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Neo-Samaritan Christianity is a modern restitutionist, or revivalist, branch of the Christian religion that emerged during the first decade of the 21st century. Most practitioners are descendants of the Byzantine Samaritan diaspora in Europe and America who desire to restore their ancestral heritage and revive the historical Samaritan Church. Collectively, they comprise the modern Samaritan (Neo-Samaritan) Church, officially the Church of the Guardians of the Way of God (Samaritan Hebrew: עדת שמרי דרך אלהים īdåt šā̊mēri dērək ēluwwəm; Isaric Aramaic: הא עדתא די שמרי־אורח־אלהא, Ha Ǧìdþa di Šòmrëy-Ḁurəχ-Èlaha).
Scattered communities of Neo-Samaritans contact and cooperate with one another via a global network, the World Union of Samaritan Christians (WUSC), which has set forth the five tenets of Neo-Samaritan Christianity and established the primary objectives of all associated congregations. The strictest (orthodox) members of the church are known as “Isars” (איסרייא Ḁisarayëya), and adhere to a religious code, or bond, called הא פורשנא שרירא (Ha Puršana Šàrira, “The True Distinction”); they use Samaritan Hebrew and Isaric Aramaic in their liturgy. Neo-Samaritan activity was initially concentrated in America, but is now focused in Indonesia and Italy.
The word "Samaritan" is not a self-descriptive used by actual Samaritans; rather, it is a general appellation originating from Greek-speaking foreigners to refer to the inhabitants of the historical region of Samaria. Samaritans call themselves Shamerim, which is a Hebrew word meaning 'Keepers' or 'Guardians'. The phrase 'Neo-Samaritan' is simply an English expression used to distinguish between Samaritans of the past (or those who have continuously kept the ancient traditions) and descendants of Samaritans living outside of Israel who have returned to Samaritan culture and faith. Samaritans often make use of Aramaic in their liturgy, and employ Aramaic words to describe themselves, e.g., Natorin, Notrayeya, and Shomrayeya, all of which mean 'Keepers' or 'Guardians'.
Restitution of early Samaritan Christian belief and practice is the driving force behind Neo-Samaritan Christianity, and this has led Neo-Samaritans to adopt an ante-Nicene perspective, dismissing or ignoring all ecumenical councils. Consequentially, there arose a need to form their own scriptural canon and dogma based upon historical and traditional sources.
Conception of Christianity
There were Samaritan followers of Jesus long before the idea of Christianity as a distinct religion came about. The earliest followers of Jesus in Samaria continued to identify as Samaritans and did not forsake their culture or their traditions. The Ancient Israelite religion was sometimes called "the Way of Truth," or "the Way of God," later shortened to "the Way," which is found in the New Testament writings.
The Five Tenets
- There is one Eloowwem, who is Adani Yaahbeh, Eloowwee of Abraahm, and of Yesaahq, and of Yaaqob.
- Yeshu of Nazareth is the Taa’eb (Restorer) and the Maashi (Anointed) of Yishrael, the promised prophet like Mooshe.
- The most ancient, sacred, and authoritative scripture is the Toorah as preserved by the Keepers of Shomron.
- Mount Gerizim (Aargaareezem) is the original chosen place for the sanctuary of Yaahbeh, but now there is only the Tabernacle in heaven.
- At the appointed hour, Eloowwem will regather and restore all of Yishrael, and will judge the nations.
Preeminence of the Samaritan Pentateuch
The authority and preeminence of the Samaritan Pentateuch in Neo-Samaritan Christianity has contributed to the distinctive dogma of the Neo-Samaritan Church. One result of this is a Decalogue that differs from all other Christian traditions.
- Samaritan Decalogue (Ten Commandments)
|I. You shall have no other gods besides Me.||VI. You shall not commit adultery.|
|II. You shall not take the name of Yaahbeh your Eloowwem in vain.||VII. You shall not steal.|
|III. Keep the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.||VIII. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.|
|IV. Honor your father and your mother.||IX. You shall not covet.|
|V. You shall not murder.||X. And there you shall build an altar to Yaahbeh your Eloowwem, an altar of stones.|
- Centrality of Mt. Gerizim
No other site on earth is more sacred to Neo-Samaritans than Mt. Gerizim (Aargaareezem). It is, for them, the original chosen place for the Tabernacle of God and the mountain upon which the blessings of God were recited. Additionally, it overlooks the city of Shechem (Ashkem), where their patriarch, Joseph, is buried. Mt. Gerizim and Shechem are revered because of the many significant biblical events that took place there, including the advent and administration of Malki Tsedeq, the building of Abraham's altar, the binding of Isaac, the establishment of Jacob's settlement and well, the reaffirmation of the covenant under Joshua, the visitation of Jesus, etc. It was at Shechem that Samaritan Christianity began, and till this day, all Samaritans, whether Christian or not, pray facing Mt. Gerizim.
- Corruption of the Masoretic Text
Regarding the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP) as ancient and authoritative, Neo-Samaritans reject the Masoretic Text (MT) and consider it corrupt. They argue that the writings of the New Testament period prove the superiority of the SP over the MT, and that the Masoretic version of the Old Testament contradicts itself and disagrees with the New Testament. It is not surprising then that Neo-Samaritans believe Christian bibles based upon the MT are errant and unreliable, specifically in relation to information about Mt. Gerizim, the Tabernacle, the Exodus, the remant of Joseph, and the timing of certain events.
- Perpetuity of Divine Law
In Neo-Samaritan understanding, the Law of God, i.e., the Torah, is effective for and relevant to all generations of those descended from Israel, though it is now to be interpreted and implemented through a New Testament worldview. What this means is that they believe the laws contained within the first five books of the Holy Bible constitute a vital part of Christianity; this is true not merely of moral commands, but of all commands. Neo-Samaritans say that while the covenant terms have changed, the law remains the same; hence the necessity of sacred space and time, ritual purity, a priesthood, a system of offerings, and everything else that goes along with what is written in the books of Moses.