The Self as Symbolic Space: Constructing Identity and Community at Qumran (Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah)

The Self as Symbolic Space: Constructing Identity and Community at Qumran (Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah)

Carol A. Newsom

Language: English

Pages: 392

ISBN: 1589832981

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This volume investigates critical practices by which the Qumran community constituted itself as a sectarian society. Key to the formation of the community was the reconstruction of the identity of individual members. In this way the "self" became an important symbolic space for the development of the ideology of the sect. Persons who came to experience themselves in light of the narratives and symbolic structures embedded in the community practices would have developed the dispositions of affinity and estrangement necessary for the constitution of a sectarian society. Drawing on various theories of discourse and practice in rhetoric, philosophy, and anthropology, the book examines the construction of the self in two central documents: the Serek ha-Yahad and the Hodayot.

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intricacies of ritual impurity, but also the statute concerning parapets on roofs?”53 Or does Bickerman implicitly anachronize, making the later rabbinic ideal the measure for the “torah scholar” that Ben Sira cel- 51 Stadelman, (Ben Sira als Schriftgelehrter, 4–26) and Olyan (“Ben Sira’s Relationship to the Priesthood”) have argued that Ben Sira was a priest, noting his concern for the livelihood of the priests (7:29–31) and his admiring descriptions of Aaron (45:6–22), Phineas (45:23–25), and

that the Hasmoneans 90 See Baumgarten, “Pharisees,” 658, on Pharisaic paradosis and akribeia. The classic study of “zeal” in late Second Temple Judiasm is Hengel, The Zealots. For 1 Maccabees see pp. 149–154. As Hengel (154) notes, “what is remarkable in this context is that, in contrast to the Old Testament, this zeal is no longer directly related to God. It is rather related to the law.” Similarly, Smiles (“The Concept of ‘Zeal,’” 285) argues that zeal does not so much have to do with Jewish

specification. One does not simply desire “to seek God” but “to seek God—with a whole heart and soul—in order to do what is good and right before Him—as he commanded—by the hand of Moses and by the hand of all his servants the prophets.” An even more involved syntax introduces the Two Spirits Treatise, as was discussed in the preceding chapter. To a certain extent this tendency may simply be part of the ethos of scribes who delight in glossing texts. The various glosses, scriptural citations, and

person. The identities of a person are never singular but multiple, never unified but in some sense fragmented, never static but always in process.22 The historical and cultural complexity of a society means that there are likely to be various discourses of the self that have developed 20 Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy, 174, 182. Althusser, 172–73. For a survey of recent critique and reformulation of Althusser’s discussion see S. Hall, “Who Needs ‘Identity’?” 22 S. Hall, 4. 21 14  

and the language of the covenant ceremony137 not only provides a literary inclusio for 1QS but also suggests that the process of the shaping of sectarian character, which begins with entry into the covenant community, finds its telos just such a self. The similarity between the Maskil’s hymn and the poetic compositions of the Hodayot indicates that those compositions, too, play an important role in the formation of the proper sectarian character, a topic that will be taken up in the following

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