Was There an Altar or a Temple in the Sacred Precinct on Mt. Gerizim?

Was There an Altar or a Temple in the Sacred Precinct on Mt. Gerizim? After the recent excavations by Itzhak Magen on the main summit of Mount Gerizim it has become clear that the Samari(t)an sanctuary stood within a sacred precinct in the Persian and Hellenistic times. So far, no direct evidence of the nature of the sanctuary has been unearthed. The excavator and many contemporary scholars assume it was a temple building. However, some scholars question the accuracy of this assumption and believe that the sanctuary more likely was an altar. This paper reviews both the arguments that speak for an altar and those that speak for a walled and roofed temple. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal for the Study of Judaism Brill

Was There an Altar or a Temple in the Sacred Precinct on Mt. Gerizim?

Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume 47 (1): 1 – Feb 18, 2016

Was There an Altar or a Temple in the Sacred Precinct on Mt. Gerizim?


In the 1970s it appeared that the Samaritan sanctuary had been discovered on Tell er-Ras, the lower summit (831 m above sea level) of Mt. Gerizim. According to Robert Bull, the large cube of stones excavated by him and called “Building B” was the Samaritan altar of sacrifice 1 or the Samaritan temple. 2 Bull maintained this identification to the end of his life. 3 Edward Campbell, who participated in the excavations, disagreed with Bull’s interpretation of the remains and thought that this masonry block was a platform on which an impermanent, Tabernacle-like sanctuary stood. 4 Frank Moore Cross arrived at the same conclusion. 5 Both scholars added the caveat that more excavations are needed to make definitive statements. Renewed excavations on the site were carried out by Yitzhak Magen between 1984 and 2006, and now it is well known that these excavations have shown that Bull’s “Building B” represents “the inner foundation on which the [Roman] temple and the surrounding plaza were built.” 6 The remains from the Hellenistic period found on the site were brought there from the Hellenistic city on the main peak (881 m above sea level) whose northern gate was located only approximately 150 m from it. Thus, the theory of the Samaritan temple or an impermanent, Tabernacle-like cult installation on top of a platform on Tell er-Ras was abandoned by most scholars. Clearly, Magen’s excavations on Mt. Gerizim have shown that the Samaritan sanctuary stood on the main peak, not on Tell er-Ras. So far, however, only the sacred precincts from the Persian and Hellenistic periods have been unearthed, not the sanctuaries that are presumed to have stood in them. Magen sees above all the building stones with stonecutters’ marks, the inscriptions, and the remains of what must have been sacrifices discovered on Mt. Gerizim as support for the existence of a temple. 7 However, the absence of direct archaeological evidence for...
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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0047-2212
eISSN
1570-0631
DOI
10.1163/15700631-12340451
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

After the recent excavations by Itzhak Magen on the main summit of Mount Gerizim it has become clear that the Samari(t)an sanctuary stood within a sacred precinct in the Persian and Hellenistic times. So far, no direct evidence of the nature of the sanctuary has been unearthed. The excavator and many contemporary scholars assume it was a temple building. However, some scholars question the accuracy of this assumption and believe that the sanctuary more likely was an altar. This paper reviews both the arguments that speak for an altar and those that speak for a walled and roofed temple.

Journal

Journal for the Study of JudaismBrill

Published: Feb 18, 2016

Keywords: Samaritans; Mount Gerizim; sanctuary; temple; altar

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