The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE ASCENT: FROM THE RIVER JORDAN TO THE MOUNT OF
IN JUDEA AND THROUGH SAMARIA
A SKETCH OF SAMARITAN HISTORY AND THEOLOGY
JEWS AND SAMARITANS.
(St. John 4:1-4.)
We have no means of determining how long Jesus may have tarried in
Jerusalem after the events recorded in the previous two chapters. The Evangelic
marks an indefinite period of time, which, as we judge from internal
probability, cannot have been protracted. From the city He retired with His
disciples to 'the country,' which formed the province of Judæa. There He taught
and His disciples baptized.23
From what had been so lately witnessed in Jerusalem, as well as from what must
have been known as to the previous testimony of the Baptist concerning Him, the
number of those who professed adhesion to the expected new Kingdom, and were
consequently baptized, was as large, in that locality, as had submitted to the
preaching and Baptism of John, perhaps even larger. An exaggerated report was
carried to the Pharisaic authorities:4
'Jesus maketh and baptizeth more disciples than John.'5
From which, at least, we infer, that the opposition of the leaders of the party
to the Baptist was now settled, and that it extended to Jesus; and also, what
careful watch they kept over the new movement.
1. St. John iii. 22.
2. St. John vi. 2.
3. The Baptism of preparation for the Kingdom could not have been administered by Him
Who opened the Kingdom of Heaven.
4. The Evangelist reports the message which was brought to the Pharisees in the very words in which it was delivered.
5. St. John iv. 1.
But what seems at first sight strange is the twofold
circumstance, that Jesus should for a time have established Himself in such
apparently close proximity to the Baptist, and that on this occasion, and on
this only, He should have allowed His disciples to administer the rite of
Baptism. That the latter must be not be confounded with Christian Baptism,
which was only introduced after the Death of Christ,6
or, to speak more accurately, after the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, needs no
special explanation. But our difficulties only increase, as we remember the
essential difference between them, grounded on that between the Mission of John
and the Teaching of Jesus. In the former, the Baptism of repentant preparation
for the coming Kingdom had its deepest meaning; not so in presence of that
Kingdom itself, and in the teaching of its King. But, even were it otherwise,
the administration of the same rite by John and by the disciples of Jesus in
apparently close proximity, seems not only unnecessary, but it might give rise
to misconception on the part of enemies, and misunderstanding or jealousy on
the part of weak disciples.
6. Rom. iv. 3.
Such was actually the case when, on one occasion, a discussion
arose 'on the part of John's disciples with a Jew,'7
on the subject of purification.8
We know not the special point in dispute, nor does it seem of much importance,
since such 'questions' would naturally suggest themselves to a caviller or
encountered those who were administering Baptism. What really interests us is,
that somehow this Jewish objector must have connected what he said with a
reference to the Baptism of Jesus' disciples. For, immediately afterwards, the
disciples of John, in their sore zeal for the honour of their master, brought
him tidings, in the language of doubt, if not of complaint, of what to them
seemed interference with the work of the Baptist, and almost presumption on the
part of Jesus. While fully alive to their grievous error, perhaps in proportion
as we are so, we cannot but honour and sympathise with this loving care for
their master. The toilsome mission of the great Ascetic was drawing to its
close, and that without any tangible success so far as he was concerned. Yet,
to souls susceptible of the higher, to see him would be to be arrested; to hear
him, to be convinced; to know, would be to love and venerate him. Never before
had such deep earnestness and reality been witnessed, such devotedness, such
humility and self-abnegation, and all in that great cause which set every
Jewish heart on fire. And then, in the high-day of his power, when all men had
gathered around him and hung on his lips; when all wondered whether he would
announce himself as the Christ, or, at least, as His Forerunner, or as one of
the great Prophets; when a word from him would have kindled that multitude into
a frenzy of enthusiasm - he had disclaimed everything for himself, and pointed
to Another! But this 'Coming One,' to whom he had borne witness, had hitherto
been quite other than their Master. And, as if this had not been enough, the
multitudes, which had formerly come to John, now flocked around Jesus; nay, He
had even usurped the one distinctive function still left to their master,
humble as it was. It was evident that, hated and watched by the Pharisees;
watched, also, by the ruthless jealousy of a Herod; overlooked, if not
supplanted, by Jesus, the mission of their master was nearing its close. It had
been a life and work of suffering and self-denial; it was about to end in
loneliness and sorrow. They said nothing expressly to complain of Him to Whom
John had borne witness, but they told of what He did, and how all men came to
7. This, and not 'the Jews,' is the better reading.
8. St. John iii. 25.
9. Probably the discussion originated with John's disciples - the objector being a Jew or a professing disciple of Christ, who deprecated their views. In the one case they
would in his opinion be too low; in the other too high. In either case the
subject in dispute would not be baptisms, but the general subject of purifications - a subject of such wide range in Jewish theology, that one of the six sections into which the Mishnah or traditional Law is divided, is specially devoted to it.
The answer which the Baptist made, may be said to mark the high
point of his life and witness. Never before was he so tender, almost sad; never
before more humble and self-denying, more earnest and faithful. The setting of
his own life-sun was to be the rising of One infinitely more bright; the end of
his Mission the beginning of another far higher. In the silence, which was now
gathering around him, he heard but one Voice, that of the Bridegroom, and he
rejoiced in it, though he must listen to it in stillness and loneliness. For it
he had waited and worked. Not his own, but this had he sought. And now that it
had come, he was content; more than content: his 'joy was now fulfilled.' 'He
must increase, but I must decrease.' It was the right and good order. With
these as his last words publicly spoken,10
this Aaron of the New Testament unrobed himself ere he lay down to die. Surely
among those born of women there was not one greater than John.
10. The next event was John's imprisonment by Herod.
That these were his last words, publicly spoken and recorded,
may, however, explain to us why on this exceptional occasion Jesus sanctioned
the administration by His disciples of the Baptism of John. It was not a
retrogression from the position He had taken in Jerusalem, nor caused by the
refusal of His Messianic claims in the Temple.11
There is no retrogression, only progression, in the Life of Jesus. And yet it
was only on this occasion that the rite was administered under His sanction.
But the circumstances were exceptional. It was John's last testimony to Jesus,
and it was preceded by this testimony of Jesus to John. Far divergent, almost
opposite, as from the first their paths had been, this practical sanction on
the part of Jesus of John's Baptism, when the Baptist was about to be forsaken,
betrayed, and murdered, was Christ's highest testimony to him. Jesus adopted
his Baptism, ere its waters for ever ceased to flow, and thus He blessed and
consecrated them. He took up the work of His Forerunner, and continued it. The
baptismal rite of John administered with the sanction of Jesus, was the highest
witness that could be borne to it.
11. This strange suggestion is made by Godet.
There is no necessity for supposing that John and the disciples
of Jesus baptized at, or quite close to, the same place. On the contrary, such
immediate juxtaposition seems, for obvious reasons, unlikely. Jesus was within
the boundaries of the province of Judæa, while John baptized at Ænon (the
springs), near to Salim. The latter site has not been identified. But the
oldest tradition, which places it a few miles to the south of Bethshean
(Scythopolis), on the border of Samaria and Galilee, has this in its favour,
that it locates the scene of John's last public work close to the seat of Herod Antipas, into whose power the Baptist was so soon to be delivered.12
But already there were causes at work to remove both Jesus and His Forerunner
from their present spheres of activity. As regards Christ, we have the express
statement,13 that the
machinations of the Pharisaic party in Jerusalem led Him to withdraw into
Galilee. And, as we gather from the notice of St. John, the Baptist was now
involved in this hostility, as being so closely connected with Jesus. Indeed,
we venture the suggestion that the imprisonment of the Baptist, although
occasioned by his outspoken rebuke of Herod, was in great part due to the
intrigues of the Pharisees. Of such a connection between them and Herod
Antipas, we have direct evidence in a similar attempt to bring about the
removal of Jesus from his territory.14
It would not have been difficult to rouse the suspicions of a nature so mean
and jealous as that of Antipas, and this may explain the account of Josephus,15
who attributes the imprisonment and death of the Baptist simply to Herod's
suspicious fear of John's unbounded influence with the people.16
12. No fewer than four localities have been identified with Ænon and Salim. Ewald,
Hengstenberg, Wieseler, and Godet, seek it on the southern
border of Judæa (En-rimmon, Neh. xi. 29, comp. Josh. xv. 1, 32). This seems so improbable as scarcely to require discussion. Dr. Barclay (City
of the Great King, pp. 558-571) finds it a few miles from Jerusalem in the Wady Fâr'ah, but admits (p. 565) that there are doubts about the Arab pronunciation of this Salim. Lieut. Conder (Tent-Work in Palest., vol. i. pp. 91-93) finds it in the Wady Fâr'ah, which leads from Samaria
to the Jordan. Here he describes most pictorially 'the springs' 'in the open valley surrounded by desolate and shapeless hills,' with the village of Salim
three miles south of the valley, and the village of 'Ainân four miles north of the stream. Against this there are, however, two objections. First, both Ænon
and Salim would have been in Samaria. Secondly, so far from being close to each other, Ænon would have been seven miles from Salim.
13. St. John iv. 1.
14. St. Luke xiii. 31, 32.
15. Ant. xviii 5. 2.
16. Ant. xviii. 5. 2: 'But to some of the Jews it appeared, that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and, indeed, as a righteous punishment on account
of what had been done to John, who was surnamed the Baptist. For Herod ordered him to be killed, a good man, and who commanded the Jews to exercise virtue,
both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism. For that the baptizing would be acceptable to Him, if they made use of it, not for the putting away (remission) of some sins, but for the purification of the body, after that the soul had been previously cleansed by
righteousness. And when others had come in crowds, for they were exceedingly moved by hearing these words, Herod, fearing lest such influence of his over
the people might lead to some rebellion, for they seemed ready to do anything by his counsel, deemed it best, before anything new should happen through him, to put him to death, rather than that, when a change should arise in affairs, he might have to repent.', Comp. also Krebs. Observationes in Nov. Test. e Fl. Jos. pp. 35, 36.
Leaving for the present the Baptist, we follow the footsteps of
the Master. They are only traced by the disciple who best understood their
direction, and who alone has left us a record of the beginning of Christ's
ministry. For St. Matthew and St. Mark expressly indicate the imprisonment of
the Baptist as their starting-point,17
and, though St. Luke does not say this in so many words, he characteristically
commences with Christ's public Evangelic teaching in the Synagogues of Galilee.
Yet the narrative of St. Matthew18
reads rather like a brief summary;19
that of St. Mark seems like a succession of rapid sketches; and even that of
St. Luke, though with deeper historic purpose than the others, outlines, rather
than tells, the history. St. John alone does not profess to give a narrative at
all in the ordinary sense; but he selects incidents which are characteristic as
unfolding the meaning of that Life, and records discourses which open its
and he alone tells of that early Judæan ministry and the journey through
Samaria, which preceded the Galilean work.
17. St. Mark i. 14; St. Mark iv. 12.
18. See specially St. Matt. iv. 13 to end.
19. I am so strongly impressed with this, that I do not feel sure about Godet's theory, that the calling of the four Apostles recorded by the Synoptists (St. Matt. iv. 18-22; St. Mark i. 16-20; St. Luke v. 1-11), had really taken place during our Lord's first stay in Capernaum (St. John ii. 12). On the whole, however, the circumstances recorded by the Synoptists seem to indicate a period
in the Lord's Ministry beyond that early stay in Capernaum.
20. St. John xx. 30, 31; xxi. 25.
The shorter road from Judæa to Galilee led through Samaria;21
and this, if we may credit Josephus,22
was generally taken by the Galileans on their way to the capital. On the other
hand, the Judæans seem chiefly to have made a détour through Peræa, in
order to avoid hostile and impure Samaria. It lay not within the scope of our
Lord to extend His personal Ministry, especially at its commencement, beyond
the boundaries of Israel,23
and the expression, 'He must needs go through Samaria,'24
can only refer to the advisability in the circumstances of taking the most
or else to the wish of avoiding Peræa as the seat of Herod's government.26
Such prejudices in regard to Samaria, as those which affected the ordinary
Judæan devotee, would, of course, not influence the conduct of Jesus. But great
as these undoubtedly were, they have been unduly exaggerated by modern writers,
misled by one-sided quotations from Rabbinic works.27
21. Jos. Life, 52.
22. Ant. xx. 6. 1.
23. St. Matt. x. 5.
24. St. John iv. 4.
25. I cannot agree with Archdeacon Watkins, that the 'needs go' was in order 'to teach in Samaria, as in Judæa, the principles of true religion and worship.'
26. So Bengel and Luthardt.
27. Much as has been written about Samaria, the subject has not been quite
satisfactorily treated. Some of the passages referred to by Deutsch (Smith's Dict. of the Bible, vol. iii., Art. Samaritan Pentat. p. 1118) cannot be verified, probably owing to printer's mistakes.
The Biblical history of that part of Palestine which bore the
name of Samaria need not here be repeated.28
Before the final deportation of Israel by Shalmaneser, or rather Sargon,29
the 'Samaria' to which his operations extended must have considerably shrunk in
dimensions, not only owing to previous conquests, but from the circumstance
that the authority of the kings of Judah seems to have extended over a
considerable portion of what once constituted the kingdom of Israel.30
Probably the Samaria of that time included little more than the city of that
name, together with some adjoining towns and villages. It is of considerable
interest to remember that the places, to which the inhabitants of Samaria were
have been identified with such clearness as to leave no reasonable doubt, that
at least some of the descendants of the ten tribes, whether mixed or unmixed
with Gentiles, must be sought among what are now known as the Nestorian
On the other hand, it is of no practical importance for our present purpose to
ascertain the exact localities, whence the new 'Samaritans' were brought to
take the place of the Israelitish exiles.33
Suffice it, that one of them, perhaps that which contributed the principal
settlers, Cuthah, furnished the name Cuthim, by which the Jews
afterwards persistently designated the Samaritans. It was intended as a term of
reproach,34 to mark
that they were of foreign race,3536
and to repudiate all connection between them and the Jews. Yet it is impossible
to believe that, at least in later times, they did not contain a considerable
admixture of Israelitish elements. It is difficult to suppose, that the
original deportation was so complete as to leave behind no traces of the
original Israelitish inhabitants.37
Their number would probably be swelled by fugitives from Assyria, and by Jewish
settlers in the troublous times that followed. Afterwards, as we know, they
were largely increased by apostates and rebels against the order of things
established by Ezra and Nehemiah.38
Similarly, during the period of internal political and religious troubles,
which marked the period to the accession of the Maccabees, the separation
between Jews and Samaritans could scarcely have been generally observed, the
more so that Alexander the Great placed them in close juxtaposition.39
28. Comp. 1 Kings xiii. 32; xvi. 24 &c.; Tiglath-Pileser, 2 Kings xv. 29; Shalmaneser, xvii. 3-5; xviii. 9-11; Sargon. xvii. 6, &c.
29. Comp. Smith's Bible Dict., Art. Sargon; and Schrader, Keil-Inschr. u. d. Alte Test. p. 158 &c.
32. Of course, not all the ten tribes. Comp. previous remarks on their migrations.
33. 2 Kings xvii. 24-26; comp. Ezr. iv. 2, 10.
34. St. John viii. 48.
35. St. Luke xvii. 16.
36. The expression cannot, however, be pressed as implying that the Samaritans were of entirely Gentile blood.
37. Comp. 2 Chron. xxxiv. 6, 9 Jer. xii. 5; Amos v. 3.
38. Jos. Ant. xi. 8, 2, 6, 7.
39. Comp. Herzfeld, Gesch. d. Volkes Isr. ii. p. 120.
The first foreign colonists of Samaria brought their peculiar
forms of idolatry with them.40
But the Providential judgments, by which they were visited, led to the
introduction of a spurious Judaism, consisting of a mixture of their former
superstitions with Jewish doctrines and rites.41
Although this state of matters resembled that which had obtained in the
original kingdom of Israel, perhaps just because of this, Ezra and Nehemiah,
when reconstructing the Jewish commonwealth, insisted on a strict separation
between those who had returned from Babylon and the Samaritans, resisting
equally their offers of co-operation and their attempts at hindrance. This
embittered the national feeling of jealousy already existing, and led to that
constant hostility between Jews and Samaritans which has continued to this day.
The religious separation became final when (at a date which cannot be precisely
Samaritans built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, and Manasseh,43
the brother of Jaddua, the Jewish High-Priest, having refused to annul his
marriage with the daughter of Sanballat, was forced to flee, and became the
High-Priest of the new Sanctuary. Henceforth, by impudent assertion and
falsification of the text of the Pentateuch,44
Gerizim was declared the rightful centre of worship, and the doctrines and
rites of the Samaritans exhibited a curious imitation and adaptation of those
prevalent in Judæa.
40. 2 Kings xvii. 30, 31.
41. vv. 28-41.
42. Jost thinks it existed even before the time of Alexander. Comp. Nutt, Samar. Hist. p. 16, note 2.
43. The difficult question, whether this is the Sanballat of the Book of Nehemiah, is fully discussed by Petermann (Herzog's Real-Enc. vol. xiii. p. 366).
44. For a very full criticism of that Pentateuch, see Mr. Deutsch's Art. in Smith's Bible-Dict.
We cannot here follow in detail the history of the Samaritans,
nor explain the dogmas and practices peculiar to them. The latter would be the
more difficult, because so many of their views were simply corruptions of those
of the Jews, and because, from the want of an authenticated ancient literature,45
the origin and meaning of many of them have been forgotten.46
Sufficient, however, must be said to explain the mutual relations at the time
when the Lord, sitting on Jacob's well, first spake to the Samaritans of the
better worship 'in spirit and truth,' and opened that well of living water
which has never since ceased to flow.
45. Comp. the sketch of it in Nutt's Samar. Hist., and Petermann's Art.
46. As instances we may mention the names of the Angels and devils. One of the latter is called Yatsara ((rcy), which Petermann derives from Deut. xxxi. 21, and Nutt from Ex. xxiii. 28. I have little doubt, it is only a corruption of Yetser haRa. Indeed, the latter and Satan are expressly identified in Baba B. 16 a. Many of the Samaritan views seem only corruptions and adaptations of those current in Palestine, which, indeed, in the circumstances, might have been expected.
The political history of the people can be told in a few
sentences. Their Temple,47
to which reference has been made, was built, not in Samaria but at Shechem -
probably on account of the position held by that city in the former history of
Israel - and on Mount Gerizim, which in the Samaritan Pentateuch was substituted
for Mount Ebal in Deut. xxvii. 4. It was Shechem also, with its sacred
associations of Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph, which became the real capital of
the Samaritans. The fate of the city of Samaria under the reign of Alexander is
uncertain - one account speaking of the rebellion of the city, the murder of
the Macedonian governor, the consequent destruction of Samaria, and the
slaughter of part, and transportation of the rest, of its inhabitants to
Josephus is silent on these events. When, after the death of Alexander,
Palestine became the field of battle between the rulers of Egypt and Syria,
Samaria suffered even more than other parts of the country. In 320 b.c. it passed from the rule of Syria to
that of Egypt (Ptolemy Lagi). Six years later49
it again became Syrian (Antigonus). Only three years afterwards,50
Ptolemy reconquered and held it for a very short time. On his retreat, he
destroyed the walls of Samaria and of other towns. In 301 it passed again by
treaty into the hands of Ptolemy, out in 298 it was once more ravaged by the
son of Antigonus. After that it enjoyed a season of quiet under Egyptian rule,
till the reign of Antiochus (III.) the Great, when it again passed temporarily,
and under his successor, Seleucus IV. (Philopator),51
permanently under Syrian dominion. In the troublous times of Antiochus IV.
Samaritans escaped the fate of the Jews by repudiating all connection with
Israel, and dedicating their temple to Jupiter.53
In the contest between Syria and the Maccabees which followed, the Samaritans,
as might be expected, took the part of the former. In 130 b.c. John Hyrcanus destroyed the Temple
on Mount Gerizim,54
which was never rebuilt. The city of Samaria was taken several years afterwards5556
by the sons of Hyrcanus (Antigonus and Aristobulus), after a year's siege, and
the successive defeat of Syrian and Egyptian armies of relief. Although the
city was now not only destroyed, but actually laid under water to complete its
ruin, it was rebuilt by Gabinius shortly before our era,57
and greatly enlarged and beautified by Herod, who called it Sebaste in
honour of Augustus, to whom he reared a magnificent temple.58
Under Roman rule the city enjoyed great privileges - had even a Senate of its
own.59 By one of
those striking coincidences which mark the Rule of God in history, it was the
accusation brought against him by that Samaritan Senate which led to the
deposition of Pilate. By the side of Samaria, or Sebaste, we have already
marked as perhaps more important, and as the religious capital, the ancient
Shechem, which, in honour of the Imperial family of Rome, ultimately obtained
the name of Flavia Neapolis, which has survived in the modern Nablus. It is
interesting to notice that the Samaritans also had colonies, although not to
the same extent as the Jews. Among them we may name those of Alexandria,
Damascus, in Babylonia, and even some by the shores of the Red Sea.60
47. The Jews termed it syn+lp (Ber. R. 81). Frankel ridicules the derivation
of Reland (de Monte Garis iii., apud Ugolini, Thes. vol. vii. pp.
717, 718), who explains the name as peleqou
naoV, stercoreum delubrum, corresponding to the Samaritan
designation of the Temple at Jerusalem as tyb )tlqlq œdes stercorea.Frankel
himself (Palast. Ex. p. 248) derives the expression from platanoV with reference to Gen. xxxv.
4. But this seems quite untenable. May not the term be a compound of +lp, to
spit out, and naoV?
48. Comp. Herzfeld, u. s. ii. p. 120.
49. In 314.
50. In 311.
53. According to Jos. Ant. xii. 5. 5, ellunioV;
according to 2 Macc. vi. 2, xenioV.
54. It is very probable that the date 25 Marcheshvan (Nov.) in the Megill. Taan. refers to the capture of Samaria. Both the Talmud (Jer. Sot. ix. 14; Sot. 33 a)
and Josephus (Ant. xiii. 10. 7) refers to a Bath Qol announcing this victory to Hyrcanus while he ministered in the Sanctuary at Jerusalem.
55. Between 113 and 105.
56. Not a few of the events of Herod's life were connected with Samaria. There he married the beautiful and ill-fated Mariamme (Ant. xiv. 12. 1); and there, thirty years later, her two sons were strangled by order of the jealous tyrant (Ant. xvi. 11. 2-7).
57. Ant xiv. 5. 3.
58. Ant. xx. 8. 5; Jewish War i. 21. 2.
59. Ant. xviii. 4. 2.
60. Comp. Nutt, Samar. Hist. p. 26, note, and the authorities there quoted.
Although not only in the New Testament, but in 1 Macc. x. 30,
and in the writings of Josephus,61
Western Palestine is divided into the provinces of Judæa, Samaria, and Galilee,
the Rabbis, whose ideas were shaped by the observances of Judaism, ignore this
division. For them Palestine consisted only of Judæa, Peræa, and Galilee.62
Samaria appears merely as a strip intervening between Judæa and Galilee, being
'the land of the Cuthæans.'63
Nevertheless, it was not regarded like heathen lands, but pronounced clean.
Both the Mishnah64
mark Anuath (rpk y)ntwc) as the southern boundary of Samaria (towards
Judæa). Northward it extended to Ginæa (the ancient En-Gannim) on the south
side of the plain of Jezreel; on the east it was bounded by the Jordan; and on
the west by the plain of Sharon, which was reckoned as belonging to Judæa. Thus
it occupied the ancient territories of Manasseh and Ephraim, and extended about
forty-eight miles (north and south) by forty (east and west). In aspect and
climate it resembled Judæa, only that the scenery was more beautiful and the
soil more fertile. The political enmity and religious separation between the
Jews and Samaritans account for their mutual jealously. On all public occasions
the Samaritans took the part hostile to the Jews, while they seized every
opportunity of injuring and insulting them. Thus, in the time of Antiochus III.
they sold many Jews into slavery.66
Afterwards they sought to mislead the Jews at a distance, to whom the beginning
of every month (so important in the Jewish festive arrangements) was intimated
by beacon fires, by kindling spurious signals.67
We also read that they tried to desecrate the Temple on the eve of the
Passover;68 and that
they waylaid and killed pilgrims on their road to Jerusalem.69
The Jews retaliated by treating the Samaritans with every mark of contempt; by
accusing them of falsehood, folly, and irreligion; and, what they felt most
keenly, by disowning them as of the same race or religion, and this in the most
offensive terms of assumed superiority and self-righteous fanaticism.
61. See specially War iii. 3. 4, 5.
62. For ex. Baba B. iii. 2.
63. For ex. Jer. Chag. iii. 4.
64. Gitt. vii. 7.
65. War iii. 3. 4, 5.
66. Ant. xii. 4.1.
67. Rosh haSh. ii. 2.
68. Ant. xviii. 2. 2.
69. Ant. xx. 6. 1.
In view of these relations, we almost wonder at the candour and
moderation occasionally displayed towards the Samaritans in Jewish writings.
These statements are of practical importance in this history, since elaborate
attempts have been made to show what articles of food the disciples of Jesus
might have bought in Samaria, in ignorance that almost all would have been
lawful. Our inquiry here is, however, somewhat complicated by the circumstance
that in Rabbinic writings, as at present existing, the term Samaritans (Cuthim70)
has, to avoid the censorship of the press, been often purposely substituted for
'Sadducees,' or 'heretics,' i.e. Christians.71
Thus, when72 the
Samaritans are charged with denying in their books that the Resurrection can be
proved from the Pentateuch, the real reference is supposed to have been to
Sadducean or Christian heretical writings. Indeed, the terms Samaritans,
Sadducees, and heretics are used so interchangeably, that a careful inquiry is
necessary, to show in each case which of them is really meant. Still more
frequent is the use of the term 'Samaritan' (ytwk) for 'stranger'
(yrkn), the latter, and not strictly Samaritan descent being meant.73
The popular interchange of these terms casts light on the designation of the
Samaritan as 'a stranger' by our Lord in St. Luke xvii. 18.
70. The more exact translation would, of course, be Kuthim, but I have written Cuthim
on account of the reference to 2 Kings xxvii. 24. Indeed, for various reasons, it is impossible always to adopt a uniform or exact system of transliteration.
71. Thus in Ber. 57 b Cuthæan is evidently used for 'idolator.' An instance of the Jewish use of the term Cuthæan for Christian occurs in Ber. R. 64, where the Imperial permission to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem is said to have been
frustrated by Cuthæan intrigue, the text here evidently referring by that
expression not to Samaritans, but to Christians, however silly the charge
against them. See Joël, Blicke in d. Relig. Gesch. P. 17. Comp. also Frankel u. s. p. 244; Jost, Gesch. d. Judenth. i. p. 49, note 2.
72. In Sanh. 90 b.
73. Frankel quotes as a notable instance of it, Ber. viii. 8, and refers in proof to the Jerus. Talmud on this Mishnah. But, for reasons soon to be explained, I am not prepared in this instance to adopt his view.
In general it may be said that, while on certain points Jewish
opinion remained always the same, the judgment passed on the Samaritans, and
especially as to intercourse with them, varied, according as they showed more
or less active hostility towards the Jews. Thus the Son of Sirach would
correctly express the feeling of contempt and dislike, when he characterised
the Samaritans as 'the foolish people' which his 'heart abhorred.'74
The same sentiment appears in early Christian Pseudepigraphic and in Rabbinic
writings. In the so-called 'Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs' (which probably
dates from the beginning of the second century), 'Sichem' is the City of Fools,
derided by all men.75
It was only natural, that Jews should be forbidden to respond by an Amen
to the benediction of Samaritans, at any rate till they were sure it had been
since they were neither in practice nor in theory regarded as co-religionists.7778
Yet they were not treated as heathens, and their land, their springs, baths,
houses, and roads were declared clean.79
74. Ecclus. 1. 25, 26.
75. Test. Levi. vii.
76. Ber. viii. 8.
77. Sheq. i. 5.
78. As in the case of heathens, neither Temple-tribute, nor any other than free-will and votive offerings were received from them.
79. Jer. Abhod. Z. v. 4, p. 44 d.
The question was discussed, whether or not they were to be
considered 'lion-proselytes' (from fear of the lions), or as genuine converts;80
and, again, whether or not they were to be regarded as heathens.81
This, and the circumstance that different teachers at different times gave
directly opposite replies to these questions, proves that there was no settled
principle on the subject, but that opinions varied according to the national
bearing of the Samaritans. Thus, we are expressly told,82
that at one time both their testimony and their religious orthodoxy were more
credited than at others, and they are not treated as Gentiles, but placed on
the same level as an ignorant Jew. A marked difference of opinion here prevails.
The older tradition, as represented by Simon the son of Gamaliel, regards them
as in every respect like Israelites;83
whilst later authority (Rabbi Jehuda the Holy) would have them considered and
treated as heathens. Again, it is expressly stated in the Babylon Talmud,84
that the Samaritans observed the letter of the Pentateuch, while one authority
adds, that in that which they observed they were more strict than the Jews
Of this, indeed, there is evidence as regards several ordinances. On the other
hand, later authorities again reproach them with falsification of the
Pentateuch, charge them with worshipping a dove,86
and even when, on further inquiry, they absolve them from this accusation,
ascribe their excessive veneration for Mount Gerizim to the circumstance that
they worshipped the idols which Jacob had buried under the oak at Shechem. To
the same hatred, caused by national persecution, we must impute such
that he, whose hospitality receives a foreigner, has himself to blame if his
children have to go into captivity.
80. Sanh. 85 b; Chull. 3 b; Kidd, 75 b.
81. Jer. Sheq. 46 b.
82. Jer. Demai iii. 4.
83. Comp. also Jer. Dem. vi. 11; Jer. Ber. vii. 1; and Jer. Keth. 27 a.
84. Ber. 47 b.
85. Comp. Chull. 4 a.
86. Chull. 6 a.
87. Chull. 104 c.
The expression, 'the Jews have no dealings with the
finds its exact counterpart89
in this: 'May I never set eyes on a Samaritan;' or else, 'May I never be thrown
into company with him!' A Rabbi in Cæsarea explains, as the cause of these
changes of opinion, that formerly the Samaritans had been observant of the Law,
which they no longer were; a statement repeated in another form to the effect,
that their observance of it lasted as long as they were in their own cities.90
Matters proceeded so far, that they were entirely excluded from fellowship.91
The extreme limit of this direction,92
if, indeed, the statement applies to the Samaritans,93
is marked by the declaration, that to partake of their bread was like eating
swine's flesh. This is further improved upon in a later Rabbinic work,94
which gives a detailed story of how the Samaritans had conspired against Ezra
and Nehemiah, and the ban been laid upon them, so that now not only was all
intercourse with them forbidden, but their bread declared like swine's flesh;
proselytes were not to be received from them; nor would they have part in the
Resurrection of the dead.95
But there is a great difference between all this extravagance and the opinions
prevailing at the time of Jesus. Even in the Rabbinic tractate on the
Samaritans96 it is
admitted, that in most of their usages they resembled Israelites, and many
rights and privileges are conceded to them, from which a heathen would have
been excluded. They are to be 'credited' on many points; their meat is declared
clean, if an Israelite had witnessed its killing, or a Samaritan ate of it;97
and, under certain conditions, even their wine, are allowed; and the final
prospect is held out of their reception into the Synagogue, when they shall
have given up their faith in Mount Gerizim, and acknowledged Jerusalem and the
Resurrection of the dead. But Jewish toleration went even further. At the time
of Christ all their food was declared lawful.99 There could, therefore, be no
difficulty as regarded the purchase of victuals on the part of the disciples of
88. St. John iv. 9.
89. Megill. 2.
90. Jer. Abhod. Zar. v. 4.
91. Chull. 6 a.
92. Shebhyith viii. 10.
93. The expression literally applies to idolaters.
94. Yalkut ii. p. 36 d.
95. In Jer. Kil. ix. 4, 9. 32 c (middle) the question of the Resurrection is discussed, when it is said that the Samaritan inhabitants of Palestine, far from enjoying the blessings of that period, would be made into sections (or, made like cloth [?]), and then burnt up.
96. Massecheth Kuthim, in Kirchheim, Septem Libri parvi Talmudici, pp. 31-36.
97. Chull. 3 b.
98. In Jer. Orlah ii. 7 the question is discussed, how long after the Passover it is not lawful to use bread baked by Samaritans, showing that ordinarily it was lawful.
99. Jer. Abhod. Zar. v. 4.
It has already been stated, that most of the peculiar doctrines
of the Samaritans were derived from Jewish sources. As might be expected, their
tendency was Sadducean rather than Pharisaic.100
Nevertheless, Samaritan 'sages' are referred to.101
But it is difficult to form any decided opinion about the doctrinal views of
the sect, partly from the comparative lateness of their literature, and partly
because the Rabbinist charges against them cannot be absolutely trusted. It
seems at least doubtful, whether they really denied the Resurrection, as
asserted by the Rabbis,102
from whom the Fathers have copied the charge.103
Certainly, they hold that doctrine at present. They strongly believed in the
Unity of God; they held the doctrine of Angels and devils;104
they received the Pentateuch as of sole Divine authority;105
they regarded Mount Gerizim as the place chosen of God, maintaining that it
alone had not been covered by the flood, as the Jews asserted of Mount Moriah;
they were most strict and zealous in what of Biblical or traditional Law they
received; and lastly, and most important of all, they looked for the coming of
a Messiah, in Whom the promise would be fulfilled, that the Lord God would
raise up a Prophet from the midst of them, like unto Moses, in Whom his words
were to be, and unto Whom they should hearken.106107
Thus, while, in some respects, access to them would be more difficult than to
His own countrymen, yet in others Jesus would find there a soil better prepared
for the Divine Seed, or, at least, less encumbered by the thistles and tares of
traditionalism and Pharisaic bigotry.
100. The doctrinal views, the festive observances, and the literature of the Samaritans of a later period, cannot be discussed in this place. For further information we refer to the following:, The Articles in Smith's Dictionary of the
Bible, in Winer's Bibl. Real-Wörterb., and especially in Herzog's Real-Encykl. (by Petermann); to Juynboll, Comment. in Hist. Gentis Samarit.; Jost, Gesch. des Judenth.; Herzfeld, Gesh. des
judisch. Volkes, passim; Frankel, Einfluss der Paläst. Exeg. pp. 237-254; Nutt, Sketch of Samaritan History, &c.
101. Gitt. 10 b; Nidd. 33 b.
102. Siphré on Numb. xv. 31; Sanh. 90 b.
103. Epiphanius, Hæres. iv., xiv.; Leontius, De Sectis viii.; Gregory the Great,
Moral. i. xv. Grimm (Die Samariter &c., pp. 91 &c.), not only strongly defends the position of the Fathers, but holds that the Samaritans did
not even believe in the immortality of the soul, and maintained that the world was eternal. The 'Samaritan Chronicle' dates from the thirteenth century, but Grimm
maintains that it embodies the earlier views of that people (u. s. p. 107).
104. This seems inconsistent with their disbelief of the Resurrection, and also casts doubt on the patristic testimony about them, since Leontius falsely
accuses them of rejecting the doctrine of Angels. Epiphanius, on the other hand, attributes to them belief in Angels. Reland maintains, that
they regarded the Angels as merely 'powers' - a sort of impersonal
abstractions; Grimm thinks there were two sects of Samaritans - one
believing, the other disbelieving, in Angels.
105. For their horrible distortion of later Jewish Biblical history, see Grimm (u. s.), p. 107.
106. Deut. xviii. 15, 18.
107. They expected that this Messiah would finally convert all nations to Samaritanism (Grimm,
p. 99). But there is no historic ground for the view of Mr. Nutt (Sketch of Samar. Hist. pp. 40, 69) that the idea of a Messiah the Son of Joseph, which holds so large a place in later Rabbinic theology, was of Samaritan origin.