Search Results

In: Bridging between Sister Religions
In: Sibyls, Scriptures, and Scrolls
In: The Dead Sea Scrolls In Context (2 vols) 
Author: Cecilia Wassen

In order to understand Jesus’s violent outburst in the temple, scholars frequently turn to Jewish texts from the late Second Temple Period, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. The same texts are used to support contrasting explanations of the event. This paper evaluates these interpretations and offers an analysis of the key texts on the Jerusalem temple in the Scrolls. It concludes that the negative attitudes towards the temple that are reflected in Jesus’s action and some of the sectarian writings from Qumran share an expectation that the temple would become defiled in the end time. From such an apocalyptic perspective, it did not matter how the temple priests actually ran their business, since they were bound to be criticized by those Jews, such as Jesus and the Qumran sectarians, for whom the final age had arrived.

In: Dead Sea Discoveries
Author: Cecilia Wassén

Scholars usually take for granted that the sectarian members of the Qumran movement ate their common meals in full purity at a level that is often compared to that of the priests serving in the temple. This assumption rests on the interpretation of hatohorah, “the purity,” as pertaining to common meals. But a careful study of a range of texts, including the important Tohorot A, leads to a more nuanced picture. Accordingly, it is important to distinguish between the common, everyday meals of the movement and the special meals. Whereas a mild level of impurity of the participants was accepted at the ordinary type of communal meals, special meals required purity. Even at these pure meals, there were variations concerning the required level of purity depending on the occasion.

In: Journal of Ancient Judaism
Author: Cecilia Wassen

Jesus’ attitude towards purity practices is a hotly debated issue. The majority of scholars argue that Jesus challenged purity halakhah in some way. One of the proofs cited to support the position that Jesus allegedly disregarded purity laws is that he ate with “tax collectors and sinners.” Whereas purity concerns are not explicit on the story level in the texts, many scholars still find Jesus’ actions contradictory to the norms. This paper discusses if purity plays a part, and if so how, in Jesus’ sharing meals with people considered sinners. As I will show, purity concerns only play a minor role in Jesus’ meal practice and there is nothing in his behaviour that indicates that he somehow challenged purity norms, only social norms.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
In: Apocalyptic Thinking in Early Judaism
Author: Cecilia Wassen
Women in the Damascus Document offers a fresh look at the nature of the community reflected in the Damascus Document, one of the core documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls. By presenting a close and comprehensive study of the references to women and in-depth analyses of biblically based laws in the document, this work attempts to reconstruct the role of women and attitudes toward women within the community. Highlighting the complex nature of the evidence, the author draws attention to a number of rules that reflect a favorable attitude toward women, but also to instances of a patriarchal stance, especially regarding sexuality. Carefully considering all the evidence, the author argues, in contrast to the opinions of many scholars, that women were full members in the community.

Paperback edition is available from the Society of Biblical Literature (www.sbl-site.org)
In: Scripture in Transition
Author: Cecilia Wassén

Abstract

In this article, I engage with Joel Marcus’s recent book on John the Baptist, focusing on the relationship between John and the Dead Sea Scrolls. While I appreciate many parts of his detailed study, I question the claim that John was a former member of the Essenes. Although there are intriguing similarities, the question is how far reaching conclusions we may draw concerning such a relationship. I problematize some aspects of the comparison between the sources. Like many scholars, Marcus refers in particular to 1QS and the site of Khirbet Qumran for reconstructing the Essenes and hence John’s background. In response, I highlight the uncertainty about the Sitz im leben of 1QS in relation to Khirbet Qumran and ask why this particular manuscript should be privileged over others. Not least when it comes to purity halakhah there are many other documents than 1QS from Qumran that are highly relevant to the issue. Finally, I critically evaluate Marcus’s view that John the Baptist had a favorable attitude towards Gentiles, which according Marcus differed from the views of the Essenes.

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus