THE REAL MESSIAH BLOG: The Dositheans in Alexandria

The Dositheans in Alexandria

copyright 2008 Stephan Huller

by Rory Boid (personal correspondence)

If you compare what Abu ’l-Fatḥ says elsewhere, it is apparent that he does not say large numbers of a Dosithean sub-sect in Alexandria were wiped out. Comparison of his style and method with other passages shows that he says the leaders of one sub-sect were wiped out. (Or more exactly, this is the style and method of his source. This is the same source that was known to Origen secondhand in fragmentary quotes out of context which he did not understand). Compare what A. F. says about one sub-sect being wiped out when the roof fell in when they were ALL gathered. Similar stories are quote for the end of other sub-sects of the Dositheans. There is also the analogy of Origen saying there were only ever thirty Dositheans,, as well as Origen’s statement that Simon had thirty followers. Notice that in all cases a group founded by a named individual is involved.

In the standard references, you will find A. F. quoted as saying that Bustanos came up out of the sea and killed these people. Then there are guesses that this might be Poseidonios (Poseidon). A Samaritan author would not attribute an event to a Greek god! The rationalising interpretation that a tidal wave might be meant is no better, since no Samaritan would call a tidal wave a manifestation of Poseidon. You have to bear in mind that when A. F. is quoted, it is always according to Vilmar’s edition of 1865. This was a good start, but Vilmar frequently guesses and prints what is not in any manuscript without telling the reader. Very often he follows his ms. C against all the others because it is the oldest. It is not the oldest by very much, and it is badly copied. Guesses about what A. F. might have meant are futile unless the mss. are checked. Both Prof. Haroutun Jamgotchian (of Yerevan) and myself have published careful studies of the readings of the mss. in difficult places, and this fact is quite clear from our samples (Textproben). The correct reading in this case is not Bostonos but Botonos. (The insertion of the S is an easy reading mistake with Arabic script). This probably means hippopotamus. After that, it does not say this imaginary figure put some of them into ships. The verb is passive. Here is something close to what A. F. wrote. Remember the mss. have not been fully collated yet. “A hippopotamus came up out of the Nile and killed many of them. A substantial number were thrown into ships”. The name of the leader could be Ulyana (which might be Aramaic for Iulianus). Then again it might not be. The mss. don’t agree or even come close to agreeing. Anyway, it says he was killed. Then there is this. “Those that stayed in his movement thought they were in the time of Favour, but they were deluded. Numerous troubles came upon them, but they learnt nothing and did not return to their senses”. Notice that the movement was not wiped out at all. Something happened to the leaders at some time. When they were wiped out, they were probably about to immerse themselves, at least in the imagination of the source author. As for the believability of the hippopotamus story, this is not a question. What A. F. says about the end of the other sub-sects is just as fantastic. If you want to have some story about the punishment of the wicked heretics, and they are on the Nile, why not have a convenient hippopotamus? (If they had been here, he could have invented a crocodile or shark). We might perhaps learn from this that they were in the Nile delta, if someone thought this believable. In each case, the source wanted to show that a group (meaning the leaders of the group) had been wiped out by the hand of Providence because of their wickedness, and being wiped out other than by the hand of man proved how wicked they were. The Dositheans did not vanish from Egypt, only the leaders of this sub-group. There is a notice in Photius of a substantial number of Dositheans in Alexandria in 588 A.D., numerous enough to petition for official recognition as a denomination other than the rest of the Samaritans.

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