Taheb – The Samaritan Messiah

We continue onwards through our journey of the socio-political groups of Jesus’ day with this week’s group the Samaritans.  You can find the audio online at the website of Prestoncrest Church of Christ and also on my Audio Lessons page (along with the handout).

One thing I was happily surprised to discover during my studies as I prepped for the class this past week was the similarities between much of Samaritan theology and that of the early Christians, especially regarding the Taheb, the Samaritan’s messiah.  If you listen to the audio lesson I gave three examples of where the Samaritan theology is strikingly similar to the book of John, and if you haven’t listened to it yet I encourage you to do so because it blew me away when I first read it.  There is one more comparison I’d like to make with the Samaritans and Jesus that I did not get the chance to make in class, so join me as we jump in.

The Samaritan text I quoted from in the lesson is the Memar, compiled by the Samaritan scholar Marqah. There is a rather lengthy debate among scholars about when the Memar was written, with most putting him at the same time as the Samaritan reformer Baba Rabba (lit. meaning “Great Gate”) who lived in the late 3rd century to early 4th century AD.  Some writers put him during the time of Philo (20 BC – AD 50) which would obviously be much closer to the time of Jesus.  Some scholars want to place him father out into Islamic times (8th century and onwards) but this is only a minority opinion.  It is likely that Marqah lived around the first few centuries of our common era.

A strong theme in Samaritanism is the coming of the Taheb, which means “restorer.”  They say he will be a prophet like Moses (based on Deut. 18:15,18) and so many times when they speak of the Taheb who will come they call him Moses. The entire below excerpt is about the Taheb who will come, and was written by a scholar who has pulled together from the Memar some relevant nuggets:

“Moreover, for the Samaritans, Moses is the Taheb (“Restorer”), the expected messiah-like eschatological figure who will bring about a golden age and will pray for the guilty and save them. The Samaritans alone give prominence to the title “man of God” for Moses…Moses is a second God, God’s vice-regent upon earth (Memar Marqah 1.2), whose very name includes the title “Elokim” (God) (Memar Marqah 5.4), so that he who believes in him believes in his LORD (Memar Marqah 4.7).”  (p. 397, footnote 47, Feldman, Josephus’s interpretation of the Bible)

Notice that the Taheb, while called Moses, is still to come. They are still expecting him and looking forward to the golden age that he will bring, an age that has not already been brought.  The Taheb who will be like Moses would be so much like God that anyone who believes in him believes in the Taheb’s Lord (God).  Now compare to the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John:

“Then Jesus cried out, ‘When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.'” (John 12:44-45)

Do you find it strange that Jesus was fulfilling not only Jewish messianic expectations but also Samaritan?  Regardless of when the Memar was written, most scholars agree that Marqah merely collected and penned Samaritan theology that was much older than the date he wrote it down.  So it’s interesting to me that the Samaritans probably held this view during the first century and Jesus, being the master teacher that he was/is, spoke to the people in a way they could understand him, using their own terms and theological ideas to reach them.  It’s no wonder that (as we talked about in class last night) some of the very first converts to come into the church are Samaritans found in Acts 8.

Peace to you,

James

Josephus’s interpretation of the Bible

By Louis H. Feldman

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13 thoughts on “Taheb – The Samaritan Messiah

  1. Really, Jesus fulfilled only the Samaritan ‘messianic’ (shouldn’t we say Tahebian?) expectations and not the Jewish. He didn’t come as a tyrant king along the lines of David and Solomon subjugating gentiles to the Jews and using slave labor to build the temple. He healed the lame and blind rather than commanding his men to exterminate them (as David did in 2 Sam 5:8). (There’s actually an ancient interpretation that the blind men crying out ‘son of David have mercy on us’ was a taunt concerning that verse, and that by healing them rather than killing them Jesus proved himself to NOT be the son of David.) There’s even that spot in John where when Jesus leaves Samaria to go into Galilee (John 4:43) it says (verse 44) “for Jesus himself testified that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.” IF you read only the gospel of John, you would think from this statement that Samaria was his ‘own country’ since he is leaving Samaria for Galillee specifically because “a prophet hath no honour in his own country.” Then there is also John 8:48-49 where he is accused of both being a Samaritan and having a devil, but he only denies having a devil and not being a Samaritan “I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.” And, of course, the Jews have never heard his Father’s voice nor seen his shape (John 5:37) even though the Old Testament asserts they have, and their father is the devil (John 8:44). Jesus opposes the temple–what else can the running out of those who sell the animals necessary for sacrifice be? And while in Jerusalem, Jesus says to his disciples in Mark 11:23 “whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed…he shall have whatsoever he saith.” Being that he is in Jerusalem, “this mountain” is clearly the temple mount. This praying for the temple mount to be cast into the sea can be understood in light of Samaritan opposition to the Jerusalem temple.

    There is a connection between Christianity and Samaritanism that is unexplored. We take for granted that the Jews are the authentic people of God who were right in their worship because the books of Kings say so. The books of Kings tell us that the tyrant king Solomon was a wonderful godly man (despite having a billion whores and turning away from God and being an idolater) and that God chose his temple as the only place of worship and those nasty Northern tribes (the Samaritans) went off the reservation and made their own alter up there on Mt. Gerizim like heathens. But the Samaritan story is the opposite, namely that the place that God chose to be the only place of sacrifice was Mt. Gerizim and that them dirty southern tribes wen off the reservation and made that temple when David and Solomon the tyrants incited them to it.

    I know its considered ‘blasphemy’ to suggest that we’ve picked the wrong side here, but I certainly see more validity in the Samaritan position. A simple earthen altar on a mountain as opposed to an overly ornate bordering on pagan altar in a grandeous temple makes sense, especially since God dwelleth not in temples made with hands as Isaiah says.

    There’s also this passage: Deuteronomy 11:29 “And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal.”

    What does this blessing of Mt. Gerizim mean?

    Deuteronomy 27:11-13 “And Moses charged the people the same day, saying, These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin: And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.”

    Joshua 8:33 “And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.”

    BUT WAIT, WHAT’S THIS ONE?

    Deuteronomy 27:4-5 “Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaster them with plaster. And there shalt thou build an altar unto the LORD thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them.”

    Why would he command them to build an altar on EBAL when he is about to command them to bless GERIZIM and curse EBAL a few verses later (verses 11-13)? Seems odd doesn’t it. According to Wikipedia (article on Ebal) the Samaritan version of Deuteronomy instructs them in Deuteronomy 27:4-5 to build this altar on GERIZIM, not Ebal. That actually harmonizes with the passages we’ve already noticed.

    What we have therefore is that the altar to be constructed after crossing into the promised land was to be constructed on Gerizim not Ebal. Therefore, the Samaritan place of worship precedes the Jerusalem temple (duh). It is not the case (as Kings would have it) that the Samaritans went heretic during the reign of Solomon’s two sons, but rather the Judeans went heretic during David’s reign.

    I must therefore question in John 4:22 “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” the words “for salvation is of the Jews.” I think them and the entirety of the next verse (a mere explanation of these words) are an interpolation. What would it even mean to say “salvation is of the Jews”? It would imply that one can be saved by the temple cult in Jerusalem, but Jesus opposes the temple cult! Salvation is not of the Jews but of Jesus himself. And he is not saying the Samaritans should leave Gerizim for Jerusalem but that both Jews and Samaritans should leave their designated places of worship for spiritual worship that requires no set place and that is not carnal like sacrifices. Therefore, what I think he is really saying is “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye [both Jews and Samaritans] worship ye know not what: we [myself and the apostles] know what we worship. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” The meaning is not that the Samaritans are wrong an the Jews right on the place of worship. He condemns both Jews and Samaritans as not truly knowing God. Why? They think of God like a mortal being who needs animals killed for him to ‘eat’ if you will. Their worship is carnal. So, both Jews and Samaritans are mistaken on God’s very nature. But we (Jesus and the apostles) know that God is spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and truth.

    That’s my take on the connection between Christianity and Samaritanism as limited as my understanding is on the matter.

    • Rey,

      Sorry for the length of time it has taken me to write you back. Your argument has good ideas, but is based on the premise that Jesus only fulfilled Samaritan messianic expectations and was therefore a Samaritan who opposed Judaism and the Temple in Jerusalem. This is not the case. Jesus only fulfilled some of the Samaritan messianic expectations in his first coming just like he only fulfilled some of the Jewish expectations in his first coming. Here’s a few specific examples of a Samaritan messianic expectations that he did not fulfill at his first coming:

      1) The Taheb will be of the Tribe of Ephraim.
      2) He will unite all of Ephraim (Israel) and Judah, and restore the “original” worship on Mt. Gerizim.
      3) Then the entire world will convert because of the Taheb.

      So if Jesus didn’t fulfill the Samaritan messianic expectations, combine that with the unwelcoming Samaritans (Luke 9:51-56), and the rest of your argument (that perhaps Jesus was a Samaritan) falls apart. As to the altar on Mt. Ebal vs. on Mt. Gerazim, this was before God chose a place to put his name (the temple). You’ll find that there were many sacred sites with altars prior to the temple in Jerusalem (Arad, Shiloh, etc). You do, however, make some interesting points. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Peace,

      James

  2. I have several questions:

    1. How far apart are Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim? If my understanding is correct. the bases are about 50 yards apart, or less, in some places. If half of Israel stood on one mount and the other on the other have to respond to the blessings and cursing, then they have to be within ears shot of each other, correct?

    2. Was Solomon’s temple on Mount Ebal and is that where it was during Jesus’ time, before destruction in 70 AD?

    3. Back in the 1st century, was Mount Gerizim in Samaria and Mount Ebal in Jerusalem? What was the dividing line between the Jerusalem and Samaria?

    4. Where are Mount Ebal and Gerizim today? My understanding is Mount Gerizim is in Israeli control. If the Jewish Temple(s) were on Mount Ebal, does that mean Mount Ebal is in currently in control of another country and just a few yards away is Israeli controlled Mount Gerizim?

    • George,

      Thanks for the questions. Here’s my answers to them:

      1. The modern-day city of Nablus is located in the valley between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerezim. Mt. Ebal is located here and Mt. Gerezim is located here. The two mountain’s peaks are about 3 kilometers apart and their bases about 1 kilometer apart. But if you have over half a million people standing on one side, and half a million on the other, it’s sure to make an impression on those present.

      2. Solomon’s temple was located on Mount Moriah, which is the highest part of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is actually built on several hills with several valleys in between (Kidron, etc). The second temple was erected on this same spot, in Jerusalem.

      3. In the first century, both Gerezim and Ebal were in Samaria. The dividing line between Samaria and Judea was not well defined, but it was certainly well-north of Jerusalem where the Jews’ temple was.

      4. I answered part of this in #1. The temple mount is located in Jerusalem and even though it falls well within Israeli-controlled territory, they have allowed a board of Muslims to govern the actual temple mount itself. This is to prevent Zionists from destroying the Mosques which sit atop it. These Mosques represent the third-holiest site in all of Islam, and if they were destroyed you would have a Jihad on your hands the likes of which has not been seen in a millennium. So, naturally, it’s tense. Jews want to rebuild their temple, Muslims want to keep their Mosques. Both sides believe they have a God-given right to the site. But, none of today’s tense affairs have anything to do with Samaritans in Nablus.

      Peace,

      James

    • Addressing question #4: The two mountains (today) are where they were in the beginning of Samaria. You can look in any book, including some Bibles, that have the maps of Israel down througgh the years. Samaritans still worship on Mount Gerizim (Garazim). They still wait on their eschatological hope who comes with the title “Taheb” (THB), which means the “Restorer who will return”. The Samaritans have many oral laws and writtings. At Christ’s time the belief of the Taheb included the woman of Samaria to offer Taheb a drink from Jacob’s well, if he were to show up. This idea came from Genesis 24. The “Woman At the Well” was replicating Rebekah and how she would be an instrument to give birth to a “new” physical poulation. She was to marry Taheb, who is actually Moses born again. The pure seed of Moses was to be ejaculated into the woman in the same manner that Isaac impregnated Rebekah. The “Woman of Samaria” (John 4:3-44) is a virgin on the order of Rebekah. The woman was given a sacrificial cleansing ceremony in order to be purified of her adultrated vaginal status from birth. All Samaritan women were deemed unpure after they intermarried the invading Assyrians in 722 B.C. The water from Jacob’s well was a liquid for the purpose of Samaritanism rituals. The well was a three mile round trip from Syrchar, which the woman took foot to do every day. The woman was not immoral. The Church at large believes this in error that roots in little research done. When Jesus asked her for a drink, she was astonished. The Lord told her that salvation came from the Jews. The Greek in John’s gospel in original culture. It is different from the later Greek. The five husbands spoken of in John 4 are spiritual patriarchs: Abrham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and the betrothed to (engaged) Moses/Taheb. There is not a sixth husband. It sounds like there is but the marriage had not yet been consumated with Taheb/Moses: therefore, the fifth husband is in dualism. The woman changed her religion, a very big deal. Sin is not the issue of John 4:3-44. Repeting never appears. Some in Sychar believed also thay Jesus is the Son of God (and not Moses) and declared to be the Savior of The World. What Nicodemus mocked, the Samaritans accepted.

      • Dion, I am fascinated by your statements that the Samaritan woman was not immoral and your claims about who her husbands were. Would you be willing to connect with me to discuss further? I am researching this matter and would appreciate hearing more about your viewpoint and your sources. Thanks you.

        • This is portion of the book I’m writing: If you are like most people that I have shared bits and pieces of information with when I told them that the “Woman at the Well” was a virgin—you probably became confused, or said I was crazy. Now being confused is the nicest thing they have said to me; however, I also have been called a Heretic, a stupid man, living on the moon, and things that would frustrate anyone who is trying to tell them what is good for them. Isn’t it good for everyone to know the truth? I mean, gee whiz I’m regretful that the church has super amazingly misrepresented the woman by misinterpreting the Scripture about her that is found in the Bible in the Gospel of John Chapter Four verses Three through Forty-four. Hey, here’s a sad report I want you to consider: For centuries the church has falsely accused Jesus of falsely accusing the Woman at the Well of sexual immorality. That’s a big no-no. It’s sort of like calling Him a big fibber—because Jesus knew all things about her because in His time on earth, just about everyone in Israel knew the purpose of the “Woman of Samaria”; and because of that, He knew she was not an immoral person—because He knew why she went to the well every day. He knew she was a virgin. He knew her five “husbands” were not literal. He knew that her used to be “husbands” were spiritual…you see Samaritan women lost them in 722 B.C. because of a bad thing done to them by the Assyrians. Jesus knew she practiced a Patrilineal Faith because that was also known throughout Israel, and that patrilineal faith means that she had Patriarch Fathers that the women also called “husbands”; now, the men didn’t call them husbands because the men were not marrying material for other men—regardless of who they are, rather spiritual of literal. Oh my, that would have made them homosexuals, rather literal or spiritual; and, in Patrilineal Faith homosexuals were excluded because they can’t make babies. Don’t freak, I’ll do my best to explain patrilineal faith later on in this book.
          Jesus knew that the “husbands” were long ago dead. Jesus knew they were—Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Jesus also knew that the woman went to the well to meet their Samaritan messiah—Taheb (hopefully). She was rather suspicious of men coming to the well at the specified time she was to go there…because there were a lot of guys going around pretending to be Taheb; but they invented a way to take care of those jerks by asking them to stay overnight—if they died in the night, they were phonies. Now Jesus stayed overnight and He didn’t die—imagine that? The event Jesus had with the woman he met at Jacobs Well is astonishing to learn about. Why? Well, how about this? The woman threw her Taheb religion away and became converted to Christ the Lord.
          God bless…

          • Thank you for your detailed response. I appreciate your time though you really didn’t answer the second half of my question–specifically about your sources. I’d like to know where you obtained your information. Otherwise, this comes across as a bad reaction to some tainted mushrooms and you seem too bright for that. Thanks again for your time.

          • I find this interesting, but would would still need better sources to be convinced.

            One thing I think may be worth noting is that Hebrew does not have a word which means only “husband.” Instead a woman’s spouse was referred to sometimes simply as “her man” (“Ish”) but usually as her “master” (“Baal,” which is the same title as was borne by so many false gods like Hadad, but does not necessarily indicate idolatry).

            They were probably speaking Aramaic rather than Hebrew, but the languages are so similar that I would bet the word used for husband still technically meant master and would be just as appropriate in discussing a condition of slavery as a condition of marriage. (A quick search shows that the Aramaic for husband is “Baalah,” which seems almost identical to the Hebrew.)

            The passage makes more sense with your interpretation if you translate it as saying that she has had five masters rather than five husbands.

            I don’t see how there could be any homosexual implications for referring to a man’s Baal. A slave would use the same term for his master regardless of gender.

  3. Just some remarks regarding the question raised:

    1) The Taheb will be of the Tribe of Ephraim.

    Jesus is SON OF JOSEPH. He is therefore son of EPHRAIM SON OF JOSEPH. The church misunderstood the term son of joseph to mean son of a man by the name of joseph. JEsus was simply saying. I’m not the messiah son of David but the samarita massiah son of joseph !!!!!

    2) He will unite all of Ephraim (Israel) and Judah, and restore the “original” worship on Mt. Gerizim.

    That what he attempted to do by going to Samarita and Galilee. But no one listened. His attemps was to unite ISrael against the romains an against the senhedrin but Israel didn’t listen !!!!

    • I am intrigued by your assertion that Jesus was the Son of the tribe of Joseph. Maybe the son of Joseph through marriage to a daughter of the Tribe of Joseph, namely the Samaritan woman. Both the Prophets and the Samaritans believe that the first function of Messiah is to reunite the 12 tribes. I have wondered if Jesus might have attempted to do this through a dynastic marriage with say the daughter of a Samaritan high priest. The five men referred to in John 4 is likely to refer to the Penetauch and the one she is with now, meaning Jesus, is not her “man” meaning that he is presenting himself as a prophet since the Prophets begin with Joshua, the Hebrew form of Jesus.

      Such a “dynastic marriage” would have caused huge problems for the Temple authorities, and with multitude of followers from both John the Baptist as well as his own would have been seen as quite a political threat. I have wondered if he wasn’t being challenged to divorce her, but chose instead to die for her sake and the sake of her Tribe. If that is the case then he might indeed have died for his “bride” as the church has historically alleged.

  4. Pingback: Sermon Resources – 10/06/2013 – “Seek Change Tell” | Re Church

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