Mount Gerizim - Post-exile History

Post-exile History

After the end of the Babylonian Captivity, a large schism between the Samaritans and Judaism developed, with the Samaritans, but not the Jews, regarding Mount Gerizim as the holy place chosen by God. Subsequently, in the Persian Period, the Samaritans built a temple there probably in the middle of 5th century BCE., arguing that this was the real location of the Israelite temple which had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar,

The religious tension between the Jews and the Samaritans led to the temple on Gerizim being destroyed by either John Hyrcanus in the 2nd century BCE (according to Josephus) or by Simeon the Just (according to the Talmud). The date of the Samaritan temple destruction, the 21st of Kislev, became a holiday for the Jews during which it is forbidden to eulogize the dead. However, the mountain evidently continued to be the holy place of the Samaritans, as it is mentioned as such by the Gospel of John and coins produced by a Roman mint situated in Nablus included within their design a depiction of the temple; surviving coins from this mint, dated to 138–161 CE, show a huge temple complex, statues, and a substantive staircase leading from Nablus to the temple itself.

In Jesus' discussion with the Samaritan woman he revealed his feeling about worship there: Jesus said to her:

Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews. Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth. —John 4:21-23

Eventually, when Christianity became the state church of the Roman Empire, Samaritans were barred from worshiping on Mount Gerizim. In 475 CE a Christian church was built on its summit. In 529, Justinian I made Samaritanism illegal, and arranged for a protective wall to be constructed around the church. As a result, the same year, Julianus ben Sabar led a pro-Samaritan revolt, and by 530 had captured most of Samaria, destroying churches and killing the priests and officials. However in 531, after Justinian enlisted the help of Ghassanids, the revolt was completely quashed, and surviving Samaritans were mostly enslaved or exiled. In 533 Justinian had a castle constructed on Mount Gerizim to protect the church from raids by the few disgruntled Samaritans left in the area.

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