Samaritans: Old and New
By Ribert J. Thiel
Samaritans are mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. While the world in general likes to focus on the parable concerning "the good Samaritan", it does not seem to wish to focus on what the Samaritans represented. Do Samaritans represent true Christianity or something else? The Bible, which is the basis for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16) and gives us the answer.
Old Testament Samaritans
Samaria was an area north of Jerusalem. The first mention of Samaria in the Bible is I Kings 13:32, which discusses a pronouncement from "a man of God" (vs. 31), "For the saying which he cried out by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel, and against all the shrines on the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, will surely come to pass"; this is a complaint suggesting false worship. After Israel lost a major war, Samaria became inhabited by primarily by non-Israelites, "Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel" (2 Kings 17:24). These idolators were first called Samaritans in II Kings 17:29, "However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt." There was something unusual about this group of people, "They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods--according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the LORD, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the LORD had commanded children of Jacob, whom He named Israel, with whom the LORD had made a covenant and charged them, saying, 'You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down to them; but the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice. And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods. And the covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods. But the LORD your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.' However they did not obey, but they followed their former rituals. So these nations feared the LORD, yet served their carved images; also their children and their children's children have continued doing as their fathers did, even to this day." (2 Kings 17:33-41). Thus the Samaritans in the Old Testament are clearly described as a group of people who did not truly worship the true God, who did not keep his commandments, and who included pagan rituals in their worship.God was not pleased with the Samaritans. The prophet Hosea wrote, "Then the iniquity of Ephraim was uncovered, and the wickedness of Samaria. For they have committed fraud" (Hosea 7:1), "Your calf is rejected, O Samaria! My anger is aroused against them--How long until they attain to innocence? For from Israel is even this: A workman made it, and it is not God; But the calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces" (Hosea 8:5-6), and "Samaria is held guilty, for she has rebelled against her God. They shall fall by the sword, Their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child ripped open" (Hosea 13:16).
It should be noted that when the children of Israel worshiped the golden calf in Exodus, they claimed they were actually worshiping the true God (Exodus 32:8)--God was not pleased with that either (vs. 9).
New Testament Samaritans
Smith's Bible Dictionary says, "Certain other Jewish renegades had from time to time taken refuge with the Samaritans; hence by degrees the Samaritans claimed to partake of Jewish blood, especially if doing so was in their interest". Not only did the Jews not consider Samaritans to be true Jews, the New Testament reports, "Jews have no dealings with Samaritans" (John 4:9). Notice that "Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: 'Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel' " (Matthew 10:5). Thus, apparently Jesus considered the Samaritans to be like the Gentiles (after the resurrection Gentiles, as well some people living in Samaria, were called, Acts 9:31).
Jesus was quite clear of what He thought of the Samaritans and their false worship. When speaking to one (John 4:7) who suggested that Samaritans knew about worship (vs. 20) , Jesus declared, "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:22-24). The Samaritans were condemned for not knowing what they worship. True worship does not involve physical pagan rituals, but involves worshiping in truth! Jesus did not consider the Samaritans form of worship to be acceptable. He also quoted from Isaiah to the Pharisees something that seems to fit what the Samaritans, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).
It is possible to be a Samaritan and do something good (Luke 10:33,37). But that does not mean that the Samaritan religion is acceptable to God? As shown in all the other scriptures, the answer is clearly no!
Are there any religious people like the Samaritans today? Are there those who use non-biblical rituals and ceremonies as part of their worship? Did Jesus predict that there would be false Christians?
Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' " (Matthew 7:21-23). Therefore, even if some have signs or apparently do good works, if they practice lawlessness Jesus says He never knew them. Jesus also said, "Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie--indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you" (Revelation 3:9). Thus the false Christians are essentially referred to as false Jews!
There are many today who claim to worship Christ. They claim it is acceptable to God to use non-biblical practices to worship Him. They claim that any holidays they come up with are at least valid to God as God's Holy Days as listed in Leviticus 23 (for a related article, please read Is There an Annual Worship Calendar in the Bible?). They claim they do not have to keep the commandments of God in order to be Christians. Apparently they have not understood Revelation 12:17, "And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ", which shows those that have the testimony of Jesus Christ keep the commandments of God. Like the Samaritans of old, they do not know what they worship. Sadly, they do not wish to worship God in truth. Thus, many who practice false Christianity seem to be modern Samaritans.Back to home page
Bob Thiel, 2001