We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

Ideological Conflict and the Hebrew Bible

It is common to refer to the writers of the Qumran scrolls as ‘sectarians’; but this term implies a kind of normativity beyond the boundaries of this ‘sect’. If, of course, the sect is identified with ‘Essenes’, as is common, then the writers were no more (or less) sectarian than Sadducees or Pharisees, whom Josephus describes in the same terms. The Qumran scrolls in fact show us how a core of basic concepts was consistently read and interpreted in the light of the values of a group that saw itself as the true continuation of the real, historical ‘Israel’. (We can see a parallel process in the New Testament.)

The modern scholar can perceive, however, that the Qumran writings do not draw exclusively on categories and ideas prominent in the Hebrew Bible. Alongside the ‘law of Moses’ and the writings of the prophets, we find religious traditions from elsewhere, and in particular from the books of Enoch. This dependence has led some scholars to speak even of an ‘Enochic Judaism’ from which the writers of the Scrolls were descended. In this ‘Judaism’, emphasis rests on the figure of Enoch and the divine wisdom he received, from his heavenly journey, his understanding of astrology and meteorology, and his knowledge of the past and future. The books of Enoch (better known to us as I or ‘Ethiopic’ Enoch, but now known at Qumran as four or five separate compositions, originally in Hebrew) provide the Qumran authors with a myth of fallen angels as the origin of evil, a ‘solar’ calendar of 364 days, not of twelve lunar months (about 354 days), a tradition of a final judgement of all creation, and an interest in the names, identity, and function of numerous heavenly beings. In particular, ‘Enochic Judaism’ espouses a pessimistic view of Israel's history, one of almost continuous evil and rebellion, from which only the elect will be released at the end of time.

Against this ‘sectarian’ view, should the literature of the Hebrew Bible be seen as a more universal, ‘normative’ canon? To an extent, perhaps: but there is also evidence that many of these Enochic traditions have been suppressed, especially in the book of Genesis, where Enoch himself and the story of the angelic fall are brutally truncated. The belief that Israel's sin and punishment continue also surfaces in Daniel 9, and the angelic origin of sin in the ritual of the scapegoat (Leviticus 16) ‘for Azazel’ (one of the names of the leader of the fallen angels). The large number of texts at Qumran in which Genesis is ‘rewritten’ show a concern to revise its view of the origin and nature of sin as disobedience to God's commands, and refocus attention on its heavenly origin and the final judgement that will remove it for ever, just as the Flood once destroyed the offspring and the followers of the fallen angels.

The influence of Enoch traditions is evident also in the New Testament and early Christianity (Satan is one such instance, the fallen angel, the ‘Belial’ of the Qumran scrolls), and we are forced to ask whether it is correct to regard the Hebrew Bible as a reliable or normative source for ‘Jewish belief’ prior to the fall of the Temple in 70 CE. Two considerations (among others) prompt this suspicion. First, the view prevailing before the discoveries at Qumran of a ‘normative’ and relatively homogeneous Judaism during the Second Temple period has now been abandoned, largely thanks to the Scrolls, which clearly betray a set of ideological conflicts that seem to have fairly ancient origins. Many passages in the prophetic literature (especially in Malachi, Zechariah, and Isaiah 56–66) that express protest against the rulers and priests of Jerusalem may well represent organized or identifiable groups, possibly connected with antecedents of the movement(s) that generated the Qumran scrolls. Second, the canonical view, often repeated in modern histories of Israel, that there was a ‘restoration’ of a ‘remnant’ under the Persians is challenged throughout the Scrolls, which see their present time as still one of ‘exile’ and reject the legitimacy of the priesthood, the Temple, and indeed of the rest of ‘Israel’. It follows that we must consider the Hebrew Bible itself as implicated in the conflicts that still engaged most Palestinian Jews at the end of the Second Temple period, and consider the act of fixing the canon and text in the light of such disputes. The relative insignificance of Enoch and Enochic traditions in Genesis, for example, may indicate a deliberate suppression of tradition that we know from other sources to have been prominent in Second Temple Judaism. The Scrolls, in other words, permit us to ask more pointedly about the social and political context in which the Hebrew Bible was formed from a once more varied set of canonized writings within Judaism.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2014. All Rights Reserved. Privacy policy and legal notice