The New International Encyclopædia/Samaritans

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SAMARITANS. A term used to designate the inhabitants of the Province of Samaria after the Assyrian conquest, and in later times the members of a religious community having its centre in Shechem (Nabulus) and the neighboring Mount Gerizim. The territory of Samaria became for the first time a distinct political organization after Gilead and Galilee had been captured by the Assyrians in B.C. 734. In B.C. 722 the independence of this State was lost. The city of Samaria was probably taken by Shalmaneser IV., but Sargon claims the victory and undoubtedly carried away a part of the population, according to his own account 27,290 persons. The bulk of the Israelitish population remained in the land subject to the same tribute as before (Display Inscription, 24). In B.C. 720 Samaria united with Hamath, Arpad, Simyra, and Damascus in an unsuccessful rebellion. A number of Arabian tribes such as the Tamudi, Ibadidi, Marsamani, and Hayapa were settled in the district of Samaria by Sargon in B.C. 715. According to II. Kings xvii. 24, the King of Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Ava and from Hamath and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria. It is probable that this King of Assyria was Asshurbanipal (B.C. 668-626). This is undoubtedly the King meant by “the great and noble Asnapper,” who, according to Ezra iv. 9-10, brought a number of Elamitish and Babylonian peoples into the Province of Abar Nahara, or Trans-Euphratene. Such deportations would be natural after the conquest of Elam in B.C. 645, and the quelling of Shamash-shum-ukin's insurrection in Babylon, Cutha, and Sippara in B.C. 648. The statement in Ezra iv. 2 that the people of the land had been brought up by Esarhaddon is from the hand of the chronicler and deemed by some scholars unhistorical. The inhabitants of the Province of Samaria in the Chaldean and Persian periods were consequently made up of the descendants of the Israelites, who had never been deported, and of the Arabs, Babylonians, and Elamites settled there by Sargon and Asshurbanipal. The Israelites naturally continued the worship of Yahweh and retained the local traditions and the household gods honored by their fathers. The others added the worship of ‘the god of the land’ to their veneration of the gods of their fathers. But the gradual assimilation of the foreigners to the native stock involved the ascendency of the Yahweh cult.

It has been supposed, on the ground of the chronicler's statement in Ezra iv. 1-5, that the Samaritans desired to participate in the building of the temple in Jerusalem, but were refused permission to do so, and therefore conceived a hatred of the Jews. There is no mention, however, of the Samaritans, and the historical narrative is subject to grave doubts. In order to show that the completion of the temple was prevented by enemies until the second year of Darius, the chronicler refers to a letter sent to Xerxes and another sent to Artaxerxes by Tabeel, neither of which is given, but produces in extenso the text of letters written by Rehum and Shimshai to Artaxerxes, by Tatnai and Shetharboznai to Darius, by Cyrus, and by Darius. These letters, found in Ezra iii.-vi., are written in Aramaic. There is no indication in them which of the several kings who bore the names Xerxes, Artaxerxes, and Darius is intended, and even the most plausible construction leaves the impression that these documents should be considered in the same light as the numerous spurious decrees and official documents in Daniel, Esther, Maccabees, Aristeas, and Josephus. The most valuable historical work in Hebrew from the Persian period is the Memoirs of Nehemiah. It has been supposed that Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, the enemies of the Judean governor, were Samaritans. The text rather suggests that Sanballat, the Horonite, was a Moabite from Horonaim, that Tobiah was an Ammonite and Geshem was an Arab. (See Sanballat.) Only a single phrase in Nehemiah iv. 2, by which “his brothers” is explained by the addition, “that is, the army of Samaria” (according to the Greek version), can be urged in favor of the former view, and this phrase is probably a late gloss.

According to Josephus {Ant. xi., 7, 2; 8, 2 sqq.), Sanballat, a Cuthean, was sent to Samaria as satrap by Darius III. (B.C. 336-330), and was permitted by Alexander to build a temple on Mount Gerizim, where he made Manasseh, his son-in-law, high priest. This Manasseh is evidently identical with the unnamed son of Joiada in Nehemiah xiii. 28, who was the son-in-law of Sanballat and was driven away by Nehemiah. His cousin, Jaddua, the son of Johanan, Joiada's brother, was high priest in the time of Darius III. (Neh. xii. 22) and Alexander (Josephus, l.e.). There is no reason to doubt the concurrent testimony of the Chronicler and Josephus as to the high priest in the days of Darius III. and Alexander. But it is necessary, if this be accepted, to assume that Nehemiah and Sanballat began their enmity in the reign of Artaxerxes II. (B.C. 404-359) and that Sanballat in his old age was Satrap of Samaria. The temple on Mount Gerizim was therefore, in all probability, built in B.C. 332, though no doubt there existed long before this time a shrine upon this mountain. How much of the older Israelitish literature was preserved in Samaria in the Persian period is not known, nor to what extent the Yahweh-worshiping communities there kept in touch with their kinsmen in Judea. Their deep interest in the Mosaic period and the religious associations of their own sacred places would naturally render them anxious to possess every document known to them as claiming Mosaic authorship. An evidence of such a desire to know and to practice what Moses taught is the fact that the Pentateuch, probably in the form given to it by the editorial activity of Ezra (see Hexateuch), was accepted by the Samaritans. The consciousness of worshiping Yahweh in the place where he had commanded that an altar should be built and benedictions pronounced (see Ebal and Gerizim) must have given a strong impetus to the Samaritan movement. It is not likely, however, that the centralization of the cult could be carried out everywhere in the province. The city of Samaria seems to have been hellenized at an early date, and the same is true of Scythopolis. Nor is it probable that those who lived in the Egyptian town of Samaria mentioned in papyri from the reign of Ptolemy II. (B.C. 285-247) were adherents of the Shechemite faith. Jews and Samaritans may indeed have disputed about the legitimate place of a Yahweh sanctuary in the time of Ptolemy VII. Philometor (B.C. 181-145), though it is not likely that this discussion was held before the King and that the deported Samaritans were put to death. It is generally recognized that no credence can be given to the alleged request of the Samaritans to Antiochus IV. (B.C. 175-164) for permission to dedicate their temple to Zeus Xenios (Ant., xii. 5). II. Maccabees vi. 2 knows of no such request. While the Samaritans did not take a part in the Maccabean revolt, they profited from it at first, as the Seleucid rulers abandoned their policy of suppressing the native cults. The worship of Yahweh on Mount Gerizim could consequently be resumed. But the expansion of the Jewish power proved disastrous to the Samaritans. Jonathan secured possession of three districts, Ephraim, Lydda, and Ramathaim (I. Macc. xi. 34); and John Hyrcanus destroyed the temple on Mount Gerizim. In B.C. 107 the entire Province of Samaria became Jewish territory, after the fall of the city. Though the temple on Gerizim was not rebuilt, it is probable that a smaller shrine existed there even during tlic Asmonean period. Pompey, in B.C. 63, restored Samaria and Scythopolis as free cities, and Gabinius (B.C. 57-55) rebuilt Samaria and permitted Samaritans to dwell in the city. It was rebuilt on a still grander scale by Herod (B.C. 37-4) and given the name Sebaste in B.C. 27.

Even the city of Shechem was not uninfluenced by foreign thought. An evidence of this is the rise of sects, such as the Essenes, Sabuæans, Gorthenes, and Dositheans. The Essenes show so marked a kinship to Neo-Pythagoreanism that it must be accounted for either by direct influence or by a common Oriental source; and the Dositheans seem to have derived from Greek philosophy the notion of the eternity of matter, while they adhered to the traditional idea of the future and rejection of the doctrine of a resurrection or the immortality of the soul. It is not probable that Dositheus regarded himself as the Messiah, nor can this be affirmed of either of the political leaders who in A.D. 36 and in A.D. 66 were punished by Pontius Pilate and Ceratus, or of Simon of Gitta, perhaps the most influential Samaritan thinker of all time. It is probable that the repudiation of the sects led the great body of the Samaritans nearer to the Pharisaic party. Especially after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 the intense zeal for the law formed a bond of union, and the participation of the Samaritans in the revolt under Hadrian tended to improve the relations. Eminent Jewish teachers, such as Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Simon ben Gamaliel, regarded them as co-religionists and their land as clean. In 195 Jews and Samaritans seem to have taken sides together with Piscennius Niger against Septimus Severus, and as a consequence Shechem was severely punished. During the third century the attitude of the Jews changed. In the reign of Diocletian (284-305) Rabbi Abbaha held that the Samaritans should be treated as pagans. Christianity gradually won its way into Shechem. Bishops of Neapolis and Sebaste were present at the Council of Nicæa (325). During the fifth and sixth centuries the Samaritans were subject to cruel persecutions by the Christian emperors, leading to revolts under Zeno in 484 and Justinian in 529. From the Imperial decrees against them it is evident that Samaritans lived in Egypt and Cyrenaica, in Rome and Constantinople, as well as in Syria. Arabic writers such as Masudi (died c.950), Biruni (died 1038), and Shahristani (born 1086), speak of Samaritan communities in Assyria and Egypt. After the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099, Nabulus freely accepted Christian rule, which continued until Saladin's victory of Lake Tiberias in 1187. The Mamelukes of Egypt ordered the Samaritans to wear red turbans in 1301, according to Suyuti and Al-Fath, and Wilhelm of Baldensel in 1336 found such in use. In 1516 Nabulus with the rest of Syria passed under Turkish rule. In answer to letters sent by Joseph Scaliger, epistles were forwarded to him in 1590 from Samaritans in Gaza and Cairo. Pietro della Valla in 1616 and 1625 found Samaritans not only at Nabulus, but also in Cairo, Gaza, Damascus, and Jerusalem. In 1672 Robert Huntington visited Nabulus, where he found thirty Samaritan families. As he was able to read the Samaritan letters and assured them that there were Israelites in England, he left the impression that there were Samaritans in that country. They consequently opened a correspondence with the Sons of Israel, the Samaritans in the cities of the Franks, or more particularly “their brethren, descendants of Israel and Samaritans living in the city of Oxonia.” Thomas Marshall answered these letters on behalf of the brethren in Oxford between 1672 and 1685. Three letters were also sent to Ludolf (1685-1689). Niebuhr found Samaritans at Nabulus, Jaffa, Jerusalem, and Damascus in 1766. A letter to Corancez in 1808 states that there were 200 Samaritans in Shechem and Jaffa. A number of letters were written by the Samaritans to Silvestre de Sacy between 1808 and 1826, and during the reign of Louis Philippe an appeal was made by them to the French Government. Robinson visited Nabulus in 1832, Bargès in 1854, and Petermann in 1872. At present fewer than 200 persons survive of the Samaritans, all in Nabulus (q.v. ).

While the Samaritans have at all times agreed in recognizing the authority of the law only, and in regarding Mount Gerizim as the only legitimate place of worship, they have manifestly changed their opinion on many other questions under the influence of foreign thought. Thus there is no reason to doubt the practically unanimous testimony of early writers that the Samaritans did not accept the doctrines of a resurrection or the immortality of the soul. But, surrounded as they were by Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans looking forward to a resurrection of the dead, it is not strange that later they should have adopted this belief. It is found in the Carmina Samaritana, in the Chronicles of Abulfath, and in the letters to European scholars. Since the Samaritans rejected the prophetic books and the Psalms in which Jewish exegesis especially found references to the Messiah (q.v.), they could not share the hope of a king, a son of David. But Deuteronomy xviii. 18 suggested the coming of a prophet like unto Moses. In the earliest testimony to a Samaritan Messiah (John iv. 25) his character is that of a prophet. In later times the Messiah was called the Ta'eb, or ‘The Returning One.’ It is found in Abulfath, the Songs, and especially in the Gotha Code, 963. Many interpretations of the law, also found among Sadducees and Karaites, have no doubt preserved old traditions. But the limitation of levirate marriage to betrothed virgins, the stricter regulations as to intercourse with pregnant women, and the purification of unclean places by fire, seem to point to Indian and Persian influence. The Samaritans of Nabulus go in pilgrimage to Mount Gerizim annually for each of the three great feasts. They offer sacrifice only at the Passover. See Samaria; Shechem; Samaritan Language and Literature; Samaritan Pentateuch.

Bibliography. Cellarius, Collectanea Historiæ Samaritanæ {Giessen, 1688); Juynboll, Commentarii in Historiam Gentis Samaritanæ (Leyden, 1846); Knobel, “Zur Geschichte der Samaritaner,” in Theologische Studien und Kritiken (Leipzig, 1840); Joseph Grimm, Die Samariter und ihre Stellung in der Weltgeschichte (Munich, 1854); Bargès, Les Samaritains de Naplouse (Paris, 1855); Kosters, Het Herstel van Israël in het Perzische tijdvak (Leyden, 1893); Marquart, Fundamente (Göttingen, 1890); Ed. Meyer, Die Entstehung des Judentums (Leipzig, 1896); Torrey, The Composition of Ezra-Nehemiah (Giessen, 1896); Cheyne, Jewish Religious Life After the Exile (New York, 1899); N. Schmidt, “Nehemiah,” in The Biblical World (Chicago, 1899); Freudenthal, Alexander Polyhistor (Breslau, 1875); Willrich, Juden und Griechen (Göttingen, 1895); id., Judaica (ib., 1900); Büchler, Tobiaden and Oniaden (Vienna, 1899); Appel, Questiones de Rebus Samaritanorum sub Imperio Romano Subactis (Leipzig, 1874); Schürer, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (3d ed., Leipzig, 1901); Hamburger, article “Samaritaner,” in Realencyclopädie des Judentums (Strelitz, 1896); Gesenius, De Samaritanorum Theologia (Halle, 1822); Wreschner, Samaritanische Traditionen (Halle, 1888); Merx, Ein samaritanisches Fragment über den Ta'eb oder den Messias (Leyden, 1893); Nutt, Fragments of a Samaritan Pentateuch (London, 1874); Petermann, Reisen (Leipzig, 1860); De Sacy, Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la bibliothèque du roi (Paris, 1831).