The Samaritans are really fascinating to me. They use the older, more Canaanite looking writing system rather than the well-known Aramaic writing system of Hebrew today. Their dialect of Hebrew is very different from standard Biblical Hebrew. Whent they speak Modern Israeli Hebrew, they retain more of the Semitic phonology than do other Israelis. They have different halachic interpretations than the Jews - for example, their mezuzah isn’t rolled up into a small container and attached to the doorpost but rather framed and hung up above the lintel. They still practice animal sacrifice but they don’t wear tzitzit or tallitot or anything like that. They build year-round booths in their houses rather than once a year on Sukkot. They don’t believe in the Jerusalem Temple but they believe in the Temple on Mt. Gerizim where they have many legends about Adam and Eve meeting there, Abraham almost sacrificing his son there, etc. They accept only Torah and reject Nevi’im and Ketuvim.
Now, I’ve only read some basic articles on their origins but I can’t quite sort it out in my head. The Jews claim something different from what the Samaritans claim and scholars themselves have even more theories and are divided on the origins of the Samaritan community. Some theories include:
*]descendants of the Israelites left over from the destruction of the North Kingdom who interbred with the Assyrian colonists that were imported in
*]descendants of the Judaeans that were not taken into exile and who were rejected when the exiles returned under the Persian king Cyrus and who in turn rejected the returning exiles claiming that the exiles religion had been corrupted
*]a group of people who separated from the rest of the Israelites during the period of the Judges and set up their own place of worship and their own illicit priesthood on Mt. Gerizim
The second one seems to really fit in with what we know about pre-exilic Israelite religion and how it differs from post-exilic Judaism… but among scholars who date the compilation of the entire Torah to exilic or post-exilic times, I can see how this theory is problematic since even the Samaritans accept the entire Torah as is (albeit several key textual differences regarding the Temple, etc.)
I’d really like to know - where did they come from!? Does anyone know what the most current, up-to-date scholarship says on the issue?