Why We’re Wrong about the Samaritans

The story goes that Jesus tries to answer the question “who is my neighbor.” He tells of a man who is assaulted, and three passers-by. A priest passes, a Levite passes, a Samaritan doesn’t pass. The Samaritan takes care of the man. The usual interpretation is that there is an irony here. The parable is oxymoronic—it’s about a good Samaritan.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11751
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but there’s at least some evidence of disdain, and that it was directed by the Jews towards the Samaritans:

“Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” John 4:9.

“Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” John 8:48.

even some of the healings of Jesus, i.e., the lone leper out of the ten who were healed, who returned to thank christ, come with a cryptic, “and he was a Samaritan”, Luke 17:16, as if to suggest something not quite proper…

i think these passages reek of racism more than they don’t…


While your points are quite valid, I am hard-pressed to understand how one is racist regarding their own race.

Perhaps the underlying position of the author is that because the Samaritans shared blood with the Jews, the Jewish disposition was less hostile than it was toward full-fledged Gentiles as Jesus pointed out in when He called the Canaanite woman a dog in Matthew 15:26.

And yet, ultimately, it would seem that this is yet another in a long line of revisionist articles that attempt to chip away at orthodoxy. It’s as if Jews and Christians for several millennia busied themselves creating fictional narratives that have finally been exposed with the insights of the 20th and 21st Century scholars who present in plausible language just about any idea contrary to what has been accepted by those who came before.

In this case, the article serves the additional purpose of casting doubt on the veracity of Ellen White.


my best guess is that the Samaritans may have had Jewish heritage, but they likely had other genes that gave them a slightly darker complexion - a bit like today’s Arabs…

white racism directed against non-whites or less-whites is universal…it’s a narrative that runs through all cultures, and was even more pronounced in previous eras than it is now…in the OT, for example, where people are for the most part unsophisticated, and susceptible to their instincts, you see “fair”, or a light complexion, equated with beauty and the implication of virtue on more than one occasion…

Complexion is not race, though. How can Celts be racist against Spaniards or Italians? They’re all Caucasians. Indians from India are Caucasian as well even if very dark complected. So biases against one another may be unfortunate, but they are not technically racism.

Sephardic Jews are of similar complexion as their distant cousins, the Arabs. And they would be more similar to the Jewish population of Jesus’ time. All of these people are off the Semitic race, which once again obviates racism.

you may be technically correct, but common perceptions of racism can otherize virtually anything…President Zelinsky has accused Putin of instigating genocide and racism against Ukraine, many of whom are ethnic Russians…the Rwandan genocide involved racism between two black african tribes…whatever was behind the Jews’ treatment of the Samaritans, i think we can safely assume that there was something recognizable that made the Samaritans stand out from the Jews…

but to your point that scholarship has tended to question traditional understandings, i think this is certainly true…however this de Bruin article seems to be making the point that he is not questioning egw…i know that egw says the Jews and Samaritans were bitter enemies, but i may need to review whether she describes that hatred in terms of actual racism…i do think the biblical texts i’ve cited suggest racism…

Thank you very much about your ( new ? ) way to look at old myths. Something we should do more often !


It would seem that is the point – i.e. that recent use of the word “racism” has been applied to non-race situations. It would seem that there is a desire for the force of concept of racism to be evident when criticizing something that is not actually racism. It is akin to calling a thief a murderer because murder is a much more powerful critique of wrongdoing even though taking a life is not the same as stealing property.

Under these new applications of “racism,” it could perhaps be said that if my brother and I get into a disagreement, then when I shout at him, I am being a racist and exercising my fair-skinned privilege since I have blonde hair, green eyes, and very light skin. He on the other hand could be defending against oppression when he shouts back at me since he has ruddy skin, brown hair, and brown eyes. The fact that we are from the same parents and of the same race has not much to do with anything at all since this newfangled use of the term “racism” can be applied anyway we feel like applying it.

lol…the far edges of anti-racism, as with all social mvts, do take on ridiculous overtones the more they’re looked at…but with respect to the Samaritan issue, assuming it is an issue, i’m not sure what understandings are advanced by revising the notion that the core of Jewish antipathy towards the Samaritans was racism…if we want to insist that the punch of the parable of the Good Samaritan rests on religious, geographic, dress, or any difference other than race, i’m not sure we can really say that a reflection of racism contradicts that punch…

i tend to think that this entire subject is a bit of much ado about nothing…it almost seems as if we’re on a quest to discover anything not quite right for its own sake…perhaps personal notoriety and recognition is the sought after result…

well, I find the study presented is stimulating, just in giving an exaple how and whenever to question traditions and myths.

But is it really only about “racism” ?

I bring two examples right from here and now.

We have our local SDA churches here, founded in the twenties, the thirties, the post WW II - time - - their descendarnts - and “Yugolslavian” churches - - - and the Romanians. With the latter ones - oh well, they have their own lifestyle and style of worshipping and arguing and and and - - we : “Beware of those from far abroad !!” ( ultraconservatives, fundamentalists - - )- They “beware of those established here !!” liberals who never did did suffer persecution - - ) We do not wera black dsits and dresses, they only wear - -

And our “World” ? You really can hurt and reject and disparage your partner when discussing by pronouncing your dialect without the guttural “el” (that is . pronouncing your clean speech) while he cannot avoid to show his his upbring somewhere on the “waterfront” - the guttural “el” he cannot avoid is the stigma of being separated, out, the “other” - - -

See also : Bernhard Shaw : “Pygmalion” - - or the musical “My Fair Lady” !

strictly speaking, of course, this type of otherizing isn’t necessarily racism…but it achieves the same stigmatizing that racism achieves, so it might as well be racism, even if we call it something else…

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I think that it is generally understood that most of the people of the northern tribes of Israel were removed by the king of the Assyrians and that people from Assyria were brought to replace them in what became known as Samaria. So, I think that it is the case that the Samaritans were not well regarded by the kingdom of Judah. Unfounded references by others concerning how the Jews regarded the Samaritans is not really helpful to our understanding of the story. Deconstructing the story so as to read it as one of racial bias does not expand our understanding either.

There are many examples of this in the world including the US where this is the case. Here in Japan where I have lived over the past 30 years their are both historically and currently issues of this nature.

One needs to look at all the evidence found in Scripture, but is free to make their own choices, which in this case, diffesr from mine.

Erhman wrote a 600+ page book describing just this and that only covers the first 4 centuries AD.

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