Samaritans: Wiped Away by History and Biblical Rewrites
How the Jews triumphed against a majority religion
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2012 3:15 PM CDT
Members of the ancient Samaritan community pray to mark the end of the Passover holiday on Mount Gerizim, near the West Bank town of Nablus, Thursday, April 16, 2009.   (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)
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(Newser) – Looks like the Jews were once the other worshipers of Yahweh. According to archeological evidence, Samaritans had a dazzling shrine and the Jews only a so-so Temple of Jerusalem about 2,500 years ago, Der Spiegel reports. What's more, the Bible once described Moses as telling his people to travel to Mount Gerizim—where the Samaritan shrine stood. Many centuries later, however, the Samaritans are largely edited out and struggling in a tiny religious community in Israel.

How did they fall so far? Well, Assyrians invaded Israel in 732 BC, eventually empowering the Jews to destroy the Samaritan shrine and depict them as villains in a revised Old Testament, experts say. Samaritans also hurt their own cause by banning mixed marriages and settlements "outside the promised land." "Today we are doing better," says the Samaritans' leader, because they have 751 people, up from 146 at the end of World War I. But they once had the upper hand with over a million followers in ancient Judea.