MembersIs There Such a Thing as a Good Samaritan?

And just who are the Samaritans? Are they Israelites, pseudo-Jews or Assyrians? Let’s explore the Bible and the archaeological record to find out

By Haggai Olshanetsky and Lev Cosijns | | Topics: Samaritans
A Samaritan priest surrounded by worshippers holds up a Torah scroll on Mount Gerizim in Samaria.
A Samaritan priest surrounded by worshippers holds up a Torah scroll on Mount Gerizim in Samaria. Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90

Today, the Samaritans are a small unique group of a few hundred people who are on the verge of extinction. How close are their religious beliefs to those of the Jews? Or are they, as they claim, the descendants of the tribes that composed the ancient northern Kingdom of Israel?

The Samaritans are an ancient group of people, the remnants of which reside in the modern State of Israel and Samaria (aka the West Bank). Their name is synonymous with a famous British helpline (Samaritans) and an important parable about “the Good Samaritan” from the New Testament, often taught in schools worldwide.

There is even a law titled “the Good Samaritan” in many countries, with many variations, but one basic idea behind it: to compel citizens to more frequently assist others in trouble, even in the most basic way. The Samaritans appear throughout the Bible, where they are presented in both a negative and positive light. Yet, despite all the Biblical references to the Samaritans, their origins and their appearance in the narrative is sometimes unclear.

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