The Emergence of the Samaritan Community
(Lecture given by Professor Abraham Tal
at Mandelbaum House, August 2001)
Our subject is a tiny Samaritan community, less than 700 souls, presently divided in two distinct urban agglomerations. An old one in the ancient Shechem, the actual Nablus, of the Palestinian Authority, and the new one in Holon, near Tel-Aviv, in Israel, established in the thirties. They are the remains of the people who dwelt in Samaria, particularly in the tribal regions of Manasseh and Ephraim, and who have maintained a unique identity to the present in a form of Mosaic religion that developed in the area centered around Mt. Gerizim.
The Samaritans are not easily brought into sharp focus. Sources are often contradictory, sketchy, or nonexistent. It is problematic how distinct the Samaritans are from the Jews of different periods, what constitutes the basic distinguishing focus, or how much interaction existed between the Samaritans and other sects based on the Mosaic Pentateuch. The geographic origin of the people called Samaritans has been seen in Mesopotamia and Northern Palestine, raising the question whether their basic characterization is geographical, ethnic, or doctrinal.
As a cultural designation of a particular people, the term Samaritan (shomeronim) appears biblically only in 2 Kgs 17:29, where it is associated with worshippers of idols.
Vayiheyu osim goi goi vayanikhu beveit asher asu hashomeronim goi goi beareihem
Every nation still made gods of its own, and put them in the shrines of the high places which the Shomronim had made, every nation in their cities
The Samaritans, however, derive their name not from this geographical designation, but rather from the term s&amer´m, “keepers [of the law]”. In full, “the Samaritan community of the Sons of Israel, the keepers”.
Such a name is naturally adopted by dissident sects, seeking to distinguish themselves from the main stream, in order to emphasize their fidelity to the “original” ideology. In a similar way, the Hebrew name of the Christians,notzerim, means “keepers”, “guardians”, and intends to point out their faithfulness to “true faith”. The association with Nazareth is secondary, based on popular etymology. The same trend is to be found in the name adopted by a non-Christian gnostic sect, split from Judaism at the same time and migrated to Mesopotamia. They too call themselves “keepers”, notzora’ei, a nickname parallel to their “official” name: Mandaens: “worshipers of knowledge”.
As to their origins, there are two diametrically opposed versions.
1. The Samaritan Version. The Samaritans have insisted that they are direct descendants of the Northern Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, who survived the destruction of the Northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E. The inscription of Sargon II records the deportation of a relatively small proportion of the Israelites (27,290, according to the annals), so it is quite possible that a sizable population remained that could identify themselves as Israelites, the term that the Samaritans prefer for themselves.
Samaritan historiography would place the basic schism from the remaining part of Israel after the twelve tribes conquered the land of Canaan, lead by Joshua. After Joshua’s death, Eli the priest left the tabernacle which Moses erected in the desert and established on Mount Gerizim, and built another one under his own rule in the hills of Shilo (1 Sam 1:1-3; 2:12-17). Thus, he established both an illegitimate priesthood and an illegitimate place of worship.
According to this description, the Jews are the dissidents!
2. The Jewish accounts, characterized by 2 Kings 17 and Josephus (Ant 9.277–91) claim that the Samaritans are descendants of deportees brought into the region of Samaria by the Assyrians from other lands they had conquered, including Cuthah, and thus the derogatory Jewish designation of Samaritans as cutim, Cutheans (Ant 9.290, etc.). The Jews have argued that the disguise of Israelite religion displayed by the Samaritans is the result of instruction by an Israelite priest repatriated from Assyria after the colonists had been attacked by lions sent by God (2 Kgs 17:25–26). It is only natural that the main stream of an ideology or religion would condemn any dissident fraction, and this condemnation is reflected by a pejorative nickname. However, there are some (rare) instances in Jewish sources, where a Samaritan is named neutrally shamray.
Moreover, there are some indications that the Rabbis were aware of their genuine Israelite origin. A Midrash (BerR Sect. 94) relates about an encounter between Rabbi Meir and a Samaritan. The story that developed includes the following dialogue:
R. Meir asks the Samaritan: What tribe are you from?
The Samaritan answers: From Joseph.
R. Meir : No!
The Samaritan: From which one then?
R. Meir : From Issachar.
The Samaritan: How do you know?
R. Meir: For it is written (Gen 46:13): Uvinei yisakhar tola uphuva veshimron. The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puvah, Iob, and Shimron. These are the Samaritans (shamray).
This is the only place where a Rabbi – and not an unimportant one – admits that the Samaritans are of Israelite origin.
1. Persian Period.
Ezra 4, the earliest source of information on relations between Jews and Samaritans during this period, reports opposition by the inhabitants of Samaria to both the building of the temple (4:4–5) and the building of the walls (4:17–23) of Jerusalem. The narrative identifies them with the deportees mentioned in the Book of Kings (v. 10):
the peoples whom the great and glorious Osnappar deported and settled in the city of Samaria
It starts with the Samaritans’ request to take part in the returned Jews’ activity of rebuilding the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem. They evoke their belief in God (v. 2):
Let us build with you; for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assyria who brought us here
The Jewish leader Zerubavel rejected their offer with no hesitation (v. 3):
You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel
The rejection produced great animosity among the Samaritans, which led to the opposition to the renovation of Jewish life in Jerusalem (v. 4-6):
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasu-erus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
Interestingly, Haggai and Zechariah, the two prophets who witnessed the construction of the new Temple, are silent on any Samaritan obstruction to the temple and Ezra 4:7–23 seems to be an intrusion reflecting the troubles during later (Nehemiah’s) times, it is likely that the city wall was the real issue and the earliest breach between the two communities was expressed in political rather than religious terms.
If the story narrated in Ezra 4:1-4 is historical, then we must assume that in the beginning the breach between the two communities was not as deep as it was later, during hellenistic times. The location of the Temple did not cause strong feelings at that time. After all, the existence of a Temple in Leontopolis in Egypt was tolerated.
The 5th century B.C.E. Elephantine papyri include letters requesting help to build a temple from both the Samaritan and Jewish priests (Cowley Letter no. 30). This implies that a schism already existed, but it wasn’t very deep yet. It deepened later, with the natural rivalry between parallel worship places, served by different priestly groups, who claimed priority. One for Jerusalem, the other for Mount Garizim in Nablus.
Two inscriptions found in the Greek island of Delos testify about the existence of a Samaritan synagogue in the third and the second centuries B. C., for it was written by a Samaritan community which called itself “the Israelites which make offerings to the Mount Garizim”. The inscription is undoubtedly Samaritan, for the name of Mount Garizim is written in one word, as it is written in the Samaritan Pentateuch and as do the Samaritans to this very day: Argarizein (Gk), Hargarizim (Heb.). Here we have the best proof that the peculiar character of the Samaritan community is already crystallized around its own worship place.
Naturally, both communities claim originality and priority. Both assert to be the product of the “original” Israel, while the other is a heretic sect. They even place the conflict between them at a very early date. As we have seen, the Jews attributed the appearance of the Samaritans to the eighth century B. C., when they were transferred from different parts of the world to Samaria. The Samaritans, on the contrary, establish the date of the schism much earlier, when the twelve tribes of Israel invaded Canaan.
Now we have a real dispute over the true place of worship.
The Samaritan Chronicle of Abu’l Fath (14th century C.E.) claims that Zerubbabel and Sanballat, subsequent leaders of the Jewish and Samaritan community during the 5th century B.C., were already quarreling about the appropriate location of the restored temple while still in Babylon. The Persian king, “Surdi,” likely Darius spelled backward, ruled in favor of Sanballat and sent him home to Mt. Gerizim with funds to construct the altar and by implication the temple. Obviously, this story seeks to counter-balance the narrative of Ezra 6, where Darius grants permission to the Jewish leaders to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, moreover, he contributes to the re-construction with a large amount of money.
Josephus agrees that Sanballat, whom he calls a “Cuthean,” was appointed as a political leader by Darius and subsequently promised a temple to his son-in-law, Manasseh, son of a Jewish high priest who had murdered his brother and married a Samaritan woman. In Josephus’ account, Manasseh renounces Darius and transfers his loyalty to Alexander the Great, who supports the building of the Samaritan temple.
The accounts pose several serious questions. The first is chronological: how to account for Sanballat’s apparent longevity if he ruled from the time of Darius (521-486 B.C.) to that of Alexander the Great? (336-323 B.C.) A second question is the issue of the Samaritan temple. Was there such a structure and, if so, when was it built? Lastly, what was the origin of the Samaritan priesthood?
There are basically three possible explanations for Sanballat’s apparent long tenure. Some argue that Josephus incorrectly brought the event down to the period of Alexander, while some say that the Alexandrian dating is correct and Josephus was incorrect in associating Sanballat with the temple. A compromise allows that on the basis of papponymy there could have been two different Sanballat’s involved.
Inded, some papyri discovered in a cave near Shechem point to a dynasty of Sanballat.
Some scholars believe that the Samaritan temple was built in 388 B.C.E., during the Persian period. The basis is the 260 years that constitute the Samaritan “Era of Favor,” supposedly the time from the entry into Canaan until the days of Eli when the sanctuary disappeared on account of the sin of Eli. It is assumed that the Samaritans projected their own experienced era of favor, the life-span of their temple, onto the ancient story. We know their sanctuary was destroyed in 128 B.C.E. (Josephus Ant 13.254–56); 260 years earlier would be 388.
Most scholars accept Josephus’ implicit Hellenistic date late in the 4th century, mainly on the basis of Josephus alone. The archaeological evidence is minimal. There was a re-settlement of Shechem at that time. Perhaps there never was a temple on the scale implied by Josephus, but rather a more modest tabernacle. In the postexilic period, Samaritans probably had neither the political nor financial need for a temple.
The turmoil that led to the resettlement of Shechem may also account for the nucleus of the Samaritan priesthood, if not the Samaritan people themselves. It is possible to assume that as the Northern shrine at Bethel, erected by Jeroboam after King Salomon’s death, was now desolated. The priests of that shrine may have migrated from that site to Shechem and the designation of Mt. Gerizim as Bethel may be a vestige of that move.
The chronicles of Abu’l Fath concur that relations between Samaritans and Jews worsened throughout the Persian period, and this emerging schism benefited the Persians by diminishing the likelihood of any broadly based Palestinian rebellion.
2. Hellenistic Period
The arrival of Alexander the Great polarized the political loyalties of Samaritans and Jews, at least temporarily, because the Samaritans initially gave support to Alexander by contributing 8,000 Samaritan troops to his Egyptian campaign. While Alexander was in Egypt, the Samaritans revolted and killed the newly appointed governor, Andromachus. In retaliation, Alexander destroyed the city of Samaria and established a garrison of 600 troops there. Many of the Samaritans fled to ancient Shechem at the base of the mountain, and this became their chief religious center. The city they rebuilt at Shechem in 331 B.C.E. survived for more than 200 years, until it was destroyed by the Jewish king John Hyrcanus in 107 B.C.E.
By contrast, the Jews remained loyal to Persia and did not support the Greeks. In time, the Samaritans, sobered by Alexander’s destruction of Samaria and subsequent conflicts between Ptolemies, the Egyptian based branch of Alexander’s heirs and Seleucids, their Syrian rivals, shared Jewish wariness of the Greeks. However, the issue of Jerusalem versus Mt. Gerizim became a major factor separating Samaritans from Jews.
The latter site may or may not have included a temple. The rather limited documentary and archaeological evidence is ambiguous. The primary source is Josephus, whose stories related to the Samaritan temple suspiciously duplicate his own and other familiar stories of temple building. Samaritan sources seldom mention a temple or provide specific information about one. Archaeological remains are at best suggestive (see above); no local tradition corroborates it, and the Samaritan chronicles are vague. Their focus was the place rather than the structure, and the structure was likely quite modest.
Descriptions of Samaritan response to the reign of the Seleucid tyrant Antiochus IV (175–164 B.C.E.) are varied. 2 Macc 6:2 implies that the Samaritans unwillingly renamed their sanctuary after the Greek god Zeus Xenios. But Josephus claims they quite willingly renamed it Zeus Hellenios (Ant 12.257–64). The more resistant Jews were unhappy with the Samaritan position, as is evident in Jewish polemics of the time. The Book of Ben-Sirah connects the Samaritans with other secular enemies of Israel: the Edomites and the Philistines, and thus, the separation is completed: from a divergence regarding pure religious matters to ethnic enmity: “Two nations make my soul angry, and the third is no nation: The Edomites, The Philistines, and the foolish people that dwells in Shechem” (50:25-26).
Johanan Hyrcanus, Jewish governor and high priest, focused and expressed the deepest Jewish bitterness toward the Samaritans, and inspired by such anti-Samaritan stories as Genesis 34, which narrates the rape of Dina, Jacob’s daughter, by Shechem, the son of Hamor (recalled in The Book of Jubilees 30; Judith 9; and The Testament of Levi 5–7), destroyed the Samaritan sanctuary in 128 B.C.E. Shechem was also destroyed, and during the next decade most Samaritans drifted back to Samaria, leaving behind only a residual Samaritan community at the foot of Gerizim.
3. Roman Period.
In NT times Samaritans struggled with their own schisms and shared practices and beliefs with a variety of Jewish groups. Simon Magus (Acts 8:9ff.) was the leader of an unorthodox, possibly gnostic-influenced Samaritan group that continued to play a role in Samaritan history, and was particularly visible in the 4th century (with the movement of Dusis), as attested through the writings of the Samaritan chronicler Abu’l Fath of the 14th century C.E. The Dositheans, whom some of the Church Fathers associated with Simon Magus, were more likely an alternate contemporary sect, perhaps in part derived from the Sadducees. At any rate, these two men were of Samaritan origin and acted amongst Samaritans. Simon Magus is not mentioned in Samaritan sources; we hear about him only from the Christian Patristic writings. Dositheus, on the other hand, is largely cited, being considered a heretic and accused of sorcery and witchcraft.
The Qumran community evidences some beliefs and practices shared with the Samaritans. Both sects were exclusive and used the imagery, b’nei or “sons of light,” to affirm their special chosen status, as against the evil, b’nei khoshekh, “sons of darkness”. Both were critical of the Jerusalem Temple, though for quite different reasons, and they shared a unique emphasis on Deut 18:18 in their messianic expectations. Each group had a Nazarite movement and a purification ritual using the ashes of a red heifer. Each used a complex calendar combining both solar and lunar designations, perhaps going back to Zadokite calculation, although the Samaritan calendar was influenced by later Byzantine and Islamic calendars as well. Neither group celebrated Purim or Hanukkah. This is why no traces of the Book of Esther nor Maccabees exist in Qumran. Some Qumran texts, particularly a big fragment of Exodus preserve a “Samaritan” text type leading some to conclude that these two groups had unique ties. ((The “Samaritan type” of the Torah is treated in another lecture in this series)). However, most critics assume that these texts demonstrate the fluidity of texts at this period and not necessarily any special affinity between these two sects.
According to Acts 8, Samaria was one of the first missionary fields for the disciples, and there has been considerable discussion of the role of the Samaritans in the formulation and orientation of parts of the NT. The most concentrated debates focus on the gospel of John, Stephen’s speech in Acts, and the Epistles to the Hebrews. The Australian scholar, John Bowman contends hat John consciously addresses a Samaritan audience, leaning on the attention given to the Samaritan woman in chap. 4, the reference to “other sheep” in 10:16, and the use of Samaritan imagery such as “light” and “word”. Some scholars argue that Stephen was of Samaritan origin since he, like the Samaritans, challenges the Jerusalem Temple and priesthood, refers to the key Samaritan biblical verse, Deut 18:18, and when he quotes from the OT cites a recension akin to the Samaritan text.
Less convincing is the thesis that the Epistle to the Hebrews was addressed to Samaritan Christians. “Hebrews” would have been a tactful term with which to address the Samaritans (the title they preferred for themselves, see Josephus Ant 11.344), and the focus on the tabernacle rather than the Jerusalem Temple, the list of the faithful in Heb 11:32–40 (all of whom would be acceptable to Samaritans), and the strong argument for the superiority of Jesus over Moses are all relevant issues.
Whether or not they were recipients of NT writings, the Samaritans were often part of the NT story. Usually they were objects of spite rather than serious obstacles to the NT mission, much the same role they had played in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. John 4:9 simply states that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus himself instructed the Twelve not to enter any town of the Samaritans, but rather to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt 10:5–6; cf. John 4). On other occasions, Jesus used that very antipathy to shame his hearers in the stories of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29–37) and the Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11–19).
In the next few centuries the gospels were influential in shaping Samaritan thinking: sometimes in opposition, as in the strong Samaritan affirmation of monotheism in response to the developing Christian Trinity; other times expanding upon the Christian conceptualizations of Moses.
Samaritan fortunes initially improved under Roman rule. Pompey (63 B.C.E.) ended the Jewish persecution of Samaritans, and Herod the Great (37–4 B.C.E.) carried out an extensive building program in Samaria. Samaritans were emboldened to harass Jews, notably during the period from 6–9 C.E., when they created disturbances at the Jewish Passover, and in 52 when they slaughtered Jewish pilgrims at En-gannim in the border town of Galilee. These actions earned a series of reprisals from both Jews and Romans. As a result of one such action, the Samaritans were successful in having Pontius Pilate deposed, but generally they paid dearly. Samaritans fleeing Roman oppression under Vespasian gathered by the thousands at Mt. Gerizim and held the Romans at bay for a month before their water ran out and more than 10,000 men were slaughtered.
Hadrian, the Roman emperor from 117 to 138 C.E. usurped the Samaritan holy place and constructed a large temple to Zeus Hypsisto. Features of that temple are preserved on coins dating to between 138 and 253 C.E. The metal doors he used in his new temple purportedly were taken from the ruined Jerusalem Temple. Centuries later they were to adorn two Samaritan synagogues before being taken off by the Ottoman Turks.
Early in the Christian era, waning Roman control facilitated a flowering of Samaritan theology and hymnody represented in the work of Marqah, Baba Rabba, and the hymn writer Amram Darrah. Generally scholars have followed Montgomery (1907: 294) in placing these figures in the 4th century; however Alan Crown (1986: 104) and his pupil, father Paul Stenhouse (1988: 246–53) argue effectively for a 3rd century date. Marqah’s son, Nana, and Amram Darrah contributed richly to the growing liturgical tradition. The Samaritans had been strongly influenced by Judaism and continued to be, but as Christianity grew in strength and influence, it, too, played a role in the growing heterodoxy of Samaritan thought.
The Samaritan recension of the Pentateuch was widely available: there is evidence that the scribes of Codex Alexandrinus made some use of a copy; Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, Epiphanius and Cyril of Jerusalem among other Church Fathers referred to it; Jerome used it in his translation of the Vulgate. The Talmud as well reflects awareness of it, if only in a generally critical sense. The most famous text is in the Jerusalem Talmud Tractate Sotah, ch 7, § 3, where Rabbi El’azar the son of Rabbi Shim’on of the second century C.E. accuses the Samaritans of forging the text of the Torah in Deut 11:30. The SP has two words added at this particular point.
“Nomiti lesophrei cutiim ziaphtem toratchem velo khoaltem veatzmechem kulm shehichtavtem betoratchem ‘etzel eilonei morei shechem’ vehalo yoduah shehu shechem ela she’ein otem dorshin legzeira shava veanu dorshin legzeira shava. Nomar kan elonei morei (Deut. 11 30: be’eretz hachnani hayosheiv ba’aravah… etzel eilon morei mul shechem) venomar sham eilonei morei (Gen 12 6: Vaya’vor avraham be’eretz ad makom shechem ad eilon morei). Ma eiloni morei ha’amor lehalon shechem af eilonei morei ha’amor kan shechem.”
Synagogues were built in the vicinity of Nablus and in such remote places as Rome, Thessalonica and Delos, and under the leadership of Baba the apparently Dosithean influenced laity party gained in power over against the priests, perhaps as a compromise to strengthen the Samaritan community in the face of adversity. Marble remnants of Samaritan synagogues preserved with the few surviving Samaritan inscriptions (for example at Imwas), suggest reasonable prosperity within the Samaritan community.
Beliefs and Practices
The Samaritan creed has been succinctly stated in letters from the Samaritans to inquiring Western scholars (Montgomery 1907: 207): “We say: My faith is in Thee, YHWH; and in Moses son of Amram, Thy servant, and in the Holy Law; and in Mount Gerizim Bethel and in the Day of Vengeance and Recompense.”
The Samaritan concept of God has shaped itself in the direction of the rigorous monotheism of Islam rather than the dispersal suggested by the Christian Trinity or the emanations of Gnosticism. They borrow the Muslim slogan, “There is no God, but God” for use in their services and writings. El or Elah is most commonly used for God (akin to Islamic Allah). The tetragrammaton, YHWH, is in regular use. Samaritans, like Jews, avoid making images and are even reluctant to apply the anthropomorphic concept of “Father” to God, whom they see as the ineffable and incorporeal creator and sustainer who has entered into unique covenant with Israel.
Torah, the Law of God, emanates from the divine fire as part of the covenant. Its verses are carved in stone to decorate synagogues, inscribed on amulets for personal protection, and carefully copied by hand on parchment or good paper. Wealthy families owned beautifully hand-printed copies which were passed down through many generations and now reside in the collections of such institutions as the Bibliothèque Nationale, the British Museum, the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, and Michigan State University. The practical and legal aspect of Torah has been emphasized to define the location of the altar and the services to be performed there, elevating its interpreters, the priests, to unique authority.
Moses, as mediator of the Torah, deserves adoration as the third focus of Samaritan faith. Blessings are offered “in the name of Moses the faithful,” the last and most exalted of the prophets. Little is made of his death, but his birth is exalted in a treatise,Molad Mosheh. He is depicted as a preexistent primordial light who came to illuminate the world. The restorer who will come as the agent of God will be one like Moses.
4. Mt. Gerizim
The Samaritan version of Moses commanding the building of an altar on Mt. Gerizim (Deut 27:4) is probably earlier than the MT citation of Mt. Ebal. On the other hand, the Samaritans themselves presumably inserted the commandment in the Decalogue (after Ex 20:14 and Deut 5:18) ordering the building of an altar for sacrifice on Mt. Gerizim. It is, in their view, the navel of the world where Abel built the first altar, and where God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The Memar Marqah enumerates thirteen honorific names for the mountain. Tradition calls it the oldest and highest mountain in the world, and its peak survived the flood in the time of Noah. Here the Samaritans have built a series of altars and sanctuaries at three major sacred spots and continue to celebrate their festivals. The mutually exclusive claims of Gerizim and Jerusalem define a very tangible distinctive difference between Jew and Samaritan, though some caution against overstating its significance (Purvis 1986: 88 and Coggins 1975: 113).
5. Day of Vengeance and Recompense. Yom nakam veshalem
The notion is based on the reading of the Samaritans in Deut 32:35:
Layom nakam veshalem le’et timot raglan ki karov yom eidam vekhash atidot lamo
To the day of vengeance and recompense, At the time when their foot shall slide: For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things that are to come upon them shall make haste.
It differs from the Jewish reading:
Li nakam veshalem
Vengeance is mine, and recompense
The eschatology of the Samaritans is not unlike that of other heirs of the Israelite tradition. A coming Day of the Lord will be ushered in by the Taheb, a kind of saviour, whose role is to be modelled after Deut 18:18:
Navi akim lachem mikerev acheihem kamocha venatati devarai bephiv vedaber aleihem et col asher atzavenu
I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
It is a figure unique to the Samaritans: A prophet like Moses, Quite different from the Jewish Messiah, who is a son of David.
The day of Vengeance and Recompense is characterized by a long period of peace and security before the final end. The Samaritan periodization of the history of salvation includes an Age of Disfavor preceding Moses, an Age of Grace lasting 260 years after Moses, a second Age of Disfavor initiated by the evil priest, Eli, and the New Age of Grace to be initiated by the Taheb.
The calendar by which the feasts are determined originated with the Jewish calendar. However, it has become so complex through influence of Byzantine and Arab usages that only the priest can calculate the appropriate feast days for any given year. On the Day of Simmuth, 60 days before Passover, each member of the Samaritan community pays a half shekel and receives the calendar in which the priest has calculated the festivals for the next six months. During the year, the Samaritans celebrate Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Weeks, the Feast of the Seventh Month, Yom Kippur, the Feast of Booths, and “the eighty days of solemn assembly.” The Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths are celebrated on Mt. Gerizim. Although Passover is distinct from the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Samaritans remain on the mountain through the days of each.
Regular services of Sabbath are celebrated in the synagogue. On the Day of Atonement, the main festival of the synagogue, the law is read and the Abisha Scroll is displayed for adoration. All services use extensive readings from the Torah, hymns, and prayers.
Most important is the fact that they believe solely in the Five Books of Moses, the Holy Torah. Not in the Books of Prophets nor in the Hagiographa. They also deny the authority of the Mishnah and the Talmud. However, they developed a Halakha of their own, on which an Australian scholar, Rudyard Boyd, wrote an essay several years ago.
As you can see from my talk, many Australian scholars have largely contributed to Samaritan studies.