Meier on the Samaritans
- Greetings all,
The subject of Samaritanism is covered best in Jn and in Lk, which two
gospels are certainly more friendly to the Samaritans than the others.
Myself, I'm currently doing some research in this area, so when the other
day someone very helpfully referenced for us the following article by
Meier, I went and read it.
John P. MEIER, "The Historical Jesus and the Historical Samaritans: What
can be Said?", Biblica 81 (2000),
But unfortunately, I must say that I was rather dissatisfied with Meier's
article. For one thing, why does he keep referring to the site of
Jerusalem Temple as "Mt. Zion"?
"..Mt. Zion in Jerusalem as the one valid place to build an altar or
temple for the public worship of Yahweh.."
But in actual fact, Jewish tradition identifies the Temple Mount with Mt.
Also, Meier seems to reject the idea that there was ever a schism between
the Jews and the Samaritans, because, according to him, they were never
united in the first place,
"'Schism' presupposes some original unity or union. If we are speaking of
Samaritans and Jews, we must ask in what sense these two groups were ever
That's certainly an easy way out of this problem that preoccupied
historians for a long time indeed.
Also, I have a problem with Meier saying that Samaritanism is not a part
"I question [Purvis'] view that Samaritanism should be considered part of
Judaism 'broadly defined'."
But perhaps Meier is completely unaware of the evidence that Samaritans,
themselves, were known to refer to themselves as "Hebrews", and even
Also, no mention is made in his article of the fact that the Samaritan
Pentateuch preserves great many readings that are in agreement with the
Septuagint (LXX) against the Masoretic text. (Of some 6000 variations
between the MT and the SamP, about 1900 agree closely with the
Septuagint.) Many scholars argued that very often both LXX and SamP
preserve the more primitive readings.
And neither is the special affinity between NT and SamP mentioned. As I
already said before, the New Testament, when quoting from the Old
Testament, very often agrees with the Samaritan text where that differs
from the Masoretic text.
In general, I'm afraid, Meier seems to misunderstand this whole problem,
and its true significance. For one thing, he seems completely unaware of
the theories that Jesus' criticism of the Temple may have had something to
do with his northern roots. Certainly this idea can be seen clearly in the
speech of Steven in Acts, since this speech both shows certain Samaritan
affinities, and is critical of the Temple.
And what about the northern roots of John the Baptist? Meier seems to have
missed these ones as well.
The way I see it, the dispute between the Jews and Samaritans was/is the
struggle for the definition of the true Israel. One thing that needs to be
stressed is the fact that the northern centres of worship, such as Mt.
Gerizim, clearly exceed Jerusalem in their antiquity. There's not really
much doubt about this.
So it is just possible that Samaritanism preserves the original and the
more conservative Israelite tradition. In connection with this, the
affinities between the Samaritans and the Sadducees have been often
I think there's good evidence that JB was connected with Samaria. Seeing
this, the HJ would not have been too far away from this tradition either.
And in such a case, surprising as this may seem to many, the early
Christians may have claimed for themselves an Israelite tradition more
ancient than the one represented by the Jerusalem temple.
Yuri Kuchinsky -=O=- http://www.trends.ca/~yuku
Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority,
it is time to reform -=O=- Mark Twain