To understand the entire scenario of the difference between Jews and Samaritans, we need to peep into ancient Israel’s history. After King Solomon’s death, his kingdom was divided into two separate regions: northern and southern. The northern part of the empire was known as Israel, and the erstwhile name of the southern part was Judah.
The first king of Israel (the northern part of the kingdom) was Jeroboam. Rehoboam, the son and the descendant of King Solomon became the first king of Judah (the southern part). The capital city of the kingdom of Israel was known as Samaria, and the capital of the kingdom of Judah was Jerusalem.
In 722 BCE ( 721 BCE according to some scholars) Assyrian army invaded the kingdom of Israel. Assyria was led by king Shalmaneser V back then. These invaders captivated the citizens and took them away out of the region, but not all.
Then, the king of Assyria decided to send some foreigners to the kingdom of Israel. The new citizens and the actual people of Israel’s kingdom who didn’t leave the region intermarried later. But the kingdom of Judah (the southern part) remained as they were before.
The mixed-race citizens of the kingdom of Israel (or the Northern kingdom, or the kingdom of Samaria) became known as the Samaritans. On the other hand, the citizens of the Kingdom of Judah (or the southern kingdom) were called the Jews.
Table of Contents
|Religion||Judaism||Samaritan religion/ Samaritanism|
|The Holiest Scripture||The Hebrew Bible or TaNaKh or Tanakh or Miqra which consists of three sections: Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim, all written in the Hebrew script in Biblical Hebrew language.||Torah (the Samaritan Torah), also known as the Samaritan Pentateuch – first five books of the Hebrew Bible, written in Samaritan Hebrew in the Samaritan script.|
|Secondary Scriptures||Midrash, Talmud||Book of Joshua, Tolidah, The Hillukh, Kitab at-Tabbah, Kitab al-Kafi, Al-Asatir|
|The Ten Commandment||Judaists have a different version of the Ten Commandments from Samaritans.||Samaritans have a different version of the Ten Commandments from Judaists.|
|The Holiest Place||Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the holiest place in Judaism. According to Judaism, God chose this place to establish His name.||Mount Gerizim is the most sacred place in the Samaritan religion. According to Samaritan religion, God chose this place to establish His name.|
|Sacred Language||Biblical Hebrew written in the Hebrew alphabet is the most sacred language for Jews.||Samaritan Hebrew, Samaritan Aramaic, and Samaritan Arabic, all written in the Samaritan alphabet, are the most sacred languages in Samaritan religion.|
|Sacred Alphabet||Hebrew alphabet||Samaritan alphabet|
|Ishmael and Isaac||According to Jews belief, to fulfil God’s command, Abraham intended to sacrifice his son Isaac in Jerusalem.||According to Samaritan belief, to fulfil God’s command, Abraham intended to sacrifice his son Isaac in Mount Gerizim.|
|Rosh Hashanah||Rabbinic Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah as New Year.||Samaritans do not celebrate Rosh Hashanah as a New Year.|
Who are Jews?
From a historical context, a Yehudi or a jew was a member of Israel’s twelve tribes. The term jew derived from Yehuda or Judah, who was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. The twelve sons of Jacob represent twelve tribes of the promised land, and the descendants of Judah are known as the jews.
Among these twelve tribes, nine were the residents of the northern part of the promised land. After the invasion of Assyria, most of these nine tribe members were captivated and carried away in foreign lands. The rest who left in the motherland got mixed-up with foreign citizens that were brought later by Assyrians.
The southern part of the promised land was Judah’s kingdom. After the Assyrians’ invasion, they split them up from the northern mixed-race tribes, which started animosity between these two regions.
From a broader and contemporary context, any person who belongs to Judaism religion is considered a jew. Jerusalem is the most sacred place for them.
The holy scripture of the jews is the Torah and the Hebrew Bible. They are monotheist Abrahamic people and consider Moses as the major prophet. The total number of Jews worldwide is around 15 million, where most of them live in Israel and the USA.
Who are Samaritans?
Despite of major abrahaic religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism (read our article on Judaism vs Islam) there are a few more. Samaritanism is one of the less spoken Abrahamic religions.
Samaritans are Israelite people. According to Samaritans, they claim themselves as the descendants of the northern Israelite tribe of Ephraim and Manasseh, who were not deported from their motherland during the invasion of Assyrians.
Ephraim and Manasseh were the names of two sons of Joseph. They were later adopted by Jacob and were fostered as sons. Ephraim and Manasseh were the fathers of two different Israelite tribes named after them. These tribes were from the northern kingdom.
According to ancient circumstance, the citizens of Samaria were known as samaritans. However, time doesn’t stand still, the ancient city of Samaria is currently known as Sebastia, a village situated near a city called Nablus in Palestine.
So, from a general context, any person who belongs to the religion Samaritanism is known as Samaritans. Samaritans believe in one God, YHWH or Yahweh or Jehovah, the same God in Judaism. They believe that the Torah was given to prophet Moses by God himself. Their most holy place is Mount Gerizim, near Shechem, and they believe that Prophet Moses ordered them to protect this place through ten commandments. Not to mention, the Samaritans have their own version of Ten Commandments, which they believe to be the original dictations of God.
Samaritans consider Samaritan Torah (or the Samaritan Pentateuch) as the holy scripture that was written in samaritan alphabets. The total number of present-day samaritans are around 800 only. Half of the population live in South Tel Aviv, and the other half live on the mountain Gerizim.
Parable of the Good Samaritan
The meaning of the phrase good samaritan lies in a parable from the New Testament, where the prophet Jesus preaches God’s thoughts to the jews people. One day, a religious scholar tried to test Jesus by asking a question about inheriting eternal life. In reply, Jesus asked him back to quote the words from scripture. The scholar answered, “You must love the Lord with all your heart and soul, and should love the neighbour as you love yourself.” Then the scholar asked Jesus again “and who is my neighbour?”
Jesus replied with a parable about a Samaritan, helping a wounded stranger who was hijacked and beaten up badly by some hijackers on the route. The samaritan with his donkey took the injured person to an Inn and paid the innkeeper to look after the endangered person. This story is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke and came to be known as the parable of the good samaritan.
The key differences between Jews and Samaritans
- The followers of Judaism are known as Jews. On the other hand, the followers of Samaritanism are known as samaritans.
- Jews were the citizens of the kingdom of Judah ( the southern part of the promised land), and the mixed-race citizens of the kingdom of Israel were known as samaritans.
- The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh is written in Biblical Hebrew language. The Samaritan Pentateuch is written in Samaritan Hebrew.
- Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the most sacred place in Judaism. Oppositely, Mount Gerizim is the most sacred place in the Samaritan religion.
- Biblical Hebrew written in the Hebrew alphabet is the liturgical language of Jews. Samaritan Hebrew, Samaritan Aramaic, and Samaritan Arabic, all written in the Samaritan alphabet, are the liturgical languages of Samaritans.
- The Ten commandments of the jews are different from the ten commandments of the Samaritans.
- The present-day worldwide population of Jews is around 15 million. The Present-day population of Samaritans is around 800 only.
Jews vs samaritans: Animosity
An often asked question, why do jews hate the samaritans? The primary cause pertains to the period of Assyrians in the kingdom of Israel, which we have described already. However, after the invasion of the Assyrians, the remaining Samaritans got married to Assyrians and other foreigners, that the jews didn’t like. The Jews regarded this as a violation of the promised land’s purity. They started defaming the Samaritans as half-breeds(half jews-half gentiles)—a reason why the Samaritans were considered unclean to the Jews.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs):
Is Jacob’s Well still in Samaria?
Yes, Jacob’s well still exists in Sabastiya (anciently known as Samaria).
What is the definition of a gentile?
The person who is not jews is mentioned as a gentile in the bible. The term gentile came from the Hebrew word Goy, which means a nation.
What is the difference between Hebrews and Arabs?
Hebrews referred to the people who speak the Hebrew language. The people who speak Arabic are known as Arabs. However, the primary religion of Hebrew is Judaism. On the other hand, major Arabs follow Islam.
Are Samaritans Israelites?
Samaritans claim themselves as the descendants of the Ephraim and Manasseh tribes from the northern Israelite. They are Israelites.
Both Jews and Samaritans came from the ancient Israelite population. The Samaritans refer themselves as the descendants of Israelites; on the other hand, the Jews consider themselves the descendants of Judah. This article has tried to discuss the difference between Jews and Samaritans from various stances.
Craig is a full-time academic and research-based article writer from California. A trained content creator who started his career as a column writer for local magazines and newspapers. His works have been published on many renowned online platforms.