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Durham e-Theses
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The Qumran Paradigm:

A Critical Evaluation of Some Foundational Hypotheses in the Construction of the ‘Qumran Sect’


A Critical Evaluation of Some Foundational Hypotheses in the Construction of the ‘Qumran Sect’.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis is a critical study of some of the foundational hypotheses of the Qumran Paradigm. This Paradigm connects the archaeological site of Khirbet Qumran to, on the one hand, the manuscripts from the eleven caves in its vicinity and, on the other hand, the descriptions of the Essenes by Philo, Josephus and Pliny the Elder. Thus, the Qumran Paradigm hypothesises that the Qumran manuscripts reflect the ‘sectarian’ library of a radical minority group (or ‘sect’), which was closely connected to the Essenes and resided at Khirbet Qumran. Part of this group’s ideology is thought to be their self-identification as ‘the chosen righteous ones’, awaiting the eschaton. Their exclusivist self-understanding is perceived to be demonstrated by modes of separatism and dualistic thinking in the manuscripts of the group’s ‘library’.
This thesis discusses several of the hypotheses that have formed the foundations of this prevalent Qumran Paradigm: the idea of a ‘ sectarian library’; literary and socio-historical models of textual classification; the use and accurateness of certain terminology to describe particular textual peculiarities (such as ‘dualism’); and finally, the implications of conclusions drawn from the perception of ideological coherence in the Qumran texts.
First, this study evaluates the notions of a ‘sectarian’ library and a ‘sectarian’ group, and how these notions have influenced scholarly classifications of the Qumran texts. These classifications have constructed chronological models of 'sectarian' development, in the attempt to identify a correlation between text-ideology and social history. The validity of such mirror readings is discussed with regard to a crucially important, yet difficult to categorise, Qumran text, 4QMMT.
The second part of this study focuses on the construction of social reality through the perception of ideological coherence, particularly with regard to the concept of ‘dualism’. We evaluate the expansion of its definition into ten types of ‘Qumran’-specific dualism. Subsequently, the concept of ‘dualism’ is discussed with regard to the Treatise of the Two Spirits (1QS iii 13 – iv 26), as its dualistically perceived ideas are analysed and compared to similar ideas in other texts.
This study wants to critically evaluate those elements in the foundations of the Qumran Paradigm that prevent scholarship from theorising about possible social realities beyond the scholarly construct of the Qumran 'library' and 'sect'. Hence, it wishes to advocate a more revisionist approach that more fundamentally questions the foundations of the Paradigm, specifically for those texts that do not seem to ‘fit’ within the Qumran Paradigm and that allow us to consider whether the texts found at Qumran represent a wider range of social backgrounds and a fuller engagement with the diverse forms of Second Temple Judaism than is normally envisaged.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Theology and Religion; Qumran; Sect; Dualism; Classifications; Treatise of the Two Spirits; 4QMMT
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:26 Jul 2013 16:42

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