Mount Ephraim and Benjamin
In the Madaba Map the mountains Ebal and Garizim are shown twice, once near Galgala, in the Jericho region, and once near Nablus. The mosaicist was well aware of the existence of two traditions: the Samaritan and the Jewish one (followed also by the Christians) and, apparently, choose not to choose between them. See no. 14.
43. Tur (Mount) Garizin - (Jabal al-Tur)
A place known today as Jebel et-Tor (M.R. 176179) located just SW of the ancient city of Shechem. It lies on the S side of the Nablus valley, with Mt. Ebal standing opposite it on the N. Its valley became an important E-W pass and road. The summit's elevation reaches 2,849 ft, 228 ft less than Mt. Ebal. The mountain is made up of three summits. The Samaritan high place (still in use), a Muslim weli, the Christian ruins of the Theotokos church, and other fortification remains from the time of Emperor Justinian lay on the highest peak. It overlooks the nearby N-S highway, which gave it an important strategic position. Early in Mt. Gerizim's history it was the site of Abram's first altar after arriving in Canaan from Mesopotamia (Gen 12:6) and Jacob's well lies NE in the valley (Gen 33:18-20; John 4:5, 6).
Mt. Gerizim holds religious importance even though it is only mentioned directly four times (John 4:20-21 referred to it as "this mountain"). Deut 11:29 and 27:12, as well as Josh 8:33 show the liturgical significance assigned this location. The texts tell of the huge mass of Israelites who assembled on the sides of Mts. Gerizim and Ebal, with the ark of the covenant and the levitical caretakers between them in the valley. There the law was read and the blessings and curses were announced. Moses specified Mt. Gerizim as the spot for the declaration of blessings and Mt. Ebal for the curses.
In Judg 9:7, Jotham broadcasted his unusual parable from an uncertain location on the mountain. Some have proposed that the Tananir ruins is this spot, with its projecting crag recognized as a natural platform. Archaeological excavations in this area found what is thought to be a temple from various phases of the MB Age (Boling, Judges Anchor Bible, 172).
Interestingly, Judg 9:37 has a reference to Mt. Gerizim described as in the Hebrew tabbur haiarets, which may be translated as "center of the land." The LXX renders it as omphalos tes ges, "navel of the earth," giving the phrase more significance. It reveals the "axis mundi" of the territory that surrounds it. The mountain is understood to be a connection between heaven and earth, therefore consecrating the area for those who live and worship near it. This idea is widespread coming from the Mesopotamia conceptualization, also found in Iranian, Greek, Roman, and even Chinese thought.
Josephus (Ant 11.8.2, 4) tells of the construction of the Samaritan temple on top the mountain by Sanballat, at the time of the great confrontation between the Jews and Samaritans. This division eventually led to the destruction of the Samaritan temple in 128 B.C. by John Hyrcanus, the Jewish King (Ant 13.9.1; War 1.2.6).
The writer of 2 Macc (5:23; 6:2) mentions both the Jerusalem temple and Samaritan temple as spots of desecration in a context that reveals no hostility and may in fact give the Samaritan temple some legitimacy (Goldstein, 2 Maccabees, Anchor Bible, 261). The temple on Mt. Gerizim was renamed for Zeus, the patron of strangers, by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the 2d century B.C.; the text of 2 Macc 6:2 recounts that Mt. Gerizim's inhabitants requested the renaming. Although there is some controversy about this text, Josephus (Ant 11.5.5 ßß257-64) presents the petition from the Samaritans for exemption from persecution and the renaming of their temple on Mt. Gerizim.
It may have been that to some of the Jews and the Samaritans the renaming was inconsequential. Naming it after Zeus may have been considered justified by using the common usage of the name, that of "God." The deity's residence "Olymipios" related to the ethereal location of heaven. Also, the understanding of the appellative "Xenios" as only the "protector of the rights of strangers" gave the community an acceptable arrangement with the Greeks (Goldstein, 2 Maccabees, Anchor Bible, 272-74).
Another indication of the Samaritan's casual attitude with respect to the renaming was that the alternate form of Zeus was Greek Zena (Josephus, Ant 11.2.2) and Greek Xenos (stranger) had a Heb equivalent ger; the combination of ger and zena would reflect the name of the mountain, Gerizim.
Around 70 A.D., 11,600 Samaritans were slaughtered on top of the mountain when the Romans surrounded and finally attacked the mount (Josephus, The Jewish War 3.7.32). In the 2d century A.D. the Emperor Hadrian rebuilt the temple of Zeus over the Samaritan ruins. During the 5th century A.D. the Christian emperor Zeno forced out the Samaritans from their sacred mountain and built a church dedicated to Mary as the mother of God. The Samaritans retaliated and destroyed the church, but later the emperor Justinian reconstructed and fortified it (ca. 530). Finally, the Arab invasion of the 7th century A.D. totally demolished the structure.
The archaeological evidence includes the ruins of Justinian's octagonal Theotokos church, excavated by A. M. Schneider in 1928. R. J. Bull of Drew University uncovered the remains of the temple of Zeus, including an inscription "to Zeus Olympius" at the N slope in 1964 and 1966. A massive structure, it measured 14 by 20 m and had a monumental stairway leading up to the temple. Under this temple were found the remains of a Hellenistic structure that is thought to be the temple that the Maccabean revolt destroyed. It was constructed of unhewn stone and mud mortar resting on bedrock.
To this day, the Samaritan community near Nablus supports a synagogue and continues to celebrate the annual feasts on Mt. Gerizim.
Jeffrey K. Lott, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ad v. "Gerizim"
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 24.48)
The mountains Gerizim and Ebal are represented twice on the Madaba Map: near Jericho and near Neapolis. What has happened here? The problem can be solved on the basis of Eus. On. 64:9-14 where, strangely enough, both mountains are indeed located near Jericho. Eusebius, however, does not fail to add: "The Samaritans show other ones near Neapolis, but they are wrong, for the mountains shown by them are too far from each other, so that it is impossible to hear one´s voice when calling to each other."
Although this seems to be entirely intelligible and is confirmed by Deut. 27, the Samaritans were by no means wrong. Eusebius was wrong, and everybody knew it, perhaps he himself included. The Samaritans laid claim to the mountains, considering them to be their own holy mountains. Hostility to the Samaritans forced the orthodox Jews in Jerusalem to locate both mountains at another spot, for the Samaritans were not allowed to be right. Eusebius followed the orthodox Jewish tradition. The mosaicist, however, being well informed, preferred a Solomonic solution: he listed the mountains twice, indicating by larger letters that he regarded the location near Nablus as being correct.
Leah Di Segni ("The Onomastikon of Eusebius and the Madaba Map", in The Madaba Map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 116)
Instead of the two holy places, Jeremiah's Anathoth and Joshua's tomb, the artist preferred to crowd in this area, besides the blessings of Joseph and Benjamin, which may possibly derive from Eusebius' mapping of the lots of the tribes, also a second representation of the mounts Ebal and Gerizim, called 'Tur' (transliterated Tour), 'mountain' in Aramaic, and located beside Neapolis, according to Samaritan tradition and in explicit disregard of Eusebius' statement. These mountains are already depicted in the map near Jericho, in the place assigned to them by Eusebius and Epiphanius, following the rabbinical tradition. Nor can we invoke Christian contemporary realities as a motive for the double mention - namely, the presence of the church of Mary Theotokos built by Zeno and fortified by Justinian on the 'real' Mount Gerizim near Shechem - for there is no representation of a church on the mountain top. On the other hand, the artist faithfully followed Eusebius in distinguishing between Neapolis and Sychem. (See also the complete article)
Yitzhaq Magen, "Mount Gerizim and the Samaritans", in Early Christianity in context, Jerusalem 1993, pp. 132-133
The church of Mary the Theotokos on Mount Gerizim
As the existence of the church on Mt. Gerizim is documented in both Christian and Samaritan sources, it is surprising that the site does not appear in the Madaba map, on which Mt. Gerizim is clearly identified (M. Avi-Yonah, "The madaba Mosaic Map", Er Is 2 (1953) 144 [Heb.]). Procopius provides detailed information on the events leading to the construction of the church and its later fortification (Procopius of Caesarea, Buildings, V.7). He reports that the Byzantine authorities permitted the Samaritans to ascend Mt. Gerizim to pray, stressing that their ascent was due to their adoration of the mountain rather than to the existence of the temple on its summit. To provide historical justification for the establishment of the church, Procopius cites John 4:20-21 - the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman - which does not allude to Mt. Gerizim as a site sacred to Christians. Following the emperor Zenon's decision to establish a church dedicated to the Mother of God, a conflict broke out between Samaritans and Christians. To defend the church, Zenon fortified it with a wall and garrisoned ten soldiers at the site. During the reign of Anastasius (491-518 CE), the Samaritans ascended the mount by an unguarded path, slew the church's guard and, apparently, damaged the church itself. During the reign of Justinian, the northern precinct was built as a defense against further attacks.
The Byzantine author John Malalas (John Malalas, Chronographia, ed. I. Dindorf, Bonn 1831, 382-383) relates that the Samaritans dwelling in Palestine rebelled against Rome during the reign of Zenon who had turned their synagogue on Mt. Gerizim into a house of prayer to Mary Theotokos (Mother of God). A similar report appears in the writings of the Chronicon Paschale (Chronicon Paschale, ed. I. Dindorf, Bonn 1832, 603-604), and in the Samaritan Chronicle (Adler and Seligsohn, REJ 45 (1902) 236, year 4867).
The church was established by Zenon in 484 CE within the Samaritan sacred precinct of the Hellenistic period and the Samaritan sacred site from the Roman period. The establishment of a church and its precinct occurred in the context of struggle that continued for about a century, during which attempts were made to convert the Samaritans to Christianity. In the wake of the Samaritan attack on the church and the continued unrest among the Samaritans in the days of Justinian, an additional precinct was constructed to defend the church from the north. In the Islamic and Medieval periods, additional use was made of the fortified precinct.
Remains of the church of Mary the Theotocos
built by Emperor Zeno in 484 A.D.
on the top of Mount Garizim.
For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Gerizim mons", 133.
Map Section 5 Place Sources