The Samaritans
The SamaritansIndex to the Samaritans



The only place in the entire Old Testament where the word "Samaritan" appears is in 2 Kings 17:29 where it refers to a person of the Kingdom of Northern Israel:

" However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt." 2 Kings 17:29

In later Hebrew writings the word Samaritan speaks of the people of the district of Samaria in central Palestine. They came from intermarriages of certain Israelites with the colonists from Babylon and other parts of Mesopotamia and Syria. These colonists had been placed there by the Assyrian kings Sargon II and Esarhaddon, after the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered and the stronghold at Samaria fell to the Assyrians. It resulted in thousands of Israelites being deported away, never to be heard from again, and colonists being chosen by the Assyrians and placed in Samaria along with a governor.

Later when the Temple at Jerusalem was being rebuilt, the Samaritans offered to help but their offer was rejected. As a result they not only tried to prevent the rebuilding of the temple and the city walls but, in the time of Nehemiah, built a temple themselves on Mount Gerazim near Shechem.

These disputes resulted in further hostile relations between the Samaritans and the Jews. The Jews, for example, would not allow the Samaritans to sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem and considered marriages between Samaritans and Jews illegal. Also because of the fact that the Samaritans were considered "half Jews" and "a mixed race", many conflicts existed between the Jews and the Samaritans during the time of Christ.

The New Testament makes no attempt to hide the immense hostility that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans.

(See Map of Samaria in NT Times)

Jesus did not validate the Samaritan claim that the Lord was to be worshipped at Mount Gerazim, but He did make a bold statement to the Samaritan woman at the well:

" Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
-John 4:21-24

Jesus also used examples in His teachings of the despised Samaritans who showed particular kindness and were to be regarded as neighbors.

There have been certain incidents recorded in history that mention the Samaritans, for instance in 128 B.C. John Hyrcanus of the Hasmonean dynasty destroyed the Temple on Mount Gerazim. In 9 A.D. the Temple at Jerusalem was desecrated by the Samaritans during the Passover. During the reign of Claudius some Galileans attending a festival were attacked.

Around the year 70 A.D. the Romans killed 11,600 Samaritans on the mountain as part of the conflict in the Jewish War against Rome. It is interesting that the Samaritans took part in the revolt of the Jews in 70 A.D. against the Romans.
In the 5th century A.D., Zeno, a Christian emperor, forced the Samaritans off of their sacred mountain and built a church to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Samaritans destroyed the structure but it was rebuilt and fortified by Justinian. In the 7th century the structure was totally destroyed in the Arab invasion.

The religion of the Samaritans is very similar to Judaism. They recognize the Pentateuch (5 Books of Moses) as the written Word of God, yet they reject the other books of the Old Testament. They practice circumcision, and observe the Sabbath and festivals.

(also see Samaritan Torah Scroll)

They also expect the Messiah to return, the "Ta'eb" ("one who returns"). This expectation was a reference from the words foretold by Moses about the "prophet" spoken in Deut. 18:15) .

The most notable difference between the beliefs of the Jews and the Samaritans is concerning the place of the worship of God for the Jews. The Jews believe that in Jerusalem God is to be worshipped, the dwelling place of God on earth is Mount Zion. But for the Samaritans it is the sacred Mount Gerazim, praised with many names (John 4:20).

The New Testament contains many passages with significant references to Samaritans: the Samaritan woman (John 4) , and the grateful Samaritan (Luke 17:16), and the good Samaritan (Luke 10: 33ff.). They are also mentioned in the Book of Acts when Philip preached there and they received the gospel.

The religion of the small surviving community of the Samaritans still celebrate some very old traditions, for example, the Passover. Circumcision and the Sabbath are also still rigidly observed. Sacrifice is still offered on Mount Gerazim and the Messiah who is to come is expected to appear on this mountain.

(also see Map of Modern Samaria)

At Nablus (Samaria) there is still a community with about one hundred members, a synagogue in which a very old manuscript of the Pentateuch is still preserved and a high priest officiates who claims to be a descendant of Aaron.


The Samaritans


The Samaritans

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