Recensions et comptes rendusThéologie

Étienne Nodet, Les Samaritains; postface de Jan Joosten. Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 2022, 14 × 21,6 cm, 264 p., ISBN 978-2-204-14994-5

  • Reinhard Pummer

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  • Reinhard Pummer
    University of Ottawa

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Couverture de Histoire vécue / Histoire écrite, Volume 75, numéro 3, septembre–décembre 2023, p. 317-471, Science et Esprit

1. The opening sentence of the Introduction states the aim of the book: to redress the historical injustice that sees the Samaritan religion as a degraded form of Judaism, while in reality, the Samaritans, up to this day centered on Mt. Gerizim, are the direct heirs of the ancient Israelites. 2. The origin and development of Samaritanism and Judaism is a problem-area that has occupied Étienne Nodet for a long time, as some of his other publications show. In this book he aims to show that, despite the meager documentary evidence, the Samaritans have been in Palestine since time immemorial; they have an uninterrupted chain of high priests up to this day; their diaspora was small and their customs are rooted in the Pentateuch. Judaism, on the other hand, was formed in the exile after the mythical era of the kings. It has undergone a long and very complex process of reform lasting to the Hasmonean period. Samaritanism can therefore not be derivative of Judaism. This is the position of the Samaritans, but only a small number of modern authors admit that they are partially right. However, the archaeological excavations on Mt. Gerizim have reopened the question of Samaritan origins. But even so, according to Nodet, the majority opinion is still that Samaritanism is an inferior form of Judaism. As opposed to other scholars who have written on the question of the origin of the Samaritans, Nodet writes on the origin of Judaism. 3. The first chapter, “Preliminaries. The Importance of the Samaritans”, discusses the importance of the Samaritans according to the Samaritan traditions and the works of Flavius Josephus, comparing and contrasting Josephus’ narratives about Joshua with those known from the Masoretic Bible and the Samaritan Book of Joshua, the accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah, and that of the Maccabees. This is followed by an analysis of the New Testament passages that concern the Samaritans, i.e., the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John. 4. The “Period of the Monarchy” is the title of the second chapter. The author warns the reader that it will yield very little that sheds light on the Samaritans. And this despite the fact that the Pentateuch, beginning with Abraham, assigns an important place to Shechem but ignores Jerusalem. The only two allusions to the Samaritans in the Bible are in 2 Kings 17 and in Ezra-Nehemiah. 5. Chapter three is entitled “The Shock of the Maccabean Crisis.” In the subsection on the Maccabean crisis and the Samaritans, immediately preceding the Conclusion of chapter three, Nodet discusses the difficult passage in Josephus about the Samaritans’ statement to be Sidonians by origin whose forefathers adopted the custom of the Sabbath and erected a temple without a name on Mt. Gerizim where they offered the appropriate sacrifices (Ant. 12:258-259). He points out that the term Sidonians is equivalent to the designation Phoenicians which corresponds to the Greek for Canaanites. The connection with antiquity is to be seen in the biblical genealogies where Sidon is said to be the father of Canaan (Gen. 10:15). Contrary to other attempts at an explanation of this statement, Nodet interprets the passage thus: the Samaritans affirm that they have lived here for a very long time in contrast to the revolting Jews who are newcomers originating from Babylon. According to Josephus, the Samaritans/Sidonians state that they are different from the Jews in race and in custom (Ant. 12:261). As far as the rededication of the anonymous temple to Zeus is concerned, Nodet points out that it is a very small concession made by the Samaritans. It is …

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