When Israel split into two kingdoms, the Samaritans remained in the Northern Kingdom. This was before the coming of Jesus. The Samaritans continued with their culture and way of worship through the time of Jesus. But what happened to them during Jesus’ time and thereafter? Take a short tour to find out.
The New Testament recounts that the Samaritans grew in number, posing a threat to the leadership of Pontius Pilate. As a result, the ruler’s soldiers murdered many Samaritans, prompting the Samaritans to launch a complaint to the Roman Governor of Syria.
During the time of Jesus, the Samaritans strictly practiced monotheism. They were strict observers of the Mosaic Law. In fact, they were stricter than the Jews in some respects, including the Sabbath day regulations. There is no doubt that the Samaritans were God-seeking people. After the testimony of the Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at the well, the Samaritans received Jesus.
The ordinary Jews in the New Testament despised the Samaritans due to their (Samaritans) partly pagan history and adherence to “contaminated” Judaism. If the Jews from Judea wanted to go to Galilee, they used the long route that involved crossing the Jordan River twice. They bypassed Samaria because they (Jews) believed that the Samaritans would contaminate them.
The fact that the Samaritans were heavily despised by their Jewish neighbors rendered them crucial in the New Testament. In his teachings, Jesus emphasized that the Jews needed to change their perception of not only the Samaritans but all the gentiles. Instead of crossing the Jordan River to avoid the Samaritans, on his way to Galilee, Jesus passed through Samaria. When answering the question “who is my neighbor,” he recounted the story of the Good Samaritan because he knew that the Samaritans were despised by the Jews. Indeed, the parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most popular stories in the New Testament.