Lost and Stolen Property at Qumran: The “Oath of Adjuration”

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
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  • 1 “Religion and Politics” Cluster of Excellence, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, 48143 Münster, Germany

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This article examines the procedure concerning lost and stolen property that we find in cd-a 9:8-16, with a particular focus on the “oath of adjuration” or “oath-curse” in this passage. This is placed first in the context of the biblical material which, it has long been recognised, had a considerable impact on the formulation of this procedure. The primary focus, however, is on examining the way in which the oath of adjuration was envisaged to function and what we may learn from this about the operation of justice within the movement. It is argued that the oath relied heavily upon the religious and social ideals of the group but was also in itself an enactment of these ideas, and thus functioned in part as a performative expression of the group identity.

  • 4

    See Benedikt Eckhardt, “ ‘Those Who Freely Volunteer’: The Yahad in the Context of Hellenistic Group Formation,” in T&T Clark Companion to the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. G. J. Brooke and C. Hempel (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, forthcoming) for an excellent summary of past work along these lines, along with the problems involved therein. Yonder M. Gillihan, Civic Ideology, Organization and Law in the Rule Scrolls: A Comparative Study of the Covenanters’ Sect and contemporary Voluntary Associations in Political Context, stdj 97 (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 37-64, also provides overviews of some of the more influential studies.

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  • 6

    John J. Collins and Timothy H. Lim, “Introduction: Current Issues in Dead Sea Scrolls Research,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. J. J. Collins and T. H. Lim (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 1-18 give a good summary of the current state of research on many of these major problems.

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  • 14

    Schiffman, Sectarian Law, 112-13.

  • 25

    Ibid., 206.

  • 26

    Ibid., 206-7.

  • 27

    Schiffman, Sectarian Law, 113.

  • 31

    Henk S. Versnel, “Beyond Cursing: The Appeal to Justice in Judicial Prayers,” in Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion, ed. C. A. Faraone and D. Obbink (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 60-106 at 61; cf. Angelos Chaniotis, “Under the Watchful Eyes of the Gods: Divine Justice in Hellenistic and Roman Asia Minor,” in The Greco-Roman East: Politics, Culture, Society, ed. S. Colvin, ycs 31 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 1-43 at 6-9 on these categorizations.

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  • 40

    Jokiranta, “Social Identity,” 285.

  • 42

    Cam Grey, Constructing Communities in the Late Roman Countryside (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 226.

  • 43

    See ibid., 58-90 on reciprocity.

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