Scholarly reflection on the people behind the Qumran documents has been coloured by the use of the term ‘sect’ from very early on, ever since the first announcement of the discovery of the scrolls was made in 1948. However, more and more scholars have also made an effort to be sociologically informed when hypothesizing about the Qumran movement and its nature. This article discusses the prospects of using the sociology of sectarianism in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The emphasis is on sociological approaches, even though some social-psychological perspectives are also referred to. The aim of sociological approaches in biblical studies is, in the end, to ‘challenge, to broaden and to reformulate the methods of historical criticism’, as well as to understand those processes of social life that cannot be unravelled or reconstructed without the aid of sociological concepts and imagination.