Wisdom and law in the Hebrew Bible and at Qumran

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The corpora of Jewish law and wisdom have been substantially enlarged by the discovery and recent publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Not unexpectedly the newly discovered Jewish legal texts and the previously unknown sapiential texts from Qumran have attracted the attention, for the most part, of scholars on biblical and rabbinic law, on the one hand, and wisdom literature, on the other hand. Much of the scholarly focus of the debate on the new material thus far has been on producing a more ‘complete’ picture of the development of law and wisdom from the Hebrew Bible to post/extra-biblical law and wisdom. A pivotal place in the development is frequently given to Sirach 24:23. Within the parameters of this dominant research agenda, scholars have often brought a wealth of partially unanswered questions to the new material.
This article begins by noting the paucity of engagement between scholarship on the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) and a number of significant studies on the relationship of wisdom and law in the Hebrew Bible. A substantial case study on Proverbs 1-9 and the Community Rule from Qumran is put in conversation with the seminal work of, especially, Moshe Weinfeld on Deuteronomy and its refinement by subsequent research, to trace a dynamic interaction between wisdom and law in the Second Temple period.
The article ends with critical reflections on the wide-spread model of segmenting ancient Jewish literature and those responsible for it into neat categories such as wisdom and law. It is argued that such a model presupposes a degree of specialization that is not borne out by the range of literature that found its way into the Hebrew Bible or the caves in the vicinity of Khirbet Qumran.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155–181
Number of pages27
JournalJournal for the Study of Judaism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2017


  • Wisdom
  • Law
  • Proverbs
  • Community rule
  • Second temple period
  • Qumran


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