This introduction aims at situating the contributions of the Thematic Issue into wider debates on Hellenism and Hellenisation and changes taking place in scholarship. Essentialist notions of Hellenism are strongly rejected, but how then to study the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Qumran site during the Hellenistic period? Each contextualisation depends on the (comparative) material selected, and themes here vary from literary genres, textual practices, and forms of producing knowledge, to material culture, networks, and social organizations. All contributors see some embeddedness in ideas and practices attested elsewhere in the Hellenistic empires or taking place because of changes during the Hellenistic period. In this framework, similarities are overemphasized, but some differences are also suggested. Most importantly, the question of Hellenism is a question of relocating Jewish and Judaean evidence in the study of ancient history.
The time when Qumran was studied in splendid isolation is long gone, but much work remains to be done when it comes to situating the site in its wider context. In this paper, Qumran is contextualized, on the one hand, within the larger ecological history of the Mediterranean and, on the other, within the Mediterranean world of classical antiquity. Questions regarding the functions of the Qumran settlement are addressed from the perspective of “marginal zones” in the Mediterranean, which provides an ideal backdrop through which to illumine aspects of daily life at Qumran. Furthermore, it is shown how comparative case studies from the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean help us to nuance the discussion concerning “Hellenization” or “Romanization” with regard to Qumran. Finally, a new understanding of L4, which is here interpreted primarily as a dining room, is proposed on the basis of archaeological parallels from the Graeco-Roman world. A pan-Mediterranean perspective, therefore, allows us to generate new insights on old questions and novel interpretations.
There is a rising scholarly consensus that consulting the divine will did not altogether cease in the Second Temple period. Rather, it took different forms, and one was consulting the divine will via existing texts. Meanwhile, the identity of such interpreters remains unclear. This paper explores the possible identities of interpreters by comparing the figures that interpret Jewish oracles with the chresmologoi that appear in ancient Greek compositions. Such a comparison provides new insights into the divinatory use of written oracles. The interpreters of the Jewish and Greek texts operated at least partly in similar ways. While their methods of interrogating the oracles are somewhat alike, Jewish interpreters enjoyed a status similar to that of prophetic figures, whereas Greek interpreters operated more independently and without a similarly evident divine mandate.
This article focuses on reading culture as an aspect of the Dead Sea Scrolls textual community in its ancient Mediterranean context. On the basis of comparative evidence, the article approaches reading in ancient Judaism as a multi-dimensional and deeply social activity by taking reading aloud, writing, and memorizing as intertwined practices occurring in group reading events. The evidence discussed, such as from Philo of Alexandria, the first-century ce Theodotus inscription from Jerusalem, and 1QS 6:6–8, reflects certain aspects of reading cultures shared between different Jewish communities in the ancient Mediterranean during the Hellenistic and early Roman periods. In addition, it is argued that features such as scribal marks in manuscripts, evidence such as the writing of excerpts, manuscripts such as 4Q159 and 4Q265, or note-taking in 4Q175 and other such manuscripts should be considered within the context of the ancient procedure of reading by intellectual or scholarly readers. Moreover, the article suggests that the Genesis Apocryphon actually preserves a glimpse of the scrolls’ elite reading culture described in a text from Hellenistic-period Judaea.
Soon after the discovery of 1QS, comparisons with private associations from the Hellenistic and Roman world were suggested. There are clearly some parallels in internal organization. However, scholars using this comparison to explain features of the yaḥad have rarely taken the environment that made associations in the Hellenistic world possible into account. By way of a comparison of attitudes towards temples, this article seeks to reintroduce the social context of private associations into the debate. While Hellenistic associations can be said to have developed temple ideologies not dissimilar to certain features of the yaḥad, the conditions, aims and implications of those respective ideologies were fundamentally different. This has obvious implications for understanding the social identity of members, and should caution against decontextualized comparisons.
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.
The history of the Jewish community at Elephantine plays a crucial role in the reconstruction of the early history of Judaism. One document in particular sheds a light on the emerging Jewish identity in the diaspora. It is Hananyah’s so-called Passover Letter. This contribution investigates the significance of Hananyah’s mission in Egypt, and more particularly its relationship with the missions of Ezra and Nehemiah. The investigation permits three conclusions. One, the Persians did not distinguish between ethnicity and religion; two, the codification of Jewish ritual preceded the codification of the Torah; and three, Jewish identity in the late 5th century allowed significant latitude in matters of doctrine and lifestyle.
This article seeks to evaluate why the translators of the Septuagint often preferred literal to free renderings. After some general remarks on levels of literalness the author evaluates possible explanations for the literal renderings in the Septuagint. An alternative interpretation draws on the theories of the translation theorists Schleiermacher (1813) and Venuti (1995). It explains literalism as being rooted in the desire for conservation of the Jewish identity within the context of Hellenistic culture with the hebraicizing style serving as a means of resistance to Hellenism.
The meaning of the verb ברא is the subject of fierce discussions. Conventionally it has been rendered by biblicists and Hebraists as “to create,” but this traditional interpretation fails to explain adequately numerous linguistic and conceptual aspects of the verb’s usage. Historical solutions of these problems are discussed. The alternative hypothesis defended here is that the verb ברא Qal designates “to separate.” It is considered to be a spatial concept, not a concept that figures in the domain of construction. In the present article I present further analyses of the verb ברא in Gen 1 and explain the significance for the idea of creation it represents, and of the most famous creation psalm, Ps 104, and especially of vv. 26-30 in which the term ברא is used. The similarities and dissimilarities between these two texts demonstrate that each context of usage of ברא must be independently investigated and appreciated.