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For the counseling organisation, see Samaritans.

Samaritans today are a people of mixed ethnicity who live in Israel, who practice a religion having similarities and differences to the Jewish faith. They accept as their canon the Torah and the Book of Joshua, as do Christians, while rejecting other Jewish Scriptures.

The Samaritans mentioned several times in the Gospels by Jesus were predominantly Gentiles, and the references to them are all favorable. For example, one of the most famous references to Samaritans in the New Testament is in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It is also said that Jesus first expressly revealed his divinity to a Samaritan woman at the well, despite how Samaritans were outcasts at the time:[1]

The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.”

Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

The conversation by Jesus with the Samaritan woman was in violation of the custom of that time, analogous to Jesus violating the prohibition against working on the Sabbath.

The only one who thanked Jesus for a particular healing of many was identified as a Samaritan, at Luke 17:11-19 .

The Gospel of John implies that Jesus himself may have been from Samaria, when John quotes Pharisees as calling Jesus a Samaritan and Jesus not denying it in response:

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”[2]

Origin of the Samaritans

On the separation of Israel and Judah, the ancient city of Shechem, which had been from the first so intimately connected with the history of Israel, became naturally the religious center of the Northern Kingdom.[3] The political capital, however, was transferred by Omri to his newly built city of Samaria about 883 B.C., and the Israelitish kingdom continued to exist there until it fell before Assyria.[3] In the fourth year of Hezekiah "Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, came up against Samaria, and besieged it. And at the end of three years they took it" [3][4] The inhabitants were deported to various parts of Assyria and to "the cities of the Medes"; and colonists were sent to take their place.[3] The colonists were soon after troubled by lions, which they regarded as a divine visitation due to their ignorance of the "manner of the god of the land."[3] At their request an Israelitish priest was sent to them, who settled at Beth-el,[5] with the result that a mixed form of religion was established, partly Israelitish and partly idolatrous.[3]

The next reference to the people of Samaria, regarded as the remnant of Israel, is when Josiah suppressed the high places among them [6] and collected money to repair the house of the Lord, from "Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel" (II Chron. xxxiv. 9).[3] That the Israelitish element still held its own in the north, is shown by the incidental mention "That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria," in the time of Jeremiah, desiring to join in the offerings at the Temple [3][7] Later on (and this is the last mention of the Samaritans in the Old Testament), their claim to a participation in the building of the Temple was rejected by Zerubbabel, no doubt on the ground of their mixed origin.[3]


Predominance of Males

Most noticeable is the great preponderance of males over females; indeed, this is one of the most serious problems confronting the Samaritans at the present time.[3] Trustworthy evidence points to the fact that in modern times there has been but little if any intermarrying with the other peoples of Syria.[3] The Samaritans themselves claim the perfect purity of their stock.[3] Only as a last resort would they seek wives outside their own sect; and in this case they would naturally wish to marry among the people of the most closely allied religion, the Jews.[3] The Jews hate and despise the Samaritans with the greatest bitterness, and would do all in their power to prevent marriages between the two groups.[3] Syrian Christians and Muslims would be equally averse to intermarrying with the Samaritans, both on account of their natural antipathy to this sect, and on account of the hardships which women must endure according to the rules of the Samaritan religion.[3] These two factors, the natural inclination of the Samaritans to marry strictly among themselves, and the difficulty of forming marriages with other religious groups of Syria, would combine to preserve the purity of the stock, and at the same time to promote degeneracy by close interbreeding.[3]

Physical characteristics

The Samaritans are by no means an exclusively brunette type.[3] As seen by the presence of blue eyes and light hair or beards in a considerable percentage of the individuals examined, there is, on the contrary, a distinct blond type noticeable in the group.[3]

The general type of physiognomy of the Samaritans is distinctly Jewish.[3]

Samaritan Language

The Samaritan language proper is a Palestinian Aramaic dialect, differing only slightly from the other dialects of Aramaic spoken in Syria, but preserving an archaic script.[3] The confusion, or rather neglect, of the gutturals in pronunciation may be compared with a similar peculiarity of the Galilean dialect.[3] The language must be studied in connection especially with that of the Jerusalem Talmud and the remains of Christian Palestinian Syriac.[3] After the Arab conquest of Syria in 632, the Samaritan vernacular gradually gave way to Arabic, and probably by the eleventh century, if not earlier, it was no longer popularly understood.[3] From that time the literature is either in Arabic or, chiefly for liturgical purposes, in Hebrew, which becomes more and more corrupt as time goes on.[3]


  1. John 4:25-26 (NAS).
  2. {{bible ref|John|8|48-51
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 3.23 Jewish Encyclopedia'a article on Samaritans
  4. (II Kings xviii. 9)
  5. (II Kings xvii. 28)
  6. (II Kings xxiii. 15, 19 et seq.)
  7. (Jeremiah xli. 5)