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Theodotus

THEODOTUS

THEODOTUS (second century b.c.e.), Samaritan author of an epic on the rape of Dinah (Gen. 34). The long fragment extant preserves a summary together with 47 lines of the original poem (Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 9:22, quoting Alexander Polyhistor). The epic's title is not known; the heading On the Jews is not the author's. It is not specific enough nor would Theodotus, a Samaritan, have given it this title. Modern writers sometimes refer to it, without evidence, as On Shechem. Theodotus' reference to Shechem as "the holy town" makes it certain that he was a Samaritan. It is unlikely, therefore, that this is the Theodotus to whom Josephus referred in his list of pagan authors who wrote about the Jews (Jos., Apion, 1:216). Neither is it reasonable to identify him with the Phoenician writer by the same name mentioned by the second-century church father Tatian (Oratio ad Graecos, 37).

The epic opens with a panoramic view of Sicima (Shechem) and its majestic surroundings, followed by an introduction of Jacob as he is received hospitably into the city. The epic here reverts to the patriarch's journey to Mesopotamia to escape from his brother's wrath. As he crosses the Euphrates, rich in cattle, Laban welcomes him, but then proceeds to cheat him. After Dinah, fair and noble, is born, Jacob recrosses the river and becomes a landowner in the vicinity of Shechem. His sons are shepherds and Dinah joins the women in weaving wool. Dinah is curious to see the city during a festival; there she is raped by Sychem (Shechem), who later asks Jacob for her hand; Jacob agrees on condition that all inhabitants of Shechem be circumcised. Again and again the significance of this rite is stressed, suggesting that the author was attempting to combat intermarriage. Meanwhile, Symeon (Simeon) recalls God's promise to Abraham that his seed would inherit the land of ten nations, inciting Levi to avenge their sister's shame from this Sodom-like city, where guests are ravished. The last nine lines depict vividly the slaying of Emmor (Hamor) and Sychem. The epic ends with a description of how the brothers joined in the sacking of the city and how Dinah was restored to her father.

Theodotus was a master of the classical epic, with a touch of the real poet. The poem was rooted in Homer, whose lines are sometimes paraphrased. But he was not necessarily a syncretist like Pseudo-*Eupolemus. The manuscript's reading that the father of Sicimius (Shechem) was Hermes (which lends credence to Theodotus' syncretism) is usually emended to Emmor (Hamor).

bibliography:

Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (19094), 499–500 (includes bibliography); J. Guttmann, Ha-Sifrut ha-Yehudit ha-Hellenistit, 1 (1958), 245–61.

[Ben Zion Wacholder]

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