Photo by Reinhard Pummer

Site of the Samaritan Temple? After the Byzantine emperor Zeno drove the Samaritans off of Mt. Gerizim in 486 C.E., he built an octagonal church in honor of Mary Theotokos (Jesus’ mother; “Theotokos,” Greek for “God-bearer,” was an honorary title for Mary). The Samaritans struck back, destroying the church, but the Byzantine emperor Justinian I rebuilt and fortified the church in about 530. It was finally destroyed by the Arabs during their conquest in the seventh century. The Theotokos church ruins, seen here, may also conceal the remains of the Samaritan temple, according to the church’s most recent excavator, Yitzhak Magen. The Samaritan equivalent of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem once stood on Mt. Gerizim, but it was destroyed near the end of the second century B.C.E. by John Hyrcanus, the Jewish ruler of Judea, and the question of its even speculate that there never was a Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim.