|Samaritan High Priest||Aabed-El ben Asher ben Matzliach|
|Language||Samaritan Hebrew, Samaritan Aramaic|
|Separated from||Judaism, Yahwism|
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Samaritanism is the Abrahamic, monotheistic, ethnic religion of the Samaritan people, an ethnoreligious group who originate from the ancient Israelites. Its central holy text is the Samaritan Pentateuch (or Torah), which Samaritans believe is the original, unchanged version of the Torah.
Samaritans describe their religion as the holy faith that began with Moses, unchanged over the millennia that have since passed. The holiest site for Samaritans in their faith is Mount Gerizim near Nablus.
Samaritanism holds that the summit of Mount Gerizim is the true location of God's Holy Place. Samaritans trace their history as a separate entity to a period soon after the Israelites' entry into the Promised Land. Samaritan historiography traces the schism itself to High Priest Eli leaving Mount Gerizim, where stood the first Israelite altar in Canaan, and building a competing altar in nearby Shiloh. The dissenting group of Israelites who had followed Eli to Shiloh would be the ones who in later years would head south to settle Jerusalem (the Jews), whereas the Israelites who stayed on Mount Gerizim, in Samaria, would become known as the Samaritans.
A terrible civil war broke out between Eli son of Yafni, of the line of Ithamar, and the sons of Pincus (Phinehas), because Eli son of Yafni resolved to usurp the High Priesthood from the descendants of Pincus. He used to offer sacrifices on an altar of stones. He was 50 years old, endowed with wealth and in charge of the treasury of the Children of Israel. ...
He offered a sacrifice on the altar, but without salt, as if he were inattentive. When the Great High Priest Ozzi learned of this, and found the sacrifice was not accepted, he thoroughly disowned him; and it is (even) said that he rebuked him.
Thereupon he and the group that sympathized with him, rose in revolt and at once he and his followers and his beasts set off for Shiloh. Thus Israel split in factions. He sent to their leaders saying to them, Anyone who would like to see wonderful things, let him come to me. Then he assembled a large group around him in Shiloh, and built a Temple for himself there; he constructed a place like the Temple [on Mount Gerizim]. He built an altar, omitting no detail—it all corresponded to the original, piece by piece.
At this time the Children of Israel split into three factions. A loyal faction on Mount Gerizim; a heretical faction that followed false gods; and the faction that followed Eli son of Yafni in Shiloh.
Further, the Samaritan Chronicle Adler, or New Chronicle, believed to have been composed in the 18th century using earlier chronicles as sources, states:
And the Children of Israel in his days divided into three groups. One did according to the abominations of the Gentiles and served other gods; another followed Eli the son of Yafni, although many of them turned away from him after he had revealed his intentions; and a third remained with the High Priest Uzzi ben Bukki, the chosen place.
Modern genetic studies (2004) suggest that Samaritans' lineages trace back to a common ancestor with Jews in the paternally-inherited Jewish high priesthood (Cohanim) temporally proximate to the period of the Assyrian conquest of the kingdom of Israel, and are probably descendants of the historical Israelite population. The religion of the proto-Samaritans at this time was probably no different than that of their southern counterparts in Judea. This likely remained the case for several centuries after the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel, as Judean cultic reforms instituted by the kings Hezekiah and Josiah experience little opposition extending to the Samarian people in the north, according to the biblical text.
Though Samaritans certainly had cultural uniquities, they were closely intertwined with the Jews to the south. As such, Samaritanism likely did not emerge as a distinct tradition until the Hasmonean and Roman era, by which point Yahwism had coalesced into Second Temple Judaism. The temple on Mount Gerizim, the central place of worship in Samaritanism, was built in the 5th century BCE, as one of many Yahwistic temples in Samaria. However, the temple precinct experienced a centuries-long period of large-scale construction beginning around the 4th century BCE, which indicates that its status as the pre-eminent place of worship among Samaritans had only just been established. Likewise, theological debates between Jews and Samaritans are attested as early as the 2nd century BCE, indicating that the Samaritan Pentateuch had already taken shape, in some form.
The Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus destroyed the Mount Gerizim temple and brought Samaria under his control around 120 BCE, which led to a longlasting sense of mutual hostility between the Jews and Samaritans. From this point, the Samaritans likely sought to consciously distance themselves from their Judean brethren, and both peoples came to see the Samaritan faith as a religion distinct from Judaism.
The relationship between Jews and Samaritans only further deteriorated with time. By the time of Jesus, Samaritans and Jews deeply disparaged one another, as evinced by Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan.
- There is one God, Yahweh, the same God recognized by the Jewish prophets. Faith is in the unity of the Creator which is absolute unity. It is the cause of the causes, and it fills the entire world. His nature can not be understood by human beings, but according to his actions and according to his revelation to his people and the kindness he showed them.
- The Torah is the only true holy book and was given by God to Moses. The Torah was created before the creation of the world and whoever believes in it is assured a part in the World to Come. The status of the Torah in Samaritanism as the only holy book causes Samaritans to reject the Oral Torah, Talmud, and all prophets and scriptures except for Joshua, whose book in the Samaritan community is significantly different from the Book of Joshua in the Jewish Bible. Essentially, the authority of all post-Torah sections of the Jewish Bible, and classical Jewish Rabbinical works (the Talmud, comprising the Mishnah and the Gemara) is rejected. Moses is considered to be the last of the line of prophets.
- Mount Gerizim, not Jerusalem, is the one true sanctuary chosen by God. The Samaritans do not recognize the sanctity of Jerusalem and do not recognize the Temple Mount, claiming instead that Mount Gerizim was the place where the binding of Isaac took place.
- The apocalypse, called "the day of vengeance", will be the end of days, when a figure called the Taheb (essentially the Samaritan equivalent of the Jewish Messiah) from the tribe of Joseph, will come, be a prophet like Moses for forty years and bring about the return of all the Israelites, following which the dead will be resurrected. The Taheb will then discover the tent of Moses' Tabernacle on Mount Gerizim, and will be buried next to Joseph when he dies.
Sabbath, festivals and observances
The Samaritans preserve a form of the proto-Hebraic script, conserve the institution of a High Priesthood, and the practice of slaughtering and eating lambs on Passover eve. They celebrate Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, but use a different mode from that employed in Judaism in order to determine the dates annually. Yom Teru'ah (the Biblical name for "Rosh Hashanah"), at the beginning of Tishrei, is not considered a New Year as it is in Rabbinic Judaism.
The Sabbath is observed weekly by the Samaritan community every Friday to Saturday beginning and ending at sundown. For twenty-four hours, the families gather together to celebrate the rest day: all electricity with the exception of minimal lighting (kept on the entire day) in the house is disconnected, no work is done, and neither cooking nor driving is allowed. The time is devoted to worship which consists of seven prayer services (divided into two for Sabbath eve, two in the morning, two in afternoon and one at eve of conclusion), reading the weekly Torah portion (according to the Samaritan yearly Torah cycle), spending quality time with family, taking meals, rest and sleep, and visiting other members of the community.
Passover is particularly important in the Samaritan community, climaxing with the sacrifice of up to 40 sheep. The Counting of the Omer remains largely unchanged; however, the week before Shavuot is a unique festival celebrating the continued commitment Samaritanism has maintained since the time of Moses. Shavuot is characterized by nearly day-long services of continuous prayer, especially over the stones on Gerizim traditionally attributed to Joshua.
During Sukkot, the sukkah is built inside houses, as opposed to outdoor settings that are traditional among Jews. Samaritan historian Benyamim Tsedaka traces the indoor-sukkah tradition to persecution of Samaritans during the Byzantine Empire. The roof of the Samaritan sukkah is decorated with citrus fruits and the branches of palm, myrtle, and willow trees, according to the Samaritan interpretation of the four species designated in the Torah for the holiday.
Samaritans, from a photo c. 1900 by the Palestine Exploration Fund.
Sukkot on Mount Gerizim
Entrance to a modern Samaritan synagogue in the city of Holon, Israel
Samaritan law differs from Halakha (Rabbinic Jewish law) and other Jewish movements. The Samaritans have several groups of religious texts, which correspond to Jewish Halakha. A few examples of such texts are:
- Samaritan Pentateuch: There are some 6,000 differences between the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Masoretic Jewish Pentateuch text; and, according to one estimate, 1,900 points of agreement between it and the Greek LXX version. Several passages in the New Testament would also appear to echo a Torah textual tradition not dissimilar to that conserved in the Samaritan text. There are several theories regarding the similarities. The variations, some corroborated by readings in the Old Latin, Syriac and Ethiopian translations, attest to the antiquity of the Samaritan text, although the exact date of composition is still largely unclear. Granted special attention is the so-called "Abisha Scroll", a manuscript of the Pentateuch tradition attributed to Abishua, grandson of Aaron, traditionally compiled during the Bronze Age.
- Historical writings
- Samaritan Chronicle, The Tolidah (Creation to the time of Abishah)
- Samaritan Chronicle, The Chronicle of Joshua (Israel during the time of divine favor) (4th century, in Arabic and Aramaic)
- Samaritan Chronicle, Adler (Israel from the time of divine disfavor until the exile)
- Samaritan Chronicle, The Kitab al-Tarikh of Abu ’l-Fath (Historical chronology from Adam to Mohammad)
- Hagiographical texts
- Samaritan Halakhic Text, The Hillukh (Code of Halakha, marriage, circumcision, etc.)
- Samaritan Halakhic Text, the Kitab at-Tabbah (Halakha and interpretation of some verses and chapters from the Torah, written by Abu Al Hassan 12th century CE)
- Samaritan Halakhic Text, the Kitab al-Kafi (Book of Halakha, written by Yosef Al Ascar 14th century CE)
- Al-Asatir—legendary Aramaic texts from the 11th and 12th centuries, containing:
- Haggadic Midrash, Abu'l Hasan al-Suri
- Haggadic Midrash, Memar Markah—3rd or 4th century theological treatises attributed to Hakkam Markha
- Haggadic Midrash, Pinkhas on the Taheb
- Haggadic Midrash, Molad Maseh (On the birth of Moses)
- Defter, prayer book of psalms and hymns.
- Samaritan Haggadah
- The Samaritan Update Retrieved 28 October 2021. "Total [sic] in 2021 – 840 souls / Total in 2018 – 810 souls / Total number on 1.1.2017 – 796 persons, 381 souls on Mount Gerizim and 415 in the State of Israel, of the 414 males and 382 females."
- Shulamit Sela, The Head of the Rabbanite, Karaite and Samaritan Jews: On the History of a Title, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 57, No. 2 (1994), pp. 255–267.
- Tsedaka 2013.
- UNESCO World Heritage Centre. "Mount Gerizim and the Samaritans". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
- Anderson & Giles 2002, p. 11–12.
- Shen, P; Lavi, T; Kivisild, T; Chou, V; Sengun, D; Gefel, D; Shpirer, I; Woolf, E; Hillel, J (2004). "Reconstruction of patrilineages and matrilineages of Samaritans and other Israeli populations from Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA sequence variation" (PDF). Human Mutation. 24 (3): 248–60. doi:10.1002/humu.20077. PMID 15300852. S2CID 1571356.
- Kiaris, Hippokratis (2012). Genes, Polymorphisms and the Making of Societies: How Genetic Behavioral Traits Influence Human Cultures. Universal Publishers (published 1 April 2012). p. 21. ISBN 978-1612330938.
- Knoppers 2013, pp. 72–85.
- Knoppers 2013, pp. 125–133.
- Knoppers 2013, pp. 178–179.
- Knoppers 2013, p. 177.
- Knoppers 2013, pp. 173–174.
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- Anne Katrine de Hemmer Gudme, Before the God in this Place for Good Remembrance: A Comparative Analysis of the Aramaic Votive Inscriptions from Mount Gerizim, Walter de Gruyter, 2013 ISBN 978-3-110-301878- p.52
- Sylvia Powels, ‘The Samaritan Calendar and the Roots of Samaritan Chronology,' in A.D. Crown (ed.) The Samaritans, Mohr Siebeck, 1989 ISBN 978-3-161-45237-6 pp.691-741.
- "Sabbath Observance: How Israelite Samaritans Keep the Sabbath". Israelite Samaritan Information Institute. Retrieved 1 May 2023.
- Lieber, Dov; Luzi, Iacopo. "Inside the Samaritan high priest's fruity sukkah, literally". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
- James VanderKam, Peter Flint, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance For Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity, A&C Black, 2nd ed. 2005 p.95.
- Timothy Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible, Oxford University Press, USA, 2013 p.24.
- Isac Leo Seeligmann, The Septuagint Version of Isaiah and Cognate Studies,. Mohr Siebeck 2004 pp.64ff.
- Samaritan Documents, Relating To Their History, Religion and Life, translated and edited by John Bowman, Pittsburgh Original Texts & Translations Series Number 2, 1977.
- זבח קרבן הפסח : הגדה של פסח, נוסח שומרוני (Samaritan Haggada & Pessah Passover / Zevaḥ ḳorban ha-Pesaḥ : Hagadah shel Pesaḥ, nusaḥ Shomroni = Samaritan Haggada & Pessah Passover), Avraham Nur Tsedaḳah, Tel Aviv, 1958
- Anderson, Robert T.; Giles, Terry (2002). The Keepers: An Introduction to the History and Culture of the Samaritans. Hendrickson Publishing. ISBN 1-56563-519-1.
- Anderson, Robert T., Giles, Terry (2005). "Tradition kept: the literature of the Samaritans", Hendrickson Publishers.
- Bourgel Jonathan, "Brethren or Strangers Samaritans in the Eyes of Second Century ʙ ᴄ ᴇ Jews", Biblica 98/3 (2017), pp. 382–408.
- Bowman, John (1975). The Samaritan Problem. Pickwick Press.
- Coggins, R. J. (1975). Samaritans and Jews: The Origins of Samaritanism Reconsidered. Growing Points in Theology. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-8042-0109-4.
- Crown, Alan David (2005) . A Bibliography of the Samaritans: Revised Expanded and Annotated (3rd ed.). Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-5659-X.
- Gaster, Moses (1925). The Samaritans: Their History, Doctrines and Literature. The Schweich Lectures for 1923. Oxford University Press.
- Heinsdorff, Cornel (2003). Christus, Nikodemus und die Samaritanerin bei Juvencus. Mit einem Anhang zur lateinischen Evangelienvorlage (= Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte, Bd. 67), Berlin/New York. ISBN 3-11-017851-6
- Hjelm, Ingrid (2000). Samaritans and Early Judaism: A Literary Analysis. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. Supplement Series, 303. Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 1-84127-072-5.
- Knoppers, Gary N. (2013). Jews and Samaritans: The Origins and History of Their Early Relations. OUP USA. ISBN 978-0-195-32954-4.
- Macdonald, John (1964). The Theology of the Samaritans. New Testament Library. London: SCM Press.
- Montgomery, James Alan (2006) . The Samaritans, the Earliest Jewish Sect. The Bohlen Lectures for 1906. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock. ISBN 1-59752-965-6.
- Mor, Menachem; Reiterer, Friedrich V.; Winkler, Waltraud, eds. (2010). Samaritans: Past and Present: Current Studies. Studia Samaritana, 5 & Studia Judaica, 53. Berlin: De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-019497-5.
- Pummer, Reinhard (1987). The Samaritans. Leiden: E. J. Brill. ISBN 90-04-07891-6.
- Pummer, Reinhard (2002). Early Christian Authors on Samaritans and Samaritanism: Texts, Translations and Commentary. Mohr Siebeck. ISBN 978-3-16-147831-4.
- Purvis, James D. (1968). The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Origin of the Samaritan Sect. Harvard Semitic Monographs. Vol. 2. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
- Thomson, J. E. H. (1919). Tha Samaritans: Their Testimony to the Religion of Israel. Edinburgh & London: Oliver and Boyd.
- Tsedaka, Benyamim (2013). The Israelite Samaritan Version of the Torah. Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802865199.
- Zertal, Adam (1989). "The Wedge-Shaped Decorated Bowl and the Origin of the Samaritans". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 276. (November 1989), pp. 77–84.