SAMARITANS,TEMPLES, and the BIBLE
(Investigator 155, 2013 May)
Samaritans accepted the five books of Moses (the Pentateuch) and
imitated Israel's religion. Therefore, the Samaritan Temple on Mount
Gerizim, 48km north of Jerusalem, likely imitated in design and
ceremonies the Temple of Solomon. Josephus writes that the Samaritan
Temple was "a temple like that at Jerusalem".
If this can be confirmed
it would suggest that Solomon's Temple really existed and is not a myth
as some critics claim.
• c.1000 Solomon's Temple built (I Kings 6-7; II
• 722 Assyria deports Ten Tribes of Israel to
Mesopotamia and replaces them in Israel with foreign immigrants. (II
Kings 17) The deportations are confirmed in the annals of Assyria, and
by archaeological discoveries in Mesopotamia. (Younger 2003)
• 586 Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple destroyed; the
Jews exiled to Babylon
• 539 Persian Empire conquers the Babylonian Empire
• 537 About 42,000 Jews leave Babylon and return to
Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-4; 2:64)
• 516 The Temple in Jerusalem re-dedicated (Ezra 6)
• 458 More Jews return from Babylon to Jerusalem
• 445-430 Nehemiah is governor in Jerusalem and
annuls all Jew-with-Gentile marriages (Nehemiah 1; 13)
• c.430 Samaritans build their Temple on Mount Gerizim
• 334-330 Alexander the Great conquers the Persian
• 305 Seleucid Empire centered in Syria established
• 201-197 Seleucid Empire conquers Palestine and
begins to force Greek customs, language and worship onto Jews
• 168 Syrians ban Jewish religion, erect a statue of
Jupiter in the Temple, and martyr thousands of Jews. The Samaritans
side with the Syrians
• 165 Judas Maccabaeus leads the "Maccabean Revolt",
takes Jerusalem, and restores Temple services
• 141 Judas' brother, Simon, makes Judea fully
• 135-104 John Hyrcanus (Simon's son) rules Judea,
subdues the Samaritans, and destroys the Temple on Mount Gerizim (128
• c.20 Herod begins the enlargement and
beautification of the Jerusalem Temple
The Assyrians deported the ten tribes of Israel to Mesopotamia in 722
BCE and introduced foreign settlers to repopulate Israel. One Israelite
priest was sent back to teach the immigrants Israel's religion. (II
Kings 17) This resulted in the new settlers worshipping both the "Lord"
and foreign idols:
29 But every nation
still made gods of its own and put them in the
shrines of the high places that the people of Samaria had made…
32 they also worshipped the LORD and appointed from
all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed for
them in the shrines of the high places. (II Kings 17)
These people became the Samaritans. They accepted the Pentateuch but
not the rest of the Old Testament.
The oldest archaeological support for the ancient existence of the
Pentateuch is two "Silver Scrolls" dated to around 600 BCE, discovered
in Jerusalem in1979.
The Scrolls contain God's name "YHWH", paraphrases from four Old
Testament books, and quote Numbers 6:24-27 often recited in churches:
"The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you
Barkay et al (2004) confirmed the age of the Silver Scrolls using
BABYLON, PERSIA and EZRA
The Samaritans were relatively unaffected in 586 BCE when the
Babylonians destroyed Solomon's Temple and deported the Jews to Babylon.
In 537 BCE 42,000 Jews returned to Judea and rebuilt the foundation of
Solomon's Temple. (Ezra 3)
The Samaritans offered to help:
"Let us join you in
building the Temple. We worship the same God as
you, and we have been offering sacrifices to him ever since Esarhaddon,
emperor of Assyria, sent us here to live." (Ezra 4:2)
The offer was a ruse to disrupt the work and the Jews rejected it.
The Samaritan leaders thereupon bribed Persian officials and appealed
to the Persian emperor (4:4-24) and got the work delayed for twenty
Emperor Darius (reigned 521-486 BCE) gave permission to continue the
reconstruction, and the Temple was rededicated in 516 BCE. (Ezra 6)
In 458 BCE a second group of Jews led by Ezra (Ezra 7) returned to
Jerusalem. Ezra re-instituted the priesthood at the Temple and ordered
Jewish men with foreign wives to divorce them. (Ezra 9-10)
In 445 BCE the King of Persia sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem to be its
governor and rebuild the city wall. (Nehemiah 1-2)
Samaritans, allied with other enemies of the Jews, again tried to stop
the work. (Chapter 4 & 6) But the wall was completed and a
dedication ceremony followed. (12:27-43)
Nehemiah's wall is archaeologically confirmed. Archaeologist Eilat
Mazar (2009) reports: "In our recent excavations in the northern part
of the city of David ... we found a section of Nehemiah's wall..."
Nehemiah re-organized Temple worship, reinstituted the Sabbath, and
prohibited intermarriage with Gentiles. (13:23-27) This was about 14
years after his arrival, therefore about 430 BCE.
SANBALLAT and MOUNT GERIZIM
With the Jerusalem Temple fully operational in 430 BCE and protected by
the new wall around Jerusalem, this is likely the period when the
Samaritans built their temple on Mount Gerizim. The Old Testament does
not state this directly. But the Samaritans had similar religious
services and would lose legitimacy if Jerusalem had a temple and they
At this point the Bible comes into conflict with 1st century Jewish
When Nehemiah prohibited intermarriage, one marriage caused political
problems — the marriage of the high priest's grandson:
And one of the sons of
Jehoiada, son of the high priest Eliashib, was
the son in law of Sanballat the Horonite [i.e. of the town of Beth
Horon]; I chased him away [made him leave Jerusalem]. (Nehemiah 13:28)
Sanballat was a Samaritan leader who had tried to stop Nehemiah
rebuilding Jerusalem's wall. (4:1-2; 6:1-2)
Josephus apparently refers to the same marriage event and says that it
led to the building of the Temple on Mount Gerizim.
Josephus calls the high priest "Jaddua" rather than Eliashib and
suggests the illegal husband of Sanballat's daughter was the high
priest's brother, "Manasseh", rather than the grandson. By Nehemiah's
prohibition on intermarriage Manasseh had to either divorce his wife or
cease his priestly duties. Manasseh consulted with Sanballat who said
he would build a temple on Mount Gerizim and Manasseh would be the high
But the elders of
Jerusalem being very uneasy that the brother of
Jaddua the high priest, though married to a foreigner, should be a
partner with him in the high priesthood…so they commanded Manasseh to
divorce his wife… Whereupon Manasseh came to his father-in-law,
Sanballat… Sanballat promised him not only to preserve to him the honor
of his priesthood, but to procure for him the power and dignity of a
high priest, and would make him governor of all the places he himself
now ruled, if he would keep his daughter for his wife. He also told him
further, that he would build him a temple like that at Jerusalem, upon
Mount Gerizzim, which is the highest of all the mountains that are in
But there was now a great disturbance among the people
because many of those priests and Levites were entangled in such
matches; for they all revolted to Manasseh, and Sanballat afforded them
money, and divided among them land for tillage, and habitations also,
and all this in order every way to gratify his son-in-law...
About this time it was that Darius heard how Alexander
had passed over
the Hellespont, and had beaten his lieutenants in the Battle of
Granicum… (Antiquities Book 11, Chapter 8, Paragraph 2-3)
The Battle of Granicum occurred in 334 BCE and therefore dates
Sanballat's building the Samaritan temple to about then.
Josephus therefore places the Sanballat episode 100 years later than
the Bible. The Bible and Josephus also differ on the high priest's
name, and whether the high priest's brother or grandson was Sanballat's
son in law.
Either the Bible or Josephus is wrong, unless there were two
Sanballat's, and two high priests who faced similar illegal marriage
problems, 100 years apart!
The Bible does not directly state when the Samaritans built their
Temple. My suggestion that it was when the Jews finished rebuilding the
Jerusalem Temple is reasonable but not conclusive.
Does archaeology shed any light?
Yitzhak Magan (2010) led excavations on Mount Gerizim for 25 years and
writes: "We can now confirm that a Samaritan temple was indeed built on
The Samaritan Temple itself was not found. It was destroyed in 128 BCE
and most remaining ruins removed in 484 CE when a Christian church was
built on the site.
However, the temple precinct, 321 x 315 feet, is still evident, bounded
by the remains of walls 3 feet thick and gates in three of the walls.
The gates were "six chambered", a common design in the Persian period.
Magan's team found 68 coins from the Persian period the oldest 480 BCE,
and a small gold bell with clapper. The Bible mentions gold bells
attached to the hem of the high priest's skirt or "ephod". (Exodus
28:33-35) They also found 400,000 bone fragments which enabled
carbon-dating of various levels and proved the area had been a place of
worship where animal sacrifices occurred.
The excavations also revealed 400 inscriptions including the name
of God (YHWH), names of individual priests, and inscriptions that read:
• "for good remembrance before God in this place"
• "Joseph offered … in this temple";
• "House of sacrifice";
• "that which is offered".
"House of sacrifice" is a biblical phrase for Solomon's Temple (II
Chronicles 7:12); and "that which is offered" refers to animal
Magan concludes that Josephus' date of c.330 BCE is wrong and the
coins, pottery, other artifacts, and carbon dating of animal bones
indicate a century earlier:
Our excavations have
revealed that actually the Samaritan temple was
built more than a century earlier—in the time of Nehemiah... (p. 30)
Magan's century-earlier date gets support in the Elephantine Papyri.
These are 175 Jewish documents dating from the 5th century BCE
discovered in Egypt. (Wikipedia) One document is a letter to Sanballat
in Samaria dated 410 to 407 BCE which is about 30 years after
Sanballat's confrontation with Nehemiah. This supports the Bible's 5th
century BCE date for Sanballat over Josephus' 4th century BCE date.
Around 520 BCE when Solomon's Temple was still rubble and looked "as
nothing" the prophet Haggai prophesied:
The latter splendor of
this house shall be greater than the former,
says the LORD of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says
the LORD of hosts. (Haggai 2:3; 9)
The "greater splendor" was fulfilled when the restored Temple:
Lasted longer than Solomon's Temple;
2. Underwent reconstruction by Herod
the Great and
elicited wonder and praise;
3. Was visited by the Messiah
(Jesus). (Matthew 21)
Jews regarded Samaritans as apostates and did not associate with them
(John 4:9) because Samaritans rejected most of the Scriptures.
Jesus, however, conversed with a Samaritan woman near Mount Gerizim
(John 4), thereby introduced the absence of ethnic prejudice that would
characterize early Christianity. (Acts 10:34-35; 17:26) Jesus further
humanized the Samaritans with his story of the "Good Samaritan".
The Samaritan woman said: "I know that Messiah is coming." (John
4:25-26) Christians believe that Jesus as Messiah is foretold in the
Psalms, the prophetical books, and the Pentateuch. Since the Samaritans
also expected a "messiah" the prophecy must be evident in the
Jesus instructed the 12 apostles: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and
enter no town of the Samaritans." (Matthew10:5) This command applied
temporarily because Jesus' ministry was restricted to Jews.
However, Jesus foretold that "the gospel" would go to all nations
(Matthew 24:14; Luke 24:45-47), and Acts 8 tells of Philip, Peter and
John evangelizing the Samaritans after Jesus' resurrection.
In 67 CE the Samaritans joined the Jewish revolt against Rome and were
slaughtered on Mount Gerizim. Josephus writes:
did the Samaritans escape their share of misfortunes at this time;
for they assembled themselves together upon the mountain called
Vespasian … therefore sent thither Cerealis, the
commander of the fifth
legion, with six hundred horsemen, and three thousand footmen who …
fell upon them and slew them all, being in number eleven thousand and
(Wars of the Jews, Book 3, Chapter 7, Paragraph 32)
This fulfilled what Jesus told the Samaritan woman: "the hour is coming
when you will worship the father neither on this mountain nor in
Jerusalem." (John 4:21) Fulfillment began in 67 CE for Mount Gerizim
and in 70 CE for Jerusalem.
Samaritans had numbered perhaps 1 million, but war and persecution
progressively reduced their numbers. Noteworthy was a bloody rebellion
against Byzantine rule in 529 CE. After that Islam arrived and
centuries of forced conversion followed.
In Pilgrimage to Palestine
(1927) Dr Harry Fosdick (1878-1969) recalls
meeting the Samaritan high priest on Mount Gerizim:
As guests of the High
Priest we sat in his tent and through a skilled
interpreter talked with the venerable old man about his religion. His
complacency, his sense of superiority, his certainty that these few
Samaritans alone among men knew the truth about God and practiced it,
were fascinating. The millions around him, he said, were forgetting the
Divine Law: only his little group of despised people were keeping it.
He nestled comfortably into that conviction. From every point of view,
he said, the Samaritan religion was perfect. Could Jews or Christians
divide their edition of the Ten Commandments into two tablets so that
the same number of words and letters would be on each? Never! The
Samaritans could do it with their edition! He had visited, he said,
London, Paris, Constantinople, and had always tried with open mind to
welcome new truth, but had come back to Gerizim certain that no new
religion was so flawless as the Samaritans. All others were simply more
or less pleasing superstructures; only the Samaritans had solid
foundations in the Mosaic Law.
In 2016 less than 800 Samaritans remain. Some live near Mount Gerizim,
others near Telaviv. They still follow the Law of Moses, kill lambs the
traditional way for the Passover feast, and keep the Sabbath.
Archaeological remains of Solomon's Temple have not been found. If they
exist they would lie under Islam's Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount
and therefore currently not accessible.
However, in "A Lost Empire Rediscovered" (Investigator 124) I showed
that the Empire of Cush or Sudan was lost to history for over 2000
years, except for its mention in the Bible. If ancient monarchs could
obliterate cities and delete even empires from history, thereby making
the Scriptures appear erroneous, Solomon's Temple would have been easy!
The Ten Lost Tribes and their replacement with people who became the
Samaritans are archaeologically confirmed. So is Nehemiah's wall,
similarities of the Samaritan Temple with Jerusalem's Temple, and the
historicity of Sanballat.
Samaritan opposition to rebuilding Solomon's Temple although Haggai
prophesied "greater splendor" for the new construction, which was
fulfilled, refutes Samaritan religion. Furthermore, although Samaritans
expected a future "messiah" their religion never produced him; but
Judaism did. The predictions in Genesis that through Abraham's
descendants God would "bless all the nations of the earth" never found
fulfillment in the Samaritans but did through Jesus and Jesus'
Barkay, G. et al The Amulets from Ketef Hinnom: A New Edition and
Evaluation. Bulletin of the American
School of Oriental Research May,
Elephantine Pypyri in English, Second Edition, 2011
Fosdick, H. 1927 Pilgrimage to
Magen, Y. A Samaritan Temple to the Lord on Mt. Gerizim, BAR,
November/December, 2010, pp 26-35, 70
Mazar, E. The Wall That Nehemiah Built, BAR, March/April 2009, 24-33
Younger, Jr., K. Lawson Israelites in Exile, BAR, Nov/Dec, 2003.
The Bible examined on this website and
hundreds of points confirmed: