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Legal Fictions

Studies of Law and Narrative in the Discursive Worlds of Ancient Jewish Sectarians and Sages

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Steven Fraade

Ancient Jewish writings combine interpretive narratives of Israel’s sacred history with legal prescriptions for a divinely ordered way of life. Two ancient Jewish societies have left us extensive textual corpora preserving interpenetrating legal and narrative interpretive teachings: the sectarian community of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the sage-disciple circles of the early Rabbis. This book comprises studies that explore specific aspects of the interplay of interpretative, narrative, and legal rhetoric with an eye to pedagogic function and social formation for each of these communities and for both of them in comparison. It addresses questions of how best to approach these writings for purposes of historical retrieval and reconstruction by recognizing the inseparability of literary-rhetorical textual analysis and a non-reductive historiography.
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Steven D. Fraade

Abstract

While the Damascus Document, like other writings found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, has been mined for historical information, with which to reconstruct the history of the Yaḥad, including the process and conditions of its formation and development over time, the present study is interested in discerning the text’s own understanding of the place in history occupied by its community of auditors and learners. Particular attention will be given to the text’s recurring reference to its beginnings (“first ones”) and ends (“last ones”) and to its sense of living in a truncated time-between. Through the close reading of two hortatory sections of the text, the question of how the Yaḥad’s collective social memory informs its self-understanding and practices as it faces both backward and forward in time.

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Steven D. Fraade

Abstract

Since soon after the initial discoveries and publications of the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars have compared the Yahad of the scrolls with the Hăbûrâ of early rabbinic literature and sought to establish a historical relationship and developmental progression between the two types of communal organization. The present article reviews select but representative examples from such scholarship, seeking to reveal their underlying presumptions and broader implications, while questioning whether the available evidence allows for the sorts of sociological comparisons and historical reconstructions that they adduce.