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DUSTAN (al-Dustān ; Dositheans), Samaritan sect (or sects), followers of Dusis or Dustis, which is probably the Aramaic form of the Greek name Dositheos. In a somewhat different form – Dosa or Dostai – it is quite common in Jewish sources such as Mishnah, Tosefta, and Midrash. A Dostai and a Sabbai are mentioned in the Midrash as the priests sent by the Assyrian king to Samaria to teach the new settlers the laws and customs of the country. In a legend told by Josephus about a religious dispute between Jews and Samaritans before Ptolemy iv Philometer, Samaritan representatives are called Sabbeus and Theodosius (Theodosius being another form of Dositheos). But in all probability there is no connection between these and the founder of the Dosithean sect. Information about this sect is found in the Samaritan Chronicles and in patristic and Islamic writings. The relation between this sect and the 11th-century c.e. al-Dustan of the Samaritan liturgy has not yet been clarified. The accounts about the Dosithean sect (or sects) differ in many ways and contradict each other in some places. The Samaritan sources, the Annals of *Abu al-Fatḥ and the New Chronicle, speak of two sects: one called al-Dustān, which arose shortly before the time of Alexander the Great, i.e., in the fourth century b.c.e., and a sect mentioned in the Tolidah as founded by Dūsis or Dustis in the days of the high priest Akbon, the brother of *Baba Rabbah, i.e., in the second half of the fourth century c.e. Patristic sources from the second–seventh centuries mention a founder of a Samaritan sect, Dositheos, who claimed to be the messiah prophesied by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15. The dating of the sect is vague, generally given as before or after the time of Jesus.

The Islamic writer al-Shaharastānī (1086–1153) describes a Samaritan sect al-Dustāniyya, also known as al-Īlfāniyya. Their founder, al-Ilfān, is said to have lived approximately 100 b.c.e. Al-Shaharastānī explains the name al-Dustāniyya to mean the dissenting, mendacious sect. It is difficult to tell from these accounts whether they render different traditions about one and the same sect which became blurred in the course of time, or whether there existed two or more sects at different times. The main source for the account of the fourth-century b.c.e. sect is the Annals of Abu al-Fatḥ. There the sect is said to have been called al-Dustān because they abolished the lawful festivals and the traditions of their ancestors. Their most important deviations were: changing of the Samaritan combined solar-lunar *calendar, counting all months as 30 days; ceasing to recite the formula "Blessed be our Lord in eternity" and to pronounce the Tetragrammaton, substituting Elohim; counting the 50 days between Passover and Pentecost from the day after the first day of Passover, as the Jews do; and altering the laws of ritual purity. Because of the above differences and others outside the sphere of belief and religious rites, they started to build their own synagogues and to appoint their own priests. The first to become their high priest was the son of the then high priest. He was called Zarʿa, perhaps an allusion to Ezra, and was banned from the community for infamous conduct. He composed a compendium of laws for them – a new Torah, derided the high priests, and was esteemed the most learned of his time. The account concerning the Dosithean sect of the fourth century c.e., found in the Tolidah, the Annals of Abu al-Fatḥ, and the New Chronicle, is centered on the person of Dustes b. Pilpeloy, who went to Shechem in the time of Akbon, Baba's brother. He was not of Samaritan extraction but descended from the Aravruba (Erevrav), the mixed multitude who left Egypt together with the Israelites. The Tolidah does not go beyond this brief statement, whereas the other two chronicles, especially that of Abu al-Fatḥ, elaborate their story with much detail.

Dusis b. Fufti (or in the New Chronicle, Dusis) was living in Jewish territory, committed adultery there, and was sentenced to death. However, when he proposed to the Jewish elders the founding of a heretic sect in Samaria, they consented to release him. He went to Qaryat ʿAskar, where he won the friendship of a very learned and pious man called Yaḥdū. Together they spent two years abiding by a vow of asceticism. When their vow ended, they ate, drank, and became intoxicated. When Yaḥdū was still sleeping off his drunkenness, Dusis took away his hood, gave it to a harlot, and bribed her to testify on the Day of Atonement before the community, gathered for prayer on Mt. Gerizim, that Yaḥdū had sinned with her. But his plot was discovered by the high priest Akbon, who sought to kill him. Dusis fled to Shuwayka or Socho and hid in the house of a widow called Amintū, whom he told that he was the son of the high priest. During his stay there, he occupied himself with writing. When he had finished, he heard that the high priest was still looking for him, so he left the house of Amintū and went to hide in a cave, where he eventually died of hunger and was devoured by the dogs. Before leaving, he had ordered Amintū to allow his writings to be touched only by those who had purified themselves in a nearby pool. Soon afterward the high priest's nephew, Levi, with seven companions, arrived at the house of Amintū in search of Dusis. She told them faithfully all Dusis had taught her. Levi then sent one of his men to immerse in the pool. Upon rising, the man cried out, "My belief is in Thee O Lord and in Dusis Thy servant and in his prophetic mission." Levi shouted at him and struck him. However, the same happened to all of the seven and at last to Levi himself. Then they read the books of Dusis and learned that he had changed much of the Torah, similar to Ezra and even more so. They kept all this to themselves and returned to Shechem. On the first day of the Passover festival, when Levi was called upon to recite the Law, he substituted the word "zatar" for "ezov," according to the books of Dusis. When the community tried to correct his reading, Levi insisted on it and blamed them for having rejected the prophetic mission of Dusis; he changed the days of the festivals, the mighty name of yhwh, and sent pursuers after the second prophet sent by God from Mount Sinai. Thereupon, Levi was stoned, and his followers went to a place near Jerusalem, from where they continued to win disciples from among the Samaritans. They venerated Levi as a martyr, kept a palm leaf dipped in his blood in the books of Dusis, and allowed only those who had fasted for seven days to approach and study them. They believed that the dead would soon rise; they cut their hair, prayed with their body immersed in water, did not go from one house to another on the Sabbath, and observed all the festivals on the Sabbath only. When one of the followers died, they put a belt around his waist, sandals on his feet, and a rod in his hand so that he could rise from his grave in haste. Some of them believed that as soon as the dead were buried they rose from their graves and went to Paradise. After a short story about Simeon the Sorcerer (Simon Magus, who, according to most scholars, belongs to the first century c.e.) there is an enumeration of seven subsects that succeeded each other and the fate that befell each of them. The narrative ends with the words: "All these came forth from the Books of Dusis and caused the Samaritans much hardship and great sinning."

Especially interesting is one of the sects, founded by Shaliyah ibn Ṭīrūn ibn Nīn, because his followers are once called al-Dustān. That is the only occurrence of this name in the narrative about the sect founded by Dusis. In this report antisectarian polemics are intermingled with the legend about Levi, which is obviously borrowed from the literature of the sect. The short notes speaking of Dositheos in the patristic sources all agree that he was a Samaritan heretic and founder of a messianic sect. But they differ in details. Thus Pseudo-Tertullian (second century c.e.) mentions the Samaritan Dositheos as the first Jewish heretic from whom the heresy of the Sadducees developed. He was the first to reject the prophets, deny belief in resurrection, angels, and the last judgment. According to the Pseudo-Clementines (third century c.e.), Dositheos and Simon Magus were pupils of John the Baptist. The Samaritans, awaiting a prophet predicted by Moses, had been prevented by the depravity of Dusis from believing in the prophetic mission of Jesus. Origen (second and third centuries c.e.) mentions Dositheos several times. After the time of Jesus, Dositheos tried to convince the Samaritans that he was the messiah prophesied by Moses, and he succeeded in winning some of them over. Then he adds that these are the Dositheans, still extant in his time, who own scriptures of Dositheos and recount myths about him that he had never died and was still alive somewhere. Similar to the above is the account of Eusebius (third and fourth centuries c.e.), who states that Dositheos appeared after Jesus' time and was acknowledged by the Samaritans as a prophet like Moses. Epiphanius (fourth century c.e.) gives a report resembling that of Abu al-Fatḥ in some basic points about Dusis and his sect. According to him, the Dositheans were a Samaritan sect; kept circumcision, the laws of the Sabbath, and the Pentateuch; refrained from eating meat; venerated abstinence; and believed in resurrection. Dositheos was of Jewish origin and had retired to a cave. However, out of an exaggerated desire to gain knowledge, he fasted so that at last he died of starvation. Eulogius (seventh century c.e.) tells of two rival Samaritan parties, one believing that the expected prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15 was *Joshua son of Nun, the other claiming that it was someone called Dosthes or Dositheos, who was a disciple of Simon Magus, cast blame on the prophets and the patriarch Judah, left scriptures, and did not believe in resurrection. Even from this scanty material, it becomes obvious that the Dosithean sect must have had considerable influence in the beginning of the common era or even before it. It seems quite plausible that several subsects branched off from an original major sect in the course of time. This may account for the double report of the Samaritan chronicles, including that of the seven subsects, and the discrepancies found in patristic and Islamic sources.


J.A. Montgomery, Samaritans (1907; repr. 1968), 253–64; K. Kohler, in: American Journal of Theology, 15 (1911), 404–35; T. Caldwell, in: Kairos: Zeitschrift fuer Religionswissenschaft und Theologie, 4 (1962), 105–17; J. Macdonald, Theology of the Samaritans (1964), index; B. Lifshitz, in: rb, 72 (1965), 98–107; A.D. Crown, in: Essays in Honour of G.W. Thatcher (1966), 63–83; idem, in: Antichthon, 1 (1967), 70–85; Z. Ben-Ḥayyim, Ivrit ve-Aramit Nusaḥ Shomeron, 3 pt. 2 (1967), 17–18; H.A. Kippenberg, Garizim und Synagoge (1971) 122–37. texts: E. Vilmar (ed.), Abulfathi Annales Samaritani … (1865), lxxi–lxxiii, 82–83, 151–7, 159–64 (Arabic, with Latin notes and introduction); E.N. Adler and M. Seligsohn (eds.), Une nouvelle Chronique Samaritaine (1903), 37, 64–67; P. Koetschau (ed.), Origines, in: Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte, 2 (1899), 108, lines 25–28; E. Preuschen (ed.), Origines, ibid., 10 (1903), 251, lines 15–19; H. Grossmann (ed.), Eusebius, ibid., 11 (1904), 33, lines 24–27; K. Holl (ed.), Epiphanius, ibid., 25 (1915), 205, 206, lines 11–13; B. Rehm (ed.), Pseudo-Clementines, ibid., 51 (1965), 39, lines 9–19; E. Kroymann, Pseudo-Tertullian, in: Corpus Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, 47 (1906), 213, lines 4–8; J. Bowman, Transcript of the Original Text of the Samaritan Chronicle Tolidah (1957), 18a (Heb., with Eng. notes).

[Ayala Loewenstamm]

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