Judith M. Lieu

in The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199254255
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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Accounts of Judaism often begin from Josephus's description of the three schools of thought or philosophies among the Jews, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. New Testament references to the Pharisees and the Sadducees appear to confirm this starting-point, while the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls often associated with Josephus's Essenes apparently completed the picture. However, Josephus also describes the Jews as holding a remarkable unity, and the tension between these two claims sets the scene for the debates about unity and diversity that have dominated much modern scholarship. This chapter shows that the Josephan model establishes movements within a prior unity; the model itself, and even more, recent developments in the understanding of the formation of Judaism provoke the question whether there was a unity within which diversity could arise, and/or how such a unity might be defined or experienced. One answer would be that unity was achieved only after 70 ce, when, supposedly, we no longer have traces of the Sadducees, Essenes, Dead Sea sectarians, or even Pharisees, so named; if it was not a unity based on coercion, it may have been founded on the containment of permissible debate and difference enshrined in the rabbinic writings.

Keywords: Judaism; Josephus; Pharisees; unity; diversity

Chapter.  4809 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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