Believers are familiar with the Biblical account of the amazing meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well described in John 4:4-42.
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4:19-24
What was the “mountain” that the woman was referring to in John 4 where the Samaritans worshiped? She was speaking of Mt. Gerizim. With the help of the Google Earth app on your smart phone, you can get an excellent understanding of the geographical context involved in this passage. Jacob’s Well was located not too far from “Har” (Hebrew: “Mount”) Gerizim and Har Ebal. Type “Har Gerizim” into your Google Earth app search box and you’ll get a bird’s-eye-view of both mountains in relation to the location of Jacob’s Well (see photo above). Zoom in on Gerizim and you’ll be able to see the impressive ruins that cover the top of the hill/mountain (photo below). The temple site looks to have been a vast, impressive complex that would have been very visible to Jesus and the Samaritan woman as they conversed at the well. She may have pointed up to the complex with misplaced pride when she referred to it in her conversation. But Jesus dismissed the worship site and the bastardized Samaritan religion. True worship and salvation came through the Jews, through the lineage of King David, and to its ultimate fulfillment in the Savior, Jesus the Messiah.
According to many scholars, archaeological excavations at Mount Gerizim indicate that a Samaritan temple was built there in the first half of the 5th century BC. -from Wikipedia
Mt. Gerizim is mentioned by name four times in the Bible, while Mt. Ebal, to the east, is mentioned five times. Some (including myself, initially) mistakenly assume that the distinctive, octagon-shaped ruins in the photos and video below are the remains of the Samaritan Temple building, but they are actually the remnants of a Byzantine church that was built upon the site at a later period.
A very small remnant of Samaritans still “worship” amidst the ruins atop Mt. Gerizim. There are currently only about 800 Samaritans living in Israel.
What would religious relativists say about the exclusiveness of the Gospel taught by Jesus Christ in this passage? They would certainly claim that the Samaritans were “fine” as long as they were “good” and “sincere” in their religiosity, but that is NOT what Jesus taught.
Addendum: Our dear sister in the Lord, Mandy, at Blue Collar Theologian provided the following excellent details about Shechem, Mt Gerizim, and Mt Ebal. Thanks, Mandy!
Shechem was located in the valley between Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal and was the main settlement of the Samaritans. Shechem has a long and important history! In fact, Shechem can trace its history back to Abraham when he first entered Shechem (Canaan) from Haran (Gen 12). In Shechem Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped and in retribution Simeon and Levi killed all the weak men from circumcision (Gen 34). Joseph’s tomb is also located in close proximity to Jacob’s well. In Deuteronomy 11:29 Moses spoke of this region in that Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal were the mountains of covenant blessings (Gerizim) and curses (Ebal). Moses also instructed Joshua to build an altar on Mt Ebal with uncut stone when Israel entered the Promised Land (Deut 27; Josh 8). After Israel divided, Jeroboam originally ruled the Northern Kingdom from Shechem and erected the golden calf where the 10 tribes could worship (1 Kings 12; he also erected on in the N at Tel-Dan). Shechem was pretty much abandoned when Assyria destroyed the Northern Kingdom. At this time it turned into a Samaritan city where the Assyrians relocated exiles from other nations to the Northern Kingdom. When Judah returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon, the returning Jews did not grant the Samaritans request to help rebuild the temple. Jews felt the Samaritans weren’t authentic Yahweh worshipers. This was a major cause for the hatred between the two, resulting in the Samaritans building their own temple on top of Mt Gerizim. The Samaritans only use(d) the Torah/Pentateuch (aka Samaritan Pentateuch). By the point in time Jesus met the woman at the well, Shechem ceased to exist BUT was a historic location. Today, Mount Gerizim is located in Nablus (Samaria) which is one of the largest Palestinian cities in Israel.