The Samaritans . .

Lifted from a different thread–

Is there any science on this? That is, has there been thorough DNA sampling to establish ancestry?
For that matter, do we even have a baseline for “lost tribes” DNA? If not, how might that be established?

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Interesting question. I read somewhere that there was no genetic difference in Palestinians and Middle Eastern Jewish Israelis, but have never seen any confirmation of that, One would expect Samaritan’s to be pretty much the same genetically as everyone else in that area. Sort of like asking if we can tell the difference between a North Carolinian and a South Carolinian (?) by their genes.

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I first came across a reference to the genetic evidence in James T Mace “Ensign for the Nations: The Heilsgeschichtlicher Phase of Messianic Reunification in Luke-Acts”. This was an M. Litt thesis for St Andrews University in Scotland. To quote from his thesis:

"The evidence re Samaritan origins would be incomplete without citing the interesting
results of the genetic research being conducted among living Samaritans by experts who indicate
not only that Samaritans are linked to Jews but also that they are descended directly from eighth century B.C. Israelites. One study in the official journal of the Human Genome Variation Society explains the data thus: “the Samaritan M304 Y-chromosome lineages present a subgroup of the
original Jewish Cohanim priesthood that did not go into exile when the Assyrians conquered the
northern kingdom of Israel in 721 BC.”

Mace’s footnote for this quote is:

Peidong Shen et al., “Reconstruction of Patrilineages and Matrilineages of Samaritans and Other
Israeli Populations from Y-Chromosome and mitochondrial DNA Sequence Variation,” Human Mutation 24 (2004): 257–58

The genetic evidence stands alongside the literary and archeological evidence and supports a major re-evaluation of the Samaritan identity by well-known Samaritan specialists. For example, see Gary N. Knoppers Jews and Samaritans. The Origins and History of their Early Relations. 2013. Oxford University Press; and Reinhard Pummer The Samaritans. A Profile. 2016. Eerdmans. Kindle Edition.

Earlier assessments of the Samaritans argued that the Israelites of the Northern kingdom had been completely replaced by Assyrian colonists brought in by the Assyrian king, or they were a breakaway group from the Judahites in the few centuries before Christ. In his article “Samaritans, Biblical Studies, and Ancient Judaism: Recent Trends”, in Currents in Biblical Research. 2021. p.31. Matthew Chalmers describes this older view as a “something of a museum piece”.

The Samaritans are still around. They only accept the first 5 books of Moses (the Pentateuch), and they still offer sacrifices.

The biblical picture requires reading with a degree of insight - not everything is spelled out. Assyria hauled away anyone plausibly a threat and replaced them with captives from elsewhere. But that would leave plenty of the ordinary peasantry. The Samaritans would likely still be dominantly Jewish in ancestry but with a noticeable level of mixing. After the return, there was further mixing. Unlike Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews who fled the fall of Jerusalem to Egypt had no objection to mixing theologically and socially with the Samaritans during the post-exilic period. Tobiah, one of the more outspoken of those hostile to Nehemiah’s reforms and rebuilding, has a Jewish name and had social and family connections in Jerusalem. There is some evidence of “if I can’t be high priest in Jerusalem, I’ll be high priest in Samaria” associated with founding the Samaritan temple. These connections would have contributed both genetically and theologically to making Samaritans even more Jewish than they were under Assyria.

Ezra and Nehemiah are often denounced as narrow-minded and intolerant. But remember that at the beginning of Nehemiah, he was devastated to learn about the condition of Jerusalem. Nehemiah already knew that the Babylonians had torn down the city over a century ago; that was not news. Ezra 4:7-23 records the surrounding peoples causing a stop to repairing the walls. It’s not unreasonable for Ezra and Nehemiah to be unwilling to give the people who just burned down the walls a role in rebuilding.

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What is that?

I recall from post-grad days a professor who scoffed at the idea of DNA testing for Samaritans because “At best they might be one-tenth Israelite”. Someone asked what evidence he had for that assertion, and he replied that “everyone knows” that the ten tribes “were irrevocably lost” in the Assyrian flood of settlers from all over their empire, so any DNA would “certainly” show the people there as “Heinz-57 mixed breeds”.

What struck me wasn’t so much the certainty that the Samaritans were primarily a mix from all over the Assyrian empire (though even then there were doubts about just how many other peoples the Assyrians would have shifted westward) but the attitude that as a people they were “mongrels”. Someone else did ask the question I wanted to, though: if they’re such a mix, wouldn’t it be worth the effort to learn just how mixed they are?

The Assyrians were known for the practice of relocating people from all over their empire to other places all over their empire as a way to try to prevent rebellion, so potentially there could have been people from Asia Minor to the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf to the Caspian. They’ve been there long enough to have blended all those, but they should be somewhat distinct from the Arabs, I would think.

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So the Jews who returned from exile were actually pretty big jerks when they wouldn’t allow people who were their cousins join in to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.

Was it “torn down the city over a century ago” or “just burned down the walls”?
It seems to me that the people there came and asked to be included in restoring Jerusalem, but Ezra and Nehemiah didn’t even bother asking for their lineage, whether they were Israelites!

The Samaritans would likely still be dominantly Jewish in ancestry but with a noticeable level of mixing.

Well, no actually. There were twelve tribes of Israel. The “Jews” are from one tribe, (Judahites), or also including the tribe of Benjamin, which threw in its lot with the Judahites after the Israelite civil war, to become part of the kingdom of Judah.

The Torah required that the people of Israel gather to worship in the one place that the Lord decided upon. The Samaritans have a pretty good argument in support of that place being Mount Gerizim.

Labelling people “pretty big jerks” doesn’t really assist with an objective evaluation of the situation. Nehemiah was neither a prophet nor a priest. His power came from his position in the Persian public service. Nehemiah met with opposition from amongst some of the Jews who returned from the Exile. While Nehemiah/Ezra gives the impression that everyone fell into line with their thinking, archeological evidence suggests it would be sometime before that situation prevailed.

I have to laugh at your professor’s reasoning. It’s not exactly good scientific methodology to assume the results of an experiment before the experiment is conducted, and then use that assumption to prevent the experiment!

This Wikipedia article was interesting to review:

Of interest is this quote, which is probably where my impression of the shared genetics of the region came from:
“ In a study of Israeli Jews from four different groups (Ashkenazi Jews, Kurdish Jews, North African Sephardi Jews, and Iraqi Jews) and Palestinian Muslim Arabs, more than 70% of the Jewish men and 82% of the Arab men whose DNA was studied had inherited their Y chromosomes from the same paternal ancestors, who lived in the region within the last few thousand years.”


Are you sure? What is your evidence for this? The Assyrians exiled the educated/important Israelites from the Northern Kingdom and brought in pagan people. And the people intermarried. And so the Jews regarded the Samaritans as mongrels, and their religion was seen as impure… There was great animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews. It didn’t help relationships when the Jewish high priest John Hyrcanus destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim in 128 BCE. (A very simplified history, to be sure)

I haven’t read all 88 posts prior to my answer here, so if i repeat something already said, i apologise.
The scholarly view on the Samaritans is not that they are the remaining northern kingdom group.

The samaritans are generally considered by scholars to be a group of inbreds from surrounding groups who moved into the region during the Babylonian captivity.

There are some claims in more recent times that its possible that some of them may have come with the mixed multitude out of the Egyptian captivity even before this time (Erev Rav: A Mixed Multitude of Meanings - I haven’t studied this aspect of the group at length, but what little knowledge i do have about the topic seems to find some gaps in this second view (they do not appear to be mentioned in the bible prior to the captivity)

Alittle bit of humourous trivia…the Israelies currently call them ‘riff raff’ and the term comes from the phrase in the Torah ʿErev Rav. Recently a celebrity famously used a sister slur in a political campaign… ʾasafsuf .

“In 1999, during the Israeli election campaign with Ehud Barak of Labor and Bibi Netanyahu of Likud competing for the premiership, actress Tiki Dayan called the Likud supporters of Netanyahu אספסוף מהשוק “rabble [ʾasafsuf ] from the markets.” In response, Netanyahu said אני אספסוף גאה, meaning “I am a proud [member of the] rabble,” and Likud even handed out stickers with this meme.”

Labelling people “a group of inbreds” is an insult and not the stuff of which scholarly views are made. Overall, your post shows little engagement with scholarly views.

Hi beaglelady,

While your post is generally correct, I think the view that the Samaritans were a “mongrel” lot is based upon religion, rather than race. After all, Abraham and Sarah came from Mesopotamia, whence also came the Assyrians. The issue is religion.

In an age when people thought that the gods were the gods of a particular land, the Assyrian king sent Israelite priests back to Israel to instruct his imported peoples in the religion of Israel in the belief that the imports had offended Yahweh. While there is evidence that in some parts of the former northern kingdom the population was completely deported, in vast tracks there was little change. The ruling elite were always a small minority and after the fall of Assyria were quickly assimilated. If the Prophets are to be believed, there is evidence that more Jews practiced a “mongrel” religion, worshipping other gods alongside Yahweh, than did the remnant of the northern tribes.

But it’s so very, very common when “everyone knows” something.

Though he wasn’t my professor; my professor had a sign on his office wall declaring that if you haven’t measured it, you don’t know it.

A bit hypocritical, that – after all, God never picked a place for a temple; in fact He said He didn’t dwell in places built by human hands. David picked the spot for the Temple, so why couldn’t the Samaritans choose a site for their own, since the Jews wouldn’t share?