Jesus, the Samaritan Messiah (Taheb)
H. Abdul Al-Dahir
According to the Quran, Jesus was the messiah or anointed one. There are two definitions of messiah; one from the gospels and another from the Samaritans. The gospels expound the Judean, or southern tradition, that the messiah would be the second coming of David (Ezekiel 37) while the Samaritan, or northern tradition, held that the messiah or taheb, would be the second coming of Moses. The question is, who did Jesus think he was; the 2nd coming of David or the 2nd coming of Moses? In order to explore these 2 possibilities, one must understand that Jesus was a Samaritan whose clan settled in Galilee and that, according to the gospels, Jesus’ area of greatest activity centered in Galilee around the Sea of Galilee. While important events occurred in Jerusalem, he spent most of the three years of his preaching career along the shore of this lake. Here he gave more than half of his parables and here he performed most of his miracles.
Capernaum, on the northwestern shore, became Jesus’ “hometown” throughout his career. Three of his disciples hailed from Bethsaida, a few miles distant from Capernaum. These two cities, together with Chorazin 3 km (2 mi) inland from Capernaum, were condemned by Jesus not responding to his efforts. Mary of Magdala hailed from the town Magdala on the lake’s western shore. Early Christians honored this Galilean inland lake by building churches commemorating the feeding of the five thousand, the Sermon on the Mount, the primacy of Peter, and the house of Peter.
The history of the Samaritan sect according to the Samaritans is:
“The Samaritans claim to be descendants of the tribe of Joseph, and thus descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh. Their priests are from the house of Levi, descendants of Aaron. When Israel entered Palestine, Joshua established the center of his administration at Shechem, in the valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The high priest at the time was Eleazar, son of Aaron, who also lived in Shechem. Six years after the entrance into the land, Joshua built the Tabernacle on Gerizim, where all worship of the Israelites was centered. After Joshua’s death there was a succession of kings (called”judges,”), the last of whom was Samson. Eleazar was succeeded at Gerizim by Phinehas, Abishua, Shesha, Bacha, and Uzzi. When Uzzi became high priest at the age of 23, Eli (a descendant of Ithamar rather than of Eleazar), then 60 years old, was director of revenues and tithes and director of the sacrifices on the stone altar outside the Tabernacle. Eli became rich through revenues and jealous of Uzzi, and he decided to take the high-priesthood away from Uzzi.
About the time of Eli, foreigners began to enter Israel and to teach the people sorcery and magic. Even a large number of priests learned it and left the ways of God. Eli was one of these, and he gathered a group of supporters. One day Uzzi the high priest rebuked Eli for some fault in his sacrificial work, and Eli with his followers immediately apostatized. Some of Israel followed Uzzi (especially the tribes of Joseph), and some followed Eli (especially Judah and Benjamin).
Eli moved to Shiloh and took copies of the Law with him. There he made a counterfeit ark and tabernacle and set up a rival sanctuary. He claimed that God had commanded the tabernacle to be moved to Shiloh from Gerizim. A majority of the people of Israel began to follow Eli because of his sorcery, and a deep dissension began to grow between the two groups. Thus, for a time there were two sanctuaries and two priesthoods (one descended from Phinehas, the other from Ithamar), and the first division on religious grounds in Israel was created. The Samaritans thereafter rejected the claims of the Ithamar branch of priests in favor of the sons of Phinehas. As a result of Eli’s defection, Israel was split into three divisions: (1) the followers of Uzzi, the (2) genuine high priest; the followers of Eli; and (3) many of various tribes who lapsed into paganism.
This is the only schism that the Samaritans know.14 Eli’s act ended the era of divine favor and initiated the age of divine wrath.
One day God told Uzzi to put all of the vessels and furniture of the tabernacle into a nearby cave, after which the cave miraculously closed up, engulfing the entire sanctuary. The next day, the cave and its contents completely disappeared (not to be found again until the Taheb or Messiah comes).
[(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)]
About this time, Samuel, a descendant of Korah, came to live with Eli at Shiloh. Eli taught him all his evil ways, including sorcery and witchcraft. When Eli died, the people made Samuel their ruler.The Philistines took advantage of the corruption and division to attack Israel. The people demanded a king, so Samuel appointed Saul.
Saul determined to punish the tribes of Joseph because they did not follow Samuel’s cult in Shiloh, so he went to Shechem and destroyed the remaining altar on Gerizim, killed the high priest Shisha(son of Uzzi), and destroyed many of the tribe. They began to worship in their homes, and many moved to Bashan, east of the Sea of Galilee. But the Torah was kept in its original condition.After Saul died, David came to Shechem and became king of all Israel. He captured Jabish (Jerusalem) and moved Eli’s ark there. When David decided to build a temple in Jerusalem, the high priest at Gerizim, Yaire, told him that he would have to build it on”Mt. Gerizim instead, according to the Torah. So David, who was a friend of this high priest (cf. 1 Sam 21:1-7) and had always offered his tithes at Gerizim, refrained from building the temple and left, it for his son to do.Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem and led the people astray from God. Jeroboam later rebelled and led Israel even further astray. He made his capital in Sabastaba (Sebaste, later called Samaria).
There were now three groups of Israelites: (1) the Samaritans, who kept themselves distinct from the rest and called themselves Merari, keepers of the Law; (2) the Israelites of the north, who followed Jeroboam; and (3) the tribe of Judah, with a mixture of various other tribes, who followed the line of David.
Assyria finally captured the Northern Kingdom and enslaved the people. An Assyrian named Samar controlled Sabastaba, and an Israelite (of the tribe of Joseph) bought the city and it became known as Samaria. Its inhabitants thus became known as Samaritans. Some of the followers of Uzzi were also taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Later, Nebuchadnezzar deported people from all tribes (including the tribe of Joseph) to Babylon. Foreigners immigrated to Israel in order to settle, but had problems with famine and wild beasts. So Cyrus sent the “Samaritan” high priest Abdullah (or Abdel), along with a host of descendants of Joseph, back to the Land. Abdullah wanted to build a sanctuary on Gerizim, but Zerubbabel the Jew wanted to rebuild in Jerusalem. Abdullah appealed to the Torah, whereas the Jews appealed to David and Solomon. Cyrus sided with the Samaritans, honored Sanballat their governor, and allowed many from the tribe of Joseph to return and to build a temple on Gerizim. Enmity between the tribes of Joseph and Judah continued to grow. Zerubbabel bribed the King of Persia to allow the Jews to build a temple in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans then received permission to destroy what they had built. This caused yet greater division.”
So, in preaching about the messianic figure, Jesus was actually referring to the Samaritan tradition that Moses was about to appear and not David. To emphasize this anticipated event, the authors of the gospels describe the following event known as the transfiguration. Mark 9:2-13 says:
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
In this event, which took place in Samaria, Jesus is presented as the last of a line of prophets with whom he shared equal footing. These prophets were not of the line of Judah. If Jesus believed that he was from Judah, he would have presented himself as between David and Isaiah and not between Moses and Elijah. All 3 of these prophets, Jesus, Moses and Elijah were associated with Samaria, which was the alternate name for Israel since King Omri.
Furthermore, Moses elected Mount Gerizim as a sacred place when he entered Canaan. According to Wikipedia:
“Mount Gerizim… is one of the two mountains in the immediate vicinity of the West Bank city of Nablus (biblical Shechem), and forms the southern side of the valley in which Nablus is situated, the northern side being formed by Mount Ebal. The mountain is one of the highest peaks in the West Bank and rises to 881 m (2,890 ft) above sea level, 70 m (230 ft) lower than Mount Ebal. In Samaritan tradition, Mount Gerizim is held to be the highest, oldest and most central mountain in the world. The mountain is particularly steep on the northern side, is sparsely covered at the top with shrubbery, and lower down there is a spring with a high yield of fresh water.
A Samaritan village, Kiryat Luza, and an Israeli settlement, Har Brakha, are situated on the mountain ridge.
The mountain is sacred to the Samaritans who regard it, rather than Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, as having been the location chosen by Yahweh for a holy temple. The mountain continues to be the centre of Samaritan religion to this day, and over 90% of the worldwide population of Samaritans live in very close proximity to Gerizim, mostly in Kiryat Luza, the main village. Passover is celebrated by the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, and it is additionally considered by them as the location of the Binding of Isaac (the Masoretic Text, Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scroll versions of the Book of Genesis state that this happened on Mount Moriah, which Jews traditionally identify as the Temple Mount). According to rabbinic literature, in order to convert to Judaism, a Samaritan must first and foremost renounce any belief in the sanctity of Mount Gerizim.
Moses instructed the Israelites, when first entering Canaan, to celebrate the event with ceremonies of blessings and cursings on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal respectively. The Pulpit Commentary suggests that these mountains were selected for blessings and curses “doubtless, because of their relative position, and probably also because they stand in the center of the land both from north to south, and from east to west”. It has been suggested that “Ebal was appointed for the uttering of the curse, and Gerizim for the uttering of the blessing, because the former was barren and rugged, the latter fertile and smooth”, but the Pulpit Commentary editors state that “this is not borne out by the actual appearance of the two hills, both being equally barren-looking, though neither is wholly destitute of culture and vegetation”. However, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges argues that “the [north] face of Gerizim, the mount of blessing, is the more fertile; the opposite face of Ebal, the mount of curse, much the more bare.”
The Masoretic Text of the Tanakh says the Israelites later built an altar on Mount Ebal, constructed from natural (rather than cut) stones, to place stones there and whiten them with lime, to make korban (peace offerings on the altar), eat there, and write the words of this law on the stone.The Samaritan Pentateuch version of Deuteronomy, and a fragment found at Qumran, holds that the instruction actually mandated the construction of the altar on Mount Gerizim, which the Samaritans view as the site of the tabernacle, not Shiloh. Recent Dead Sea Scrolls work supports the accuracy of the Samaritan Pentateuch’s designation of Mount Gerizim rather than Mount Ebal as the sacred site.
An instruction immediately subsequent to this orders that, once this is done, the Israelites should split into two groups, one to stay on Mount Ebal and pronounce curses, while the other goes to Mount Gerizim and pronounces blessings. The tribes of Simeon, of Levi, of Judah, of Issachar, of Joseph, and of Benjamin were to be sent to Gerizim, while those of Reuben, of Gad, of Asher, of Zebulun, of Dan, and of Naphtali, were to remain on Ebal. No attempts to explain this division of tribes either by their Biblical ethnology or by their geographical distribution have been generally accepted in academic circles.”
Although several Samaritan mountains have been suggested as the place for the transfiguration, it is very likely that the original tale referred to Mount Gerizim, which, according to Josephus, was the mountain where Moses buried sacred vessels according to Samaritan belief.
One can interpret the transfiguration as a vision of the fulfillment of the Samaritan prophecy regarding the return of Moses as the Taheb or restorer. Moses, in this vision, represented himself as the origin of the prophecy, Elijah represented himself and John the Baptist (the 2nd Elijah) and Jesus represented the new Moses or taheb who was sent to restore the center of Yahwism to its original location, Mount Gerizem; the mountain blessed my Moses.
Further evidence that Jesus thought of himself as the Samaritan messiah or taheb is presented in Mark 12: 35 & 36 :
35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
“‘The Lord (Yhwh) said to my Lord (adonai in Hebrew meaning king/master/owner or kyrios ?????? in Mark 12:36 which means the same as adonai or king/master/owner):
“Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”
37 David himself calls him ‘Lord’(kyrios) How then can he be his son?”
The large crowd listened to him with delight.”
In other words, the author of Mark has Jesus quote Psalm 110 to repudiate the notion that the Messiah would be a descendant of David. From the above information the Samaritan Messiah or Taheb would be Moses who would come back to rule the world and not David as predicted in Ezekiel 37:
“and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. 23 They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”
24 “‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. 25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”
If Jesus indeed quoted Psalm 110 to repudiate the eschatological notion that a messianic David would rule the world and the crowd cheered at this statement, this means that he subscribed to an alternate version of the messianic doctrine or the Samaritan notion that the taheb, Moses, would be the ruler. It also means that the crowd knew that Jesus was a Samaritan from Galilee and not from the tribe of Judah. This idea was promulgated by the clergy to whom Jesus was related thru his mother whose relative was Elizabeth, a daughter of Aaron, who was married to Zechariah, a priest of Abijah or the 8th order of priests descended from Eleazar thru Aaron as divided by David. The Samaritans shared the idea that its priests too were the descendant of Eleazar. The idea that Jesus was a Samaritan can be found in John 8:48. Also, the fictional genealogies in Matthew and Luke which attempt to link Jesus with the tribe of Judah bolsters the notion that he was not a Judean. If he was a Judean, his genealogy would be known and there would have been no discrepancies in the list of ancestors.
Jesus is described as being of unknown patrilineal descent. He is called the son of Mary Mark 6:3 which indicates that his town folk questioned his paternity. Matthew and Luke emphasize that his parentage was of divine origin which again indicates his patrilineal descent was unknown. However, the authors of Mark, Matthew and Luke all agree that he was of ‘a son of David’ even though all 3 gospels agree that his paternity was unknown to the populace or was of divine origin. The contradiction between the manufactured genealogies in Matthew and Luke in which Jesus’ father was Joseph and the admission by these same authors that Jesus’ father was unknown or divine leaves one to conclude that either Jesus was a bastard or that his true parentage was deliberately hidden.
The idea that Jesus was a bastard is contradicted by his knowledge of the Biblical texts and his preaching in the synagogues. Bastards were ousted from the congregation of Yhwh even unto the 10th generation according to Deut 23:2, so Jesus could not have been a bastard. The other reason for suppressing Jesus paternal line and manufacturing his descent from Judah would be to legitimize him as a son of David and, thus, a candidate for messiahship according to Judean belief. As the Jesus movement was primarily in Jerusalem, one would expect that his biographers would be keenly interested in promoting this Galilean as a descendant of Judah.
The counter argument or the argument from the desposyni tradition; that James, the brother of Jesus, was the head of the church who admitted that he was from the line of David is not an idea presented in the gospels. The name James (Jacob in Hebrew) is listed as the name of one of the brothers of Jesus in Mark 6. Brother or adelphos in Greek, means brother and it also means a follower or fellow believer as is indicated in 1 Peter 5:9:
“But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren (adelphotes) who are in the world.”
The idea that the desposyni were actually blood kin to Jesus was promulgated by the Ebionites and Hegesippus in the 2nd Century. Neither the Ebionites or Hegesippus knew Jesus. Furthermore, Paul never mentioned that James was a blood brother of Jesus. So, there is a distinct possibility that this Galilean was a Samaritan whose followers were either keen to hide his true Samaritan paternity so that he would be a candidate for Judean messiahship as described in Ezra 37 or that they believed that Jesus’ conception was due to divine intervention. In any case, Jesus was a Samaritan whose family resided in Galilee and whose paternity may have been disputed but whose maternal line was firmly established through his mother, Miriam; a women of the priestly line of Aaron. This maternal priestly lineage defines Jesus as a Levite and, thus, a candidate for the title of ‘taheb’ or Samaritan messiah.
The proposal of this author is that Jesus was from a Samaritan clan (possibly Levite), who dwelt in Galilee and who attempted to re-establish the borders of the Hasmonean state, but under the control of the ‘tribe of Joseph’ (Samaria) instead of the ‘tribe of Judah’ (Judea). The Hasmoneans, aka Maccabeans, defeated the Greek Seleucids and established a state which included the regions of Galilee, Samaria, Iturea, Perea and Idumea. The Hasmonean dynasty was hostile to the Samaritans. The Hasmonean high priest and ruler, John Hyrcanus, destroyed the Gerizim temple which was the center of Samaritan worship.
Jesus saw himself as a type of Moses and not as a type of David. He was a well-trained, itinerant rabbi who wished to establish a theocratic state based on the Torah and the worship of Yhwh. This new state was ‘the Kingdom of God’ he expounded upon in Mark. (This phrase was changed to Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew where it came to mean a utopian after-life). He began by joining John the Baptizer’s anti-Herodian movement and later expanded it to include the Roman-collaborating temple authority in Jerusalem. (The Herodian dynasty consisted of Roman appointed rulers who controlled the Herodian kingdom on behalf of Rome.).
Jesus’ mission began in Galilee where he recruited his base, his loyal ‘disciples’. He and his disciples then began a campaign to build popular support which included mass gatherings in which he promised the oppressed locals a better life in the ‘Kingdom of God’, i.e., the new state within the old Hasmonean borders, if they withdrew their support for the corrupt temple authority and instead supported him and his disciples. This better life would be instituted once the Torah became the law of the land partly because he intended to emphasize the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law which caused the oppressed populace extreme hardship when they tried to comply with temple demands. Goyim would be tolerated but only if they forwent the worship of their foreign gods and accepted a status as 2nd class citizens. The establishment of the ‘Kingdom of God’ was crushed by the Romans and Jesus’ theocratic state or ‘Kingdom of God’ was re-interpreted to mean an other-worldly paradise which could only be entered with the blessing of the Roman church. THE ULTIMATE IRONY!!!!