The Self as Symbolic Space

Constructing Identity and Community at Qumran


This volume investigates critical practices by which the Qumran community constituted itself as a sectarian society. Key to the formation of the community was the reconstruction of the identity of individual members. In this way the “self” became an important symbolic space for the development of the ideology of the sect. Persons who came to experience themselves in light of the narratives and symbolic structures embedded in the community practices would have developed the dispositions of affinity and estrangement necessary for the constitution of a sectarian society. Drawing on various theories of discourse and practice in rhetoric, philosophy, and anthropology, the book examines the construction of the self in two central documents: the Serek ha-Yahad and the Hodayot.


EUR €183.00USD $221.00

Biographical Note

Carol A. Newsom, Ph.D. (1982) in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, Harvard University, is Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Emory University. She is author of the critical edition of 4QShirot ‘Olat HaShabbat in DJD XI (Oxford, 1998) and of The Book of Job: A Contest of Moral Imaginations (Oxford, 2003).

Review Quote

"…a goldmine of insights…" – C. Hempel, in: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (2005)

Table of contents

1. Communities of Discourse 2. Torah, Knowledge, and Symbolic Power: Strategies of Discourse in Second Temple Judaism 3. Knowing as Doing: The Social Symbolics of Knowledge in the Two Spirits Treatise of the Serek ha-Yahad 4. How to Make a Sectarian: Formation of Language, Self, and Community in the Serek ha-Yahad 5. What Do Hodayot Do? Language and the Construction of the Self in Sectarian Prayer 6. The Hodayot of the Leader and the Needs of Sectarian Community Conclusions Bibliography Subject Index Modern Author Index Passage Index


This book will be of interest to scholars of Second Temple Judaism and Christian origins, as well as those concerned with sectarianism, rhetoric and the formation of identity.