Writing Halakhah in Qumran

Aharon Shemesh

in Halakhah in the Making

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780520259102
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520945036 | DOI:
Writing Halakhah in Qumran

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The library of Qumran contains a wide range of different compositions, which, though not the exclusive source, are the prime source for our knowledge of the legal system of the Qumran community. This chapter employs information about legal subjects extracted from nonlegal sources, such as the liturgy or wisdom literature. It surveys two main aspects of the halakhic compositions found in the caves: their literary genre and their content and intent. Most of the scrolls are found in a very fragmentary condition, due to which this is not always an easy task. Moreover, it is difficult to determine the original size of any given composition or the right order of its remaining fragments. This chapter describes the writing style of two compositions empirically. These two main literary genres are represented by the Temple Scroll, on the one hand, and by the legal part of the Damascus Document, on the other. These two literary genres differ fundamentally from that of the Temple Scroll and the genre of the rewritten Bible. The penal code was a sectarian innovation intended to serve the Qumran community's special needs and to protect its unique social structure. Very much like the Qumran literature, rabbinic halakhic writings also form two very distinct genres: midrash and mishnah. However, the Qumranic literature continues the biblical tradition in that it is unified and unanimous.

Keywords: halakhah; Qumran; halakhic compositions; Temple Scroll; Damascus Document; midrash; rewritten Bible

Chapter.  5295 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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