Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Lost Witness to the Gospel of the Supernatural Jesus [Part One]

I haven't been blogging a lot lately.  It has been a busy six week period.  I went to Toronto for a television documentary and a wedding among other things.  Then my laptop had problems with its hard drive.  In any event, taking time off from blogging is often a good thing.  It often helps provide some perspective on things.  I sent the manuscript of the Myth of Jesus to my publisher and we will see if it will be accepted shortly. 

For now at least I want to spend some time looking at something completely new - the Samaritan account of 'Dusis' (דוסיס). Another term used in the literature is that of Dustan (דסתאן).  a collective noun designating the first Samaritan schismatics.  Shahrastani, the twelfth century Muslim historian of religion, says that the founder of the Samaritan sect of the Dustaniya lived about 100 BCE.  Bowman in some of his works has asserted that it was in the reign of Hyrcanus that Dositheus, allegedly one of the Sadoqites who were being displaced from Jerusalem, originated his sect among the Samaritans, whose priesthood (according to Bowman) was already Sadoqite.  But Abu'l Fath does not say that the Dustan sect was founded by a man called Dositheus or had a Judaean source.  A better explanation is simply that the Sadducees existed in Judea and Samaria at this time and 'Dustan' was a name associated with the particular Samaritan sect. 

Abu'l Fath says that the Dustan people had "their own priests and synagogues", and that the high priest's son, a very learned man, became their leader and "composed a book in which he defamed all the High Priests."  The destruction of the Gerizim temple apparently brought about the decentralization of the Samaritan community.  The Dustan people may have seen the destruction of the Gerizim temple as a divine punishment for having built a substitute for the Tabernacle.  I think this is the ultimate connection between this particular sectarian group and early Christianity - viz that the Dustan had already developed a justification (or perhaps better 'justifications' for there were so many sects) for how to continue religious life after the loss of a temple.

It is worth noting that the surviving Samaritans deny that they ever possessed a physical temple on Gerizim - this in spite of now clear archaeological evidence to the contrary.  They consider the construction of a permanent physical structure to be an abomination.  This is yet another example of the contemporary tradition preserving many features of Dustan halakhah.  As we delve through Abu'l Fath's preservation of a text known to Christians from the third to fourth centuries it should be noted that a single work, preserved in Greek and used by Abu'l Fath and Epiphanius seems to be our best (and perhaps only) source about the sect.  Our next job is to tackle the specific linguistic forms 'Dusis' and 'Dustan' which appears there. 

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