Greater than One Good Samaritan
The Good Samaritan exhibits up within the Gospels as an obvious exception to his individuals, since he’s the “good” one. Then he exits the stage, presumably to return to life with the remainder of the Samaritans, with little rationalization of what a “Samaritan” is or why that may have mattered to Jesus and his first followers.
A new exhibit on the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, opening on September 15, guarantees to broaden our understanding of those biblical individuals. CT spoke to Steven Fantastic, a Jewish scholar at Yeshiva College, in regards to the historical past of the Samaritans, their relationship to Jews and Christians, and the way they will help us higher perceive the Bible.
If an everyday churchgoer is aware of one factor about Samaritans, they know there was one good one. When Jesus tells that story, why does it matter that the Samaritan is a Samaritan?
What Jesus does within the story is miscast the half. The Samaritan ought to have been stereotypical dangerous man within the first century, and right here he’s, he stops to assist.
The story takes place in a horrible dry place within the Judean desert. It’s very uninviting. The priest has a cause for not stopping. Then the Levite, who helps within the temple, walks by and doesn’t assist. You’d count on the following stage of the story to be an Israelite. But it surely doesn’t go that manner. It’s the Samaritan.
He’s the man who’s least more likely to do the proper factor, within the well-liked creativeness. However he stops to assist! That’s utterly sudden. That breaks the story. That’s why it’s such an attention-grabbing story.
Now I bought to inform you, in Jewish literature not too lengthy after, there’s a rapprochement between Jews and Samaritans.
How do they arrive collectively? What does that appear like?
After the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, we discover Samaritans transferring into Jewish areas, and within the texts you discover issues like rabbis saying, Oh yeah, you may eat Samaritan matzah for Passover. No drawback.
It didn’t final a very long time. The division comes and it goes and it comes and it comes and it goes. Within the Center Ages, they typically reside collectively. They don’t intermarry, however they reside collectively.
Once we get to more moderen historical past, it’s the British and American Protestants after which the Zionist motion that saved Samaritans from destruction within the nineteenth and twentieth century. Offering meals. Offering political help. Actual sensible assist.
Lots of people don’t know that the Samaritans are nonetheless round, that there’s a recent group. What number of are there and the place are they?
There are greater than 800 of them at this time. About half of them reside in Nablus, within the West Financial institution close to Mount Gerizim, and half reside in a Tel Aviv suburb.
American Protestants and early Zionist leaders noticed them as Israelites who by no means left the land. They embraced them and supported them, and there’s been this aware curiosity from individuals of goodwill to get them the assets they should keep alive.
Within the 1840s, they have been nearly utterly worn out when Muslim authorities mentioned, Nicely you’re not Jews, which we tolerate as “individuals of the e-book,” however you’re not Muslim, so it’s a must to convert or be killed. That they had been destroyed in Damascus and so they weren’t doing nicely in Cairo, and this was form of the Alamo for these individuals. This was the final stand. The Samaritans in Nablus went to the British consulate for assist, and the consulate influenced the chief rabbi of Jerusalem to put in writing primarily a letter of advice—They’re Israelites who consider within the Torah of Moses. That was sufficient to avoid wasting them.
In 1900 there have been 119 or one thing. Now there are sufficient Samaritans to fill two 747 airplanes.
You’re a Jewish scholar at a Jewish college. CT is an evangelical journal, and I don’t know that now we have any Samaritan readers. Why ought to Jews and Christians have an interest on this fairly obscure group of individuals?
The Samaritans are an excellent place for us to take care of complexity. They’re not Jews and so they’re not Christians. They’re not Israelis and so they’re not Palestinians. All the questions of id and place come up. The Samaritans present us all of the websites of complexity.
There was a lot scholarship on Jews and Christians, particularly because the Nineties. For those who stroll by means of the e-book tables on the Society of Biblical Literature, it’s like Jews and Christians, Jews and Christians, Jews and Christians. However with the Samaritans concerned, we see it’s not simply these two, a twosome; it’s a threesome. While you see that, you see how all the problems that come up within the relationship between Jews and Christians—like how do you learn the Bible or who’s God or what’s the significance of worshiping the proper manner—get extra difficult with the third group included, and that’s the Samaritans.
To again up slightly bit, are you able to give me a quick historical past of the Samaritans?
Let me provide you with two completely different timelines. The Samaritan timeline is that Moses took the kids of Israel out of Egypt and Joshua crossed the river and went to Mount Gerizim. To date so good, proper? The tabernacle was arrange on the highest of Mount Gerizim and life was good. They take into account it a interval of blessings.
Now the Samaritans have the Torah, however in addition to that they’ve oral traditions—they don’t have the prophets and the histories.
Every little thing went nicely till the priest Eli determined to abscond with the tabernacle and go to Shiloh, after which David did the final word abomination of going to Jerusalem. Solomon constructed a temple there, and from the Samaritan perspective, these individuals left the true faith behind.
Now the Jewish timeline is that everybody was collectively and the northern tribes went dangerous and the southern stayed good and there was a cut up, which continues to today. That’s the one we all know from the Bible.
After the Assyrian exile, there’s additionally all these non-Israelites who’re introduced in and so they intermarry with the Samaritans, and for the Jews, that lowers their standing.
How a lot of the division ought to we consider as theological—a dispute over the correct place to worship—and the way a lot of it’s division over ethnic purity and who’s married to whom?
No, no, that’s too Protestant. That is Judaism! You possibly can’t differentiate the 2. You hear what I’m saying? That’s the place this difficulty lives.
There was 2,000 years of literature—whether or not it’s the girl on the nicely asking Jesus, What are you doing right here? or in rabbinic literature, the rabbis strolling by means of Nabulus and Samaritans saying, Why are you going to Jerusalem? The holy mountain is correct right here! It is a lengthy dialog.
Was that encounter widespread, the place somebody is strolling by the Samaritans on the way in which to Jerusalem and will get these questions, like when the girl on the nicely asks Jesus about worshiping on the mountain versus within the temple?
Sure! Bear in mind, all these individuals have been strolling to Jerusalem. It was the one strategy to get there. So for the Samaritans, all these Jews are strolling by their mountain and so they’re like, Are you out of your thoughts? You’re going to stroll one other day and a half? Now we have the mountain. And by the way in which, of us, now we have the water.
Within the rabbinic literature, there are all these tales about Samaritans heckling individuals going to worship in Jerusalem. It’s all on that very same highway that Jesus was strolling.
What did worship at Mount Gerizim appear like on the time Jesus was asking that girl for water?
Nicely, the issue is, there was no Samaritan Josephus. Bear in mind, we wouldn’t know a lot about first-century Jerusalem if it wasn’t for Josephus, writing stuff down, making an attempt to clarify issues to the Romans. And there wasn’t a Samaritan doing the identical factor for Mount Gerizim.
However my guess is it’s fairly near worship in Jerusalem. There’s pilgrimage to the holy web site and once they get there, there’s a sacrifice, and so they’re studying Torah scrolls collectively.
Picture: Museum of the Bible
After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the Jews are exiled, in order that’s how we find yourself with a diaspora. What occurred to the Samaritans?
The Samaritans had a horrible scenario underneath Rome. When it could have helped them to be seen as Jews, they weren’t. When it didn’t assist, they have been. They weren’t a part of the revolt, however they bought implicated in that, and Pontus Pilate killed a bunch of them. However when Jews had an exemption that mentioned they didn’t need to sacrifice to the emperor, Samaritans didn’t, so that they have been punished in the event that they didn’t assimilate to the Roman state faith.
Often the scenario is so horrible that the Jews assist them. And different instances it’s divide and conquer, and the Romans or different rulers pit them towards one another. On a regular basis, in all of the literature on either side, you see them understanding this relationship: We’re the identical. No, we’re completely different. No, we’re all kids of Israel. Sure, however you’re flawed.
Let me provide you with an instance. Within the sixteenth century, this rabbi in Constantinople will get a query: We bought a Samaritan Torah curtain. Someone got here to city and mentioned we couldn’t use it. Can we use it? So what does this rabbi do? He does what rabbis do and thinks it by means of, right-side as much as the other way up, to point out that Samaritans are usually not idolaters, and in the event that they’re not idolaters, then they’ll use it. On the finish of the textual content he says, They’re not idolators. They’ve pictures of doves on this curtain however they’re not praying to doves. It’s high quality. However you understand what, don’t use it!
Add the Samaritans to the story, and it complicates issues! That’s why it’s so attention-grabbing.
What is going to individuals see on this exhibit on the Museum of the Bible?
Now we have artifacts from Samaritans from everywhere in the world. Now we have a movie the place we collected tales from Samaritans. We known as it Tales of the Samaritan Elders, the place we requested them, “What’s vital to you to share? What would you like your grandchildren to know?” So the Samaritans inform the story of the Samaritans.
One other a part of the exhibition is what Jews, Christians, and Muslims have mentioned and completed with the Samaritans. There’s that model of the story and the historical past of the interpretation of the Samaritans and the political questions on their existence.
It’ll open the night of September 15, and you’ll see it by means of the top of the month. Then it goes to Bibel Haus in Frankfurt, Germany, from March by means of July. After that I’m hoping we are able to bundle it for smaller venues, Jewish group facilities and Christian faculties, and possibly it may well come to the place you’re! I hope everybody will get an opportunity to see it.