“Were the Jews of Qumran Hellenistic Jews?”

In: Dead Sea Discoveries
Benjamin G. Wright Lehigh University

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The people who produced and used the scrolls offer us a particularly fascinating example of the extent to which we might call the people/communities of the scrolls “Hellenistic Jews.” The default concept of antiquity that scholars use, the way the term “sectarian” gets employed, and the geography of the Hellenistic world all separate the yaḥad from the larger Hellenistic world. Yet, the scrolls compare well with Hellenistic discourses and practices of collection, textual scholarship, and scientific knowledge. Moreover, if we read the scrolls alongside of other Jewish texts usually considered Hellenistic, we see similar patterns of thought and common interests. In this sense, then, the yaḥad and the scrolls fit well into their Hellenistic environment.

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