Friday, March 1, 2013

North and South Still

The Samaritans are an intriguing people, at once very known in the west because of the story of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament, but also shrouded in mystery.  Their origins are obscure,  and there are not many popular books which explain their history, religion, and place within the matrix of the Middle East’s many people’s and cultures.

Robert T. Anderson and Terry Giles set out to fix some of these omissions in their The Keepers: An Introduction to the History and Culture of the Samaritans.  The authors set about, in an extremely short book, to provide an overall look at this group, and increase our understanding.  

Most importantly, they provide a view of the Samaritans that is in the historical context Near Eastern history, and according to the Samaritans themselves.  All too often, the Samaritans were considered a mongrel sect of Judaism.  The authors give the Samaritans their own place, both in scholarly study and in the arena of self-identity.

Samaritan history spans back to the religious and cultural difference between the northern and southern tribes of ancient Israel.  That this split is still reflected in modern times between a (small) Samaritan group and the Jewish people is an amazing story.  This book tells this amazing story concisely and clearly.

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