Resistance to Christianity

Chapter 5: The Baptist Movement of the Samaritan Messiah Dusis/Dositheos



Shadow and Light from Samaria

If Samaria constituted an object of scandal for Judea, its neighbor to the south, this was because of the ancient cults that, still continuing to exist there, engaged in religious and nationalist resistance that was resolved to impede the invasion-politics of Yahwehism and its terrible, avenging and bellicose God.

The Samaritans only tolerated an archaic form of YHWH, one that was still close to El, the Father, and to the angelic plurality contained in his Elohim form. Holding that the sanctuary at Sichem on Mount Gerizim was the only true Temple, Samaritanism only recognized as sacred texts the Torah or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) and the Book of Joshua, which Hellenization, soon established in Samaria, propagated under the name Book of Jesus (which is how would Origen would refer to it around 250).

The hatred between the Judeans and the Samaritans was exacerbated by the destruction of Sichem under the reign of John Hycran, an Asmonean prince and the Great Priest of Jerusalem (135-105 [B.C.E.]).

On the other hand, Hellenization, not well accepted in Judea, encountered a better welcome in Samaria. It is true that the Canaanite and Philistine substrata, which were quite hardy, were not strangers to Achaean settlement during the migrations of the Second Millennium before the Christian era. The persistence of cultural forms issued from the Magna Mater, allied with the audacious critiques of Greek philosophy, introduced into the closed universe of the Gods a quite corrosive mixture, of which the teachings of Simon and Barbelite practices offer singular examples – that is, after one discovers them underneath the silence and the calumnies accumulated by the eradications performed by the Church and its complacent historians.

This light from Samaria doesn’t accord well with the shining and virtuous road chosen by Essenism. Nevertheless, it illuminates the birth of certain dissident sects, such as the still poorly known Sethians, whose Messiah-Son of Man one frequently encounters in the Qumranian manuscripts.

Located between Judea and Galilee, Samaria extended up to the banks of the Dead Sea, where the original kernel of Essenism was established. These places were propitious for the implicit constitution of a front hostile to the Temple, Jerusalem, and Judean beliefs, nay, even to the law of Moses.[1]

Did not Essenean dualism have its origin in the Samaritan distinction between YHWH and his angelic component, Elohim? In any case, the heresy of the “two celestial powers” (a veritable crime against the unique God in the eyes of Jewish orthodoxy), although condemned by the Books of Enoch, was surreptitiously slipped into them in the form of the confrontation between the Good Angels and the Bad Angels.

Such a doctrine even impregnated the thought of the quite Phariseean Philo of Alexandria when he opposed the beneficial power of Theos, the Good God, to the punitive function with which the Kyrios, the Savoir (the Greek translation of Adonai, the equivalent of the Tetragrammaton YHWH), was tasked. Marcion limited himself to making precise the difference between the God of the Jews, the creator of a bad world, and the Good God that de-Judaicized Christianity substituted for YHWH as the creator of a world in which the good would be realized through the intervention of the Messiah-Redeemer.

But both Essenism and Samaritanism, despite the diverse views that they nourished, discovered in Dusis/Dositheos a Messianic figure, the importance of which few researchers have emphasized until now.


The Messiah Dusis/Dunstan/Dositheos

In the Fourteenth Century, the Samaritan chronicler Abu’l Fath spoke of a certain Dusis or Dunstan around whom, at the time of the crisis engendered in 135 [B.C.E.] by the destruction of the Temple at Gerizim by Hycran II, were united a messianic and baptist group that he called the Dunstanites.

Was a second expansion of Dunstanism manifested by a new eschatological prophet named Dositheos, as Isser suggests?[2] He would have had a prophet named Aulianah as his successor .

But the name Dositheos, Dosi-theos, which refers to Dusis and means “Gift of God,” recalls Dusis’s status as an Angel-Messiah. No doubt he establishes a connection with another Messiah who came from Galilee: Hanina Ben Dosa, that is to say, son of Dusis.[3]

Dositheosism seems to have presented in Hellenized form the old Dunstanite movement, which was a baptist and messianic movement that resulted from a schism within Samaritanism.[4]

As in Essenean dissidence, Dusis’s schism was accompanied by a re-working of the calendar: the adepts counted 30 days in each month. A century later, the Elchasaites – anecdotally expressing in the Homilies the scorn they felt for Saul (identified with Dositheos and Simon) – reported that Dositheos founded a sect of thirty men and a woman named the Moon, a prostitute in a brothel at Tyre and mistress of the prophet before throwing herself into the arms of Simon.

In the Sixth Century, Bishop Euloge encountered in Alexandria Samaritan groups that still reproached Dositheos for having altered a great many sacred texts. Abu’l Fath shared that same indignation.

In truth, if the Dunstanite prophet rewrote the sacred messages – as the Essenes, Nazarenes, Marcionites, Anti-Marcionites and Catholics did – this was because Moses [supposedly] spoke through his voice and thus entitled him to revise the law and adapt it to his divine truth.

Did not Dusis’ disciples push the critique of Judean and Mosaic doctrines even further? This is the hypothesis advanced by Fossum.[5] Dositheos – the Hellenized version of Dusis – rejected the prophets accepted by the Jewish canon, called for the reform of Mosaic law, and even advocated the abolition of religious duties.

At the time, all the milieus preoccupied with Judaism debated the observance of and the challenges to the rituals allegedly decreed by Moses. After 140, the Hellenization of Judeo-Christianity did not take place on any other terrain. The rejection of the prophets foreshadowed Marcion.

As for the irreligious attitude, it tallied with the philosophy of Simon of Samaria, whom the heresiologues communally characterized as a disciple of Dositheos and the father of all heresies. But the confusion of Dositheos with Simon appears to have come from the same polemical vein as the identification of Saul with Simon, which was made by the partisans of the Churches of James and Simon-Peter.

The Dositheosians participated in the general reform movement that, through Essenism, Ebionism, Nazarenism and Paulinism, would end up in the Hellenized Christianity of the Marcionites and Anti-Marcionites of the Second Century.

According to Abu’l Fath, the Dositheosians were called “the children of the Apostle” – the apostle being Moses.[6]

At the cusp of this era, which was officially decreed to be Christian, the apostles and their children were quite numerous. To efface the memory of them, it would be necessary to have a conspiracy [conjuration] of ecclesiastical interests impose the symbolic power of Joshua leading the nations toward the mythical beyond of the River Jordan, but imposed under the redemptive name “God has saved, saves, will save” – a conspiracy [conjuration] that would later be obliterated in its turn by the fabrication of a historical Jesus.

In Dositheos, Christian historicism wanted to incarnate a disciple of Jesus named Nathaniel, whose name [in Hebrew] matches Dositheos: Gift of God.[7]

The novels devoted to Jesus abound in effects of this type, in which reality, travestied and put on stage, works to the glory of the protagonist. The mythical hero thus subjugates beings and symbols from which, in fact, this legend comes.

Dusis preceded, foreshadowed and prepared the effervescence – quite limited until the Zealot movement gave it a large audience – in which messiahs, apostles, prophets, illuminati and charlatans carved out popular reputations for themselves by advocating the reform, rebirth or abolition of Judean conservatism.

Like Essenism, Dositheosism or Dunstanism was a baptist, messianic and reformist movement. Baptism occupied a primary place in it. Prayers were offered up in the water, such as bathing pools or the River Jordan, which was so fertile symbolically.

The erudite blinders on the researchers exploring (with the Church’s prejudices) an epoch on which the Church fraudulently founded its foundations have hardly permitted them to disentangle what united reconciled and what distinguished the baptist and Samaritan currents of Dunstan/Dositheos (born around 135 [B.C.E.]), Essenism (around 100 [B.C.E.]), Nazarenism (around 50 [B.C.E.]) and the Johanism of Jochanaan/John the Baptist – all of which were attached to a great ascetic rigor and scorn for the body, the world, women, and life.

But there is something more troubling: Dusis was also a crucified and resurrected Messiah.

The Annals of Abu’l Fath mention a group called the saduqay, which affirmed: “Men will know the resurrection because Dusis is dead from a shameful death and because Levy was stoned; because if Dusis was really dead, then all of the just men of the earth would [also] be dead.”

Reserved for slaves and common criminals, the “shameful death” meant execution on the cross. The idea that Dusis, raised up to heaven, had not been struck [down] by a real death – when applied to Jesus – prevails in all the Christianities of the first three centuries, nay, even beyond, up to what Catholicism condemned under the name of “Docetism.”

Incarnated as the Spirit of God and the reincarnation of Moses in a terrestrial existence marked by redemptive suffering, Dusis does not fail to evoke the syncretic Messiah of the Judeo-Christian Elchasaites, who expressed themselves around 110 in the Homilies of Peter: “There is only one true prophet: the one who since Adam has been incarnated in the patriarchs Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, and who, in the end, finds his rest by incarnating himself in Jesus.”[8]

Like the Master of Justice, Dusis – a suffering and glorious Messiah – assured his faithful an eternal survival and a resurrection according to the spirit. Do not Dusis, the Master of Justice, Dositheos, Jochanaan, James and Simon-Peter all trace out the line of the successive syncretisms that were hostile to Yahwehist syncretism and that an ecumenicalism of diverse tendencies would – after the “apocalypse” of 70 – be united according to the myth of Joshua the Unifier?

It is not uninteresting to note that Levy, the disciple of Dusis, put to death by stoning, is found in the novels of Jesus in the figure of Levy the Publican, alias Matthew, to whom is attributed a secret Gospel and a Gospel consecrated by the Catholic canon.

Close to the Johanite, Ebionite and Nazarenean sects, the Dositheosians were opposed to the Naassenes. The saduqay mentioned by Abu’l Fath in fact taught that “the Serpent would govern the life of creatures until the day of the resurrection.”[9] They identified the Serpent with the Cosmocrator, the Demiurge, the Bad God who ruled the world, while for the Naassenes, NHS, the Serpent, revealed the road to salvation. The Naassenes, it is true, sometimes shied away from asceticism and chastity, which was uniformly preached by Esseno-Christianity.

Did not the hostility to Yahwehism engender in Dositheosism the identification of YHWH with the Demiurge that would prevail in Marcionism? In a midrash from the Third or Fourth Century, the Samaritan Marqua evoked an ancient tradition in which YHWH revealed himself to be the supreme destroyer. He also reported an action of which one finds traces in the evangelic legends: “At midnight, YHWH destroyed all the first-born of Egypt.”[10]

The exegetes of the New Testament betrayed a certain embarrassment when they were faced with the lie that attributed to Herod the massive extermination known as the “massacre of the innocents.” The imputation of a heinous crime that Marcionism would count as one of a number of wrathful manifestations of the God of Israel to a perfectly bloody Jewish king expresses quite well the will of the fabricators of the Gospels to give an anecdotal and historical character to symbols and abstractions.


Finally, in the eschatological tumult of the times, Dositheosism carried a resonance that was not foreign to the leanings attributed to the mysterious Saul, so fabulously known under the name Paul of Tarsus.

According to Fossum,[11] a Dositheosian prophet named Aulianah (should we identify him with Hanina Ben Dosa?) proclaimed that divine forgiveness was on the verge of being accomplished. His disciples, sectarians of the Messiah Dusis, believed “that they already live in the period of divine grace.”

They affirmed that “salvation and the period of divine grace are not future events: paradise and the resurrection are to be found here and now.” Does not Saul/Paul express this in another fashion, by supporting the idea that the Messiah had already come, redeemed men of their sins and saved all those who, imitating his example, had sacrificed their flesh to the spirit?


[1] “Can we exclude Samaritan influence from Qumran?” Revue de Qumran, VI, 1967, pp. 109 sq.

[2] S. J. Isser, “The Dositheosians,” in Studies in Judaism in the Late Antiquity, Leiden, 1976, XVII; Th. Caldwell, S. J., Dositheos Samaritanus, Kairos IV, 1962, pp. 105 sq; R. Simon Wilson, Dositheos and the Dead Sea Scroll ZRGG 9, 1957.

[3] Vilmar, Annales Samaritani Abulfathi, Gotha, 1865.

[4] J. E. Fossum, The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord: The Origin of the Idea of Intermediation in Gnosticism, Utrecht, 1982, p. 37.

[5] Ibid., pp. 36 and 37.

[6] Ibid., p. 48.

[7] M. Goulder, The Roots of the Christian Myth: The Myth of God Incarnated, London, 1977.

[8] O. Cullmann, Le problème litteraire et historique du roman pseudo-clémentin, Paris 1930, p. 184.

[9] Vilmar, op. cit., p. 160.

[10] Quoted by Fossum, op. cit., p. 245. [Translator: this was the last of the ten plagues God brought down upon the Egyptians. It is still part of modern Jewish celebrations of the Passover.]

[11] Ibid., p. 39.


(Published by Fayard in 1993. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2013. All footnotes by the author, except where noted.)



To Contact NOT BORED!
Info@notbored.org