A Counter-Cultural Detour Through Samaria

The fall of Samaria, which resulted in the deportation of thousands from the northern kingdom to Assyria, raises another question: Was the subsequent Assyrian importation and settlement of people from “Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim” (2 Kings 17:24) into the towns of Samaria the beginning of the people known in the New Testament as the Samaritans?

While the traditional assumption is that the Samaritans of the New Testament are the descendants of those imported peoples mentioned in 2 Kings 17, a comparison of the two groups does raise reason for doubt. For example, the imported peoples were syncretists – i.e. “They worshipped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought (2 Kg 17:33).”

Because clear evidence of such syncretism doesn’t exist among those later identified as Samaritans, scholars like Everett Ferguson suggest that a connection between the two peoples isn’t so clear, and may be nothing more than a later attempt of Jews to slander the Samaritans (Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd Edition, p. 534). But what would be the motivation for such slander? The Samaritans created a rival religious institution that preferred Shechem and Mt. Gerizim over Jerusalem and Mt. Zion as the location of the Holy Place (p. 534).

In contrast to Ferguson, the Archaeological Study Bible (Zondervan 2005), says the Samaritans are “a mixed race made up of a combination of Israelites who remained in the land and these non-Israelite settlers (note 17:24-41, p. 557).” And in spite of their syncretistic origins, they eventually “came to follow the teachings of Moses, including monotheism (note 17:24-41, p. 557).” I might add that their (ASB-Zondervan) conclusion of an evolution from syncretism to monotheism may be correct, but I have not been able to find a justification for that conclusion in any of their many notes on the Samaritans.

While the origins of the New Testament Samaritans may not be as clear as we might wish, we can see – and I think some may be surprised – how this “slandered, mixed race” people are referenced in the New Testament.

The references to the Samaritans fall clearly into three groups: First we see Samaritan used as a pejorative as in John 8:48 when Jesus was asked, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” We can see this negative sense also in the story of the (Samaritan) woman at the well in John 4. Her initial words to Jesus illustrate the inferior position of the Samaritans among Jews: “‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)”

The second type of reference to Samaritans is simply geographical. For example, when Jesus sent his disciples out (Matthew 10), he specifically told them not to go among the Gentiles or any town of the Samaritans. Rather, he charged them, “Go to the lost sheep of Israel.” Luke mentions an occassion when Jesus sent his disciples into a Samaritan village to prepare things for his arrival (9:52). None of these types of references should be deemed positive or negative.

The third category includes those times Jesus mentions or interacts with Samaritan people, and is clearly the most positive portrayal of the Samaritans in the Bible. I’ve already mentioned the John 4 story of the (Samaritan) woman at the well. In this story, we don’t see Jesus distancing himself from her because he is a Jew and she a Samaritan. We don’t see him reference her pejoratively. What we see is Jesus offering her “living water” and engaging her in a meaningful conversation about the messiah. John concludes this story with a very positive view of the Samaritan woman: “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony (John 4:39).”

Another illustration of how Jesus views the Samaritans differently than the surrounding culture does is how he juxtaposes the Samaritan with religious Jews in the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Since Jesus was crafting that story himself, he could have painted any picture he wanted, yet he chose to cast the Samaritan as the good neighbor and the religious Jews as the bad neighbors.

Finally, in Luke 17 we see the story of Jesus healing ten lepers. While on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled between Galilee and Samaria and was approached from a distance by ten lepers. They called out to him and he healed them. One of them, realizing that he was healed, came back to thank Jesus. Then, as if in a parenthetical note, Luke adds, “He was a Samaritan” (LK 17:16). Notice Jesus’ response: “Weren’t all ten healed? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Once again, Jesus juxtaposes the outsider against those representing the majority culture.

In all three cases – the woman at the well, the good Samaritan, and the leper who was healed – the Samaritans were cast in a much more positive light than some might expect considering the hostility of the surrounding culture toward them.

Is there an application for us in how we should treat/view those who might be considered negatively by the surrounding culture?

Pictorial Library: 1-2 Corinthians

BiblePlaces.com has just released their latest Photo Companion to the Bible, 1-2 Corinthians, and it is a winner!

What is a Photo Companion to the Bible?

Simply put, it is one of the most valuable teaching resources that Bible teachers (or students) can acquire because it helps the user better understand the cultural and geographical references of a particular book of the Bible. Bible teachers are wise to provide visual support for their teaching; and the Pictorial Companion is perfect for this purpose.

“This photo collection is remarkable! It provides a wonderful tour of the city and also includes pictures and interpretations of objects related to both the background and the subject of the text. Viewing the slides, I felt as if I I had found a pearl of great price that both informs and enriches one’s understanding of this letter.”

David E. Garland, Professor of Christian Scriptures, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University; author of 1 Corinthians in the BECNT series

Here is BiblePlaces.com’s description of this collection:

The Photo Companion to the Bible is a unique collection of digital photographs that illustrate the biblical text verse by verse.

  • PowerPoint-based resource
  • Library of images provides broad selection
  • Created by a team of professors and scholars
  • Organized by chapter and verse
  • Each chapter is illustrated by 45–200 photographs

What’s included in the 1-2 Corinthians Photo Companion?

This resource includes 2,500 photos. However, these aren’t 2,500 random photos that are somewhat related to First or Second Corinthians. These photos are organized by chapter and verse with helpful explanatory notes provided in PowerPoint format. While they are ready for use upon arrival, you may want to move the photos into your own presentation format.

While the photos are what catch the eye, the notes are a critical element of this resource. These notes are not a collection of random quotes gathered from the Internet for Uncle Joe’s Blog. They are produced by genuine scholars who have expertise related to the topics.

“When I discovered the resources offered through BiblePlaces.com I was thrilled. The photos have been a tremendous help to me! They are high quality, wisely organized, and reasonably priced. As one who loves geography, history, culture, and archaeology, these images have been a tremendous blessing and have greatly enriched my ministry.”

Pastor Joel DeSelm, South Bend, Indiana

What makes this collection better than what I can get in a study Bible or a biblical backgrounds textbook?

Admittedly, there are some good illustrated study Bibles and biblical background commentaries/textbooks available. However, the very nature of those publications limits their true effectiveness in visually illustrating the biblical text. The most obvious advantage of the Photo Companion to the Bible is the sheer volume of photos it provides for each chapter of the Bible. For example, at most, a printed text, whether a study Bible or a textbook, is limited to a few illustrations for a whole book of the Bible. Let’s be generous and say there is one illustration per page of that text. However many illustrations that would be for a particular published text, it pales in comparison to the 50, 70, 100, or more photos per Bible chapter that are provided in this library!

What are some highlights from this collection?

  • The city of Corinth and its archaeological remains
  • Images illustrating the worldly wisdom of Greco-Roman society
  • Photos of athletic competitions, racetracks, and prizes
  • Photos of Greco-Roman temples and meat markets
  • Coins illustrating orators and the Emperor Nero
  • Biblical scrolls showing Paul’s use of the Hebrew Bible
  • Papyrus letters, scribal tools, and artwork of scrolls
  • Ancient manuscripts related to stewardship, lawsuits, and divorce
  • Busts and portraits illustrating ancient head coverings
  • Traditional tents and portrayals of tent-making
  • Statues of famous individuals known to the Corinthians
  • Weaponry, armor, and strongholds from the biblical world
  • Imagery of planting, building, temptation, judgment, household gatherings, communal meals, grief, joy, decay, conflict, sowing, and reaping
  • Frescoes illustrating marriage, worship, sacrifice, prayer, freedom, conscience, judgment, field work, sailing, worship, and pagan wisdom

Can you give me an example of how this works?

The following elements are provided in a slide related to 1 Corinthians 13:2.
1. The biblical text or phrase.
2. The photo or illustration.
3. Identification or explanation of the photo or illustration.
4. Commentary relating the photo to the text.

Using the 4 point guide above, all the elements below are included in a PowerPoint slide:

  1. “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…”
  2. [note the photos in the Companion do not have the © statement]

3. Library of Celsus at Ephesus

4. Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 16:8). The Library of Celsus, built in AD 110, once housed some 12,000 scrolls. It is noteworthy that during Paul’s stay at Ephesus (from which he wrote this letter to Corinth), a number of new followers of Jesus who had previously practiced magic brought together their books and burned them publicly (Acts 19:19).

FREE SAMPLES!

Download the free PowerPoint of 1 Corinthians 13 here.
Download the free PowerPoint sample of 2 Corinthians 4 here.

How much does it cost?

The regular list price for the Photo Companion to the Bible: 1-2 Corinthians is $109, which is a bargain. However, this resource is currently on sale for $69, and you can order here!

Disclaimer

I have some photos in this collection. However, I am recommending it here because I believe in the product. I personally use the Bible Companion: Acts in my Life of Paul course at Baptist Bible College, and have received many comments from students about how helpful the images are in illustrating the text.

One Hour to Go

About an hour before the sacrifice, this community
elder is waiting anxiously, knife in hand.

Two Hours to Go


Last week at the Samaritan Passover, the sheep were escorted in about two hours before the sacrifice.

Detour Through Samaria

The fall of Samaria, which resulted in the deportation of 1000’s from the northern kingdom to Assyria, raises another question: Was the subsequent Assyrian importation and settlement of people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim into the towns of Samaria the beginning of the people known in the New Testament as the Samaritans?

While the traditional assumption is that the Samaritans of the New Testament are the descendants of those imported peoples mentioned in 2 Kings 17, a comparison of the two groups does raise reason for doubt. For example, the imported peoples were syncretists – i.e. “They worshipped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought (vs. 33).”

Because clear evidence of such syncretism doesn’t exist among those later identified as Samaritans, scholars like Everett Ferguson suggest that a connection between the two peoples isn’t so clear, and may be nothing more than a later attempt of Jews to slander the Samaritans (Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd Edition, p. 534). But what would be the motivation for such slander? The Samaritans created a rival religious institution that preferred Shechem and Mt. Gerizim over Jerusalem and Mt. Zion as the location of the Holy Place (p. 534).

In contrast to Ferguson, the Archaeological Study Bible (Zondervan 2005), says the Samaritans are “a mixed race made up of a combination of Israelites who remained in the land and these non-Israelite settlers (note 17:24-41, p. 557).” And in spite of their syncretistic origins, they eventually “came to follow the teachings of Moses, including monotheism (note 17:24-41, p. 557).” I might add that their (ASB-Zondervan) conclusion of an evolution from syncretism to monotheism may be correct, but I have not been able to find a justification for that conclusion in any of their many notes on the Samaritans.

While the origins of the New Testament Samaritans may not be as clear as we might wish, we can see – and I think some may be surprised – how this “slandered, mixed race” people are referenced in the New Testament.

The references to the Samaritans fall clearly into three groups: First we see Samaritan used as a pejorative as in John 8:48 when Jesus was asked, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” We can see this negative sense also in the story of the (Samaritan) woman at the well in John 4. Her initial words to Jesus illustrate the inferior position of the Samaritans among Jews: ““How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)”

The second type of reference to Samaritans is simply geographical. For example, when Jesus sent his disciples out (Matthew 10), he specifically told them not to go among the Gentiles or any town of the Samaritans. Rather, he charged them, “Go to the lost sheep of Israel.” Luke mentions a time when Jesus sent his disciples into a Samaritan village to prepare things for his arrival (9:52). None of these types of references should be deemed positive or negative.

The third category includes those times Jesus mentions or interacts with Samaritan people, and is clearly the most positive portrayal of the Samaritans in the Bible. I’ve already mentioned the John 4 story of the (Samaritan) woman at the well. In this story, we don’t see Jesus distancing himself from her because he is a Jew and she a Samaritan. We don’t see him reference her pejoratively. What we see is Jesus offering her “living water” and engaging her in a meaningful conversation about the messiah. John concludes this story with a very positive view of the Samaritan woman: “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony (John 4:39).”

Another illustration of how Jesus views the Samaritans differently than the surrounding culture does is how he juxtaposes the Samaritan with religious Jews in the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Since Jesus was crafting that story himself, he could have painted any picture he wanted, yet he chose to cast the Samaritan as the good neighbor and the religious Jews as the bad neighbors.

Finally, in Luke 17 we see the story of Jesus healing ten lepers: While on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled between Galilee and Samaria and was approached from a distance by ten lepers. They called out to him and he healed them. One of them, realizing that he was healed, came back to thank Jesus. Then, as if in a parenthetical note, Luke adds, “He was a Samaritan.” Notice Jesus’ response: “Weren’t all ten healed? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Once again, Jesus juxtaposes the outsider against those representing the majority culture.

In all three cases – the woman at the well, the good Samaritan, and the leper who was healed – the Samaritans were cast in a much more positive light than some might expect considering the hostility of the surrounding culture toward them.

Is there an application for us in how we should treat/view those who might be considered negatively by the surrounding culture? Is their standing in the culture at large to considered more important than their response to the gospel? I think the answers are yes and no, respectively.

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