The Abrahamic religions recognize Abraham as the first to arrive at the truth of monotheism and live out the ideal relationship with God. He is the archetype of the stalwart religious individual willing to abandon everything in the journey to realize the truth of God. Yet while the Abrahamic religions all recognize his vital role, each understands his nature differently. In Judaism Abraham represents unfailing obedience to the divine command, while in Christianity he is the epitome of Christian faith. And in Islam Abraham was the first to submit fully and without reservation to the divine will. Because the religions that revere Abraham differ, so do their Abrahams. Thus, not only does Abraham serve as a symbol of common aspirations, he is also a source of disagreement and interreligious polemic, and a fulcrum for leveraging spiritual difference and claims to religious superiority.
Gerard J. Norton
This article first gives a schematic outline of the history of the Hebrew text in four stages. It then presents the elements that readers will meet in modern editions of that text. These modern editions find a common focus in the great Tiberian manuscripts of about 1000
Michael A. Knibb
The beliefs of the movement that lies behind the scrolls were influenced by the eschatological ideas of the early Enochic writings and by the Book of Daniel, and although the movement does not seem to have produced many apocalypses, eschatology and messianism formed a significant part of its thought-world. But the movement was concerned above all with the proper observance of the Torah. It seems likely that the development of dualism and to some extent of eschatology was a way of coping with the fact that their interpretation of the Torah was not accepted by the leaders. The discussion also holds that the eschatological and messianic beliefs of the Dead Sea Scrolls represent a development of traditions already contained in the Hebrew Bible and form part of the spectrum of beliefs that were common to Jews of the period.
John R. Bartlett
This article discusses archaeology's impact on biblical scholarship, especially over the last two centuries. It describes the Christian pilgrims, explorers, travellers, map makers, and military surveyors who paved the way for the archaeologists. It focuses on twentieth-century archaeology in Palestine/Israel, demonstrating archaeology's growing independence as a discipline, and its effect on modern understanding of the Bible's presentation of history.
John R. Bartlett
This article discusses the contributions of archaeology to biblical scholarship. Biblical scholarship needs the archaeologist as it needs the anthropologist, the epigraphist, the philologist, the Assyriologist, the classical scholar, the student of Qumran, the rabbinic scholar, and others for the interpretation of the biblical writings. Archaeology is not so much a method of biblical scholarship as an intellectual discipline and practice, incorporating many methods and subject to many methodologies, assisting the modern interpretation of the Bible.
Ronald S. Hendel
The biblical texts from Qumran are the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, dating from the mid-third century BCE through the first century CE. Prior to the discovery of the Qumran texts, evidence for the early history of the biblical text consisted of three major versions – the Masoretic text (MT), the Septuagint (LXX), and the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP) – each with an unbroken chain of transmission to the present day. This article assesses the major text-critical theories of the Hebrew Bible after Qumran. First, it surveys the textual situation at Qumran and the relationships among the Qumran texts and the major versions (MT, LXX, and SP), using, as a perspicuous example, the texts of Exodus. Then, the article addresses the adequacy of the text-critical theories, testing their strengths and weaknesses against this evidence. The major protagonists in the theoretical discussion are Frank M. Cross, Shemaryahu Talmon, Emanuel Tov, and Eugene Ulrich.
Timothy H. Lim
The approach advocated in this article is the understanding of canon as authoritative literature that is binding for the Qumran community. The distinctive features of this approach are: authority is related to a community; the pesherite is central to the understanding of authoritative literature; there is a vaguely bipartite canon where the ‘Torah of Moses’ referred to the Pentateuch; authoritative literature included the biblical lemmata cited and the pesherite interpretation; Jubilees, Enoch, and the Temple Scroll were not considered part of the Torah of Moses; the rules of the community were considered canonical and authoritative; and other books, such as the Psalms of Joshua and ‘the book of meditation’, may also have been considered authoritative.
Joan E. Taylor
The nature of groups named in classical sources as ‘Essenes’ was considered in scholarship of Second Temple Judaism long before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but discussion of the Essenes has intensified greatly during the last sixty years. This article reviews the classical sources on the Essenes. It notes propositions on how the Essenes may relate to the scrolls communities and considers how variant opinions may be resolved, with particular reference to the Serekh.
Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls can be classified as religious documents of one kind or another, and all the studies since 1947 that have been devoted to their significance can be characterized as attempts to construct some aspect of ancient Judaism from them. Where agreement has been harder to achieve is on the centrality of the role to be accorded to the evidence from the scrolls in constructing a picture of Judaism in the last centuries BCE and the first century CE. Although the scrolls provide reason to believe that some sectarians believed that much was wrong with the Temple in Jerusalem, no text actually states that sectarians should avoid the Temple altogether. The question for the historian is whether the evidence from such texts should be enough to encourage the view that sectarian Jews with such beliefs would cut themselves off from the Temple.
Considering Qumranic hermeneutical systems with regard to form, this article distinguishes between ‘internal interpretation’ integrated within rewritten biblical books, such as the Temple Scroll, and ‘external interpretation’ which is separated from the biblical lemma. The latter forms appear in the pesharim and in the genre called halakhic midrash. With regard to content, the discussion distinguishes between two hermeneutical systems of ancient literature: interpretation that attempts mainly to explain the reality of the biblical period; and interpretation that attempts to adapt the content of the Bible to the reality of a later period. The first is found in the Qumran scrolls primarily within the ‘Rewritten Scriptures’, and the latter is represented in the pesharim and some types of halakhic midrash.
Daniel K. Falk
Prayer as a service to God by the people is one of the most far reaching of religious practices, forming a central part of the religious practice of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; yet there is still much uncertainty about how this developed within Judaism and why. Scrolls from Qumran provide the most important corpus of evidence to shed light on the critical period during the days of the Second Temple. This article presents a case study for prayer in ancient Judaism. It is organized around the types of questions being asked: questions of definition and classification, textual questions, historical questions, questions concerning context, and questions of ideology and theology. There is a good deal of overlap between these categories, but they are be treated separately for heuristic purposes.
From the very earliest period after the first discoveries, the Qumran scrolls have been of major interest to New Testament (NT) scholars, and, in retrospect, the impact of the scrolls has considerably shifted the debate in central areas of NT scholarship. The debate touches the essence of history-of-religions research, the question of how to explain alleged parallels and how to prove ‘influences’ on the level of texts, authors, or religious groups. The issues discussed are most generally the Jewish, or more distinctly, the Palestinian, impact on the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, the primitive community, or the religious language and theology of NT texts. The scrolls also provide a wealth of information that helps in the interpretation of the New Testament – on the Palestinian-Jewish ‘context’ of emerging ‘Christianity’, factions and groups, etc.
James R. Davila
The Dead Sea Scrolls provide considerable evidence for a vibrant mystical tradition that involved not only theoretical musings about the heavenly realm based on scriptural exegesis, but also ritual practices closely associated with such imaginative constructs, along with an interest in transformational ascents to heaven by biblical figures and perhaps others. There is evidence that some of these mystical traditions survived and were developed by Jews and Christians in later centuries, although it is not yet entirely clear whether these survivals came from a vision mysticism common to Second Temple Judaism or from a successionist priestly mysticism derived directly from Qumran sectarianism or both, and not all scholars are convinced of a genetic link at all between the earlier and later traditions. The discussion also looks into the Hekhalot literature and early Christian mysticism.
Both apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works are increasingly studied at an academic level for what they reveal of the religious preoccupations of their writers and the communities that first received them. The apocryphal writings in particular are a valuable witness to the many strands of Judaism during the period when the Second Temple stood in Jerusalem, spanning roughly the time period between the composition of the Hebrew Bible and the writings of the New Testament. This article discusses apocryphal writings covering several different genres, sometimes even within the same book. These include wisdom literature, which gives advice for right conduct and a successful life, linked to a religious outlook; apocalyptic writing, offering hope of momentous supernatural intervention at the end of history in order to save the people of God, sometimes through the agency of an anointed one or ‘Messiah’; historiography or writing that purports to be history; edifying stories, which are essentially folk tales with a religious message; rewritten Bible, where a familiar story from Scripture is retold with different emphases; and prayers and psalms that may have had a liturgical or devotional function.
Reinhard G. Kratz
This article discusses the growth of the Old Testament, which presupposes the Israelite-Judaean scribal culture. From it the biblical tradition took over the practices, knowledge, and literary remains of the scribes. At the same time they pioneered with what they took over, or produced independently on the basis of it, a very particular way that was also unique in the whole of the ancient Near East. The genre and the content of the biblical books burst the limits of the usual praxis of the scribes. From the scribes developed the scribal scholars, and from the Israelite-Judaean scribal culture they developed the Jewish tradition in the Old Testament.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for knowledge of halakhah in late antiquity. Because of this finding, there is now original first-hand information on halakhah as practised by a specific Jewish group during the Second Temple period. Previously, the only other extant collections of halakhic material were the corpora of mishnah and midrash. While these incorporate some first-century material, they were redacted in the third or fourth centuries, thus postdating the scrolls by at least 200 years. This article portrays these two bodies of literature. It examines their structure and content, depicts their fundamental assumptions with regard to the origins and authority of halakhah, and explores the relationships between them. The article uses the ‘Essene hypothesis’ and refers to the laws and religious customs found in the scrolls as representing the halakhah practised by the Essenes.
From a linguist's point of view, the Qumran community was situated in the eye of a storm. In the late Second Temple period, Judaea was multilingual and culturally torn. Hebrew was favoured by Jewish nationalism and religious tradition and Aramaic had been the main language of public life, yet Greek had taken a central place in administration and politics. Under the Romans, Latin was added into the mix. Language use was never neutral in this society. At least three different languages are in fact represented in the Qumran library: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The Hebrew and Aramaic texts discovered in Qumran are extremely precious to linguists, as they are to students of other disciplines. At the same time they raise a large number of questions. This article outlines some of the fruits of research on Qumran Hebrew and Qumran Aramaic, as well as some of the issues that remain debated.
Albert De Jong
Zurvanism is a problematic subject in the history of the study of Zoroastrianism, for it was once hailed as the greatest challenge to ‘orthodox’ Zoroastrianism and many irreconcilable aspects with ‘real’ Zoroastrianism were conveniently disposed of by labelling them as ‘Zurbanite’ and, hence, aberrations. It has since been shown that very little evidence supports the notion of Zurvanism as a Zoroastrian ‘heresy’, and that it is mainly to be understood as one of several variants of the chief cosmogony myth. This article examines this myth, which has occasionally been invoked to explain certain aspects of the ideas of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It discusses the possible channels through which Iranian ideas may have become familiar to Jews, and those Iranian elements of the Dead Sea Scrolls that have commonly been recognized as being there: loanwords and imagery.
Lester L. Grabbe
This article discusses Jewish history from the rise of Hellenism to 70
J. W. Rogerson
This article discusses the social, political, and economic background of Israel to the end of the Persian period, based upon extra-biblical texts, archaeological discoveries, and anthropological models. Where appropriate, reference will be made to Old Testament material, not in order to vindicate its historical ‘truth’ through the back door, but to suggest ways of looking at it in the light of the historical and social reconstruction. The biblical narrative is silent on all but religious happenings for the first half of both the 8th and 7th centuries, as well as much of the 6th to 4th centuries. In the case of kings such as Omri, the biblical record is virtually silent on the subject of his many military achievements. However, it should not be concluded that the historical information in the biblical records is worthless; and, to be fair to the biblical editors, they refer constantly to the books of the chronicles of the kings of Judah and Israel as sources of further information.