Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

The Good Samaritan |
A ‘good’ Samaritan? Why that just couldn’t be

The Good Samaritan is drawn from Chapter Three, beginning on page 78, of Volume One, The Veil is Torn of the twelve-volume historical series The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years. If you would like to order this book please visit books.thechristians.com.

Centuries of raw hatred lent a sharp edge to Christ’s famous parable that escapes the modern reader

The Good Samaritan - A ‘good’ Samaritan? Why  that just couldn’t be

The Good Samaritan – A ‘good’ Samaritan? Why that just couldn’t be
Vested in festive white, modern-day Samaritans participate in a procession of the Torah during Shavuot prayers on Mount Gerizim. The festival which falls seven weeks after Passover was originally a barley harvest celebration. Later, under rabbinic influence, it was associated with the giving of the Law (Torah) on Mount Sinai.

One of the parables Jesus Christ would bequeath to posterity was the “Good Samaritan,” about a man from Samaria who rescued the victim of highway brigands after first a priest and then a Levite had passed him by and left him to die. Lost on many who would hear the story, however, would be its central irony. To the Jews of Jesus’ day, a “good” Samaritan was an oxymoron. If the man were a Samaritan, he couldn’t be good, and if he were good, he couldn’t be a Samaritan.

First-century Jews viewed the people who occupied the 870 square miles of land that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, separating Jewish Judea in the south from Jewish Galilee in the north (see map, p. 244), as frauds and impostors. They posed as the descendants of the lost Jewish tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. This, said the Jews, was nonsense: Those tribes had vanished forever when the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 b.c. The Samaritans were actually the whelps of a lot of immigrants the Assyrians imported into the area as replacement settlers, they said.

Not so, replied the Samaritans. The Assyrians had in fact left most of the populace behind after their conquest, and these were as validly Jewish as the Judeans in the south. And just as David on behalf of the tribe of Judah had established a sacred site on Temple Mount at Jerusalem, so their forefather Omri had established a sacred temple for his tribes on Mount Gerizim, near Shechem, about thirty miles north of Jerusalem. If there ever was a temple on Gerizim, archeologists were never to discover it. What they have found in great measure, however, are the remnants of the Samaritan capital, itself known as Samaria, built by Omri in the ninth century B.C. (1 Kings 16:24).

During the successive realms that followed the Assyrian conquest, Samaria experienced several rebirths. After Alexander conquered the region in 330 b.c., he rebuilt it. When the Jews defeated Alexander’s successors and regained control of the area, their king, Hyrcanus, reduced the city to ashes. In the Roman era, Herod the Great rebuilt it and named it Sebaste. From then it gradually declined to become the Arab village of Sibastiyeh.

Meanwhile, the faith of the Samaritans was to prove peculiarly durable. Bitter over the Jewish destruction of their capital by Hyrcanus, they hated the Jews by Jesus’ day with a vehemence matched only by the Jewish hatred of them. The Romans at first inclined towards the Samaritans, an advantage they exploited to the full. In A.D. 6—9, for instance, they intruded into the Jerusalem temple at Passover, thereby polluting it and successfully canceling the feast. By A.D. 52, they slaughtered a whole contingent of Jewish pilgrims near the Galilean-Samaritan border.

Fourteen years later, however, their alliance with the Romans had dissolved and they joined the Jews in their rebellion against Rome–joined ferociously, in fact, standing off Vespasian’s legions for a full thirty days before their water ran out, and the Romans cut down ten thousand of them.

Some theologians, including Abram Spiro and S. Lowy, discern a pronounced Samaritan influence on Christianity. They note that Stephen, the first Christian martyr, may have been from Samaria, because his celebrated speech that led to his execution challenged the authority of the Temple. Some detect a Samaritan influence in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and a few even suggest St. John’s Gospel was written for Samaritans.

After the fall of Jerusalem and the development of rabbinical Judaism, their conflict with the Jews declined, and the Samaritans spread throughout the empire. Samaritan synagogues once existed at Rome, Thessalonica, Cairo, and Constantinople. Byzantine Christians distinguished sharply between Jews and Samaritans and were very hard on the latter. When they twice rebelled in the sixth century against repressive Christian legislation they were slaughtered.

They fared better under the Muslim Arabs, and their faith began to pick up elements of Islam. Indeed, their assertion, “There is no God but God,” derives directly from the Muslim. However, in medieval times, they worked together with the Jews and Christians to defend themselves against the Turks, who were also Muslims.

By the twenty-first century their numbers had receded to approximately four hundred souls, two hundred of them living in Nablus, forty miles north of Jerusalem, the rest in Tel Aviv.

This is the end of the The Good Samaritan category article drawn from Chapter Three, beginning on page 78, of Volume One, The Veil is Torn. To continue reading more about The Good Samaritan from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years we suggest experiencing the rest of the book, complete with hundreds of magnificent illustrations, by ordering it at books.thechristians.com