First, the Samaritan Israelites defined their own existence in exclusively Israelite terms. The Samaritans called themselves – “the sons of Israel” and “the keepers” (shomrim). Jewish sources refer to the Samaritans as “kutim.”

The term is most likely related to a location in Iraq from which the non-Israelite exiles were imported into Samaria. (2 Kings 17:24) The name Kutim or Kutites was used in contrast to the term “shomrim” which means the “keepers” – the terms that they reserved for themselves. Jewish Israelite writings emphasized the foreign identity of Samaritan religion and practice in contrast to the true faith of Israel. The Samaritan Israelites believed that such identification denied their historical right of belonging to the people of Israel. The Samaritan Israelites were the faithful remnant of the Northern tribes – the keepers of the ancient faith.

Second, Samaritan Israelites had always opposed the worship of Israel’s God in Jerusalem, believing instead that the center of Israel’s worship was associated with Mt. Gerizim– the mount of YHWH’s covenantal blessing (Deut. 27:12). On the other hand, Jewish/Judean Israelites believed Mt. Zion in Jerusalem was the epicenter of spiritual activity in Israel. One of the reasons for the rejection of the prophetic Jewish writings by the Samaritan Israelites was that the Hebrew prophets supported Jerusalem and the Davidic dynasty.

Third, the Samaritans had a fourfold creed:

  1. One God–YHWH,
  2. One Prophet–Moses,
  3. One Book–Torah,
  4. One Place–Mt. Gerizim.

Most Jewish Israelites of Jesus’ day agreed with the Samaritan Israelites on two of these points: “one God” and “one Book.” They disagreed on the identity of the place of worship and on other books that should also have been accepted by the people of Israel – the Prophets and the Writings.

Fourth, the Samaritans believed the Judean Israelites had taken the wrong path in their religious practice of the ancient Israelite faith, which they branded as heretical, as the Jews did of the Samaritan’s faith expression. The relationship between these two ancient groups can be compared to the sharp disagreements between Shia and Sunni Muslims today. To those outside, both groups are Muslim, but not to the Shia and the Sunni. To them – one is true and the other is false; one is real and the other is an imposter. The Samaritan-Jewish conflict was in this sense very similar. In many ways, this conflict defined the inner-Israelite polemic of the first century.

Fifth, as was mentioned before, the Samaritans are not to be confused with a syncretistic people group that also lived in Samaria (gentile Samarians), who were most probably the people who approached returnees to Jerusalem to help them build the Jerusalem Temple and were rejected by them. (Ezra 4:1-2) Due to their theology, the Samaritan Israelites, the remnant of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, could not support Temple building in Jerusalem. In 2 Chronicles 30:1-31:6 we are told that not all the people from the northern kingdom of Israel were exiled by the Assyrians. Most of them remained even after the Assyrian conquest of the land in the 8th century BCE, preserving ancient Israelite traditions that would differ from later innovations of the Judean version of Israel’s faith.

Sixth, the Samaritan Israelites used what is now called “Samaritan Hebrew” in a script that is the direct descendent of  Paleo-Hebrew (ancient Hebrew), while the Jewish Israelites adopted a new form of square, stylized letters that were part of the Aramaic alphabet. Moreover, by the time of Jesus, the Samaritan Israelites were also heavily Hellenized in Samaria proper and in the diaspora. Just as the Jewish Israelites had the Septuagint, the Samaritan Israelites had their own translation of the Torah into Greek, called Samaritikon.

And lastly, the Samaritan Israelites believed that their version of the Torah was the original version and the Jewish Torah was the edited version, which had been changed by Babylonian Jews. Conversely, the Judeans charged that the Samaritan Torah represented an edition edited to reflect the views of the Samaritans. As you can see, this was not an easy relationship.

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

40 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Dr. Eli,
    Is this course available now?
    By the way, thanks for responding to my question regarding whether Jesus was a Galilean or Judean prophet.
    I liked your inclusive perspective.
    Raphael

  2. I would love to take your courses but I don’t have the money to do so right now. I don’t have any extra money to enroll right now. Thank you for the information I can receive. God bless you

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Stories of Jewish Christ: First Century Diversity and The Revelation in a Jewish Context II : Discovery. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

      • Dr Eli, thank you, this is so enlightening, it answers so many puzzling issues in the Scriptures. The Samaritans who were exiled form part of the “lost ten tribes of Israel? But then what about the Samaritans who were not exiled, shouldn’t they be the existing ten tribes of Israel?

        • Theoretically, sure, but how do you identify them? Idolatry, intermarriage and military attacks on their dwindling numbers over the pas 2700 years kind of make that part virtually impossible.

  3. Thank you very much for all your informative articles. I will occassionally post links to them on my facebook page. Blessed be He.

  4. Ah. Studying Acts in CBS, we will cover Phillip in Samaria. This adds much to the discussion but leaves many openings for further thought. Thank you.

  5. Dear Dr. Eli,

    I am also retired as the other gentleman and; I am sorry to say, but the cost for a course for me are to high due to the value of the SA currancy. In the meanwhile I do learn and enjoy the sample teachings.
    Thank you for your invitation to joining courses.
    Blessings
    Gerrie

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including Leviticus and The New Testament and The Jewish Apostle Paul I: His World. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  6. Dear Dr Eli, I have faith that I will be able to take the course soon. But I need to know if I will be required to use a PC as I use a cellphone? And thank you for the messages you give, they have refreshed my faith. God bless you.

    Regards

  7. The Samaritans were despised by the Jews because they were the descendents of people who had been transplanted by the Assyrians into the former northern Kingdom of Israel in place of the ten tribes which were carried off. When Jesus referred to the story of the “Good Samaritan” He was trying to say that some Samaritans could be as good, if not better than some Jews. The Samaritans claimed to be related to the former Israelites who were carried off, but the Judeans did not believe them. They were like the Palestinians who today make similar claims.

    • It’s not so much that the Samaritans were posers, as a sizable part of the population of the Northern tribes was carried off to Assyria (8th century BC) and the rest were left, while at the same time, non-Israelites from abroad were relocated to live Israelite territory. The result over time was a general blend of Israelite and non-Israelite people. So some faithful Samaritans were indeed Israelites, but Judeans generally saw them as half-bred.

  8. Regrettably, I am in the same situation as Gerrie, an SA and the exchange rate is beyond my means.
    The remnants of the northern tribes is mentioned but not differentiated, so the possibility is that they are a mixed tribe and not separate as of old.?

    • Well, I’m glad that you can enjoy and learn from the email insights. Concerning your question, Floris, I would assume that over the centuries, some Samaritans intermarried with the imported Samarians, but the theological differences are the main focus here.

  9. Tribes in the north vacillated in their support of David and Solomon and broke away from Rehoboam; God blessed the temple at Jerusalem that Solomon built, but when Jeroboam broke away, against Torah he established worship of golden calves in Bethel and Dan, and made priests not of Levi, to prevent people returning to worship in Jerusalem and to the house of David (2 Samuel 2-5; 19-20; 1 Kings 6-8, 12). After Assyria’s conquest, priests from Samaria taught to fear Yahweh, but people also worshiped foreign gods (2 Kings 17). Isn’t this Biblical record relevant to the Samaritan situation?

  10. Besides the calves in Bethel and Dan, false priests, and worship on Mt. Gerazim- all of which happened before the exile- how much paganism was introduced by those who were transplanted and then intermarried? And what about those Gentiles who did not intermarry, but still wanted to worship the god/God of the land they were now in? How much pagan influence came in with them? I guess what I am asking is how much pagan influence was introduced into the Samaritan faith, and by who?

    • It’s not possible to determine. Assyria exiled only about 27,000 from Israel, primarily leaders and land owners, leaving many Israelites. Also, genetic studies indicate that Samaritans rather preferred not to intermarry with the pagans. Nevertheless, Israel’s kings were already introducing idols before the exile, and later Rabbinic literature certainly sees Samaria as having inferior piety. It was a melting pot after the exile, ethnically and religiously.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Story of Our Hebrew Fathers: Abraham and Isaac and Jewish Insights Into Scriptures I. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  11. I believe that the fact the Samaritans have a Pentateuch is a strong indicator that it was composed prior to the division of Israel and Judah, while the rest of the Hebrew Bible was written or made official afterwards (contrary to the Documentary Hypothesis). What are your thoughts on this?

    • In textual criticism, a terse text will predate an expanded text, because the opposite is inexplicable. The Samaritan Torah is full of interpolations to make the text read more easily, so it is probably a sectarian editorial work of an older tradition. Nevertheless, it does date to at least the first century BCE based on similar manuscript traditions found at Qumran.

  12. Thank you so much Dr for this informative article. It has really enriched me and added on my little knowledge I used to have regarding the Samaritans. Blessings Dr

  13. Finally, I now know why the woman the Lord Jesus encountered at the well at Sychar said their ancestors worshipped God on the mountain, and which was a clear violation of what Moses handed down in Deut 12:1-6.
    Thank you for this insight Dr Eli

  14. You spoke of Robert Atlers “Hebrew Bible/Commentary” (Old Testament) some time ago. Can you recommend A Bible/Commentary on the New Testament?

    • If you’re looking for an English commentary that provides Jewish insights to the New Testament, the best one to date might still be Dr. David Stern’s. Another resource to check out is the JANT (more academic, and skeptical). John Lightfoot’s commentary to the Gospels wherein he draws from Talmud parallels is often insightful, too.

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