(C2-24) Integration and Diversification in the Judaism of Palestine during the Hellenistic-Early Roman Period (300 BCE–135 CE)

Palestinian Judaism of the Hellenistic and Early Roman period is marked by a tension between central and local, between national and sectarian institutions and concepts. Rather than emphasizing the common over the dividing aspects, or vice versa, as dominant positions within the scholarship of the past decades often have done, the present research project attempts to arrive at a more precise relationship between integration and diversification in the Palestinian Judaism of this period through a series of test-cases.

In pursuing this task, the following areas will be studied:

  1. the relationship between ethnos and sects
  2. the relationship between Temple, synagogues, and assemblies
  3. forms of social organization as recognizable from the texts from Qumran; and
  4. forms of political, religious, and juridical authority and administration (sub-project Kimberley Czajkowski).

In doing so, the project will search, on the one hand, for potential similarities and connections between localized and sectarian practices – which scholars are often quick to keep apart from one another – and, on the other hand, for the relationship of these two areas of practice with central and overarching institutions and concepts.

Methodologically, the approach is multi-perspectival and considers literary, papyrological, epigraphical, and archaeological evidence. In particular, mention should be made of an increased database for Palestinian synagogues from the Second Temple period, new approaches in the archaeology of Graeco-Roman Israel/Palestine, as well as new insights arising from an improved analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls, both from Qumran and from other places in the Judaean Desert.

The overarching aim of this project is to gain building blocks for a new theory of ancient Judaism, which accounts both for its socio-political and religious unity and for its diversity.

Sub-project Identity, Alterity, and Boundary-Marking in Qumran Ritual (Andrew Krause)

This subproject focuses upon the relationship between group formation and spatiality on the one hand and rites of affliction (i.e., exorcism, apotropaic prayer, curses, etc.) on the other, specifically in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Qumran Movement. These boundary marking rituals provide important data regarding how this movement perceived, conceived, and experienced its communal structures and assembly spaces by expressing how demons and unwanted humans were expelled and barred re-entry. The writers of the various liturgies from Qumran utilized a largely consistent set of symbols, means, and performances to create social boundaries around their communities. This was based on a well-developed theology of anthropological and ethical dualism, as well as detailed systems of ritual and moral purity. We also find a rapid development of traditions regarding demons and angels that had a profound effect on the thought and practices at Qumran and the other communities, especially given the belief that purity was maintained chiefly due to the presence of angelic intermediaries in the liturgical practices of these communities. All of this leads to a nuanced and coherent, though dynamic system of boundaries, which the movement felt the clear need to reinforce. This combination of duality and liturgical virtuosity also led to the ongoing expansion and development of ritual forms beyond their biblical precursors, leading to new rites of metaphysical combat, particularly in texts such as the War Scroll (1QM).

Sub-project (Kimberley Czajkowski)

This sub-project takes as its focus the relationship between, on the one hand, justice and law and, on the other, political and religious authority in Palestinian Judaism, primarily of the early Roman period. There are two primary emphases: 1) concepts of authority in Judaean society and 2) the practicalities involved in juridical administration and the functioning of law. Indeed, how these two issues connect will be of primary importance. Account will be taken of various different models – both ideological and practical – that emerge; as such, the Qumran texts will provide a particularly valuable insight into sectarian models of justice and communal discipline, which can be set alongside those of ‘common’ Judaism. Moreover, the relationship between how justice functioned at a local level will be compared with higher-level institutions in order to determine the extent of differentiation across society as well as between different kinds of Judaism. Indeed, while previous scholarship has often focused on higher-level institutions, the current project will attempt to give equal emphasis to the ordinary, everyday figures that Jews were likely to have encountered in seeking justice. The methodological approach taken therefore aligns with that of the broader project: multiple perspectives will be examined. While the primary evidence base is literary and papyrological, as far as possible epigraphic and archaeological data will also be used in considering the broader picture of Judaean society at this time.

The Project is part of interconnecting platform E Differentiation and De-Differentiation.