The Samaritans
The SamaritansIndex to the Samaritans

The Intertestamental Period


The relationship between the Jew and the Samaritan was one of hostility. Ecclesiasticus 50:25, 26 speaks of them as "no nation" and as "the foolish people that dwell in Shechem." The Testament of Levi also calls Shechem "a city of fools."

In 409 B.C. Nehemiah removed Manasseh for an unlawful marriage, and he built the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerazim by permission of Darius Nothus.

Alexander the Great

In 332 B.C. the Samaritans requested of Alexander the Great that they be exempt from tribute, just as the Israelites, because it was the sabbatical year, and they did not cultivate their land during that year. Alexander determined that they were not actually Jews and he denied their request (Josephus Ant. 11.8.6, cf. 9.14.3) and because of their conduct he besieged and destroyed Samaria.

John Hyrcanus and the Second Samaritan Temple

According to Josephus John Hyrcanus took "Shechem and Gerizzim, and the nation of the Cutheans, who dwelt at that temple which resembled the temple which was at Jerusalem, and which Alexander permitted Sanballat, the general of his army, to build for the sake of Manasseh, who was son-in-law to Jaddua the high priest, as we have formerly related; which temple was now deserted two hundred years after it was built" (Josephus Ant. 13.9.1; as for Manasseh, Ant. 11.7.1-2).

This was not the Sanballat of the Bible, but the Sanballat of Josephus was a Cuthaean, of the same race as the Samaritans, and was sent to Samaria by Darius Codomanus, the last king of Persia (330 B.C.). The temple on Gerazim was "deserted," in 130 B.C. This gives about 330 for the date of its building. In the persecution under Antiochus (170 B.C.) the Samaritans disowned their relation to the Jews and consecrated their temple on Mt. Gerazim to Jupiter.

After the destruction of Samaria by Alexander the Great, Shechem became more important, and after the conquest by John Hyrcanus they built a second temple on Mount Gerazim, even though the city of Samaria had been destroyed again and again. Although their territory had been the battlefield of Syria and Egypt, they still preserved their nationality, still worshipped from Shechem on Mount Gerazim.

The First Century A.D.

By the first century A.D the Samaritans were great in number, so much so that Pontius Pilate, seeing them as a threat, acted severely toward them which finally cost him his office (Josephus Ant. 18.4.1-2). Even Vespasian saw them as a threat and he slaughtered more than 10,000 Samaritans after they refused to surrender.

Later History

Later in history they grew large in numbers and, particularly under Dositheus, about the time of Simon Magus. In the 4th century A.D. the Samaritans were among the chief opponents of Christianity.

They were severely punished by the emperor Zeno and from then on were hardly noticed until the latter half of the 16th century when discussions were opened with them by Joseph Scaliger. Some of their responses are very interesting.

Modern Shechem

Shechem is known today as Nablus, equivalent to Neapolis, which was built by Vespasian, a little west of the original city. There has been a settlement of about 200 worshippers, who have observed the law and kept the Passover on Mount Gerazim. They even continue in their sacrifices "with an exactness of minute ceremonial which the Jews have long since intermitted."

(also see Map of Modern Samaria)


The Samaritans


The Samaritans

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