03.04.07 332 B.C. The Samaritan Temple Built
With the blessings of Alexander, the first Samaritan temple was built on Mount Gerizim overlooking the ancient village of Shechem. There were many points of cultural and theological differences and arguments between the Jews and Samaritans. Tensions were constant. But when it was completed, the separation of the Jews and Samaritans was fixed in stone. Since that time, the temple site continued to be central to Samaritan worship. The date of its construction is a subject of debate. Nonetheless, there are three important points to consider:
- Some scholars believe the temple was built at the time of Nehemiah and that the son of the high priest Jehoiada, who married Sanballat’s daughter Nicaso (Neh. 13:28), was influential in the construction. However, the term son could also mean grandson. Therefore, the date of the marriage is uncertain which complicates the dating of the temple construction. Coins and pottery discovered at the site date the temple to the mid-fifth century B.C., possibly prior to Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem.
- The events recorded by Josephus are generally quite accurate, but his account of the Samaritan temple construction is considered by most historians to be in error and, therefore, is not quoted here.
- Some Jewish traditions state that the temple was constructed when Nehemiah removed Tobiah from the Jerusalem temple.
It should be noted, however, that while the Greeks permitted the Samaritans to build their temple, Samaria also became a center of Greek pagan worship of Isis and Serapis. This polytheistic culture of the Samaritans mirrored the Greeks, which is why by the time of Jesus, so many Jews hated the Samaritans. Archaeologists discovered the Zeno Papyri that affirms the widespread encroachment of Hellenism into the Jewish communities.
. Blizzard, “Judaism – Part 1″ Yavo Digest. 1:5, 8; http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/ancient-israel/dating-of-samaritan-temple-on-mt-gerizim/. August 19, 2013.
. http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/uncategorized/merrills-letter/ August 20, 2013.
. Josephus, Antiquities 11.7-8.
. Scott, Jr. Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. 77.
. The god Isis originated in Egypt, but was accepted by the Greeks. See Zangenberg, “Between Jerusalem and Samaria.” 427-28.
. See “Zeno Papyri” in Appendix 26.