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The Origin and Nature of the Qumran Community

The Origin and Nature of the Qumran Community - November 3...

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November 3, 2008 RELG 315 The Origin and Nature of the Qumran Community The community at Qumran is not exactly shrouded in mystery.  As Vanderkam patiently lays  out, it makes sense to believe they are the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls, rather than simply its  curators (Vanderkam 2001, 160-161).  There is also substantial evidence, from multiple sources, for  the assertion that they were followers of the Essene sect of Judaism (Vanderkam 2001, 161-162).  This is not to say that their entire history is known, or beyond debate, or even that these well- supported contentions can be taken as absolute fact.  But if we take this information as a starting  point for analysis—as I shall, until more convincing evidence for an alternative allegation comes to  light—we can ask more interesting questions regarding the nature of the community living at  Khirbet Qumran and what the Dead Sea Scrolls can tell about them.  We can discuss with more  support and conviction the broader issues of their society; we can even begin to sort out their entire  raison d’etre,  or “reason for being.” I suggest that the Qumran community’s existence was characterized and motivated by a  desire to negotiate particular tensions present in the evolving Jewish religion.  This is what made the  Qumran community what it was; this pursuit was its reason for being.  In particular, I see two issues  coming forth as pressure points in the selections we sampled from the Dead Sea Scrolls: one,  between professing unquestioning faith in the Laws of Moses versus needing for more specific laws 
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laid out for the community—and two, between determining what falls to God to punish and what  falls to man. The community’s complete belief—or, at the least, overt belief—in the Law of Moses is  apparent.   The Community Rule dictates that anyone who wants to join the Community must  “undertake by a binding oath to return with all his heart and soul to every commandment of the Law  of Moses” (1QS 104).  Even once one is a part of the Community, he is repeatedly questioned on his  knowledge of the Law and his rank depends upon it (1QS 106).  Furthermore, “there shall never  lack a man among them who shall study the Law continually, day and night” (1QS 105).    The Law 
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