The History And Religion Of The Samaritans -- By: William Eleazar Barton

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 063:251 (Jul 1906)
Article: The History And Religion Of The Samaritans
Author: William Eleazar Barton


The History And Religion Of The Samaritans

William E. Barton

Jacob, Son Of Aaron, High Priest Of The Samaritans
At Shechem.1

Introductory Note

The author of the following history, Jacob, son of Aaron, is high priest of the Samaritans at Nablus, Palestine, the ancient Shechem. He is now seventy-three years of age, and has been high priest for fifty-eight years. Although the custom of the Samaritans does not permit a man to officiate as priest until he is thirty years of age, Jacob was consecrated at fifteen, as he was the eldest nephew of the high priest who died at that time, and who had no sons of his own.

I learned of this book from a letter written me by the high priest himself, in which he said that he had prepared this history for an eminent English scholar, an Oxford professor, who died before the work was completed. Upon this book, the high priest declares, he spent two years of labor; and he regretted not only the loss of time, and the money which he needed, but also the opportunity to make known to Christians the doctrines of his community. He counts it a misfortune that the Samaritans are known to the Christians only through their mutual enemies, the Jews. His own feeling toward the Christian world is a very kindly one, and he has satisfaction in those references in the New Testament which show the sympathetic attitude of Jesus toward the Samaritans. He appreciates the interest of Christian travelers in himself and his people, and wishes to give them what he believes to be the true story of the Samaritan division from the Jews.

After some correspondence and delay I purchased from the high priest the history he had compiled. It is in Arabic, with Scripture passages quoted in Samaritan text and in the Hebrew language. It is neatly written, and makes a manuscript volume of two hundred and ninety-six pages. Scripture references are given in Samaritan Hebrew, and repeated in the Arabic.

The Jews date the origin of the Samaritans as a people from the importation of foreigners into Northern Syria after the conquest by Sargon in 722 B. C. and the rise of their religion from the time when Manasseh, a young priest who had married a daughter of Sanballat, the Samaritan governor, refused to leave his wife at the command of Nehemiah in 432 B.C. It cannot fail to be noted with interest that the high priest rests his case on no defense of Manasseh, however oppressive the decree of Nehemiah might have been made to appear. According to his argument, which is the historic argument of his sect, the Samaritans are the original Hebrews, descendants of Joseph, except their priests, who are of the tribe o...

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