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Dositheus of Samaria


The name of one or more Samaritan heresiarchs placed variously between the third century b.c. and the first Christian century or even later, in Palestine. The sourcesJewish, Patristic, Samaritan, and Arabicare confused as to the origins, beliefs, practices, and development of his sect (the Dositheans), and provide little information about their founder. It is possible that there were two sects (and even two heresiarchs) of the same name, an earlier one in the pre-Christian era that was characterized by a denial of resurrection of the dead and a later one in the Christian era that affirmed this doctrine. Perhaps, also, each was in consonance with the dominant Sadducean and Pharisaic convictions in this regard in the respective periods. In any case, the Dosithean heresy is the most prominent of the various Samaritan offshoots.

While it is difficult to determine the periods to which the various descriptions of the Dositheans apply, they are portrayed as strict observers of Levitical purity, possessors of a calendar of unvarying 30-day months, vegetarians, and ascetics. They are reported to have abolished the biblical fast days and to have substituted Elohim (God) for the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) in their Pentateuch in order to avoid the profanation of the Divine Name.

Bibliography: a. jÜlicher, Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al. (Stuttgart 1893) 10:160809. j. macdonald, Theology of the Samaritans (London 1964) 3436. s. kraus, "Dosithée et les Dosithéens," Revue des études latines 42 (Paris 1901) 2742. j. bowman, "The Importance of Samaritan Researches," Annual of Leeds University, Oriental Society 1 (1959) 4345. m. gaster, The Samaritans: Their History, Doctrines and Literature (London 1925) 6667. j.a. montgomery, The Samaritans (Philadelphia 1907) 252264. The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. j. singer 13 v. (New York 190106) 4:643. Encyclopaedia Judaica: Das Judentum in Geschichte und Gegenwart 10 v. (Berlin 192834) 5:120205. k. schubert, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 3:527528.

[r. krinsky]

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