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Reading the Dead Sea Scrolls

Reading the Dead Sea Scrolls: Essays in Method

George J. Brooke
with the assistance of Nathalie LaCoste
  • Book Info
    Reading the Dead Sea Scrolls
    Book Description:

    The Dead Sea Scrolls, which have long captured the public imagination, are now all available in principal editions and accessible translations. This book addresses the next stage in their analysis by raising questions about how they should be read and studied. The essays collected here illustrate two approaches. First, some essays argue that traditional methods of studying ancient texts need to be refined and broadened in the light of the Scrolls. The volume thus contains studies on text criticism, literary traditions, lexicography, historiography, and theology. Second, the book also argues that innovative methods of study, applied fruitfully in other areas, now also need to be applied to the Scrolls, such as studies that consider the relevance for the Scrolls of deviance theory, cultural memory, hypertextuality, intertextuality, genre theory, spatial analysis, and psychology. Many of the examples in these studies relate to how authoritative scripture was handled and appropriated by the groups that gathered the Scrolls together in the caves at and near Qumran, so some of the same texts are analyzed from several different perspectives.

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-902-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Previous Publications
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxii)

    This book contains a collection of my essays on how some of the Dead Sea Scrolls might be read and analyzed. There was a time when the field of biblical studies was in the vanguard of the formation and application of innovative methodology. Over the last two generations or so, it has tended to be the case that the field more broadly has been a follower rather than a leader. Within the discipline of the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and its many specialist subdisciplines, this has been even more the case, with the study of the scrolls lagging...

  4. ONE The Qumran Scrolls and the Demise of the Distinction between Higher and Lower Criticism
    (pp. 1-18)

    In this essay I wish to argue that the Dead Sea Scrolls provide modern scholarship with a very significant opportunity for the mutual illumination of both artefact and method, so that the manuscripts and their contents provoke the refinement of modern reading strategies, and those strategies, once refined and adjusted, serve all the better to assist in the understanding of the manuscripts themselves. Nowhere else in the Mediterranean basin has there been such a remarkable discovery of turn-of-the-era manuscripts, nearly all of whose provenance is known, together with at least one archaeological site largely undisturbed since antiquity. It should be...

  5. TWO The Formation and Renewal of Scriptural Tradition
    (pp. 19-36)

    This essay is a consideration of some aspects of the formation and renewal of scriptural tradition. Of what does tradition consist? What are its parameters? Although the term “tradition” is widely used, not least by scholars of the Bible, even in the titles of books² or as the label for a critical way of life (Traditions-geschichte), comparatively little has been written that explicitly discusses the constituent parts of tradition or its motivating forces.³ In one of the few studies directly addressing the topic in relation to the Dead Sea Scrolls, John J. Collins has described how tradition is based on...

  6. THREE Justifying Deviance: The Place of Scripture in Converting to the Qumran Self-Understanding
    (pp. 37-50)

    Few nowadays would deny that the members of the Qumran community, and also probably of the wider movement of which that community was a part, were a minority in late Second Temple Judaism, even among the educated elites in Palestine. A case can be made that the Essenes were a well-recognized and widespread part of Judean society,¹ but it is unlikely that they should be seen as the main Jewish party of the time.² In short, the minority status of the Qumran group suggests that those who became members could well have been considered by others, or could have considered...

  7. FOUR Memory, Cultural Memory, and Rewriting Scripture
    (pp. 51-66)

    The study and analysis of rewritten Scripture, especially as exemplified by some compositions among the Dead Sea Scrolls, has become an increasingly debated and contested area. It is interesting to note immediately that the study of memory, either individual or collective or cultural, has played little or no part in the discussion; this may be somewhat surprising, since the rewritings to be found in works like Deuteronomy or 1–2 Chronicles can be fruitfully analyzed in such terms,¹ and remembrance plays a significant role in several compositions found in the caves at and near Qumran.² This paper attempts to start...

  8. FIVE Hypertextuality and the “Parabiblical” Dead Sea Scrolls
    (pp. 67-84)

    The volume in which this essay first appeared was intended to include the word “palimpsests” in its title; thus, the thinking behind this essay began with reference to the work of Gérard Genette, who has used the term most provocatively. Although in codicology a palimpsest is simply a recycled manuscript in which the most recent text does not necessarily have any relationship to the text over which it is written, the term helpfully suggests how one text may lie on top of another text that has not been entirely erased. Genette used the term metaphorically to express how the text...

  9. SIX Controlling Intertexts and Hierarchies of Echo in Two Thematic Eschatological Commentaries from Qumran
    (pp. 85-98)

    Since Julia Kristeva first introduced the concept of intertextuality and Gérard Genette adapted it for use in literary as well as linguistic contexts,¹ the term has been used very widely, not least in biblical studies.² For some, it applies precisely to the very explicit use of earlier literary traditions, the dependence of one author on another; in such contexts intertextuality is akin to literary influence, and discussion may still revolve around authorial intention and the use of sources. Susan Graham has summed up neatly Kristeva’s reaction to such a use: “Strictly speaking, Kristeva rejects the ‘banal’ misreading of her term...

  10. SEVEN Pešer and Midraš in Qumran Literature: Issues for Lexicography
    (pp. 99-114)

    This short study examines again the uses of the two termspēšer(pesher) andmidrāš(midrash) in the Qumran sectarian literature, paying particular attention to the issues the terms provoke for lexicographical work such as that proposed for theTheologisches Wörterbuch zu den Qumranschriften(=ThWQ). Of particular note are the ways in which compilers of entries on the range of forms and uses of terms such as these need to consider the role of Semitic philology, the place of context in determining meaning, and the ongoing tension between diachronic and synchronic evidence in the construction of semantic fields.


  11. EIGHT Genre Theory, Rewritten Bible, and Pesher
    (pp. 115-136)

    The purpose of this short study is to try to clarify a problem that in various ways has already been widely discussed. In particular, the problem concerns how the wide range of compositions from the Second Temple period that represent or depend implicitly or explicitly on some form of authoritative Jewish Scripture should be suitably described and categorized; what might make for the better reading of all this literature, especially in terms of what is now known of it from the Qumran caves? I am not concerned with offering any solutions to the problem, though along the way there might...

  12. NINE Room for Interpretation: An Analysis of Spatial Imagery in the Qumran Pesharim
    (pp. 137-150)

    Within the theme of “Texts and Context” this paper investigates whether there is any information in the Qumran pesharim that might indicate where they were created and used. The principal concern, then, is to reconsider most of the obvious spatial language in the pesharim to discern what sense of space and place they might disclose.

    The sense of space and place, which was variously stressed by Michel Foucault,¹ and then popularized for the English-speaking world by Edward Soja, especially through his writings on thirdspace,² has provided a welcome balance to two or more centuries of scholarship that prioritized time over...

  13. TEN The Silent God, the Abused Mother, and the Self-Justifying Sons: A Psychodynamic Reading of Scriptural Exegesis in the Pesharim
    (pp. 151-174)

    This essay has its origins in my initial reactions to a very stimulating interdisciplinary study of the book of Lamentations by Hugh Pyper.¹ Pyper begins his reading of Lamentations with a stark quotation from a modern Jewish writer as she struggles with the experience of sitting through the hearing of Lamentations in synagogue on the Ninth of Av:

    Whatever the Babylonians did to turn Jerusalem the city to rubble, it is the Jewish poet, I can’t help feeling, who rips the bride Jerusalem’s jewelled veil from her forehead, stripping her embroidered robes to flash us a glimpse of her genitals:...

  14. ELEVEN Types of Historiography in the Qumran Scrolls
    (pp. 175-192)

    The splendid two-volumeEncyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrollswas published in 2000.¹ Given that the library collected together in the eleven caves at and near Qumran is more or less contemporary with the production of 1 and 2 Maccabees, perhaps it might come as some surprise that there is no entry on history writing or historiography in theEncyclopedia, though the index refers to four places where the periodization of history is discussed, and there is one short article on the small fragment of 4Q248 known as Acts of a Greek King or now as Historical Text A. Intriguingly,...

  15. TWELVE What Makes a Text Historical? Assumptions behind the Classification of Some Dead Sea Scrolls
    (pp. 193-210)

    A series of fragmentary manuscripts from Qumran’s Cave 4 has been designated with the label “Historical Text,” sometimes so it seems for want of anything better. But what caused the scholars assigned those compositions to label them in that way? The purpose of this paper in honor of Lester L. Grabbe, one of the leading historians of the Second Temple period, is to explore and expose some of the assumptions behind the classification of some Dead Sea Scrolls as “Historical Texts.” This paper is concerned more with genre than with the usefulness of these particular very fragmentary manuscripts for the...

  16. THIRTEEN The Scrolls from Qumran and Old Testament Theology
    (pp. 211-228)

    The purpose of this chapter is to show how the Qumran scrolls, through their very existence and because of their contents, both highlight the problems that beset anyone who tries to engage in the task of Old Testament theology and offer some clues as to how that task might be approached.¹ The scrolls created a great stir when they first came to light. In addition to what could become known concerning the history of late Second Temple period Palestinian Judaism, for Old Testament scholars excitement lay especially in what might be learned of the history of the biblical text; for...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-266)
  18. Index of Ancient Sources
    (pp. 267-278)
  19. Index of Modern Authors
    (pp. 279-286)