Purity in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Jonathan Klawans

in The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199207237
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Purity in the Dead Sea Scrolls

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  • Religion in the Ancient World
  • Judaism and Jewish Studies
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This article considers Leviticus, the Rabbis, and Qumran; ritual purity, moral purity, and their evolution at Qumran; and other incongruities facing the purity–community model. The dominant understanding of purity at Qumran has much to commend it. Inspired by Mary Douglas's style of structuralism, scholars – notably Harrington – have reconstructed a meaningful and logically coherent sectarian purity system by following the interconnections among the various texts and correlating them with archaeological evidence. A number of questions, however, remain. When some purity practices are attributed to the sect's past or future, while others in the same document are taken as characteristic of the group's present, one can rightly question whether the evidence or the model is driving the interpretation. Moreover, the present paradigm rests, in part, on reconstructed evidence: can such a theory justify overlooking seeming contradictions between the literary and archaeological evidence?

Keywords: Qumran; Mary Douglas; sectarian purity; archaeological evidence; ritual purity

Article.  12675 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religion in the Ancient World ; Judaism and Jewish Studies ; Christianity

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