Grace Theological Journal 5.1 (1984) 47-75
Copyright © 1984 by Grace Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.
THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY
OF THE SAMARITANS
WAYNE A. BRINDLE
The development of Samaritanism and its alienation from Juda-
ism was a process that began with the division of the kingdom of
antagonism, including the importation of foreign colonists into Sa-
Jews, the building of a rival temple on
and religious opportunism of the Samaritans, and the destruction of
both the Samaritan temple and their capital of Shechem by John
Hyrcanus during the second century B:C. The Samaritan religion at
the time of Jesus had become Mosaic and quasi-Sadducean, but
strongly anti-Jewish. Jesus recognized their heathen origins and the
falsity of their religious claims.
* * *
RELATIONS between the Jews and the Samaritans were always
strained. Jesus ben Sirach (ca. 180 B.C.) referred to the Samari-
!ans as "the foolish people that dwell in Shechem" (Sir 50:26). There
is a tradition that 300 priests and 300 rabbis once gathered in the
in the Law of Moses. When the Jews wanted to curse Jesus Christ,
they called him demon-possessed and a Samaritan in one breath
The Samaritans are important to biblical studies for several
They claim to be the remnant of the
specifically of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, with priests of the
line of Aaron/Levi. (2) They possess an ancient recension of the
Pentateuch which. is non-Masoretic and shows close relationship to a
text type underlying both the LXX and some Hebrew manuscripts
1 Cf. Theodore H. Gaster, "Samaritans," IDB, 4.190; and James D. Purvis, The
Pentateuch and the Origin of the Samaritan Sect (
University, 1968) 2-3.
48 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and are therefore important both for
textual criticism of the OT as well as the study of the history of
Hebrew. (3) They appear several times in the NT, especially in Luke,
John, and Acts, and may provide the background for controversies
related in Ezra, Nehemiah, and other post-exilic writings. (4) They
provide much insight into the cosmopolitan nature of Palestinian
religion and politics before and at the time of Christ. (5) At one time
the community was large enough to exercise considerable influence in
enough to be a subject of controversy in Josephus and Rabbinic
literature (notable among which are many references in the Mishnah
and an extra tractate in the Talmud).
The principal questions addressed in this study are: (1) When
did the Samaritan sect come into existence as a distinct ethnic and
religious group, with its own traditions and teachings? and (2) What
was the development and history of the enmity between Samaritans
The sources for a history of the Samaritans are predominantly
anti-Samaritan: 2 Kings 17; Ezra and Nehemiah; Sir 50:25-26; 2 Macc
6:2; the Assyrian Annals of Sargon; the Elephantine Papyri; the
Mishnah; the Babylonian Talmud (Masseket Kutim); the New Testa-
ment (Matthew, Luke, John, Acts); and Josephus (especially Ant 9,
11, 12, 13, 18, 20).2 Samaritan literature is largely late; the Samaritan
Pentateuch, however, though copied in the 14th century, dates back
in recensional form at least to the Hasmonean period (ca. 100-
150 B.C.). Many of its peculiarities reflect Samaritan religious ten-
dencies, and it is thus an early witness to their beliefs and claims.
The problem of sources is compounded by the fact that the name
"Samaritan" occurs only once in the OT (2 Kgs -translated in
as "the people of
"Samaritans" as they appear in the Talmud, Josephus, and the NT,
but rather to the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel before its
a religious people must therefore depend on much more than a simple
identification based on names and geography.
I. THEORIES OF SAMARITAN ORIGINS
The traditional theories of Samaritan origins are reduced by
Purvis to four basic positions:3 (1) the view of the Samaritans them-
I selves, that their movement is a perpetuation of the ancient Israelite
2 A. Ge1ston, "Samaritans," New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962) 1132.
3 James D. Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 4-5.
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 49
faith as it was practised in the pre-monarchical period at Shechem
(ca. 1400-1100 B.C.); (2) the counterclaim of Judaism, that Samari-
tanism is a heresy derived from a corrupt worship of Yahweh which
area about 722 B.C.; (3) an interpretation based on Ezra, Nehemiah,
and Josephus, that the Samaritans broke away from the Jews in the
Persian period; and (4) the assertion that a Samaritan schism occurred
in the early Greek period.
All views demonstrate that there was a definite schism,4 followed
by a long period of independent development of the two groups. The
Samaritans place the schism in the twelfth century B.C., at the time of
Eli. The Jews date it in the eighth century B.C.
Modern critics have tended to date the schism much later, but
most have retained the schism concept. Some scholars, however, have
begun to question this notion. As Coggins points out:
Two points in particular have remained characteristic of many descrip-
tions: the view of Samaritanism as a debased form of religion, contain-
ing many syncretistic elements; and the notion of a schism-with its
twofold connotation, of a definite break that took place at a specific
moment in history, and of that break as implying the departure of the
schismatic from the accepted norm. ...It is hoped that it will become
clear that neither of these features should be taken for granted as truly
characteristic of the situation.5
Purvis stresses that "the so-called Samaritan schism, or withdrawal
from the mainstream of Judaism, was not so much an event as a
process--a process extending over several centuries and involving a
series of events which eventually brought about estrangement between
the two communities."6 Historians have tended to select one event
and to declare that it was this that caused the emergence of the
Samaritan sect. They have also disagreed as to which element of
Samaritanism represents its crucial distinction from Judaism. The
as Samaritans, for example, say that worship at Gerizim rather than
elsewhere has always been the determining factor. The Jews regard
the intermarriage of Assyrian colonists and northern Israelites and
the development of a syncretistic religion as the origin of the heresy.
to the erection of a temple on
tion of the post-Pentateuchal scriptures, as the crucial event.
The thesis of this article is that the origin of Samaritanism was
indeed a process--a process which began at least with the division of
the kingdom (by ca. 931 B.C.) and continued through each successive
4 R. J. Coggins, Samaritans and Jews (Oxford: Blackwell, 1975) 7.
5 Ibid., 4.
6 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 5.
50 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
incident, including the importation of foreign colonists and the build-
ing of the Gerizim temple, right up to their final excommunication by
the Jews about A.D. 300. Thus even in NT times the process of
estrangement was still going on, although the sect could surely be
considered distinct once it had its own temple and worship on
Most modern critics tend to minimize the OT's witness to the
origin of the Samaritan people and religion, assuming that such
"Jewish" accounts are too prejudiced to be reliable. This attitude
must be avoided, however, since the statements of Jesus Christ show
that he also recognized the dubiousness of their origins and the false-
hood of their religious claims.
II. THE SAMARITAN ACCOUNT
The Samaritans claim to be the true children
remained faithful to the Law of Moses.7 The Torah in their hands is
"the true, original and faultless Torah in all its sentences, pronuncia-
tions, and its style."8
The Samaritans claim to be descendants of the tribe of Joseph,
and thus descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh. Their priests are
house of Levi, descendants of Aaron. When
the valley between
The high priest at the time was Eleazar, son of Aaron, who also lived
in Shechem. Six years after the entrance into the land, Joshua built
the Tabernacle on Gerizim, where all worship of the Israelites was
After Joshua's death there was a succession of kings (called
M<yFpw, "judges," by the Jews), the last of whom was Samson. Eleazar
was succeeded at Gerizim by Phinehas, Abishua, Shesha, Bacha, and
When Uzzi became high priest at the age of 23, Eli (a descendant
of Ithamar rather than of Eleazar10), then 60 years old, was director
of revenues and tithes and director of the sacrifices on the stone altar
outside the Tabernacle.11 Eli became rich through revenues and jealous
of Uzzi, and he decided to take the high-priesthood away from Uzzi.
7 Jacob, Son of Aaron, "The History and Religion of the Samaritans," BSac 63
MacDonald, The Theology of the Samaritans (
10 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 88, n. 1.
11 Jacob, "History," 395.
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 51
About the time of Eli, foreigners began
teach the people sorcery and magic. Even a large number of priests
learned it and left the ways of God. Eli was one of these, and he
gathered a group of supporters. One day Uzzi the high priest rebuked
Eli for some fault in his sacrificial work, and Eli with his followers
immediately apostatlzed.12 Some of Israel followed Uzzi (especially
tribes of Joseph), and some followed Eli (especially
Eli moved to
he made a counterfeit ark and tabernacle and set up a rival sanctuary.
He claimed that God had commanded the tabernacle to be moved to
follow Eli because of his sorcery, and a deep dissension began to
grow between the two groups. Thus, for a time there were two sanc-
tuaries and two priesthoods (one descended from Phinehas, the other
from Ithamar), and the first division on religious grounds in
was created.13 The Samaritans thereafter rejected the claims of the
Ithamar branch of priests in favor of the sons of Phinehas. As a result
of Uzzi, the genuine high priest; (2) the followers of Eli; and (3) many
of various tribes who lapsed into paganism.
This is the only schism that the Samaritans know.14 Eli's act
ended the era of divine favor (htAUkra, "Rahuta ") and initiated the age
of divine wrath (htAUnPA, "Panuta ").
One day God told Uzzi to put all of the vessels and furniture of
the tabernacle into a nearby cave, after which the cave miraculously
closed up, engulfing the entire sanctuary. The next day, the cave and
its contents completely disappeared (not to be found again until the
Taheb or Messiah comes).15
About this time, Samuel, a descendant of Korah, came to live
and witchcraft. When Eli died, the people made Samuel their ruler.
The Philistines took advantage of the corruption and division to
Saul determined to punish the tribes of Joseph because they did
follow Samuel's cult in
destroyed the remaining altar on Gerizim, killed the high priest Shisha
(son of Uzzi), and destroyed many of the tribe.16 They began to
13 MacDonald, Theology, 17.
14 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 88, n. I.
15 MacDonald, Theology, 17.
16 Jacob, "History," 406-7.
52 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
their homes, and many moved to
After Saul died, David came to Shechem and became king of all
decided to build a temple in
at Gerizim, Yaire, told him that he would have to build it on
friend of this high priest (cf. 1 Sam 21:1-7) and had always offered
his tithes at Gerizim, refrained from building the temple and left,it for
to do. Solomon built the temple in
astray from God. Jeroboam later rebelled and led
further astray. He made his capital in Sabastaba17 (Sebaste, later
There were now three groups of Israelites: (1) the Samaritans,
who kept themselves distinct from the rest and called themselves
MyriM;wo, keepers of the Law; (2) the Israelites of the north, who fol-
Jeroboam; and (3) the tribe of
other tribes, who followed the line of David.18
Assyria finally captured the
people. An Assynan named
Israelite (of the tribe of Joseph) bought the city and it became known
Some of the followers of Uzzi were also taken into captivity by
the Assyrians. Later, Nebuchadnezzar deported people from all tribes
(including the tribe of Joseph) to
beasts. So Cyrus sent the "Samaritan" high priest Abdullah (or
Abdel20), along with a host of descendants of Joseph, back to the
Land. Abdullah wanted to build a sanctuary on Gerizim, but Zerub-
babel the Jew wanted to rebuild in
the Torah, whereas the Jews appealed to David and Solomon. Cyrus
sided with the Samaritans, honored Sanballat their governor, and
allowed many from the tribe of Joseph to return and to build a
temple on Gerizim.
Enmity between the tribes of Joseph and Judah continued to
grow. Zerubbabel bribed the King of Persia to allow the Jews to
sion to destroy what they had built. This caused yet greater division.
17 Ibid., 414; actually, it was Herod the Great who gave it the name Sebaste, which
is Greek for Augustus.
18 MacDonald, Theology, 18.
19 Jacob, "History ," 415.
20 Ay. L., "Samaritans," Encyclopaedia Judaica, 14.728.
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 53
Ezra (the "accursed Ezra,,21) finally obtained a second decree
(through Esther and by means of witchcraft) from King Ashoresh
(Ahasuerus) to rebuild the temple and the city of
exercise authority over all the Land. Since the Jews had lost the
Torah and all their books, Ezra began to collect legends and narra-
tives and invented many things which never occurred. He falsely
claimed (in 2 Kings 17) that the Samaritans were Gentiles with false
gods (cf. Ezra 4). He also invented the idea, popular among later
rabbis, that the Samaritans call Ashina (or Ashima) their god, whereas
in reality they simply substitute the word "Shimeh" (from Mwe, "name")
for YHWH, in the same way that the Jews use the substitution word,
ynAdoxE, "Adonai,,).22 Ezra wrote in the "Assyrian" language (Aramaic),
whereas the Samaritans retained Hebrew. Ezra was wicked and cor-
rupted the Jews even more, and by persecutions and lies caused much
of the hatred between the Jews and Samaritans. These persecutions
kept the Samaritan nation small, but Samaritans still claim to carry
out the ancient customs according to the Mosaic Law.23
Thus, Judaism is an extension of Eli's heresy through Samuel,
Saul, David, the Judean monarchy, and Ezra, with the rival cult
tradition on which to base it. The true Samaritan claims were dis-
missed with slander and persecution.
Several things may be said concerning this account by the
Samaritans of their own history. Purvis declares that "to accept the
Samaritan claim at face value would be extraordinarily naive."24 Most
of their sources are extremely late, although their later chronicles do
make use of earlier ones.25
In their favor, however, is the fact that at regular intervals before
the divided monarchy, all twelve tribes gathered at Shechem to wor-
ship their common God.26 It was to Shechem that Rehoboam went to
anointed king of all
as his first capital (1 Kgs ). Gerizim was mentioned as a sacred
Jeroboam also corrupted the priesthood by making priests of
non-Levites (1 Kgs ; 2 Chr 13:9). It may be questioned whether
any of the legitimate priests decided to separate from Jeroboam's
21 Gaster, "Samaritans,"191.
22 Jacob, "History," 424.
24 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 92.
26 Salo W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the
Jews, 2nd ed. (
54 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
apostate system in order to preserve the true worship of Yahweh.
priests may have simply gone south to
known whether the priesthood in northern
Assyrian conquest.27 But it does seem certain that "only a very small
percentage of the Samaritan, or northern Israelite, people were exiled,
to judge from Sargon's own account, and he makes no mention of
any religious groups."28
All of these factors may be explained by the assumption that
when the Samaritan sect finally developed its own identity and organi-
zation (during the last centuries B.C.), it was forced to reinterpret
Israelite history in order to validate its claims to be the true remnant
to be rather transparent alterations) also support this hypothesis. The
progress of divine revelation in both testaments also supports this
view, for, as Jesus himself said, "Salvation is from the Jews"
III. THE ORIGIN OF THE SAMARITAN PEOPLE
The Name "Samaritan"
About 875 B.C., Omri
founded the city of
about seven miles northwest of Shechem.29 He bought the hill from a
man named Shemer for two talents of silver, built a fortified city, and
(1 Kgs 16:24). Shemer was apparently a widespread clan name in
mained the capital until its destruction by Alexander the Great
(ca. 332 B.C.). The capital soon gave its name to the entire nation (cf.
1 Kgs 13:32; Hos 8:5; Amos 3:9; Isa 9:9-12). Subsequently, the nation
gave its name to its inhabitants, the Samarians.
27 Ay. L., "Samaritans," 727.
Bright, A History of
G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archaeology (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1957) 152; JamesL.
date is not certain; cf. Eugene H. Merrill, An Historical Survey of the Old Testament
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966) 251; Gaalyah Cornfeld and David N. Freedman, Archae-
ology of the Bible: Book by Book (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1976) 119;
Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, rev. ed. (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, 1983) 36, 88, who, among others, would date the founding of
James L. Kelso, "
Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975) 5.232.
30 James A. Montgomery, The Samaritans (New York: Ktav, 1968) 317.
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 55
Yet the name MyniOrm;Ow ("Samaritans") occurs only once in the
entire OT (2 Kgs 17:29), and there it refers not to the so-called "mixed
race" who appear in the NT, but rather to the former inhabitants of
It is customary to refer "Samaritans" in this passage to the colonists
brought by the king of
the text seems rather to mean that these colonists put their gods into
the houses of the high places which the "Samaritans," i.e., the former
Indeed, Coggins claims that "there are no unambiguous references
to the Samaritans in the Hebrew Old Testament."32 The LXX has
Samaeitai, again only at 2 Kgs 17:29. This word also occurs in
Josephus and the NT, and from it the English form is derived.
The more usual name found in Josephus and the Talmud is
Kutim or Cutheans, which refers to one of the groups of foreign
colonists mentioned in 2 Kgs 17:24, 30. This name, of course, empha-
sizes the supposed heathen origins and syncretistic practice of the
Samaritans. Another name used several times by Josephus is "She-
chemites" (Sikimitai),33 a name which refers to their principal city.
Josephus also says that the Samaritans of the Hellenistic period
called themselves "Sidonians in Shechem" when they wanted to dis-
sociate themselves from the Jews and win the support of Antiochus
On the other hand, the Samaritans themselves do not use these
designations at all. Usually they call themselves "
also frequently use the term Myrim;wA36 or Nyiram;wA,37 which they contend
means "keepers" or "observers" of the truth, the Law of God, derived
from the verb rmawA (to guard or observe). The use of this term is
admitted early, since it was known by Epiphanus (A.D. 375) and
31 Merrill F. Unger, Unger's Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1966) 958.
32 Coggins, Samaritans, 9.
35 Coggins, Samaritans, 10.
36 Ay. L., "Samaritans," 728.
37 Shemaryahu Talmon, "The Samaritans," Scientific American (January, 1977)
38 Epiphanius, Panarion 9.1; Origen, Homily on Ezekiel 9.1-5; Commentary on
.John 20.35; cf. G. W. H. Lampe, ed., A
Patristic Greek Lexicon (
N. R. M. de Lange, Origen and the Jews
sity, 1976) 36; Coggins, Samaritans, 11.
56 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
even the city of
had a commanding view of the Plain of Sharon.39
The suggestion has also been made that there is an allusion to
the Samaritan self-designation in 2 Chr 13:11, where King Abijah of
keepers [Myrim;Ow] of the charge of the Lord our God, but you have
forsaken Him."40 This speech comes shortly after the division of the
kingdom in Chronicles and perhaps may be seen as Abijah's declara-
tion of the "Jewish monopoly of salvation."41 Abijah also emphasizes
of some critics is that the author of Chronicles inserted or used this
allusion as a polemic against the Samaritan system of his own day.42
The use of the term here is striking, but in the complete absence
of other evidence, it is doubtful that the technical use of the term was
current at such an early date. It is more likely that the connection
with "keeping" the law was a reaction against the pejorative use of the
name "Samaritan" by the Jews in Rabbinic or later times.
The Samaritan People
When Jeroboam declared himself king of
included the entire northern two-thirds of the earlier kingdom of
ity stretching probably to the
dominion was quickly lost,44 however, and during the Assyrian inva-
sions of the ninth and eighth centuries B.C.,
territory.45 Finally in 722/21 B.C., the city of
after a three year siege.46
The fall of
northern kingdom. The leading citizens were deported by Sargon, while
exiles from other parts of the Assyrian Empire were imported by
Sargon, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal.47
40 Coggins, Samaritans, II.
43 Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, The MacMillan Bible Atlas (New
44 Ibid., 76.
45 Ibid., 86-97.
47 A. Gelston, "Samaritans," The New Bible
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 57
Sargon carried off 27,290 people, as he recounted in his annals,48
mostly influential people from the city of
estimates that 500,000 to 700,000 people lived in
this time.49 Thus Sargon neither desolated nor depopulated the land;
he merely took away its independence and its leading citizens. In
scale deportations were carried out by Sargon as a result of this and
According to 2 Kgs
17:24, "the king of
settled them in the cities of
NT times remained a Jewish region.52
The conquests of several of these nations were referred to later,
B.C., by Rabshakeh when he taunted the people of
with these words:
Has anyone of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand
of the king of
Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they de-
Additional colonists were imported by Esarhaddon about 680 B.C.
and by Ashurbanipal about 669-630 B.C.53 Many of these peoples
kept their separate identities for several generations, as is shown by
their statement to Zerubbabel (ca. 535 B.C.) that "we have been sacri-
ficing to Him [Yahweh God] since the days of Esarhaddon king of
It is indeed important to recognize that the question of the
national heritage of the Samaritans is to some extent distinct from
the question of their religion (which will be considered below). How-
ever, modern critics have tended to adopt the misguided view that
48 ANET, 284-85; cf. Wright, Archaeology, 162; Bright, History, 274.
49 Edwin Yamauchi, "The Archaeological Background of Ezra," BSac 137 (1980)
195. Coggins (Samaritans, 17) estimates a deportation of between 3% and 4% of the population.
50 Bright, History, 274; Unger, Dictionary, 958.
51 Coggins, Samaritans, 17.
52 Unger, Dictionary, 958; cf. Ezra 4:10.
53 Ibid.; Herbert Donner, "The
Separate States of
and Judaean History, eds. John H. Hayes and J. Maxwell Miller (OTL;
Times, trans. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975) 251; Thiele, Numbers, 178.
58 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
2 Kings 17 says nothing about the origin of the Samaritans.54 It will
be shown below that the rejection of these people by Zerubbabel,
Ezra, and Nehemiah because of their heathen ancestry and the begin-
ning of the worship on Gerizim because of the same kind of rejection
by the Jews are but two milestones in the process of the development
of the Samaritan sect.
That the Samaritan people did have their origin with these im-
portations of foreigners by Assyria into the region
shown conclusively by three statements made by Jesus: (1) Matt
10:5-6: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any
city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of
Abraham, to the whole house of
the Samaritans (perhaps the "cities of the Samaritans" were not
which were predominantly Samaritan--cf. Luke 9:52) to be part of
despite the fact that they then worshiped the God of Moses and kept
the pure Law even more stringently than the Jews. This fits well with
taking 2 Kings 17 as the description of their origin.
(2) Luke 17: 18: Jesus calls the Samaritan who returned to thank
him for healing him a "foreigner" (a]llogenh>j). In view of Jesus'
comments elsewhere concerning the Samaritans, it is doubtful that he
would use such a designation simply to accommodate popular Jewish
opinion. He obviously considered Samaritans to some extent non-
Israelites, not simply sectarians or heretics.
(3) John 4:22: "salvation is from the Jews." This statement was
intended to show the accuracy of genuine Jewish faith as against the
Samaritan system. But it also shows that Jesus distinguished between
the national origins of Jews and Samaritans, for he would never have
made such a distinction with Galileans.
IV. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SAMARITAN RELIGION
The roots of the enmity between Jews and Samaritans go back to
the antagonism between the north and the south.55 But this was only
one of the tensions within Judaism (in a Palestinian sense) from
which Samaritanism sprang.
Foreign Settlers and Foreign Gods
When the foreign settlers from
54 Cf. Coggins, Samaritans, IS.
55 Reinhard Pummer, "The Present State of
cf. Coggins, Samaritans, 81; Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 9, n. 13.
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 59
And it came about at the beginning of their living there, that they did
not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them which
killed some of them. So they spoke to the king
nations whom you have carried away into exile in
the cities of
do not know the custom of the god of the land; so he has sent lions
among them, and behold, they kill them because they do not know the
custom of the god of the land."
Then the king of
the priests whom you carried away into exile, and let him go and live
there; and let him teach them the custom of the god of the land." So
one of the priests whom they had carried away into exile from
came and lived at
Lord. But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the
houses of the high places which the people of
nation in their cities in which they lived. And
the men of
Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath
made Ashima, and the A vvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the
Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and
Anammelech the gods of Sepharvaim. They also feared the Lord and
appointed from among themselves priests of the high places, who acted
for them in the houses of the high places. They feared the Lord and
served their own gods according to the custom of the nations from
among whom they had been carried away into exile.
early Samaritan religion was syncretistic, that is, a mixture of different
elements, having arisen from the amalgamation of the ancient religion
had brought with them to their new home."56 At first the new peoples
still worshiped their own gods, but in the course of time they inter-
mingled with one another and with the native Israelites of Samaria.57
They learned from the Israelite priest and soon adopted the worship
of Yahweh along with their old gods.
Tadmor relates that "the Assyrians regarded it as a primary state
function to unify the heterogeneous ethnic elements in the main cities
of the kingdom and the provinces and to turn them into cohesive
local units within an Assyrianized society."58 Thus, as time went on,
and at least by the third century B.C., there came into being a new
ethnic and religious entity (apart from the Hellenists introduced by
Alexander and the Seleucids), the "kernel of what later became known
as the Samaritans."59
Sunday School Times 48 (1906) 383.
57 H. Tadmor, "The Period of the
in A History of the Jewish People, edited by H. H. Ben-Sasson
bridge, MA: Harvard, 1976) 137.
60 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
It is here that a serious problem' arises. On the one hand
2 Kings 17 definitely implies the development of a syncretistic religion
(cf. v 33: "they feared the Lord and served their own gods"). But on
the other hand, as Kelso expresses it, "Samaritan theology shows no
sign of the influence of paganism among the colonists sent by the
What is the solution to this paradox? Gaster refuses to harmo-
nize the two:
The most plausible conclusion is, then, that after the fall of
722, the local population consisted of two distinct elements living side
by side-viz., (a) the remnant of the native Israelites; and (b) the
foreign colonists. For tendentious reasons, however, the Jewish version
ignores the former; the Samaritan version, the latter.61
It is the opinion of this writer that the religious situation in,
era: (1) At first the Israelites and the foreigners co-existed side by
side; (2) when the teaching priest arrived (2 Kgs 17:28), the religion
of the colonists almost immediately became syncretistic with Yahwism;
(3) during the religious campaigns of Hezekiah and Josiah and there-
bulk of the population of
Yahwistic in the Jewish sense, although much of the foreign element
failed to give up its gods (2 Kgs 17:41); (4) when the Samaritan temple
began to teach the Samaritan people a strict Yahwism based on the
Torah and to develop a more sectarian, but conservative and quasi-
Sadducean, religious system, with an active temple worship; (5) after
the destruction of the Samaritan temple about 128 B.C., the Samari-
tans put even more emphasis upon the Law, and their particular
brand of theology began to solidify in conjunction with the Samaritan
Pentateuch and their anti-Jewish attitudes and conduct.
Though some of the foregoing is conjecture, the scheme fits the
facts of Scripture and the nature and history of the sect. It hinges on
references in the Bible and elsewhere to an ongoing teaching ministry
among the Samaritans.
The teaching priest
Some have thought that any priest from
would be syncretistic or pagan in outlook, since the religious system
60 James L. Kelso, "Samaritans," Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible,
5.245; Gaster, "Samaritans," 192.
61Gaster, "Samaritans," 192.
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 61
founded by Jeroboam introduced idol-worship. It is not certain,
however, that Jeroboam intended to substitute idolatry for the wor-
ship of Yahweh. Wood contends that "the intent was still to worship
Yahweh, but in a new way."63 As Unger points out, the schism was
more political than religious, and Jeroboam's purpose was not to
Many scholars note that this was not necessarily a change of
religion. De Vaux, for example, thinks that "the God Jeroboam asked
subjects to adore was Yahweh who had brought
The novelty lies in the cultic symbol, the 'golden calves.'...They were
wooden statues covered with gold plate. It seems certain that these
statues were not thought of, originally, as representations of Yahweh.
In the primitive religions of Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and
sacred animal is not the god and is not confused with the god; it merely
embodies his attributes, is an ornament of his throne or a support for
it, or a footstool for his use. There are several examples extant of gods
riding on the animal which is their symbol. The
Jeroboam needed something similar for the sanctuaries he founded,
and he made the 'golden calves' as the throne for the invisible godhead.66
Archaeologists are in general agreement. Albright was an early
supporter of the idea that "Jeroboam represented Yahweh as an
invisible figure standing on a young bull of gold."67 He points to
cylinder seals of the second millennium B.C. on which the storm-god
upright on the back of a bull.68
Wright agrees that for Jeroboam the golden calves (or bulls)
"may have been the pedestal on which the invisible Lord was thought
cf. C. F. Keil, The Books of the Kings, trans. James Martin (Biblical Commentary on
64 Unger, Dictionary, 958.
65 R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2 (New York: McGraw-Hili, 1961) 333.
66 Ibid., 333-34; cf. Donner, "Separate States," 387-88; note I Sam 4:4 and 2 Sam
6:2, where Yahweh is said to be "enthroned above the cherubim."
William F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, 2nd ed. (
Johns Hopkins, 1957) 299; cf. Merrill (Survey, 248), who states that "these calves
certainly were not images of Yahweh, but only representations of the throne upon
which Yahweh stood."
Albright, Stone Age, 300; cf. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of
98; Archaeology and the Religion of
62 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
stand."69 As an example he refers to a carving from
(8th century B.C.) picturing the storm-god Hadad (Baal) standing on
the back of a bull.
Whatever the origin and intention of the golden calves, it is clear
that they were a serious offense to God70 and represented a grave
the continued worship of Yahweh in
the animal which symbolized Baal, and the mass of people would
confuse the "bull of Yahweh" and the "bull of Baal."72 The door was
thus opened to syncretism and idolatry. According to Wood, "Jero-
boam's innovation made the later introduction of Baal worship into
the land under Ahab and Jezebel (I Kgs 16:30-33) much easier."73
The prophet Ahijah condemned these "molten images" (I Kgs
14:9). Jeroboam is said to have sacrificed to the calves as though they
were gods (I Kgs 12:32).74 His great sin, shared by all his successor~
(d. 2 Kgs 10:29) and the people of
consisted especially in setting up these images. More broadly, how-
ever, Jeroboam violated God's law in four principal ways:75 (1) he
changed the symbols of worship, introducing images associated with
pagan worship clearly prohibited by God76 (Exod 34: 17); (2) he
changed the center of worship (I Kgs 12:29-30), away from God's
appointed center; (3) he changed the priesthood, abandoning the
chosen tribe of Levi (I Kgs 12:31; 13:33; 2 Chr 13:9); and (4) he
changed the schedule of feasts (I Kgs 12:33).
Wright, Archaeology, 147; cf. Bright, History, 234;
Old Testament, vol. I, trans. J. A. Baker (OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961) 117.
70 Wood, History, 305.
Bright, History, 234; R. K. Harrison (Old Testament Times [
Eerdmans, 1970] 210) contends that Jeroboam was essentially an apostate who created
a thoroughly pagan system.
72 De Vaux, Ancient
ogy, vol. 2 (1964) 22, n. I), who is among many who contend that the bull-image of
nothing to do with the Egyptian bull-cult of
73 Wood, History, 305; cr. Shalom M. Paul and William G. Dever, eds., Biblical
Archaeology (Jerusalem: Keter, 1973) 270.
Jeroboam's declaration, "Behold your gods, 0
statement by the Israelites in Exod 32:4. There they "worshiped" a golden calf and
"sacrificed" to it, for which God desired to kill them (32:8-10). God called Aaron's calf
a "god of gold" (32:31), and Paul later referred to this incident when he related God's
judgment of some Israelites as "idolaters" (I Cor 10:7). It is noteworthy, however, that
Jeroboam's system is not specifically called "idolatry" in either Kings or Chronicles,
and whether Jeroboam intended to copy Aaron's sin is not clear.
John J. Davis and John C. Whitcomb, A History of
Baker, 1980) 359.
Kings (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1951) 257, n. 4.
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 63
The outcome of these changes was that many of the priests and
Levites of the North migrated to the South (2 Chr 11:14-16). How-
even at the
were still following the true God (I Kgs 19:18).
The point here is that Jeroboam's religious system was not neces-
sarily designed to turn the people away from Yahweh to idolatry and
paganism. It is possible that the worship of Yahweh continued in
2 Kings 17 may have helped to introduce a Mosaic Yahwism to the
foreign settlers.77 Both the priest and the settlers recognized that the
"god of the land" was Yahweh. At the very least, he taught them to
"fear the LORD" (2 Kgs 17:28), and his teaching had some effect (v 32).
The Kings of
assistance of Hezekiah.78 Gelston contends that the Israelites who
were left after the Assyrian deportation formed the core of the new
Samarian community and, "despite the introduction of various cults,
guaranteed the continuity of the worship of Yahweh."79 Closer rela-
tions, he believes, were maintained with
At any rate, about 715 B.C. Hezekiah issued an invitation to all
the Passover together (2 Chr 30: I, 5-6). Many people, especially of
Ephraim and Manasseh, mocked the messengers (v 10), but many
others attended (from Asher, Manasseh, Zebulon, Ephraim, and
Issachar-vv 11, 18). A revival took place, and the people went out to
destroy all the high places and altars throughout Ephraim and
Manasseh (2 Chr 31:1). .
Josiah (ca. 622 B.C.) initiated another revival, and 2 Chr 34:9
records that contributions were received "from Manasseh and Eph-
raim, and from all the remnant of
80 men from Shechem, Shiloh, and
"with their beards shaved off and their clothes torn and their bodies
gashed, having grain offerings and incense in their hands to bring to
the house of the Lord" (Jer 41:4-5). Evidently the reforms of Hezekiah
and Josiah had made some lasting inroads into the north.80
77 Cf. Keil, Kings, 423-27.
78 Montgomery, Kings, 473.
79 Gelston, "Samaritans," 1131.
80 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 9.
64 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel understood God's plans as including
For there shall be a day when watchmen on the hills of Ephraim shall
'Arise, and let us go up to
(Jer 31:5-6); "For I am a father to
born" (Jer 31:9); "Say to them 'Thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I
will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and
My hand"'" (Ezek 37:19). God's plans thus include the remnant and
It will be shown below that a crucial factor in the "Judaizing"
of the Samaritans was the erection of the Samaritan temple on
Manasseh, Jewish son-in-law of Sanballat III. Modern critics usually
recognize that Samaritanism shows a strong dependence on and
indebtedness to post-exilic Judaism.81 Cross indicates that
it is evident that the religion of
feasts and law, conservatism toward Torah and theological develop-
ment, show few survivals from the old Israelite religion as distinct from
Judean religion, and no real evidence of religious syncretism. Even the
late Jewish apocalyptic has left a firm imprint on Samaritanism.82
Such a perspective allows one to explain not only Samaritanism's
conservative (Pentateuchal) Jewishness, but also its early striking
similarities to the priestly Sadducees.
The foreign gods
Before leaving the subject of the foreign colonists, it will perhaps
be instructive to note whence they came and what kind of religions
of Avva is unknown, but may be identical with the Ivvah of 2 Kgs
18:34,83 which is also unknown).
82 Frank M. Cross, "Aspects of Samaritan and Jewish History in
Persian and Hellenistic Times," HTR 59 (1966) 205-6.
83 Avva," ISBE, 1.340.
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 65
Sennacherib in 703, 700, and 695.84 Tadmor feels that it was Sen-
nacherib, being anti-Babylonian, who carried off
and Cuthah to Samaria.85
Cuthah was also
one of the most important cities of
situated about twenty miles northeast of Babylon.86 It was destroyed
by Sennacherib. Apparently these deportees were predominant among
the colonists, for the Samaritans were long called Cutheans by the
Hamath was a
was probably a Syrian town captured by Shalmaneser also called
Shabarain,88 located between Hamath and Damascus.89
Seven gods are listed among the religious I cultural baggage of the
immigrants. (1) Succoth-Benoth means. "tabernacles or booths of
girls" in Hebrew. It has been identified with Sarpanitu, the consort of
Marduk, god of Babylon.90 She also appears as the "seed-creating
one." (2) Nergal was the god of pestilence, disease, and various other
calamities.91 He was worshipped with his consort Ereshkigal at
dedicated to him. (3) Nothing is known of Ashima, though the
suggestion has been made that it is a corruption of Asherah the
Canaanite mother-goddess.92 (4) Nibhaz perhaps refers to a "deified
altar."93 On the other hand, it may have been worshiped in the form
of an ass.94 (5) Tartak is possibly a corruption of Atargatis, a goddess
worshiped in Mesopotamia.95 (6) Adrammelech means "Adar is
Donald J. Wiseman, "
Bright, History, 285.
85 Tadmor, "Period," 137.
86 R. Clyde Ridall, "Cuthah," ZPEB, 1.1050; cr. John Gray, I & II Kings, 2nd ed.
(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970) 651; Montgomery, Kings, 472.
87 Gray, Kings, 651; Steven Barabas, "Hamath," ZPEB, 3.22.
88 Montgomery, Kings, 472; Gray, Kings, 652; Andrew Bowling, "Sepharvaim,"
ZPEB, 5.342; cf. Albright, Yahweh, 241.
89 T. G. Pinches, "Sepharvaim," ISBE, 4.2722.
90 Gray, Kings, 654; Montgomery, Kings, 473; Harvey E. Finley, "Succoth-Benoth,"
91 Albright, Yahweh, 139; Larry L. Walker, "Nergal," ZPEB, 4.410; cf. Gray, Kings,
654; Herrmann, History, 251.
93 Gray, Kings, 654; Wilber B. Wallis, "Nibhaz," ZPEB, 4.434; Montgomery, Kings,
94 Steven Barabas, "Tartak," ZPEB, 5.603.
66 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
king",96 and may be related to the god Athtar-Venus Star (Atar
Milki).97 (7) Anammelech means "Anu is king." Anu was the great
sky-god of Babylonia.98 The latter two gods were Syrian or Canaanite
deities,99 and their worship included the offering of children as burn
offerings (2 Kgs 17:31).
As was mentioned above, there is no sign of the worship of these
deities in later Samaritan ism. Though their influence continued among
the foreign families even to the time of the
syncretism among the Samaritans of NT times.
Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah
When the Jewish exiles had returned to
foundation for the second temple (ca. 535 B.C.), the descendants of
foreign colonists came to
ing that they were true worshipers of Yahweh. Ezra relates the inci-
dent as follows:
Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the
people of the exile were building a temple to
the Lord God of
they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers' households, and
said to them, "Let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God;
and we have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king
the rest of the heads of father's households of
have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God; but
we ourselves will together build to the Lord God of
Cyrus, the king of
Thus began another round of conflict between the people of
"enemies of Judah and Benjamin" (v i). This does not imply that they
were considered enemies before their later attempt to stop the con-
struction of the temple and the city. Unger notes that "in the refusal
no charge of hypocrisy was made against them."tOO It was only that
96 Willis J. Beecher, "Adrammelech," ISBE, 1.61.
97 Gray, Kings, 654; Andrew K. Helmbold, "Adrammelech," ZPEB, 1.64; but cf,)
Albright, Yahweh, 241.
98 William W. Hallo and William K. Simpson, The Ancient Near East: A History
(New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1971) 170; Gray, Kings, 655; Steven
Barabas, "Anammelech," ZPEB, 1.153. :':i
99 William Sanford LaSor, "Anammelech," ISBE, 1979 ed., 1.120.
l00 Unger, Dictionary, 959; Bright, however, regards their religion as "surely some-
what synchretistic" (History, 383). Perhaps a combination of nationalistic, racial, and
religious motives was involved in the Jews' response (cf. William Barclay, et. al., The
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 67
the right to build belonged to the Jews, and they could have no part
Unger asks, "Were the Jews right?" He concludes that they
apparently knew what they were doing, but that "their course in
regard to aliens and children of mixed marriages, as shown in
Ezra 10:3, and indicated in Neh 13:1, 3..., though natural and
probably justifiable under the circumstances, was yet, so far as we
know, somewhat in advance of what God had required."102 Even
aliens were allowed to eat the Passover if they were circumcised (cf.
Exod 12:44, 48, 49).
When Ezra arrived in
at the news that many of the people, including priests and Levites,
had intermarried with "the peoples of the lands" (Ezra 9: 1-3). He
confessed this sin to God, quoting Exod 34: 15-16 and Deut 7:3, which
forbade the Hebrews under Moses and Joshua to marry the people of
"abominations" (Ezra 9:12, 14). He thus saw himself in the role of a
new Moses, delivering and applying the Law of God to the returned
exactly as Moses had done to the new nation of
years earlier. The "Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites," etc., of old became
the Samaritans, etc., of the post-exilic period, in spite of their claim
to be worshiping Yahweh and following his Law. Ezra led the people
to put away their foreign wives (Ezra 10:2-5) and even made a list of
those who had married outside Jewry (10:17-44).
Nehemiah arrived about 444 B.C. as a special representative of
king and was opposed by Sanballat, governor of
(Neh 2:10). Apparently,
miah was creating a new political entity
that this territory would be taken from his control.103 Sanballat was a
Nehemiah, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries [lnterVarsity, 1979] 49) suggests
that the Jews left their real (religious) motives unspoken.
101 In the light of Ezra 4:2, Bishop (Eric F. F. Bishop, "Some Relationships of
Samaritanism with Judaism, Islam and Christianity," The Moslem World 37 
129) cannot be right when he says that "the Samaritans felt that the rebuilding of the
acknowledge the sanctuary on Gerizim rather than on Moriah," since they obviously
had not yet (in 525 B.C.) developed the idea of a rival sanctuary for Yahweh on
102 Unger, Dictionary, 959; cf. Deut 7:1-4; 23:3; Exod 34:15-16; Judg 3:5-6; Mal
103. James L. Kelso, "Samaritans," ZPEB 5.245; Barclay, et. al., Bible and History,
130; cf. Herrmann, History, 308.
68 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
worshiper of Yahweh,104 as were most of the people of the province.
This conflict, therefore, was a political one, not a religious issue. As
Gaster shows, the Samaritans had a two-fold fear: that (1) Nehemiah's
power, and that (2) it might provoke repercussions from the Persian
Government that would work against them also.105 Nehemiah pre-
vailed, however, in spite of Sanballat's opposition (cf. Neh 2:19-20;
4: 1-2, 6-7; 6: I, 15-16), fortified the city, and increased its population.
Nehemiah's separatism may have fueled the Samaritan-Jew alien-
ation. He records in Neh 13:1-3 these words:
On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses in the
hearing of the people; and there was found written in it that no
Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, because
they did not meet the sons of
Salaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned the;
curse into a blessing. So it came about, that when they heard the law,
they excluded all foreigners from
Note that the command to exclude Ammonites and Moabite
from the assembly was extended under Nehemiah to exclude "all
practice. The Samaritans were automatically included in this group.
Toward the end of his governorship, Nehemiah discovered that
one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, had
married a daughter of Sanballat. He was so furious that he chased the
them from everything foreign" (13:30).
Naturally, the reaction of the Yahweh-worshiping Samaritan
was resentment. They were faced with deciding what was the best way
worship the Lord apart from the
inevitably to an even more crucial estrangement from Judaism about
a century later.
According to Haacker, "The most important single event in the
history of the rise of the Samaritan community was probably the
construction of the temple to Yahweh on
end of the 4th cent. B.C."106 Josephus relates the episode generally as
Darius III of
104 Bright, History, 383; James L. Kelso, "Samaritans," 5.245.
105 Gaster, "Samaritans," 192.
106 Klaus Haacker, "Samaritan," NIDNTT, 3.451.
108 George E. Wright, "The Samaritans at Shechem," HTR 55 (1962) 361.
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 69
Cuthean named Sanballat to be governor. This Sanballat gave his
daughter Nikaso to be the wife of Manasseh, a brother of the high
priest Jaddua, in order to develop good relations with the Jews in
to a foreigner, and ordered Manasseh to have the marriage annulled.
Sanballat, confident of the good will of Darius, promised Manasseh
the high priesthood of the Samaritans. So Manasseh stayed with
Sanballat, thinking that Darius would give him the high priesthood.
money, land, and places to live.
When Alexander the Great began his campaigns against Darius,
Sanballat and Manasseh were certain that Darius would win. The
opposite happened. So in 332 B.C. when Alexander was besieging
fight for him, and accepted his rule. In return Alexander gave his
the Samaritans to build a temple on
Manasseh, brother of the Jewish high priest, and many of the Jewish
all who were dissatisfied with the stringent reforms taking place in
have the Jews split into two groups, instead of being united;110 he was
also grateful for the military support.111 So the temple was built (very
quickly) and Manasseh was appointed its high priest. Sanballat died
Alexander had spent seven months on the siege of
the siege of
Given the remarkable similarity of this story of the priest
Manasseh to the account of the priestly son of Joiada by Nehemiah
(13:28), many have doubted the historical accuracy of Josephus at
this point. The Jewish Encyclopedia says, "It is most unlikely that
there were two Sanballats whose daughters married sons (or a son
and a brother) of high priests, and that these sons were expelled from
Josephus intentionally tried to discredit Samaritan claims by connect-
ing the temple with Manasseh as a bribe for his apostasy.
Rowley declares that Josephus' account is so "garbled" that there
"no means of knowing when the
Unger assumes that it was Nehemiah who expelled Manasseh, and
places the building of the temple about 409 B.C.114 Others say that
110 Wright, "Samaritans," 361.
111 Haacker, "Samaritan," 451.
Harold H. Rowley, "Sanballat and the
114 Unger, Dictionary, 959.
70 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Josephus has confused two separate incidents (the expulsion of
Manasseh and the building of the temple), while some even move
Nehemiah down into the fourth century.115
Until recently there was no evidence outside of Josephus for two
Sanballats. A Sanballat is mentioned in the Elephantine papyri, but
he is clearly the contemporary of Nehemiah.116
But in 1962-63, papyri of the fourth century B.C. were discovered
in a cave of the Wadi Daliyeh north of Jericho.117 The name San-
ballat appears twice, described as the father of Hananiah, governor
ceeded by his sons Delaiah and Shelemiah in the last decade of the
fifth century.118 So the father of Hananiah would be Sanballat
(perhaps ca. 380-360 B.C.). If so, then the objections to a Sanballat
as governor in 332 B.C. disappear. High offices often were heredi-
tary.119 And the practice of papponymy. (naming a child for its grand:'
father) was much in vogue during this era.120
We can reconstruct with some plausibility, therefore, the sequence
of governors of
Horonite is evidently the founder of the line, to judge by the fact that
he bears a gentilic, not a patronymic. He was a Yahwist, giving good
Yahwistic names to his sons Delaiah and Shelemiah. Sanballat I must
have been a mature man to gain the governorship, and in 445, when
Nehemiah arrived, no doubt was already in his middle years. His son
Delaiah acted for his aged father as early as 410. The grandson of
Sanballat, Sanballat II, evidently inherited the governorship early in
the fourth century, to be succeeded by an elder son (Yeshuac?), and
later by his son Hananiah. Hananiah was governor by 354 B.C., and his
son, or his brother's son, Sanballat III, succeeded to the governorship
in the time of Darius III and Alexander the Great.121
Thus Wright concludes that Josephus' story about the founding
substantially reliable.122 It was the founding of this rival temple which
did more than anything else to aggravate the traditional bad relations
between Samaritan and Jew.
115 Cross, ..Aspects," 203.
116 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 103.
117 Cross, "Aspects," 201.
118 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 104.
119 Cross, "Aspects," 203.
120 Ibid.; cf. the Tobiads of Ammon and the Oniads of
121 Cross, "Aspects," 204.
122 Wright, "Samaritans," 364.
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 71
Some have contended that "the mere
existence of a
to other Jewish temples at Elephantine in
fifth century B.C., at Leontopolis in
century B.C., and at cAraq el-Emir in Transjordan.123a
However, only the Gerizim temple became a real challenge to the
tion and was also a rival for the allegiance of Yahweh-worshipers of
the north.124 The Jews understood the prophets and Deuteronomy to
The new temple on Gerizim would have provided the base for a
distinct and separate religious community. It also provided a "Jewish"
priest, who probably brought with him a copy of the Pentateuch and
began to teach the people the ways of God and worship along a line
which became more and more Mosaic. The temple drove a wedge
between the two communities, which in time was to split them into
two hostile groups.
The Destruction of
Alexander the Great had finished with
installed Andromachus as governor of
south to invade Egypt.125 In 331 B.C., the city of
and burned the governor alive. Alexander immediately marched north
fled with their families to the Wadi Daliyeh, where they were found in
a cave and suffocated to death by Alexander's soldiers.126 Alexander
The Samaritans were then forced to establish a new capital, and
the logical place was old Shechem.128 It was a time-honored site,
hallowed by the most ancient Hebrew traditions and adjacent to the
With the development of Shechem, the Samaritan religious and cul-
tural center was firmly established.129
123 Rowley, "
123a Haacker, "Samaritan," 451.
124 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 12.
125 Wright, Shechem, 178.
Frank M. Cross, "The Historical Importance of the
127 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 107.
128 Wright, "Samaritans," 365; cf. Cross, "Aspects," 25.
129 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 109.
72 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Waltke says that Wright has conclusively shown that Shechem
captured Samaria.130 This accounts for: (1) the archaeological evi-
dence for the reestablishment of Shechem in the late fourth century
after having been virtually uninhabited during the Persian period;
(2) the elaborate attempts the Samaritans made to refortify Shechem--
to maintain their claims against the Jews; (3) Josephus' implication
that Shechem was the Samaritan capital in the period of Alexander
which refers to "the foolish people who dwell in Shechem."131
Bickerman notes that "it often happened that when a Greek
colony was established, native villages under its control formed a
union around an ancestral sanctuary."132 It was possibly after such
a pattern that the Samaritans were organized at Shechem and
remnant of the Samaritans driven out of their newer capital at
Destruction of the
With their establishment at Shechem and Gerizim, the Samaritans
began a long and painful process of self-identification.134 And the
Josephus relates that when Alexander granted the Jews freedom
from tribute every seventh year, the Samaritans requested it also,
claiming to be Jews.135 But whenever any Jew was accused by the
he would flee to Shechem and say that he was unjustly accused.
B.C., Antiochus III gave
Ptolemy Epiphanes as his daughter Cleopatra's dowry. Josephus says
that during this time the Samaritans were flourishing and doing much
mischief to the Jews by cutting off parts of their land and "carrying
When Antiochus Epiphanes
67 B.C.), the Samaritans at Shechem sent a letter to him disclaim-
ing any relationship to Jews or to their God and asked that their
130 Bruce K. Waltke, "Review of The Samaritans, by James A. Montgomery," BSac
126 (1969) 84.
131Wright, "Samaritans," 359, 365-66.
Elias Bickerman, From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees (
133 Cross, ..Aspects," 207.
134 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 109.
136 Ibid., 12.4.1.
BRINDLE: The SAMARITANS 73
temple on Gerizim be named the
is this opportunism which Haacker labels "decisive for the ultimate
schism.”138 Thus, the Samaritans escaped persecution, while the Jews
resisted with their lives. The success of the Maccabean revolt led later
expansion of Judaea at the expense of
10:38; 11 :24, 57).
Josephus relates an interesting story which supposedly took place
meter. The Jews and Samaritans there were disputing about which
temple was the true one. Ptolemy became the judge at a debate, and
the Jewish side won, appealing to the Law and the succession of high
the age and prestige of the
appeal to Moses and the priesthood shows that the basic Samaritan
doctrines had already solidified in general form by this time.)
John Hyrcanus (134-104 B.C.) decided-to put an end to the
Samaritan rivalry. In 128 B.C. he destroyed the temple on
107 B.C. he destroyed both
sees several motivating factors behind these acts.141 First, the Samari-
was an irritating and divisive factor in
between Shechem and
creasing, leading to actual harrassment by the Samaritans. And third,
Hyrcanus wanted to solidify the extent of Judaean authority and hold
firmly to the "inheritance of our fathers" (1 Macc 15:33-34).
The Samaritans must have breathed a sigh of relief when Pompey
both the Romans (until A.D. 52) and the house of Herod (which was
pasian rebuilt Shechem (about one-half mile west of the old city) and
named it Flavia Neapolis (
S city of
The Samaritan Pentateuch
The Samaritan recension of the Pentateuch also played its part
in the development of the sect. Purvis believes that "the Samaritan
ir Pentateuch is the chief sectarian monument of the community, and it
137 Ibid., 12.5.5.
138 Haacker, “Samaritan,” 452
Wright, Shechem, 183-84; cr. Josephus,
141 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 113-15.
142 Haacker, "Samaritan," 452.
143 Bishop, "Relationships," 112.
74 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
is hardly possible to conceive of Samaritanism as a sect apart from
The most prized possession of modern Samaritanism is its scroll
of the Pentateuch, known as the Abisha scroll.145 Abu’l Fath, in his
Chronicle (written in A.D. 1355), says that the Abisha scroll was "dis-
covered" in A.D. 1355.146 Crown contends that the scroll is "not to be
regarded as a unitary work, but as a manuscript assemblage of frag-
ments of various ages.”147 He believes that Abisha, son of the high
priest Pinhas (d. A.D. 1364), fabricated the scroll between A.D. 1341
and A.D. 1354.148 Whatever the case, similar scrolls are also in exis-
tence, and the text type is definitely pre-masoretic. The date of this
recension is helpful in determining the time of the Samaritan emer-
gence from Judaism as a distinct sect.
Purvis, in his exhaustive study of the Samaritan text, offers the
following observations and conclusions:149
(1) The script of the Samaritan Pentateuch is a sectarian script
which developed from the paleo-Hebrew forms of the Hasmonean
period. This script is not a descendant of the paleo-Hebrew of the
earlier Persian or Greek periods or of the later Roman period.
(2) The orthography of the Samaritan Pentateuch is the standard
full orthography of the Hasmonean period, which contrasts with the
restricted orthography seen in the Pentateuchal text of the earlier
Greek and the later Rabbinic periods.
(3) The textual tradition of the Samaritan Pentateuch is one of
three textual traditions which are now known to have been in use in
that this textual tradition completed its development during this
period, rather than at an earlier time.
(4) When the final break between the Shechemites and the Jews
was consummated, the Samaritans took as the basis of their biblical
text proto-Samaritan tradition, a Palestinian text type preserved in
the paleo-Hebrew script. The proto-Samaritan had been in process of
development from the Old Palestinian textual tradition from the fifth
to the second centuries B.C., when it reached its fullest stage of devel-
opment during the Hasmonean era. Hebrew orthography also reached
its fullest stage of development at this time, and the comparable
phenomena of full text and full orthography may be due to more
144 Purvis. Samaritan Pentateuch. 13-14.
145 Alan D. Crown. "The Abisha Scroll of the Samaritans," BJ RL 58 (1975). 36.
147 Ibid.. 37.
148 Ibid.. 64.
149 Purvis. Samaritan Pentateuch. 16-17.84-85. 118.
BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS 75
than coincidence. For their sectarian recension, the Samaritans se-
lected the full text of the proto-Samaritan tradition and the full
orthography in vogue at that time.
(5) The complete and irreparable break in relations between the
Samaritans and the Jews occurred neither in the Persian nor the
Greek periods. It occurred in the Hasmonean period as the result of
the destruction of Shechem and the ravaging of Gerizim by John
Waltke declares that "Professor Cross has now shown that the
Samaritan recension proper branches off in the early Hasmonean
Period.”150 Cross concludes as follows:
We can now place the Samaritan Pentateuch in the history of the
Hebrew biblical text. It stems from an old Palestinian tradition which
had begun to develop distinctive traits as early as the time of the
Chronicler, and which can be traced in Jewish works and in the manu-
was set aside in the course of the 1 st century in
favor of a tradition of wholly different origin (presumably from Baby-
lon), which provided the base of the Massoretic Recension. ...The
Samaritan text-type thus is a late and full exemplar of the common
Palestinian tradition, in use both
The development of Samaritanism and its alienation from Judaism
may thus be seen as a process with important milestones which pro-
moted the antagonism: (1) the division of the kingdom into north
south (ca. 931 B.C.); (2) the conquest of
resulting importation of foreign colonists and religions (ca. 722-
630 B.C.); (3) the rejection of the new Samaritan community by
Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and later leaders (ca. 535-332 B.C.);
(4) the building of a rival temple on
reconstruction of Shechem as the capital of the Samaritans, followed
by growing harrassment of Jews (ca. 332-170 B.C.); (6) political and
religious opportunism shown by the Samaritans during the persecu-
tions of Antiochus IV (ca. 168-67 B.C.); (7) the destruction by John
Hyrcanus of both the Samaritan temple and Shechem (ca. 128,
107 B.C.); and (8) growing hostilities and harrassment on both sides
during the next several centuries.
150 Waltke, "Review." 84.
151 Cross. "Aspects." 208-9.
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
Grace Theological Seminary
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: firstname.lastname@example.org