My fellowship at the Albright this year has enabled me to further develop the topic of my dissertation with the aim of producing a book for academic readers: Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature, to be published in the Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplement series. The aim of my study has been to examine how sin, specifically, the source of sin, is presented in Second Temple literature, including Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls. These texts are examined according to their genre: prayer texts, narratives, wisdom literature, and covenantal texts (introductions to legal rules). Continue reading
By: James D. Tabor, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
On the other days they dig a small pit, a foot deep, with a paddle of the sort given them when they are first admitted among them; and covering themselves round with their garment, that they may not affront the rays of God, they ease themselves into that pit. Josephus War 2.148
This paper explores the complex and shifting dynamics of comparing texts with texts, texts with “sites,” and sites with themselves, but without texts. I use the term “sites” loosely to refer to the material or archaeological evidence that may or may not be related to a given text from antiquity. I see this as an extension of Jonathan Z. Smith’s interest and fascination with “comparisons” so evident in much of his work over the past three decades. But more particularly I have in mind the Louis H. Jordan Lectures in Comparative Religion, delivered at the University of London in 1988, subsequently published as Divine Drudgery. Fascinated by the “thick dossier of the history of the enterprise,” i.e., the comparison of “Christianities” and the religions of Late Antiquity, Smith undertakes what he calls “archaeological work in the learned literature” in order to highlight both theoretical and methodological issues. His operative question is what is “at stake” in the various comparative proposals? I am convinced that some of the same dynamics Smith finds operating in the development of the study of “Christian Origins,” namely Roman Catholic and Protestant apologetics and presuppositions, have been present from the beginning in considering the textual corpus known as the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” and in interpreting the physical site of the adjacent ruins of Qumran, as well as in the combining of the two—that is, texts and site. I want to expand a bit the comparisons of “words,” “stories,” and “settings” beyond their purely “textual” levels, and explore the methods of bringing in non-textual evidence, that is, evidence of “place.” In that sense I find Smith’s metaphor of the “archaeological” more than intriguing, and in this paper, with spade in hand (or perhaps I might say with “paddle” in hand!), I want to explore how the proverbial “mute stones” speak, or remain silent, in the presence of texts, and the ways in which the texts inform “place,” and “place” might enlighten the texts. Continue reading
It has been a successful month here on the ASOR blog, with posts by many leading scholars on all aspects of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls! We have had seven posts covering everything from the archaeological evidence for a sect inhabiting the site of Qumran, to translations and interpretations of portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to evidence for changes in scripture over time. In case you missed any of them, the posts in order are: Continue reading
Jewish hope in resurrection of the dead plays an important role in the history of Western religions. It was principally during the Second Temple Period that Jews developed increasing innovation in the varied forms in which they envisioned a blessed afterlife – including hope in resurrection of the dead, the belief that God would actively raise humans from the realm of the dead and restore them to a renewed form of life. While beliefs about resurrection remained diverse, Jews of the Second Temple Period left behind to the rabbinic age, the early church, and even later to Islam, the predominant idiom in which they would express their eschatological hopes. Continue reading
When most people think of the Dead Sea Scrolls, they likely (and understandably) envision either a devoted band of Jewish sectarians sequestered away in the harsh Judean wilderness, or a stunning cache of biblical manuscripts centuries older than we possessed before the late 1940’s. These two groups of texts – the Sectarian and the Biblical Scrolls – remain, for good reason, at the center of current museum exhibits and our popular imagination, though many important complexities have been introduced into discussions surrounding each group in recent decades. Yet there are a good many manuscripts from among the Scrolls that do not fit neatly into these two categories, Continue reading
When Geza Vermes first coined the term “Rewritten Bible” a half-century ago, I suspect he did not have any idea of the impact that term would make in Qumran studies. I also suspect that the phenomenon to which he applied the term seemed to him clearly defined and easily recognizable. It certainly has to me for much of the time since I first encountered the book of Jubilees and the Temple Scroll, nearly fifteen years ago in Bernard Levinson’s seminar on Scripture and Interpretation at the University of Minnesota. Rewritten Bible, for me, was simply a biblical text that had been revised according to a later interpreter’s own agenda; as Vermes put it, “In order to anticipate questions, and to solve problems in advance, the midrashist inserts haggadic development into the biblical narrative—an exegetical process which is probably as ancient as scriptural interpretation itself.” Comparing the book of Jubilees to Genesis or Chronicles to Samuel-Kings allows one to grasp immediately what Vermes describes. Granted, my work with the Temple Scroll made clear to me early on that Vermes’ definition, focused as it is on “haggadic development,” must be extended to include law as well as narrative. But the basic image of a Second Temple scribe interpretively reconfiguring the text to reflect a new set of perspectives and priorities remained. Continue reading
Studies have focused both on the exclusionary and expansionist character of holiness in the Temple Scroll. On the one hand, it has been argued that the stringent purity restrictions in this text are due to the protection of the holiness of the sanctuary and exclusion from evil (Regev). On the other hand, holiness is described as so powerful that it unleashes itself beyond the borders of the Temple city to permeate the entire land (Schiffman). Thus, there is a paradox between the elitist tendency of the Scroll to protect the sanctuary by making extra-biblical exclusions from its precincts and, at the same time, bringing greater holiness to all Israel. Is the author’s vision to protect the sanctuary by keeping people at a maximum distance or to invade the secular realm with the divine presence? Continue reading
By: Eyal Regev
In a couple of articles published in BASOR and Revue de Qumran, I have analyzed the social aspects of the inhabitants of kh. Qumran using social-scientific theories, without direct consideration of the scrolls.
I have examined the spatial organization and architecture of kh. Qumran using Hillier and Hanson’s Space Syntax Theory, commonly called Access Analysis. The results show strong social boundaries and the division of the site into distinct clusters, in a specific hierarchal structure which entails ritualization. kh. Qumran is divided into different segments in a hierarchal distribution of spaces which marks separation between different spheres. I have compared the Access Analysis map of kh. Qumran to those of seven other contemporaneous manor houses or villas, in which all the spatial boundaries are substantially weaker. Continue reading
By: James H. Charlesworth
The Thanksgiving Hymns are the creation of poets who became the Community of priests who left the Temple (or were cast out, as indicated by this collection); they eventually settled at Qumran. The poetry rivals, sometimes, the heights obtained by the stellar poets who bequeathed us the Psalter (the Davidic Psalms). In my judgment, the Thanksgiving Hymns are the mystical ruby in the breastplate of the Qumranic priests. Continue reading
Qumran - the site associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls - is located eight and a half miles south of Jericho, by the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. The site was excavated from 1951-1956 by Roland de Vaux of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jerusalem. More recently, other expeditions have explored different parts of the site, including the settlement and cemetery (Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg), residential caves to the north (Magen Broshi and Hanan Eshel), and the cemetery (Broshi, Eshel, and Richard Freund). From ca. 100 B.C.E. to 68 C.E. Qumran was occupied by members of a Jewish sect. There are also remains of a late Iron Age (pre-586 B.C.E.) settlement and evidence of a brief phase of Roman occupation after 68 C.E. Continue reading
We are pleased to announce that September will be Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls month here on the ASOR blog. Starting Tuesday, September 4th, we will be posting contributions from leading scholars on Qumran and the scrolls. Check back often to see the latest updates!