Jews and Samaritans: The Origins and History of Their Early Relations.

Author:Stadel, Christian
Position:Book review

Jews and Samaritans: The Origins and History of Their Early Relations. By Gary N. Knoppers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xi + 326. $55.

The discovery of different kinds of harmonistic Pentateuch texts at Qumran and of traces of a Hellenistic-period Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim have dramatically changed the way scholars assess the early history of the Samaritan community and the value and character of its Torah text. These changes have spurred the surge in Samaritan studies in the last two decades, which was facilitated by the work of the Societe d'etudes samaritaines. The book under review was written by one of the Societe's members, Gary Knoppers, who presents a re-reading of the biblical and non-biblical sources for early Samarian and Samaritan history, including the results of archeological excavations and surveys. Knoppers presents a coherent narrative of the history of the northern Israelites from the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel until Maccabean times, culminating in the emergence of a distinct community of Samaritans, and the gradual parting of the ways between them and their Jewish brethren. The book is divided into eight chapters and ends with an impressive bibliography of some fifty pages and detailed indices.

The first chapter serves as an introduction and presents the outline of the book. The many attestations for the name samerim "observers" from Christian and Jewish sources (p. 15 n. 21) can be compared to early Samaritan evidence from an Aramaic poem (Z. Ben-Hayyim, The Literary and Oral Tradition of Hebrew and Aramaic amongst the Samaritans, vol. 3B [Jerusalem: Academy of the Hebrew Language, 1967], 68 11. 18-20).

Chapter two presents the archaeological evidence for the campaigns of Tiglath-pileser III, Shalmaneser V, and Sargon II against the kingdom of Israel, whose capital city Samaria was ultimately captured in 722 B.C.E. Although the first campaign caused widespread destruction and depopulation in the Galilee and northern Transjordan, the following ones, directed against the Samarian hill country proper, had less severe effects than generally assumed. There is no conclusive archeological evidence for massive depopulation or population exchange in Samaria. The Israelite material culture continued in the countryside, while the new Assyrian presence left its mark only in larger urban centers.

Chapter three examines the multi-layered biblical evidence for the fall of the northern kingdom and its...

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