Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Samaritan's Temple: History and New Findings
The original article from which these excerpts are drawn is quite anti-Semitic. But the story is quite interesting nonetheless:
The archaeologist Yitzhak Magen has been digging on the windswept summit of Mount Gerizim.
His findings, which have only been partially published, are a virtual sensation: As early as 2,500 years ago, the mountain was already crowned with a huge, dazzling shrine, surrounded by a 96 by 98-meter (315 by 321-foot) enclosure. The wall had six-chamber gates with colossal wooden doors.
At the time, the Temple of Jerusalem was, at most, but a simple structure.
Magen has discovered 400,000 bone remains from sacrificial animals. Inscriptions identify the site as the "House of the Lord." A silver ring is adorned with the tetragrammaton YHWH, which stands for Yahweh.
All of this means that a vast, rival place of worship stood only 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Jerusalem...
Mount Gerizim's history
Abraham ...stopped there because God had appeared to him in a wondrous vision. Later, Jacob...traveled there to build the original shrine.
In the fifth book of Moses, the mountain summit finally earns a prominent place in biblical history: After the flight from Egypt, the Israelites wandered through the Sinai desert for 40 years. At last, they reached the Jordan River from the east. Their old and weary leader gazed across the river to the promised land, where "milk and honey flow."
Shortly before his death, Moses issued an important command: The people must first travel to Mount Gerizim. He said that six tribes should climb it and proclaim blessings, while the other six tribes should proclaim curses from the top of nearby Mount Ebal. It was a kind of ritual taking possession of the promised land.
Finally, the prophet tells the Israelites to build a shrine "made of stones" on Mount Gerizim and coat it with "plaster." Indeed, he said, this is "the place that the Lord has chosen."
That, in any case, is what stands in the oldest Bible texts. They are brittle papyrus scrolls that were made over 2,000 years ago in Qumran... In today's Bible...there is no longer any mention of a "chosen place."
Around the year 180 BC, the ceremonial building grew to a size of roughly 200 by 200 meters. The Samaritans added a monumental staircase and rooms for "thousands of pilgrims." There were apparently huge crowds of devout visitors. None of this is mentioned in the Bible.
In the year 128 BC, John Hyrcanos, a Jewish prince, ascended Mount Gerizim with an army and burned the proud sanctuary to the ground. Archaeologists have found a "burn layer" along with arrow heads, swords, daggers and lead missiles for slings.
The Samaritans never rebuilt their temple...