Samaritans/ Jews?


I don’t know that I’ve ever understood why the Samaritan Woman was surprised a Jewish man would talk to her. Were Samaritans and Jews some sort of enemies?


yes. iirc, the samaritans were a mixed race of jewish and gentile. the jews didn’t accept them, but they were worshipers of God. that’s why Jesus tells the parable of the good samaritan. on top of that, men didn’t talk to strange women in that day, even if they were jewish.


Thanks. Which group of people then, in those times, were the ones who worshiped the stone idols? I know they were Pagans, but was that all they were, or were there sub-groups to this? The reason I’m being so specific with my questions is that I’m considering writing my own version of some of these stories. I’m going to write about the woman at the well, the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her hair (Mary Magdalene), the woman with the issue of blood, and the woman who was almost stoned. Just wondering if it could be possible any of these women could have been Pagans, or had possibly husbands or families who were?


The woman at the well was a Samaritan (as the other poster said, a worshipper of the God of Israel, though not in the way accepted by the Jews who embraced Temple worship); the other three were probably Jewish, though I suppose they might not have been.

“Pagan” is literally from a Latin word that means “country person” or “hick,” implying someone who is backward and unsophisticated. In religious terms it means someone who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim. The Romans and Greeks of Jesus’ time, along with pretty much everyone else but the Jews (since Christians and Muslims did not yet exist) would have been pagan. Representing pagan gods with statues or idols was pretty common. There were many different pantheons of pagan gods, though when different cultures mixed they tended to mix-and-match or even combine their gods.

In the Old Testament, we see the Israelites (or at least some of them) adopting the gods of their pagan neighbors (Canaanites, mostly) from time to time, until a judge or prophet would be raised up by God to bring back true worship. Outright idolatry among the Jews doesn’t seem to have been as big a thing by Jesus’ time; they even had a special exemption from the practice of burning incense in honor of the Roman Emperor, so unlike their ancestors exiled in Babylon and Christians of later generations under the Romans (and, sadly, Jews of later generations under Christian rule), they did not have to deal with a conflict between their religion and the demands of the state.



Understanding who the Samaritans were requires a little understanding of Jewish history.

King Solomon was a harsh ruler. All that wealth came at a price and he exacted heavy taxes and forced labor. His son threatened to rule even more harshly and the result was that the ten northern tribes (Israel) succeeded from the two southern tribes (Judah) and formed their own nation. Israel to the north set up two golden calves to worship. Judah to the south had their own problems but were more faithful to God. This is known as the divided kingdom period.

Assyria attacked Israel (north) and deported a large part of the population into exile. Assyria was defeated by Babylon who then conquered the southern nation of Judah and deported many of them into exile as well. This is known as the Babylonian exile period.

The exiled members of the ten northern tribes of Israel simply never returned. They adopted the diet, customs, language and religion of their captors and never went back. These are the “lost tribes of the house of Israel.” Some Jews from Judah went back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple after the exile was ended.

The people who remained in the land of the northern ten tribes of Israel - those who were not exiled into Assyria/Babylon - were repeatedly conquered and continued to adopt the customs, religions, diets and cultures of their captors and intermarried with them. They never fully returned to the God of Abraham but worshiped other gods as well.

Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome were their five conquerors. These were nations with whom Israel was unfaithful to God.

*Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, `I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." (John 4:16-18)

This is the meaning of John’s passage about the Samaritan woman’s “Husbands”. The husbands represent the five captor nations with whom Israel was unfaithful to God. The promiscuous Samaritan woman represents the nation of Israel which unlawfully “husbanded” itself to alien nations and their gods.

Hosea 2 speaks of Israel as an unfaithful wife and God as an angry yet forgiving husband.

And in that day, says the LORD, you will call me, My husband,' and no longer will you call me,My Ba’al.’ And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. (Hosea 2:16-19)

This is why Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. They were an unclean, mixed breed which had abandoned God long ago, unfaithful wives of five husband/conquerors.



There’s actually two different conflicting stories as to the origin of Samaritans, told by Samaritans themselves and Jews.

One is found in 2 Kings, essentially what Tim in the last post has said: when the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians in 721 BC, they deported many of the inhabitants into other places and brought in non-Israelite peoples to populate the area. God sent lions to kill these new inhabitants, so the king of Assyria had one of the priests from Bethel teach the new settlers about the Israelite God. So the eventual result was that the new settlers worshiped both the God of the land and their own gods from the countries from which they came. (2 Kings 17:24-30)

But the problem is: modern Samaritans are not really polytheistic as this narrative implies. They are monotheistic and follow the Mosaic Law (in fact, only the Mosaic Law - they don’t accept the other OT books); they only differ with modern Jews on the interpretations of laws and the question of where the original Israelite holy place was (Samaritans believe that God’s chosen sanctuary is not in Jerusalem, but in Mount Gerizim). Not to mention that, despite the later legends about the ‘ten lost tribes’ (which Tim mentioned), it is really doubtful that the Assyrians managed to deport that many Israelites. It’s more likely that the Assyrians only deported many of the important people, while the rest of the population still lived in the land. (The records of Sargon II of Assyria indicate that he deported 27,290 inhabitants of the former kingdom.) In any case, other books of the OT such as 2 Chronicles (30:1-11; 34:9) and Jeremiah (41:5) imply that there were still Israelites in the north following Samaria’s destruction, and that the kings of Judah were keen to integrate them to the southern kingdom. So the Assyrian settlement would have really been unsuccessful.

On the other hand, you have the Samaritan story, which essentially claims that originally, all twelve tribes of Israel originally worshiped in Mount Gerizim from the time that Joshua conquered Canaan and the tribes of Israel settled the land. After Joshua’s death, however, a priest named Eli (the same Eli in 1 Samuel) decided to set up his own sanctuary in Shiloh, and much of Israel followed him in his schism, although a remnant continued to worship in the true sanctuary in Gerizim. This remnant claimed to have preserved the true sanctuary, the true Law, and the true priesthood; they claimed the Jews were tainted by the heresy of Eli and the later Babylonian Exile. The problem with this story is, our sources for this are quite late, dating mainly from medieval Samaritan chronicles, not to mention that there’s really little to nothing that would substantiate this story - which is a pointedly sectarian account - historically. But the essence of the story (that there was a connection between the Samaritans and the pre-exilic Israelites) is not doubted.

(I’ll continue in the next post)


The Samaritans [whom the Woman at the Well represents] are an apostate people. Read 2 Kings Chapter 17:6-41 … it explains much … most of the Israelites were deported - not all … and people from five Nations [Baal can refer to a false god as well as the master of a concubine - an unlawful husband] were brought in to work the land of Samaria … they also brought their Gods … thus the Samaritans are half breed Jews - they mixed with these imported peoples and missed their worship of Yahweh with the five [false] gods/baals of the five peoples … that is why the Jews dismissed and had nothing in common with the Samaritans … and is the basis of the theological discussion Jesus has with the Woman at the Well … her five husbands/baals are the five false gods/baals you see listed in 2 Kings 17 … She makes a claim to a common ancestor asserting her rights as a descendent of Jacob - who gave her that well … she talks about how they [the Samaritans worship on Mt Gerizim] … and Jesus tells her that He is the real God of Salvation … read 1 Kings 17 and then read the story of the Samaritan Woman … and remember that John’s Gospel is highly developed theology … it is Salvation History retold - the fulfillment od salvation history! … John starts with Genesis … In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God … which is a parallel to the Book of Genesis … complete with next day, next day, next day and then the third day - which is actually the 7th day because in John’s Gospel - this comes after the 7th day …

Give it a shot - it may answer some of your questions to have that historical context :thumbsup:


My account is the Biblical account - give or take a few details as I wrote it mostly from memory. I realize that the Bible is not a history book but my answers always come from the Bible as best as I understand it without regard to factual historical accuracy.



(Continued from my last post)

Modern scholars think that the truth lies midway between the Samaritan and the Jewish versions of the story:

When the Assyrians conquered Israel, they deported a number of its inhabitants, but the land was not totally depopulated (as the later legends of the ‘ten lost tribes’ would imply): there were still Israelites who remained. The southern kingdom of Judah tried to encourage these remaining northerners to unite themselves politically and religiously with the south (manifested in the northerners’ sending money and offerings to the temple in Jerusalem). The Assyrians meanwhile may have tried to entice other peoples to settle in the northern kingdom (who eventually adopted some facets of Israelite culture) perhaps to obliterate national identity, but it would seem that in the long run, this project was not successful: these people were assimilated into the general Israelite population (rather than the other way around). These remaining Israelites became the ancestors of the Samaritans. (DNA tests confirm that the Samaritans and Jews have a common ancestry, so they’re not really genetically separate.)

The thing is, it is common nowadays to think of Samaritans not in ‘ethnic’ terms, but in ‘sectarian’ terms: modern Samaritans are not so much an ethnic group distinct from Jews, but a religious sect who went separate ways with (other) Jews due to certain religious/political issues (i.e. they’re actually more like the Qumran Community or Christianity). In other words, we should distinguish between the ethnic ‘Samari(t)ans’ and the sectarian ‘Samaritans’. The ‘Samaritans’ mentioned in the NT, Josephus and the ones that exist in the modern day are more the latter than the former.

In fact, the schism between Samaritans and Jews may not date from the Assyrian conquest at all, but much later, perhaps after the Babylonian Exile (when the exiled Jews from Babylon returned to the Holy Land) or even well into the time of Alexander the Great or even after the destruction of Samaria by the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus in 128 BC: in other words, somewhere between the 6th to the 2nd century BC.

When the Exiles returned from Babylon, they clashed with the Israelites/Jews who were never exiled and the other peoples who lived in the land. Basically, the Exiles thought themselves to be a special people forged by their experiences in Babylon, the ‘holy seed’. The side effect of this is that they came to hold a rather exclusivist worldview; since they were the “holy seed,” they must keep the lineage pure and refrain from any relation with non-Jewish neighbors. In fact, the Israelites/Jews who remained seems to have been generally considered to be no better than the neighboring non-Jewish peoples; they could never share in the special Jewish identity the Exiles had shaped for themselves. (Especially if you consider the possibility that these remaining Israelites were more lenient and intermingled with other peoples in their area. That’s another reason to keep them from tainting the ‘holy seed’.) Which explains why Nehemiah had enemies in the form of Tobiah “the Ammonite servant” (who seems to be of Jewish descent), Sanballat “the Horonite” (a Samaritan - or maybe, a ‘Samarian’?), and Geshem “the Arabian.” That’s probably when bad feelings first started between the group that would later become the ‘Samaritans’ (i.e. some of the Israelites who remained) and Jews (the descendants of the exiles).


(Last for now)

We know that the Samaritans already had a temple in Mount Gerizim by the middle of the 5th century BC. But we don’t exactly know why it was built, or for that matter, where the Samaritans’ belief in Mount Gerizim being the original Israelite sanctuary came from. In fact, it’s a very complicated issue: the Samaritans consider themselves to be Israelites, they’re really not different from (other) Jews - genetically speaking, they follow much of the same tenets as Judaism (strict monotheism, Sabbath observance, circumcision, obedience to the law of Moses, celebration of feasts as set out in the Torah); it’s only their chosen place of worship that really sets them apart.

Some people had this theory that the Gerizim sanctuary is the continuation of a certain form of a pre-Exilic Yahwism (i.e. worship of Yhwh) that chose Gerizim instead of Jerusalem as its place of worship. This theory traces the origin of modern Samaritans to a what would have back then a small and relatively unimportant community of northern Israelites who were generally like other Yahwists, only they preferred to worship in Gerizim. (We know from the OT that alongside the ‘orthodox’ temple in Jerusalem, there were other cultic centers like Dan or Bethel or Shechem. It’s possible that in some places, foreign gods were worshiped, but it’s more likely that Yhwh the God of Israel was worshiped in most of these. They were only condemned because they were the ‘wrong’ places of worship from the orthodox POV and because they represented a threat to the central authority Jerusalem was trying to achieve.)

But some other scholars posit a more political reason for the choice of Gerizim (which even then, could still be combined with the theory I just discussed): the assimilated Samarian upper class first tried to support the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple, but when the Exiles rejected them (either because they were Assyrian colonialists or they were one of those unexiled Israelites), they began to oppose the project and then attempted to establish their own sanctuary on Gerizim (which also has a biblical/Yahwistic tradition of its own); those who preferred this sanctuary over Jerusalem became the ‘Samaritans’. There were political interests on both sides: the returning Jews thought of themselves as a special people and tried to disassociate with well, anyone that is ‘not them’: non-Jews, assimilated peoples and unexiled Israelites. The Samarian aristocrats in the north meanwhile thought of the budding Jerusalem community as a threat to their authority and so they built a rival sanctuary.


I had never understood her “five husbands” to mean it wasn’t literal. I had wondered if she hadn’t legitimately been married to five men, but just had lived with them or lied with them. But I had never thought to wonder if Jesus was referring to five gods whom she falsely worshiped. Is this true, or just interpretation?


Problem with the ‘five gods’ interpretation really is, (1) the Samaritans were and are monotheistic as far as we know, so it must refer to their purported past ancestry and not to their status during the time of Jesus; (2) while the five husbands could very well symbolize the five peoples (Babylonians, Cuthahites, Avvites, Hamathites, and Sepharvaimites) the Assyrians brought into Israel as per 2 Kings 17, that same passage mentions seven gods, not five (Succoth-benoth, Nergal, Ashima, Nibhaz and Tartak, Adrammelech and Anammelech).

I don’t think the fact that it can be understood symbolically excludes a literal interpretation: either she was actually married five times and each time her husband died or divorced her, or (since the Greek word for “husband” here literally just means ‘man’) she had a series of extra-marital affairs with men. So the ultimate point of the passage is: Jesus had knowledge about the woman’s private life, because as John asserts, “he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man.”

There’s another interpretation (Origen and St. Augustine AFAIK expressed this) that the ‘five husbands’ symbolize the Torah (the Pentateuch); the Samaritans accept only the Torah. In other words, it represents their adherence to the Old Law.


The view of Samaritans in Jesus’ time is colored by the fact that Josephus was an aristocrat/priest in the Second Temple.

By all measure, the Samaritan “offshoot” of Judaism (if it can be called that) was every bit as powerful as the Second Temple bunch in Jerusalem. Samaria had its own temple is Sebaste that Herod the Great rebuilt to a “sumptuous” degree that rivaled his creation in Jerusalem.

While the major festivals in Jerusalem were open to the Samaritans- and Jews from all over the world- there was always tension between the two groups.

Herod the Great also married a Samaritan woman- who was the mother to Herod Antipas.

In the revolt, Samaria stayed loyal to the Romans, and did not join the Zealots.

We do not know much about them simply because Josephus is our one and only real contemporaneous source, and he didn’t concern himself much with that nation.


I’ll try to summarize my earlier posts into something more concise and coherent.

In 722 BC, the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V laid siege to Samaria following the revolt by the Israelite king, Hoshea son of Elah (2 Kings 17:3-6; 18:9-11). Shalmaneser however died shortly after the conquest of the city; it was his successor Sargon II who completed the conquest of the region. In his records, Sargon claimed to have exile that he captured the city of Samaria in 720 BC, exiled 27,290 captives, rebuilt the city, and then resettled it with various exiles who were brought to Samaria from various other cities in Mesopotamia in several waves (2 Kings 17:24). Two more additional waves of settlers came during the time of Esarhaddon (reigned 681–669 BC; Ezra 4:2) and in the time of Ashurbanipal (reigned 669-631/627 BC; Ezra 4:10).

The account in 2 Kings presents these new pagan settlers as not acknowledging the law of the God of the land, hence God sent lions to kill them until an Israelite priest was sent back to teach them about Yhwh. The result was that these peoples worshiped Yhwh alongside their former gods (2 Kings 17:25-29, 41). 2 Kings makes it appear as if Samaria was bereft of Israelites and that the people who lived there were all foreigners, which in turn gave rise to the later lore about the ‘Ten Lost Tribes’ and the idea that modern Samaritans were the descendants of these pagan peoples.

Two other books of the OT, however, presents a different picture than 2 Kings. 2 Chronicles for instance tells of King Hezekiah’s (reigned c. 715-686 BC) attempts to draw the northern Ephraimites and Manassites closer to Judah after the destruction of Samaria, including inviting them to Jerusalem for the Passover (2 Chronicles 30:1-11). It then relates that Israelites from the tribes of Issachar and Zebulon were in Jerusalem as well (30:18). The same book claims that the money for the Jerusalem temple repairs collected during Josiah’s reign came from Judah and Benjamin (the two southern tribes), and from Manasseh and Ephraim and from all “the remnant of Israel” (34:9 - interestingly, this detail is absent from 2 Kings). Jeremiah in his prophecies tells of people from northern locations like Shechem, Shiloh and Samaria who brought frankincense and grain offerings to the house of Yhwh (Jeremiah 41:5).

The interesting thing here is, 2 Kings mentions the wave of foreign settlers brought in by the Assyrians but neglects to mention the remaining Israelites, while 2 Chronicles does the opposite by focusing only on the “remnant of Israel” while completely ignoring these foreign settlers.

Scholars think the historical truth is actually a combination of the two: the Assyrians did exile many northern Israelites, but not all. A significant remnant would have remained in Samaria (the region); some of these fled southward to Judah (what’s interesting is that just around that time - the 8th-7th century BC - the Judahite population apparently doubled; could this be caused by an influx of refugees from the north?), while the others who stayed in the north survived the conquest. Judahite kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah made steps to draw these surviving northerners closer to Judah; but years later, Judah was also exiled. The Assyrians did bring foreign peoples to settle in the north, but it seems that if they planned to eradicate Israelite identity by this tactic, they kinda failed; it’s more likely that these foreign settlers were assimilated into the remaining Israelites rather than the other way around.

By the Persian period, there were two provinces in the Holy Land: Samaria, a large, rich area composed by the remaining Israelites and the peoples brought in by the Assyrians (who have probably by this point ‘gone native’), and Judea, aka Yehud, where the small remnant of those who were not exiled to Babylon stayed. These Judeans were soon joined by the descendants of those who were exiled to Babylon, now come back to their native country. Yehud, was compared to Samaria, a small and impoverished country because its southern part was seized by the Idumaeans (the Edomites).

When the Exiles returned (ca. 538 BC), it kind of became clear that the religious and national views of the returning Jews no longer resembled the worldview of the Israelites who remained: it had evolved in such a way that it was no longer exactly the same. In fact, the returnees - who now thought of themselves as a special, holy people - looked down on the Israelite remnant for, well, not being ‘one of them’. In other words, no better than pagans. For their part, the northerners could have seen the returnees as a threat to their authority and mini-hegemony.

It was in this 5th-century BC context - the religious/political feud between the returning Jews in the south vs. the Israelite remnant and assimilated foreign colonists in the north - that a temple was built in Mount Gerizim (though we don’t know the exact reason why it was built). It was really the building of this sanctuary that marks the birth of the ‘Samaritans’, the people who preferred this sanctuary to that of Jerusalem (which had been rebuilt by the returning Jews), not so much the Assyrian conquest of Samaria two centuries earlier.


John’s Gospel is hi1ghly developed theology … read it from the opening verses …they parallel the book of Genesis … Chapter 6 Bread of Life and the Last Supper Washing of the feet … all of John is packed with meaning beyond the literal story …Mary as “Woman”, etc…the jars used for washing / purification used to provide the wine…John is so rich … then ev er yone just wants to reduce the Samaritan woman as a loose woman …yes perhaps …but who does she represent? She is not named …read their discussion … is it really about personal sexual sin? … not in my bible …they have a theological discussion abaout the differences in the descendents of our “father Jacob” whom both Jews and Samaritans claim, living water and the place an manner of worship.

Go read the chapter of second Kings for yourself… is it a coincidence that there were 5 peoples with five false gods that the Samaritans blended thier worship of Yahweh with?

It is an excercise in exegesis …

And no … i did not make this up … consider this too… we have the wedding feast of Cana …Jesus performs the duty of a Jewish bride groom …He provides the wine … a Jewish wedding, jewish people …then John the baptist tells us he is just the friend of the bride groom … that he (John) must decrease & that Jesus must increase …then Jesus goes throu th Samaritan territory instead of around. Jesus meets a woman at a well (see Isaac, Moses aand ask yourself what change of life happened to them at a well a nd read Hosea and the wayword wife ) … who is the samaitan woman with who is not her own? Jesus? …then he goes into Gentile County… Jesus the bridedgroom is gathering His bride …The jewish people, the half breed jewish people and the gentile people -
He is increasing

Its late … just quick randome thoughts … this is so rich … its hard to answer off the cuff …but read and study and ask your self questions



Are you saying that Jesus had five wives?

Now THAT’S a movie I would pay to see.


The Church is the Bride of Christ … we are the Church … Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles … that is the increase that John is referring to …

The Samaritans had the five Baals [Baals is another term used for husband - an unlawful husband … for example - … Abraham was Sarah’s adon - lawful husband but he was Hagar’s baal]

So you can see - the Samaria had five peoples that were brought into the land that inter-married with the Hebrew people and brought with them their false gods [baals] …


I’m gathering my plot together for my fictional story of the Samaritan Woman. I’ve named her Marah, and she is to be married off to the son of a merchant named Linus. He is a tyrannical man, and her mother-in-law, Ravanah (a name I just created myself) is a practicing witch (to spice up the storyline) Aside from all this, the only thing I need to know is if a merchant’s family would have had any servants or slaves working for them? This is question one. Question two is: I’m not going to have there be a wedding feast for Marah. Instead, she will simply be taken to her husband’s home. Would her father-in-law, Linus, take her? Would slaves or servants take her? Would she ride on horseback? I have no idea. Marah has lived with her family in a village in Samaria, and her husband’s family is within walking distance. Anyone who might be able to help, I’m asking for your input.


Re: analogies -

Our Lord drawing an analogy between the Samaritans’ religious history and the Samaritan woman’s personal history is exactly the kind of thing you can do if you’re all-knowing because you’re God. Heck, the entire Bible consists of this sort of thing.

Re: the seven gods mentioned –

Two of them were female, so they would be “ba’alat” (mistress, wife) and not “ba’al” (master, husband).

Anammelech was the spouse of Adrammelech. She was associated with a she-quail, and possibly with the moon.

Sukkoth-Benoth (tents of the daughters) is another name for the Babylonian goddess Zir-banit, wife of the Babylonian god Bel-Merodach, aka Marduk. (Babylonian Bel = Phoenician Ba’al) Apparently she was worshipped in Samaria by having sex tents where men hooked up with temple prostitutes (or in this case, tent-al prostitutes). She had a normal temple in Babylon.


I forgot to say that the more common spelling for Zir-banit is Sarpanit, just like you hear more about Marduk than Bel-Merodach. She was associated with Venus, the rising Moon, pregnancy, and seeds.

But anyway, the point is that goddesses definitely aren’t husbands, and that Jesus wasn’t going to bring them up when talking to a woman whose personal history didn’t include such things. If he’d been talking to a Samaritan man, maybe he’d have focused on the goddesses instead.

It may even be part of Jesus’ point to the woman that Samaritans didn’t do this stuff anymore and were solid for the Torah, if she wasn’t having all these men anymore, either.

The other point is that “the one who is with you now is not your husband” was literally true, since Jesus wasn’t her husband (and yet she was talking to him, because she was kindhearted and interested in what the heck he was doing talking to her) or the Samaritan people’s Lord (and yet they were trying to follow God).

So He was personally offering her salvation and reconciliation through “living water;” and at the same time He was offering salvation, reconciliation, and espousal to God to the whole Samaritan people.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit