The Community Rules from Qumran: A Commentary

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Colleges, School and Institutes

Abstract

This volume offers the first Commentary on all twelve ancient manuscripts of the Rule of the Community, a series of works which contain the most important descriptions of the organisation, worldview and values ascribed to the movement associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls. The best preserved copy of this work has long dominated the scholarly assessment of the Rule even as eleven further at times divergent copies have become available. The approach adopted here is to capture the distinctive nature of each of the manuscripts beginning with a synoptic translation that offers each passage as represented in the manuscripts at a glance. Introductions, Textual Notes, and the Commentary deal with the full picture as it derives from all preserved manuscripts. What emerges are clusters of material that are shared across several manuscripts. These textual clusters reveal convergences, divergences and at times dramatic literary developments. The publication of the Cave 4 manuscripts in 1998 can be likened to a volcanic eruption that ruptured our notion of the Community Rule founded on the quasi-archetypal status of the Cave 1 copy first published in 1951. Since then the smoke has lifted and, as the pieces have begun to settle, we see green shots emerging in the scholarly debate. This Commentary embraces the post-volcanic landscape of the Community Rules which is carefully sifted for clues to establish a fresh reading of the material. At times the reading of a previously marginalised single word opens up new interpretative horizons with important implications not only for our understanding of the Rules but also of the movement with associated with these texts and its place in Second Temple Judaism.

In addition, this Commentary draws on the broader literary context now available from Cave 4, including texts that reveal insights into the pervasive influence of demonic beings that left ancient Jews, including those portrayed in the Community Rules, as living in fear of being struck by such forces. Finally, our reading of the primary texts challenges prevalent descriptions of the movement in rather idealised terms. In this respect contemporary readers took their cue from influential descriptions of the Essenes as paragons of virtue in a number of ancient sources, the Community Rules' own rhetoric of perfection, and the evocative location of the find site of the Scrolls in the Judaean Desert. As far as the location of the movement in the Judaean wilderness is concerned, we now know that the earliest copies of the Rule were committed to writing before a community settled at Qumran. Moreover, a close reading of the texts exposes a plethora of rules that address shortcomings on the part of community members behind a thin rhetorical veneer of virtue and perfection. We conclude that the scribes behind these Rules are concerned with stemming a tide of shortcomings that plague the community and its members.


Details

Original languageEnglish
PublisherMohr Siebeck: Tübingen
Number of pages346
ISBN (Electronic)9783161570278
ISBN (Print)9783161570261
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020

Publication series

NameTexts and Studies in Ancient Judaism
Volume183