Saturday, November 3, 2012

Samaritan Proselytizing in the Early Common Era

This exclusiveness of the Samaritans was not based on nationalist or racialist prejudices, but even conceded the possibility of any person embracing their religion. Deut. xxxii, 43, is interpreted by the Tabbakh as meaning that, when the nations see the rewards of the Israelites on the 'Day of Judgment', they will envy them their lot. The latter half of the verse is interpreted in various ways, one of them being: "anyone who seeks their nearness by being a proselyte and is buried in their soil, will benefit". Although there is no historical evidence for any widespread missionary on the part of the Samaritans, nevertheless, if the occasion arose, they would in fact warmly welcome any convert to their religion. Again, although the biblical word ger is interpreted by them in several ways, such as 'stranger' or 'sojourner', it is frequently taken to mean 'proselyte.' Marqe's exposition of Deut. xxvii, 19. affirms that there are seven commandments regarding kind treatment of the sojourner. He says: "Notice how He puts the sojourner first and again mentions the orphan and the widow". It is inconceivable that a heathen sojourner should be given preferential treatment over the widow and the orphan from their own fold. In his later widow and the orphan from their own fold. In his later treatment of the sojourner he thus makes it quite clear that he is a proselyte, for in his further exposition of this question he says: "You shall not wrong (Lev. xix, 33, cf. Ex. xxii, 21) in speech or in action, lest the sojourner grieve for what he has left behind or abhor what he has come to." These sentiments about the proselyte are outlined more explicitly in later literature but the line of though is the same as that of Marqe.

Perhaps the reason that there is not much evidence for proselytes can be explained by the fact that, outwardly at any rate, the Samaritan religion looked austere and stern, and therefore was unattractive to potential adherents. Needless to say, the Samaritans themselves did not regard their religion as unduly austere, nor their obligations to God as impossible to fulfil. Marqe stoutly denies that God demands that one should do anything which is quite beyond one's capacity. He emphasizes that the doing of good and justice rewards the believer in two ways, namely that he reaps the fruit of his labour and that he concurrently becomes a righteous man. He concludes by saying: "You are not expected to do something that is not in your power to do, but God demands from you (only) what is in your ability (to do) and that you do not love evil. Were it beyond your power, God would not demand it from you. [S Lowy The Principles of Samaritan Exegesis p. 144 - 145]

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