{Jewish Sects and Orders}

During the later age of the separate kingdom of Israel, the name of Samaria, its capitol, was often employed to denote the nation (Isaiah 7:9; Jeremiah 23:13; Ezekiel 16:46, etc.). When, therefore, another community had usurped the place of the Ten Tribes, it was natural to apply to them the name of "Samaritans." This community was in its origin in great part heathen, consisting - at any rate chiefly - of immigrants from five provinces of Assyria, sent by Esarhaddon (probably under the convoy of one of his generals, Osnapper, Ezra 4:10), to colonize the districts from which the Israelites had been deported. In the earlier period of their residence, the land which had long been waste and unpeopled was ravaged by lions. This the settlers interpreted as betokening the anger of the unknown tutelary "God of the land," and in answer to their solicitations a captive priest was sent from Assyria to instruct them. He fixed his abode at Bethel, but taught them no more than to combine the worship of the LORD (Yahweh) with that of their own ancestral idols. "The feared the LORD and served their own gods" (2 Kings 17:33).

This motley religion endured for some generations, but the worship of the old Assyrian and Babylonian deities seems gradually to have died out, partly, no doubt, from the influence of the Israelitish remnant still scattered through the land - such men as, after the destruction of Jerusalem a century later, came "from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria" to worship and to mourn at Mizpeh with their brethren of Judah (Jeremiah 41:5; cf. 2 Chronicles 34:6,9). Notwithstanding the arguments of Hengstenberg and others, the opinion that the survivors of the Ten Tribes in the course of time coalesced with the descendants of the Assyrian settlers, and that the Samaritans had in part an Israelite origin, seems defensible on all rational and Scriptural grounds.

When the decree of Cyrus restored Jerusalem to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, they found a considerable community in the northern part of the kingdom who claimed to worship the God of Abraham, and proffered their assistance to Joshua and Zerubbabel in the erection of the temple. The Jewish leaders decisively repulsed them, feeling the danger of admitting so mixed a community into the commonwealth of Israel. Their alliance being thus refused, they became thenceforth the bitterest adversaries of Judah (Ezra 4:1-5). This hostility broke out in the days of Nehemiah, when Sanballat of Beth-horon (a Samaritan city near their frontier), with Tobiah, an Ammonite slave, long harassed the Jews with malignant opposition of every kind; ending all, however, after Nehemiah's departure, by specious advances towards reconciliation. For the good and patriotic governor, returning, found to his amazement that Tobiah was installed in lodgings within the temple precinct, and the Sanballat had given his daughter in marriage to a grandson of the high priest. It was impossible for Nehemiah to come to terms with the former enemies of God's people. For an Ammonite to be established in the sanctuary was a profanation. Tobiah and the high priest's grandson were summarily expelled (Nehemiah 13:4-9,28,29), and the breach between Jews and Samaritans became irreparable.

Manasseh now assumed the priesthood in Samaria (about 408 B.C.), establishing there an organized religious community. Mt. Gerizim, in time long past held in honor as one of the "holy places" in Palestine, was selected as the center of the new worship; and, by permission of the Persian king Darius Nothus, a temple was built there to the LORD (Yahweh). Soon this was declared to be the place which God had chosen, and dexterous alterations of the Pentateuch were made to favor the assumption. The Law of Moses, without the after histories of the prophetic books, was taken as the textbook of the Samaritan faith; and, breaking by degrees from the old idolatrous, admixture, this schismatic community laid claim to a stricter worship and a more rigorous orthodoxy even than prevailed at Jerusalem. From time to time disaffected Jews, leaving their own community, seceded to Gerizim, and the rancor deepened as time went on.

When Antiochus Epiphanes (about 175 B.C.) made his famous attempt to denationalize and paganize the Jews, the Samaritans revealed the spuriousness of their faith by their ready submission to the tyrant. This placed them in deadly opposition to the Jewish patriot party, which, under John Hyrcanus, the Maccabee, destroyed Samaria and the temple of Gerizim, 130 B.C. But the altar remained, the spirit of the sect was unbroken, and the old animosity subsisted in all its force down to the time of Jesus. To the Jews the Samaritan was still a "foreigner" (Luke 17:18, see also Matthew 10:5,6). In travelling from Galilee to Judea, no Jew, if he could help it, would pass through Samaria, but would take the road on the east side of the Jordan. When members of the two communities met, angry strife was sure to arise (Luke 9:52-54), often leading to bloodshed. No name of scorn was more bitter in Jerusalem than that of Samaritan (John 8:48). All this gives point to Jesus' repeated lessons of brotherly-kindness (Luke 10:33, etc.); and it is interesting to find that one of the disciples who was for calling down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans who rejected Christ, himself preached the Gospel afterwards in many Samaritan villages (Luke 9:54; cf. Acts 8:25).

Through all generations and amid every change the Samaritans have remained in their ancestral abode of Nablus (ancient Shechem), with their altar and their sacrifices upon Mt. Gerizim. They are now "the oldest and the smallest sect in the world" consisting of from forty to fifty families. They preserve their edition of the Pentateuch, in its old Hebrew characters, with religious care. There has been much discussion as to this relic of antiquity; and if, as seems most probable, it represents the Law as handed down among the Ten Tribes from the days of the disruption under Jeroboam, the fact effectually disposes of modern theories as to the late origin of the "Five Books." The subject is one that cannot here be discussed, but it deserves and will doubtless receive further elucidation.

Comic Book Characters - Superheroes - Kurt Busiek - Astro City - Samaritan 

 * Spoilers inside links, mild spoilers in text *

Origin: The Samaritan is a time traveler sent from a near-apocalyptic 35th century into the past in order to save Earth and mankind. Through rigorous studies, the last surviving scientists of that era pinpointed an event that would change mankind's history and result in its inevitable slide towards ruin; Samaritan's task was to prevent it from happening. However, things didn't turn out quite right, and Samaritan's (true name not disclosed as yet) trip through time racked him with the energies of time and space, almost destroying him and delaying his arrival as he struggled to master the forces raging within.

Ultimately successful despite this setback, Samaritan decided that mankind faced many more trials besides the specific one entrusted to him by the scientists and took on the identity of one of the most (if not the most) powerful superheroes in the Astro City universe. Equipped with one piece of equipment from the far future - the zyxometer - he is aware of every disaster occurring on the planet within seconds. With his hypersonic flight capabilities and prodigious energy field manipulation powers (once shown to hold back and collapse a mile-high tidal wave in the Philippines), Samaritan became quickly aware that he was the best suited superpowered being to help humanity in the current era, and made it his continuing mission to do so. He is currently one of the most powerful heroes in the continuum, if not the most powerful.

Cover Identity: Asa Martin (anagram for Samaritan) is a fact checker for the Current, a news magazine in Astro City. As his work requires quiet and concentration, he is able get his work done in moments and spend the rest of the day on his continuing mission. As to why the Earth's most powerful defender needs a day job is something other members of the Honor Guard wonder as well, but it's really quite simple. His near omniscience is very wearing and his superpowers dehumanize and distance him from everyone. Even this small pretense of a normal human life (remember, he came into his powers by accident) serves to anchor him a bit more firmly in the human world. With a crisis only seconds away at any time of the day, the few normal moments are a joy to be savored.

Appearance: Samaritan is a tall and well-built white male in his apparent mid-40s, wearing a red bodysuit and a small blue cape that goes half across the front, partial toga-like. There is a white logo on his chest that at first looks like a 3 pointed star, but most closely resembles a symbolized bird with outstretched wings, seen top-down. His hair is a vivid, dark blue. Asa Martin is similar in appearance, but his hair is white and he wears spectacles. Conversely, the glasses and a harried air make him look younger than the stately Samaritan. Both are inspired by, and an obvious homage to, another popular hero whose idea of disguise is a change in haircut and glasses.

Known Powers: Samaritan can fly at a speed somewhere around a thousand of miles per second (supposed East Coast to the Philippines under 6 seconds). He can manipulate massive energy fields that allow him immeasurable strength. He has also been seen accessing a pocket dimension, but it is unknown if this extends any further.

Sa*mar"i*tan (?), a. [L. Samaritanus.]

Of or pertaining to Samaria, in Palestine.



A native or inhabitant of Samaria; also, the language of Samaria.


© Webster 1913.

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