Total population
Regions with significant populations
West Bank (Mount Gerizim),  Israel (mostly in Holon) [2]
liturgical: Samaritan Hebrew, Samaritan Aramaic
spoken: Modern Hebrew, Palestinian Arabic
Samaritanism (Almost completely unmodified Old Testament Law)

The Samaritans (Hebrew: שומרוניםShomronim), known in the Talmud as Kuthim (Hebrew: כותים‎), are an ethnic group of the Levant. Ethnically, they are descended from a group of Israelite inhabitants that have connections to ancient Samaria from the beginning of the Babylonian Exile up to the beginning of the Common Era. The Samaritans, however, derive their name not from this geographical designation, but rather from the term שַמֶרִים‎ (Shamerim), “keepers [of the law]”.[3] Religiously, they are the adherents to Samaritanism, a religion based on the Torah. Samaritans claim that their worship (as opposed to mainstream Judaism) is the true religion of the ancient Israelites, predating the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

As of March 18, 2007, there are 705 Samaritans in the world: living almost exclusively in Kiryat Luza on the holy Mount Gerizim near the city of Nablus (Shechem) in the West Bank, and in the city of Holon in Israel.

The Samaritans speak either Modern Hebrew (in Holon) or Palestinian Arabic (in Nablus) as their mother language. For liturgical purposes, Samaritan Hebrew, also known as ancient Hebrew and Samaritan Aramaic are used.

Early history according to Samaritan Sources

The Samaritans assert that Mount Gerizim was the original Holy Place of Israel from the time that Joshua conquered Israel and the ten tribes settled the land. According to the bible, the story of Mount Gerizim takes us back to the story of the time when Moses ordered Joshua to take the Twelve Tribes of Israel to the mountains by Shechem and place half of the tribes, six in number, on the top of Mount Gerizim, the Mount of the Blessing, and the other half in Mount Ebal, the Mount of the Curse. The two mountains were used to symbolize the significance of the commandments and serve as a warning to whoever disobeyed them.

The Samaritans have insisted that they are direct descendants of the Northern Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, who survived the destruction of the Northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The inscription of Sargon II records the deportation of a relatively small proportion of the Israelites (27,290, according to the annals), so it is quite possible that a sizable population remained that could identify themselves as Israelites, the term that the Samaritans prefer for themselves.

Samaritan historiography would place the basic schism from the remaining part of Israel after the twelve tribes conquered the land of Canaan, led by Joshua. After Joshua's death, Eli the priest left the tabernacle which Moses erected in the desert and established on Mount Gerizim, and built another one under his own rule in the hills of Shilo (1 Sam 1:1-3; 2:12-17). Thus, he established both an illegitimate priesthood and an illegitimate place of worship.[4]

Abu'l Fath, who in the fourteenth century C.E. wrote the major work of Samaritan history, comments on Samaritan origins as follows:
A terrible civil war broke out between Eli son of Yafni, of the line of Ithamar, and the sons of Phineas, because Eli son of Yafni resolved to usurp the High Priesthood from the descendents of Phineas. 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 on Shiloh.[5]

Further, the Samaritan Chronicle Adler, or New Chronicle, believed to have been composed in the 18th century C.E. 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, Mount Gerizim Bethel, in the holy city of Shechem.[6]

According to the Samaritans this marked the end of the Age of Divine Favor called שַמֶרִים‎ (Ridhwan) or רידון‎ (Rahuta), which began with Moses. Thus began the רהוּתה‎ (Fanuta) Era of Divine Disfavor when God looks away from the people. According to the Samaritans the age of divine favor will only return with the coming of the Taheb (Messiah or Restorer). [7]

The Samaritans claim that there are three periods of the deviation of Jews from Israel. The first was during the time of Elijah the Priest. Elijah decided on his own to relocate the Holy Place to Shilo, but this point was rejected from the beginning by the nation. The second controversy started during the split of the ten tribes of Israel from the tribe of Judea due to a dispute about tax payments in the year 928 BC. The third controversy was during the Return to Zion by the Jews from Babylon in the year 538 BC. In that time there was physical fighting between the two sects, with the Jews claiming that the Samaritans informed the Persian King about their intention to build the Second Temple.

The Samaritans never deny that the Assyrians assimilated with them, but they claim that other nations have assimilated into Judaism as well. The fact is that the Assyrian exile was a long process and took many years. The Assyrians who came to Samaria were few in number and most of them have assimilated with the locals. [8] The Samaritans themselves make a clear distinction between their own ancestors and the inhabitants of Samaria. For example, in the part of the Samaritan Chronicle II which corresponds to I Kings 16 of the Hebrew Bible, the biblical account of the founding of Samaria by Omri is followed by a note which explains that the inhabitants of Samaria and its nearby cities were called "Shomronim after the name Shomron." Thus the distinction between the people of Samaria and the Samaritans is clearly maintained in the Samaritan Chronicle II. Put simply, shomronim means the "inhabitants of Samaria" and it has nothing to do with shamerin, "keepers" or "observers" of the Torah, which the Samaritans use for themselves. James Montgomery pointed out that the Samaritans:
call themselves by the ancient geographical appellative, Shamerim, which they interpret however as meaning "the Observers", i.e., of the Law.[9]

Non-Samaritan View of Origins

The emergence of the Samaritans as an ethnic and religious community distinct from other Levant peoples appears to have occurred at some point after the Assyrian conquest of the Israelite Kingdom of Israel. In approximately 721 BC, the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom and captured its capital city of Samaria. The records of Sargon II of Assyria indicate that he deported 27,290 inhabitants of the region.

Jewish tradition maintains a different origin for the Samaritans. The Talmud accounts for a people called "Cuthim" on a number of occasions, mentioning their arrival by the hands of the Assyrians. According to 2 Kings 17 and Josephus (Antiquities 9.277–91), the people of Israel were removed by the king of the Assyrians (Sargon II- see special wording of 2 Kings 17 which mentions Shalmaneser in verse 3 but the "king of the Assyrians" from verse 4 onward), to Halah, to Gozan on the Habor River and to the towns of the Medes. The king of the Assyrians then brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avah, Emath, and Sepharvaim to place in Samaria. Because God sent lions among them to kill them, the king of the Assyrians sent one of the priests from Bethel to teach the new settlers about God's ordinances. The eventual result was that the new settlers worshipped both the God of the land and their own gods from the countries from which they came.

A Midrash (Genesis Rabbah Sect. 94) relates about an encounter between Rabbi Meir and a Samaritan. The story that developed includes the following dialogue:
  • R. Meir asks the Samaritan: What tribe are you from?
  • The Samaritan answers: From Joseph.
  • R. Meir : No!
  • The Samaritan: From which one then?
  • R. Meir : From Issachar.
  • The Samaritan: How do you know?
  • R. Meir: For it is written (Gen 46:13): The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puvah, Iob, and Shimron. These are the Samaritans (shamray).[10]
Zertal dates the Assyrian onslaught at 721 BC to 647 BC and discusses three waves of imported settlers. He shows that Mesopotamian pottery in Samarian territory cluster around the lands of Menasheh and that the type of pottery found was produced around 689 BC. Some date their split with the Jews to the time of Nehemiah, Ezra, and the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. Returning exiles considered the Samaritans to be non-Jews and, thus, not fit for this religious work.

The Encyclopaedia Judaica (under "Samaritans") summarizes both past and the present views on the Samaritans' origins. It says:

Until the middle of the 20th Century it was customary to believe that the Samaritans originated from a mixture of the people living in Samaria and other peoples at the time of the conquest of Samaria by Assyria (722/1 BC). The Biblical account in II Kings 17 had long been the decisive source for the formulation of historical accounts of Samaritan origins. Reconsideration of this passage, however, has led to more attention being paid to the Chronicles of the Samaritans themselves. With the publication of Chronicle II (Sefer ha-Yamim), the fullest Samaritan version of their own history became available: the chronicles, and a variety of non-Samaritan materials. According to the former, the Samaritans are the direct descendants of the Joseph tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, and until the 17th century C.E. they possessed a high priesthood descending directly from Aaron through Eleazar and Phinehas. They claim to have continuously occupied their ancient territory and to have been at peace with other Israelite tribes until the time when Eli disrupted the Northern cult by moving from Shechem to Shiloh and attracting some northern Israelites to his new followers there. For the Samaritans, this was the 'schism' par excellence.("Samaritans" in Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1972, Volume 14, op. cit., col. 727.)

Furthermore, even to this day the Samaritans still claim descent from the tribe of Joseph:

The laymen also possess their traditional claims. They are all of the tribe of Joseph, except those of the tribe of Benjamin, but this traditional branch of people, which, the Chronicles assert, was established at Gaza in earlier days, seems to have disappeared. There exists an aristocratic feeling amongst the different families in this community, and some are very proud over their pedigree and the great men it had produced.(J. A. Montgomery, The Samaritans The Earliest Jewish Sect: Their History, Theology And Literature, 1907, op. cit., p. 32.)

End of the Judean Exile

Enlarge picture
Ancient inscription in Samaritan Hebrew. From a photo c.1900 by the Palestine Exploration Fund.

When the exile ended in 538 BC and the exiles returned home again, they found that their former homeland was now populated by other people who had claimed this land as their own and that their former glorious capital still lay in ruins.

According to 2 Chronicles 36.22–23, the Persian Emperor Cyrus, who returned the exiles to their homeland, explicitly ordered the people to rebuild the temple. The prophet Isaiah identified Cyrus as "The Lord's anointed" (meshiach; see Isa 45.1). The temple was rebuilt over a period of several decades.

''2 Chr 36:22-23 in the KJV says:

22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,

23 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up.

The project was first led by Sheshbazzar (about 538 BC), later by Zerubbabel and Jeshua, and later still by Haggai and Zechariah (520–515 BC).

Ezra 4 tells us how the local inhabitants of the land offered to assist with the building of the new temple during the time of Zerubbabel, but their offer was rejected. According to Ezra, this rejection precipitated a further interference not only with the rebuilding of the temple but also with the reconstruction of Jerusalem.

The text is not clear on this matter, but one possibility is that these "people of the land" were thought of as Samaritans. We do know that Samaritan and Jewish antagonism continued to increase, and that the Samaritans eventually built their own temple on Mount Gerizim, perhaps around 330 B.C.

The Temple was completed in 515 BC.

Ezra 6:15-16 in the KJV says:

15 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.

16 And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy,

The Samaritans built their rival Temple on Mount Gerizim, near Shechem.

Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim

The precise date of the schism between Samaritans and Jews is unknown, but was certainly complete by the end of the fourth century BCE. Archaeological excavations at Mount Gerizim suggest that a Samaritan temple was built there c. 330 BC1

according to Samaritans [1] that Abraham offered Isaac on Mount Gerizim span class="he" style="font-family:SBL Hebrew, Ezra SIL SR, Ezra SIL, Cardo, Chrysanthi Unicode, TITUS Cyberbit Basic, Arial Unicode MS, Narkisim, Times New Roman;font-size:12pt">פנוּתה&handref=Genesis%2022%3A2 Genesis 22:2.

The Torah mentions the place where God shall choose to establish His name (Deut 12:5), and Judaism takes this to refer to Jerusalem. However, the Samaritan text speaks of the place where God has chosen to establish His name, and Samaritans identify it as Mount Gerizim, making it the focus of their spiritual values.

The Gospel of John relates an encounter between a Samaritan woman and Jesus in which she asserts that the mountain was the center of their worship span class="he" style="font-family:SBL Hebrew, Ezra SIL SR, Ezra SIL, Cardo, Chrysanthi Unicode, TITUS Cyberbit Basic, Arial Unicode MS, Narkisim, Times New Roman;font-size:12pt">פנוּתה&handref=John%204%3A20 John 4:20.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Hellenization

In the second century BC a particularly bitter series of events eventually led to a revolution.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes was on the throne of the Seleucid Empire from 175 to 163 BC. His determined policy was to Hellenize his entire kingdom and standardize religious observance. He proclaimed himself the incarnation of the Greek god Zeus and mandated death to anyone who refused to worship him (1 Maccabees 1:41-50). A major obstacle to his ambition was the fidelity of the Jews to their historic religion.

The universal peril led the Samaritans, eager for safety, to repudiate all connection and kinship with the Jews. They sent ambassadors and an epistle asking to be recognized as belonging to the Greek party, and to have their temple on Mt. Gerizim named "The Temple of Jupiter Hellenius." The request was granted. This was evidently the final breach between the two groups indicated in John 4:9, "For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 2

Several centuries before the birth of Jesus, the Samaritans had built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim to rival the one in Jerusalem. Here, they offered sacrifices according to the Mosaic code. Anderson notes that during the reign of Antiochus IV (175-164 BC):

the Samaritan temple was renamed either Zeus Hellenios (willingly by the Samaritans according to Josephus or, more likely, Zeus Xenios, (unwillingly in accord with 2 Macc. 6:2) Bromiley, 4.304). 3

Josephus Book 12, Chapter 5 quotes the Samaritans as saying:
We therefore beseech thee, our benefactor and saviour, to give order to Apolonius, the governor of this part of the country, and to Nicanor, the procurator of thy affairs, to give us no disturbances, nor to lay to our charge what the Jews are accused for, since we are aliens from their nation and from their customs, but let our temple which at present hath no name at all, be named the Temple of Jupiter Hellenius.

II Maccabees 6:1-2 says:
Shortly afterwards, the king sent Gerontes the Athenian to force the Jews to violate their ancestral customs and live no longer by the laws of God; and to profane the Temple in Jerusalem and dedicate it to Olympian Zeus, and the one on Mount Gerizim to Zeus, Patron of Strangers, as the inhabitants of the latter place had requested.

In 167 BC the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes set up an altar to Zeus over the altar of burnt offerings in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. He also sacrificed a pig on the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. This event is known as the "abomination of desolation." 4

The authority of the high priesthood was severely damaged when first Jason and then Meneleus bought their office from Antiochus.

The persecution and death of faithful Jewish persons who refused to worship and kiss Antiochus’ image eventually led to a revolt led by Judas Maccabeus and his family.

Judas's priestly family, the Hasmoneans, introduced a dynasty that ruled during a period of conflict, with tensions arising both from within the family as well as from external enemies.

This Samaritan Temple at Mount Gerizim was destroyed by John Hyrcanus in about 128 BC, having existed about 200 years. Only a few stone remnants of it exist today.

164 BC and after

During the Hellenistic period, Samaria (like Judea) was largely divided between a Hellenizing faction based in Samaria (Sebastaea) and a pious faction, led by the High Priest and based largely around Shechem and the rural areas.

Samaria was a largely autonomous state nominally dependent on the Seleucid empire until around 129 BC, when the Jewish Hasmonean king Yohanan Girhan (John Hyrcanus) destroyed the Samaritan temple and devastated Samaria.

Roman times

Samaritans fared badly under the Roman Empire, when Samaria was part of the Roman province of Judea. However, this period was also something of a golden age for the Samaritan community. The Temple of Gerizim was rebuilt after the Bar Kochba revolt, around AD 135. Much of Samaritan liturgy was set by the high priest Baba Rabba in the fourth century.

There were some Samaritans in the Persian Empire, where they served in the Sassanid army.
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Samaritan cultic center on Mount Gerizim. From a photo c.1900 by the Palestine Exploration Fund.

Byzantine times

Later, under the Christian Byzantine Emperor Zeno in the late fifth century, Samaritans and Jews were massacred, and the Temple on Mt. Gerizim was again destroyed. This period is considered the worst for Samaritans. Under a charismatic, messianic figure named Julianus ben Sabar (or ben Sahir), the Samaritans launched a war to create their own independent state in 529 AD. With the help of the Ghassanid Arabs, Emperor Justinian I crushed the revolt; tens of thousands of Samaritans died or were enslaved. The Samaritan faith was virtually outlawed thereafter by the Christian Byzantine Empire; from a population once at least in the hundreds of thousands, the Samaritan community dwindled to near extinction.

Under Islam

By the onset of Islamic rule, Samaritans were living in an area stretching between Egypt and Syria. Like other non-Muslims in the empire, they had Dhimmi status and were expected to pay special taxes. Conversions to Islam to avoid these and other pressures occurred during that period. [2] During the Crusades, Samaritans, like others in the region were persecuted by the Crusaders. [3] In 1624, the last Samaritan high priest of the line of Eleazar son of Aaron died without issue, but descendants of Aaron's other son, Ithamar, remained and took over the office.

In the past, the Samaritans are believed to have numbered several hundred thousand, but persecution and assimilation have reduced their numbers drastically. In 1919, an illustrated National Geographic report on the community stated that their numbers were less than 150.


Modern times

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Samaritan and the Samaritan Torah
Samaritans now number a total of 705,[1] half of whom reside in their modern homes on Mount Gerizim, which is sacred to them, and the rest in the town of Holon, just outside Tel Aviv.

Until the 1980s, most of the Samaritans resided in the Palestinian town of Nablus below Mount Gerizim. They relocated to the mountain itself as a result of the First Intifada (1987-1990), and all that is left of the community in Nablus itself is an abandoned synagogue. In 2001, the Israeli army set up an artillery battery on Gerizim.

Relations of Samaritans with Jewish Israelis and Palestinians in neighboring areas have been mixed. In 1954, Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi created a Samaritan enclave in Holon. Those living in Israel have Israeli citizenship. Samaritans in the Palestinian territories are a recognized minority; they had a reserved seat in the Palestinian Legislative Council in the election of 1996, but they no longer have one. Palestinian Samaritans have been granted passports by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

As a small community divided between two mutually hostile neighbors, the Samaritans are generally unwilling to take sides in the conflict, fearing that whatever side they take could lead to repercussions from the other. However, perhaps in part due to the fact those who are Israeli citizens are drafted into the military, both communities tend to be more politically aligned with Israel.[11]

One of the biggest problems facing the community today is the issue of continuity. With such a small population, divided into only four families (Cohen, Tsedakah, Danfi and Marhib; a fifth family died out in the last century) and a general refusal to accept converts, there has been a history of genetic disease within the group due to the small gene pool. To counter this, the Samaritan community has recently agreed that men from the community may marry non-Samaritan (primarily, Israeli Jewish) women, provided that the women agree to follow Samaritan religious practices. This often poses a problem for the women, who are typically less than eager to adopt the strict interpretation of Biblical (Levitical) laws regarding menstruation, by which they must live in a separate dwelling during their periods and after childbirth. Nevertheless, there have been a few instances of intermarriage. In addition, all marriages within the Samaritan community are first approved by a geneticist at Tel HaShomer Hospital, in order to prevent the spread of genetic disease.

In 2004 the Samaritan high priest, Saloum Cohen, died and was replaced by Elazar ben Tsedaka ben Yitzhaq. The Samaritan high priest is selected by age from the priestly family, and resides on Mount Gerizim.

DNA testing of Samaritans

Genetic and demographic investigations of the Samaritan community were carried out in the 1960s. Detailed pedigrees of the last 13 generations show that the Samaritans comprise four lineages:
  • The Tsedakah lineage, claiming descent from the tribe of Manasseh
  • The Joshua-Marhiv and Danfi lineages, claiming descent from the tribe of Ephraim
  • The priestly Cohen lineage from the tribe of Levi.
Of the 12 Samaritan males, 10 (83%) belong to haplogroup J, which has three of the four Samaritan families. The Joshua-Marhiv family belongs to subhaplogroup J1, while the Danfi and Tsedakah families belong to subhaplogroup J2, and can be further distinguished by M67, the derived allele of which has been found in the Danfi family.

Genetic differences between the Samaritans and neighboring Jewish and non-Jewish populations are corroborated in the present study of 7,280 bp of nonrecombining Y-chromosome and 5,622 bp of coding and hypervariable segment (HVS-I) mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences. Comparative sequence analysis was carried out on 12 Samaritan Y-chromosome, and mtDNA samples from 9 male and 7 female Samaritans separated by at least two generations. In addition, 18–20 male individuals were analyzed, each representing Ethiopian, Ashkenazi, Iraqi, Libyan, Moroccan, and Yemenite Jews, as well as Druze and Palestinians, all currently living in Israel. The four Samaritan families clustered to four distinct Y-chromosome haplogroups according to their patrilineal identity. Of the 16 Samaritan mtDNA samples, 14 carry either of two mitochondrial haplotypes that are rare or absent among other worldwide ethnic groups.

Principal components analysis suggests a common ancestry of Samaritan and Jewish patrilineages. Most of the former may be traced back to a common ancestor in the paternally-inherited Israelite high priesthood (Cohanim) at the time of the Assyrian conquest of the kingdom of Israel.[12]


Enlarge picture
Samaritans, from a photo c. 1900 by the Palestine Exploration Fund.

The Samaritan religion is based on some of the same books used as the basis of mainstream Judaism, but differs from the latter. Samaritan scriptures include the Samaritan version of the Torah, the Memar Markah, the Samaritan liturgy, and Samaritan law codes and biblical commentaries. Samaritans appear to have texts of the Torah as old as the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint; scholars have various theories concerning the actual relationships between these three texts.

Religious beliefs

  • There is one God, the same God recognized by the Hebrew prophets;
  • Their view of God is the same as the Jewish biblical view of God;
  • The Torah was given by God to Moses;
  • Mount Gerizim, not Jerusalem, is the one true sanctuary chosen by Israel's God;
  • Many Samaritans believe that at the end of days, the dead will be resurrected by Taheb, a restorer (possibly a prophet, some say Moses);
  • They possess a belief in Paradise (heaven);
  • The priests are the interpreters of the law and the keepers of tradition; unlike Judaism, there is no distinction between the priesthood and the scholars;
  • The authority of classical Jewish rabbinical works, the Mishnah, and the Talmuds are rejected;
  • Samaritans reject Jewish codes of law;
  • They have a significantly different version of the Ten Commandments (for example, their 10th commandment is about the sanctity of Mt. Gerizim).
The Samaritans retained the Ancient Hebrew script, the high priesthood, animal sacrifices, the eating of lambs at Passover, and the celebration of Aviv in spring as the New Year. Yom Teruah (the biblical name for Rosh Hashanah), at the beginning of Tishrei, is not considered a new year as it is in Judaism. Their main Torah text differs from the Masoretic Text, as well. Some differences are doctrinal: for example, their Torah explicitly mentions that "the place that God will choose" is Mount Gerizim. Other differences seem more or less accidental.

Relationship to mainstream Judaism

Samaritans refer to themselves as Bene Yisrael ("Children of Israel") which is a term used by all Jewish denominations as a name for the Jewish people as a whole. They however do not refer to themselves as Yehudim the standard Hebrew name for Jews, considering the latter to denote only mainstream Jews.

The Talmudic attitude expressed in tractate Kutim is that they are to be treated as Jews in matters where their practice coincides with the mainstream but are treated as non-Jews where their practice differs. Since the 19th century mainstream Judaism has regarded the Samaritans as a Jewish sect.

Religious Texts

Samaritan law is not the same as halakha (Rabbinical Jewish law). The Samaritans have several groups of religious texts, which equate to Jewish halakhah. A few examples of such texts are:
  • Torah
  • Samaritan Pentateuch - only inspired text. (Contains about 6000 variations from the original Hebrew texts. Most are minor)
  • 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) (Fourth Century, in Arabic and Aramaic)
  • Samaritan Chronicle, Adler (Israel from the time of divine disfavor until the exile)
  • Hagiographical texts
  • Samaritan Halakhic Text, The Hillukh (Code of halakhah, marriage, circumsion, etc.)
  • Samaritan Halakhic Text, the Kitab at-Tabbah (Halacha 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 Halakhah, written by Yosef Al Ascar 14th century CE)
  • Al-Asatir - legendendary Aramaic texts form 11th 12th centuries, containing:
  • Haggadic Midrash, Abu'l Hasan al-Suri
  • Haggadic Midrash, Memar Markah - 3rd or 4th century theological treaties attributted 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. [13]

List of the Samaritan High Priests (from 1613)

''See a complete listing of the Samaritan High Priests

Line of Eleazar:
  • 1613-1624 Shelemiah ben Pinhas
Line of Ithamar:
  • 1624-1650 Tsedaka ben Tabia Ha'abta'ai
  • 1650-1694 Yitzhaq ben Tsedaka
  • 1694-1732 Abraham ben Yitzhaq
  • 1732-1752 Tabia ben Yiszhaq ben Avraham
  • 1752-1787 Levi ben Avraham
  • 1787-1855 Shalma ben Tabia
  • 1855-1874 Amram ben Shalma
  • 1874-1916 Yaacov ben Aaharon ben Shalma
  • 1916-1932 Yitzhaq ben Amram ben Shalma ben Tabia
  • 1933-1943 Matzliach ben Phinhas ben Yitzhaq ben Shalma
  • 1943-1961 Abrisha ben Phinhas ben Yittzhaq ben Shalma
  • 1961-1980 Amram ben Yitzhaq ben Amram ben Shalma
  • 1980-1982 Asher ben Matzliach ben Phinhas
  • 1982-1984 Phinhas ben Matzliach ben Phinhas
  • 1984-1987 Yaacov ben Ezzi ben Yaacov ben Aaharon
  • 1987-1998 Yosseph ben Ab-Hisda ben Yaacov ben Aaharon
  • 1998- 2001 Levi ben Abisha ben Phinhas ben Yitzhaq
  • 2001- 2004 Shalom ben Amram ben Yitzhaq (Saum Is'haq al-Samiri)
  • from 2004 Elazar ben Tsedaka ben Yitzhaq (he is the 131-st Samaritan High Priest)

Samaritans in the Gospels

The Christian Gospels thrice mention good deeds by Samaritans. Jesus, who lived and acted within a society where centuries-long hostility to and prejudice against Samaritans were deeply rooted, evidently sought to teach that actions speak louder than ethnic identity or pious appearances: In the Gospel of John, Jesus is accused of being a Samaritan and being demon-possessed. span class="he" style="font-family:SBL Hebrew, Ezra SIL SR, Ezra SIL, Cardo, Chrysanthi Unicode, TITUS Cyberbit Basic, Arial Unicode MS, Narkisim, Times New Roman;font-size:12pt">פנוּתה&handref=John%208%3A48 John 8:48

Luke has the parable of the Good Samaritan and the story of the Samaritan Leper, but it also contains a story of a Samaritan village denying hospitality to Jesus and his disciples, because they did not want to facilitate a pilgrimage to Jerusalem - a practice which they saw as a violation of the Law of Moses.span class="he" style="font-family:SBL Hebrew, Ezra SIL SR, Ezra SIL, Cardo, Chrysanthi Unicode, TITUS Cyberbit Basic, Arial Unicode MS, Narkisim, Times New Roman;font-size:12pt">פנוּתה&handref=Luke%209%3A51 Luke 9:51

In span class="he" style="font-family:SBL Hebrew, Ezra SIL SR, Ezra SIL, Cardo, Chrysanthi Unicode, TITUS Cyberbit Basic, Arial Unicode MS, Narkisim, Times New Roman;font-size:12pt">פנוּתה&handref=Matthew%2010%3A5 Matthew 10:5, Jesus forbids his disciples to visit any Samaritan city.

The Gospel of Mark contains no mention of Samaritans, neither positive nor negative.

Samaritan media

The Samaritans have a monthly magazine started in 1969 called A.B.-The Samaritan News, which is written in Samaritan, Hebrew, Arabic and English and deals with current and historical issues with which the Samaritan community is concerned.


  • Zertal, Adam. “The Wedge-Shaped Decorated Bowl and the Origin of the Samaritans, “Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 276. (Nov., 1989), pp. 77-84.
  • Cornel Heinsdorff: Christus, Nikodemus und die Samaritanerin bei Juvencus. Mit einem Anhang zur lateinischen Evangelienvorlage (= Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte, Bd. 67), Berlin/ New York 2003 ISBN 3-11-017851-6


1. ^ Israeli sings for her estranged people, By Matti Friedman, Associated Press Writer, Sun Mar 18, 2:45 PM ET [4]
2. ^ The Samaritans' Passover sacrifice, Ynetnews 05.02.07
3. ^ The Emergence of the Samaritan Community (Lecture given by Professor Abraham Tal at Mandelbaum House, August 2001) [5]
4. ^ The Emergence of the Samaritan Community (Lecture given by Professor Abraham Tal at Mandelbaum House, August 2001) [6]
5. ^ The Keepers, An Introduction to the History and Culture of the Samaritans, by Robert T. Anderson and Terry Giles, Hendrickson Publishing, 2002, pages 11-12
6. ^ Ibid. page 12
7. ^ Ibid. page 13
8. ^ The Impact of Regional Political and Social developments on the Samaritan Minority, by Dror Amstel-Ben-Gurion University Israel 2006 [7]
9. ^ Samaritans or Samarians, The "Samaritan" Error In The Qur'an?, M S M Saifullah, ‘Abdurrahman Robert Squires, ‘Abdullah David, Elias Karim & Muhammad Ghoniem, Islamic Awareness, First Composed: 1st May 1999, Last Updated: 26th November 2006 [8]
10. ^ The Emergence of the Samaritan Community (Lecture given by Professor Abraham Tal at Mandelbaum House, August 2001) [9]
11. ^ Samaritans, World Culture Encyclopedia
12. ^ Reconstruction of Patrilineages and Matrilineages of Samaritans and Other Israeli Populations From Y-Chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA Sequence Variation, Hum Mutat 24:248–260, 2004, [10]PDF (פנוּתה)
13. ^ Samaritan Documents, Relating To Their History, Religion and Life, translated and edited by John Bowman, Pittsburgh Original Texts & Translations Series Number 2, 1977

See also


  1. Samaritans:History
  2. NIV English translation of John
  3. Jesus and the Samaritan Woman / A Samaritan Woman Approaches:1.
  4. What is the Abomination of Desolation?

Nat Geo Utsav: More Weddings & Another Funeral: Samaritan Wedding This is the brief of prog broadcasted by Nat Geo Channel, the anchor Hakeem Kae-Kazim is in Holon, near Israel's cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv, to meet a community called the Samaritans. Believed to be one of the smallest and oldest religious sects in the world, the community numbers only about 650 people, divided between Holon and the Arab city of Nablus in the Palestinian Authority. Carried out in accordance with the Samaritans strict interpretation of the Torah, the holy Jewish book, the wedding ritual has changed little down the centuries, and Hakeem finds himself witnessing a ritual that has remained relatively unchanged for over 3,000 years.

Image gallery

The Samaritan Mezuzah engraved above the front door

External links

The West Bank (Arabic: الضفة الغربية,
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Mount Gerizim (Samaritan Hebrew Ar-garízim, Arabic جبل جرزيم Jabal Jarizīm, Tiberian Hebrew הַר גְּרִזִּים
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(and largest city) Jerusalem

Official languages Hebrew, Arabic
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Holon (Standard Hebrew חוֹלוֹן; Tiberian Hebrew חֹלֹן, Ḥōlōn
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Samaritan Hebrew}}} 
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Samaritan Aramaic}}} 
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Samaritan Aramaic, or Samaritan
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Writing system: Alefbet Ivri abjad 
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Official language of:  Israel
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Samaritanism is the religion practiced by the Samaritan people. Like Judaism, it claims to be descended from ancient Israelite religion. It is closely related to Judaism in that it accepts the Torah as its holy book, though there are differences in the version accepted.
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Writing system: Alefbet Ivri abjad 
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Official language of:  Israel
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The Talmud (Hebrew: תַּלְמוּד) is a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs, and history.

The Talmud has two components: the Mishnah (c.
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Writing system: Alefbet Ivri abjad 
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ethnic group or ethnicity is a population of human beings whose members identify with each other, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry.[1] Ethnicity is also defined from the recognition by others as a distinct group[2]
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The Levant (IPA: /lə'vænt/) is an imprecise geographical term historically referring to a large area in the Middle East south of the Taurus Mountains, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and by the northern
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Samaria, or the Shomron (Hebrew: שֹׁמְרוֹן‎, Standard Šoməron Tiberian
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The Babylonian captivity, or Babylonian exile, is the name generally given to the deportation and exile of the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar during the 6th Century BCE.
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Common or commons may refer to:
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Samaritanism is the religion practiced by the Samaritan people. Like Judaism, it claims to be descended from ancient Israelite religion. It is closely related to Judaism in that it accepts the Torah as its holy book, though there are differences in the version accepted.
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Torah | Nevi'im | Ketuvim
Books of the Torah
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3. Leviticus
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Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people, based on principles and ethics embodied in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and the Talmud. According to Jewish tradition, the history of Judaism begins with the Covenant between God and Abraham (ca.
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Israelites were the dominant cultural and ethnic group living in Canaan in Biblical times, composing the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Modern Jewish people claim to be descended from the Tribes of Israel.
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Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple (Hebrew: בית המקדש, transliterated Bet HaMikdash and meaning literally "The Holy House") was located on the Temple Mount (Har HaBayit) in the old city of Jerusalem.
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Mount Gerizim (Samaritan Hebrew Ar-garízim, Arabic جبل جرزيم Jabal Jarizīm, Tiberian Hebrew הַר גְּרִזִּים
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(نابلس שֶׁכֶם (נַאבְּלוּ?

Nablus Panorama
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The West Bank (Arabic: الضفة الغربية,
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Holon (Standard Hebrew חוֹלוֹן; Tiberian Hebrew חֹלֹן, Ḥōlōn
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The Hope

(and largest city) Jerusalem

Official languages Hebrew, Arabic
Demonym Israeli
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Writing system: Alefbet Ivri abjad 
Official status
Official language of:  Israel
Regulated by: Academy of the Hebrew Language

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Palestinian Arabic}}} 
Writing system: Arabic alphabet 
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Official language of: Palestinians
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ISO 639-3: ?
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A liturgy is the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to their particular traditions. In religion, it may refer to, or include, an elaborate formal ritual such as the Catholic Mass, or a daily activity such as the Muslim Salats (see
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