samaritan temple. It remained in ruins until the 2nd century A.D.
when it was rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian as a reward for Samaritan help
against the Jews during the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 A.D.).
The continuing hostility between Jews and Samaritans is clearly seen in the New
Testament. One of the worst insults that hostile Jews could offer to Jesus was
to call him a Samaritan (John 8:48). When Jesus was refused hospitality by a
Samaritan village because he had set His face to go to Jerusalem, his disciples
were angered, and then Jesus rebuked them (Luke 9:51-56).
of Samaria in NT Times)
The story of Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John
chapter 4 also shows up the division between Jews and Samaritans and the
disciples are amazed that Jesus was talking to a woman of Samaria (John 4:27).
The parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:33-37) also reveals this division
between the Jews and the Samaritans because in their minds it would be
impossible for a Samaritan to act charitably.
Overall the New Testament speaks favorably about the Samaritans, they received
Jesus? ministry and were among the first to accept the gospel.
(also see Map
of Modern Samaria)
Bible History Online
The Story of the Bible
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