Scholars usually take for granted that the sectarian members of the Qumran movement ate their common meals in full purity at a level that is often compared to that of the priests serving in the temple. This assumption rests on the interpretation of hatohorah, “the purity,” as pertaining to common meals. But a careful study of a range of texts, including the important Tohorot A, leads to a more nuanced picture. Accordingly, it is important to distinguish between the common, everyday meals of the movement and the special meals. Whereas a mild level of impurity of the participants was accepted at the ordinary type of communal meals, special meals required purity. Even at these pure meals, there were variations concerning the required level of purity depending on the occasion.
Applying the terms “Jew” and “Judaism” in the ancient period has recently been challenged by a number of scholars. First, the terms translated as Jew and Judaism are rare in the ancient period, and second, it is argued that these terms retroject later understandings of Judaism as a religion back into a period when Israelites and Yehudim/Ioudaioi are rather understood as an ethnic group. “Judeans” is preferable as a designation to “Jews.” Two challenges have arisen. Some argue that the ethnic meaning of Yehudim/Ioudaioi changed to a more religious meaning in about 100 B. C. E.. Others insist that “Jew” and “Judaism” have always communicated both an ethnic and religious meaning – and still do – and so to insist on an ethnic-only meaning (“Judeans”) in the ancient period is misleading. Here I take up a number of the previous arguments and modify them to form an alternative proposal: Yehudi (feminine Yehudiyah) and related terms arose as assertive, emotive identity terms to reflect a strong affirmation of identity in an international situation. Much as “Quaker” or “American” can be assertive, emotive identity terms relative to the default Society of Friends or United States respectively, so Yehudi/Yehudiyah was used occasionally, then more often, as a strong identity term relative to the default Israel/Israelite.
In the midst of the recent resurgence of interest in ancient Jewish and Christian perceptions of the body, Josephus has not yet received sustained attention. This brief article redresses that lack, and argues that Josephus evinces a certain consciousness of the body as cultural signifier. While physiognomics per se are not a keen interest of Josephus, he does portray the bodily in such a way that he signifies to the audience the nobility or otherwise of the actor in his narrative. The topoi and strategies he employs work alongside his more explicit rhetorical strategies to saturate his history with evaluative language and lend eloquence to the corporeal.
This article aims to read closely the tannaitic material pertaining to judicial discretion and legal justice with the understanding that the rabbis are not simply clarifying certain specialized questions about courtroom procedure but are seriously engaging a core facet of Roman imperial and Hellenistic ideology: the benefits and deficits of the rule of law. It has been noted that as opposed to later, talmudic rabbis, the Tanaaim are particularly strict with regard to personal, judicial discretion – in other words, that rather than strike a balance between law and wisdom, they allow only for rule-based decision making. This article suggests that the Tanaaim not only opt for rule-bound decision making, but that they do so with a full awareness of what is lost from broader ideals of social justice when judges are required to abide, almost mechanically, by the rules. The Tanaaim thereby contributed to contemporary questions in political philosophy from the point of view of disempowered Roman provincials for whom the rule of law meant less as political propaganda and more as a measure of stability in uncertain times.
Study of the textual evidence preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls makes it exceedingly unlikely that the sectarians would have conducted sacrificial worship at their desert retreat. They disagreed vehemently with the Jerusalem establishment and refused to worship at the Temple because the sacrificial ritual did not accord with their halakhic ideals. However, they still maintained that the Temple was the only proper place to worship: it just had to be renewed under their aegis at the End of Days, when they would control all its functions. In the meantime, the sectarians viewed their community as a substitute Temple; they conducted prayers at the times when the Temple sacrifices took place; their communal meals became ritualized as a replacement for the Temple offerings; they studied the laws of sacrifices. Priests and Levites were given preferential roles, the communal meals and study sessions substituted for Temple rituals, and the ritual purity that the sect maintained assured them that they would be ready for the soon-to-dawn eschaton that would restore the glory of the Temple to them. Thus, the literary evidence points to a longing for the Temple but also to a resignation that, until the End of Days, various modes of worship would have to substitute for its sacrifices.
Scholars are increasingly aware of the dynamic nature of the interaction between the nine-chapter-long genealogy that begins the book of Chronicles and its source material. However, little attention has been paid to the role this interaction might have played in the creation of some key biblical ideas, particularly in the “eponymous imagination” of the tribes as literally the sons of Jacob. Through comparison with scholarly approaches to the pseudo-Hesiodic Catalogue of Women and an investigation into the ramifications for biblical studies of ethnic theory and historical memory on the fluidity of ethnicity and memory over time, this article seeks to reassess the dynamic power of the Chronicles genealogy as an ethnic charter for the elites of Persian Yehud. Focus on the distinctive imagination of Israel in the crucial narratives in the book of Genesis, as compared with narratives elsewhere in the primary history, and the contributions of the Chronicles genealogy to their redefinition, allows us to address the Bible’s dependence upon the lens the Chronicles genealogy imposes upon it.