The Origin and History of the Samaritans -- By: Wayne A. Brindle

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 05:1 (Spring 1984)
Article: The Origin and History of the Samaritans
Author: Wayne A. Brindle


The Origin and History of the Samaritans

Wayne A. Brindle

The development of Samaritanism and its alienation from Judaism was a process that began with the division of the kingdom of Israel, and continued through successive incidents which promoted antagonism, including the importation of foreign colonists into Samaria by Assyria, the rejection of the new Samaritan community by the Jews, the building of a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim, the political 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.

* * *

Introduction

Relations between the Jews and the Samaritans were always strained. Jesus ben Sirach (ca. 180 B.C.) referred to the Samaritans 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 temple court in Jerusalem to curse the Samaritans with all the curses in the Law of Moses. When the Jews wanted to curse Jesus Christ, they called him demon-possessed and a Samaritan in one breath (John 8:48).

The Samaritans are important to biblical studies for several reasons:1 (1) They claim to be the remnant of the kingdom of Israel, 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

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 Palestine, Egypt, Syria, and even Rome. (6) And they were important 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 st...

You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
Click here to subscribe
visitor : : uid: ()