Samaritans claim their descent from the northern kingdom of Israel, formed when the north seceded from the union after the death of Solomon. Jews are descendents from the southern kingdom of Judah. Initially Samaritans shared with the Jews liturgy and common festivals, but over the years the schism between the two groups led to each community preserving their own traditions.
Once numbering in the tens of thousands, due to persecution and rejection only several hundred Samaritans exist in Israel today. While popularly associated with the “Lost Ten Tribes” and the biblical story of the “Good Samaritan”, the Samaritan’s culture and scriptural materials have also sparked interest in biblical scholarship and the Samaritan Pentateuch provides a “textual witness independent from both the Massoretic Hebrew and the Greek texts (Anderson, 1978)” that assists in the clarification of textual issues.
The Chamberlain Warren Samaritan Collection at Michigan State University is considered the most extensive set of Samaritan materials in the United States. Containing rare and important historical documents, this collection was used by Michigan State University Professor Emeritus Robert T. Anderson in his extensive work on the Samaritans which can be found in his recently published book Tradition Kept: the Literature of the Samaritans (2005) and in The Keepers: an Introduction to the History and Culture of the Samaritans (2002) co-authored with Terry Giles.
The Chamberlain Warren Samaritan Collection contains materials acquired by E.K. Warren, a wealthy businessman of Three Oaks, Michigan in the early 20th century. Warren, very active in the World’s Sunday School Association, first met the Samaritans during a visit to Palestine in 1901. He took great interest in helping the Samaritans preserve their religious artifacts.