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Thord Thordson: Samaritans
As a result of the requests to post a summary of his talk on the Orion
list, Thord Thordson has asked me to post the following summary of points
contained in his talk given on January 4, 1996 at the Albright Institute.
This text also serves as the conclusion to the book <italics>Qumran and
the Samaritans</>, by Dr. Maria and Dr. Thord Thordson, which can be
ordered from them at the following two addresses:
UNTIL MAY 5, 1996
Drs. M. and T. Thordson
c/oThe Albright Institute
91190 Jerusalem, Israel
AFTER MAY 5, 1996
Drs. M. and T. Thordson
St. Barnviksv. 76
The price of the book is 45 NIS, or $15.00
Our hypothesis that the Samaritans have similarities with those who lived
in the Qumran community is confirmed by our research. We have presented
supporting information for the following conclusions:
Especially during the period II b (128-63 BCE) the Samaritan Essenes could
have lived in Qumran. A fact supporting our conclusion is that the
Samaritan community was driven away from their Holy Mount -- Gerizim --
during that period. Nothing in our research contradicts this theory.
We found around fifty important similarities between the two communities,
the Qumran community and the Samaritan Essenes. These points are specific
to the comparison between these two, and exist only between them. The most
important of these are the similarities of Sabbath observance, Calendar,
Priesthood and the proper succession to it, and the purity and marriage
laws. In the recently published MMT these issues are stressed as decisive
for the move to Qumran.
The Similarities in Sabbath Observance
Palaeographically the Sabbath-texts are the oldest and we have seen in our
account of our research the ways in which they relate to the Qumran texts.
The Samaritan texts are termed proto-Samaritan or paleo-Hebrew, by
scholars who view them palaeographically.
There is a 90% concordance between Qumran and the Samaritans on vital
concepts of Sabbath observance. The major difference is that the
Samaritans "stay in the home," Exodus 11.29, where the Qumran community
had "to go 1.000 or 2.000 cubits for their cattle." The Samaritans could
fence their cattle in, over the Sabbath, close to their home.
In Mishna we see that the concern of the rabbis was to make God's will a
possibility for their own generation. The rabbis did not have the same
tendencies toward literalism and fundamentalism as did the Qumran
community or the Samaritans. Rather, the rabbis wanted the Sabbath to be a
joyful day, and prescribed <Italics>oneg Shabbat</>. For the rabbis it was
a day for men to enjoy themselves. Eating and drinking belonged to this
enjoyment and was a social act. The fact that these conservative groups in
Qumran and among the Samaritans were isolated from gentiles, and even from
common life meant that they could espouse a more literal approach to the
biblical laws. The living conditions of most ordinary people tended to
prevent such literal observance.
A Very Clear Similarity in Calendar
The community at Qumran and the Samaritans celebrated their Feasts at the
same time, they had the same regularity, and both communities started
their counting on a Wednesday. The Jews had a different calendar at that
time consisting of 354 days and without the regularities found in this
other old 364-day solar calendar.
An Obvious Affinity in Views of the Priesthood
We have found that the Samaritans during the period were the only ones who
had the correct succession from Aaron the High Priest. The many
similarities we have noted point to our conclusion that the Qumran
community, during period II b (128-63 BCE), recognized the legitimacy of
the Zadokite priestly family, in essential agreement with the Samaritans.
Purity and Marriage Laws
These laws are extremely important for the Samaritans and as we have seen
in our research they certainly were of great importance for the Qumran
In all religious matters we have seen the strictness in the Qumran
community, matched by a similar strictness among the Samaritans.
There existed a sect of Essenes among the Samaritans, according to
Eusebius and Epiphanius. Yet why does Josephus not mention the Samaritan
Essenes? And why does he not mention the important questions in MMT? He
does not say anything about the calendar, the Righteous Teacher, the
priesthood, or the purity and marriage laws. As we found in our research,
this may well have been for religious, ideological and political reasons.
Josephus was clearly anti-Samaritan. Even Philo and Pliny the Elder
ignored or did not mention them. For some they were "the foolish people of
Shechem," as Ben Sira expressed it.
Our research has shown that the Samaritan Essenes even could have lived in
Qumran for a certain period. In any case there are a great many
similarities between Qumran and the Samaritans. We hope that our research
will help scholars to discover and recognize the Samaritan piece in the
The research has made evident that various biblical texts were in
existence and used by different Jewish groups during the time that the
Qumran community flourished. The Samaritans were one such group, called
Proto-Samaritans by some scholars. They preserved much more of the older
strict structure of Judaism than did rabbinical Judaism, and therefore it
is interesting to study them even today. Their interpretation of the
Biblical Law is very conservative, and they still maintain their old
traditions and their Sabbath observance is very strict.
Our research has shown that the Qumran community and the Samaritans are
connected by a common tradition and heritage, whether the Samaritans have
been in Qumran or not. The two communities have common ground going back
to the Persian period. We can develop an awareness of this common Jewish
heritage by studying Qumran and the Samaritans.
//end of summary chapter//