Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Annette Y. Reed

Abstract

ABSTRACT

REPRESENTATIONS OF SAMARITANS IN LATE ANTIQUE JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN TEXTS

Matthew Chalmers

Dr. Annette Yoshiko Reed

Samaritans, like Jews and Christians, trace their identity to ancient Israel. Today, they are a minority in Israel-Palestine. In antiquity, however, they appear frequently in our sources from the late antique eastern Mediterranean, from scripture, to midrash, to Roman law, to heresiology, to rabbinic literature, and beyond. Therefore, one would expect to see Samaritans heavily represented in scholarship, both within Religious Studies and in cognate disciplines, which has over several decades developed a toolkit using attention to representations of identity and alterity to both reconstruct the past and interrogate our own categorization and classification of difference. Nevertheless, the group receives little attention, often reduced to their few biblical appearances and to debates about the moment at which the group divorced from Judaism. In this dissertation, I decouple Samaritans from Biblical Studies in my first chapter, arguing the racialized construction of the Samaritan in New Testament scholarship has compressed and delineated the intellectual architecture of scholars. I then expand discussion of Samaritan difference into a sample of sources from the fourth- through to sixth-century East, both within the Roman Empire (Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius of Cyprus, John Chrysostom, and Amphilochius of Iconium) and in Sasanian Babylonia (the Babylonian Talmud). I articulate how representations of Samaritans work in Jewish and Christian texts, providing a series of studies of how and in which ways ancient Samaritan others mattered in the late antique machinery generating religious identity. In the process, I model an approach to ancient religious identity and alterity more sensitive to the array of difference in our sources than existing scholarship. I thereby provide a case study of one way to decompress habits of scholarly selectivity towards our sources. By looking at the mismatch between the historical presence of Samaritans and their historiographical neglect, I make visible for critique the binary logic of ancient religious difference that still shapes the field in terms of adjacency to the difference between a polarity of Jewish and Christian identity. Samaritans thus serve as a catalyst for binary-resistant scholarly narratives of religious identity and classification, and a case-study for non-reductive approaches to underworked or minoritized groups.

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