John J. Collins, Scriptures and Sectarianism: Essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 332. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014.
The volume under review presents a collection of essays by one of the leading experts in the fields of Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Judaism. Together the essays of this volume explore the themes of Scriptures and Sectarianism from a variety of lenses, ranging from close study of specific texts to broad assessments of scriptural authority and meaning-making in the Second Temple Period. Although the emphasis of the volume is on the Hebrew Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls, at times the conversation is extended to incorporate works from the Pseudepigrapha, Greco-Roman authors, and even various Persian sources.
The volume consists of seventeen chapters, which are divided into three thematically-arranged sections. The first section, containing six essays, deals with “Scripture and Interpretation” in the Second Temple Period. While the first three of these essays focus on transformation (ch. 2), change (ch. 3), and innovation (ch. 4) primarily of the Torah, the latter three deal with interpretation of specific texts: Genesis (ch. 5), Psalm 2 (ch. 6), and the Book of Daniel (ch. 7) respectively. The second part of the volume includes four essays on “History and Sectarianism,” and treats the issues of historiography in the Scrolls (ch. 8) and identifying historical figures (ch. 9). This section further critiques Gabriele Boccaccini’s identification of the Dead Sea sect with “Enochic Judaism” (ch. 10) and offers a study of “sectarian consciousness” in the yahad texts, building on the work of Carol Newsom (ch. 11). The third and final section is comprised of five chapters devoted to specific topics within “The Sectarian Worldview,” namely covenant and dualism (ch. 12), angels (ch. 13), the afterlife (ch. 14), prayer and ritual (ch. 15), and wisdom and eschatology (ch. 16). The volume concludes with an Epilogue (ch. 17), which briefly addresses the question of the relationship between the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Christianity, using the suffering servant motif as an example for how the Scrolls and the New Testament derived different interpretations from a common corpus of authoritative scriptures. The majority of these essays are republications of articles stemming from a wide array of journals and multi-authored volumes. Only two chapters represent new contributions, the introduction to the volume and another essay, “Covenant and Dualism in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” which is adapted from a 2013 Orion Seminar presentation. These are the focus of this review.
In the introductory essay Collins seeks to answer the question, “What have we learned from the Dead Sea Scrolls?” After a brief overview of the collection’s origin, he further discusses how the Scrolls have expanded our knowledge of the Bible in the late Second Temple period, particularly through what they demonstrate of the development of the canon and the fluidity of the biblical text. Speaking of the “sectarian” nature of many of the Scrolls, Collins notes that it now seems likely that the sect developed primarily as a response to debate over the true interpretation of the Law––see especially 4QMMT, which Collins describes as “[t]he single text that has done most to change scholarly views of pre-Christian Judaism” (p. 9). He maintains that sectarian scrolls were more probably the product of several communities rather than a single settlement at Qumran. He is careful to point out, however, that these communities also clearly transmitted many non-sectarian works which are common to the broader Jewish literary heritage of the period. Collins also emphasizes the distinction between “Essenism” and Christianity, and that the Scrolls are not a direct witness to earliest Christianity, although they do help in better understanding the Jewish context in which the movement first took shape. Finally, Collins provides the answer to his opening question, stating that the greatest historical significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls is in their contribution to our understanding of the common Judaism from the time between the Maccabees and the Mishnah and for which previously little to no original sources were available.
Chapter Twelve, “Covenant and Dualism in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” begins with a discussion of E.P. Sanders’ ideas of “covenantal nomism.” The idea of the election of all of Israel into the covenant is not as inconsistent with the sectarian texts as it might seem at first glance. Collins agrees with Sanders that, though separate (voluntary) in the present, at the time of the eschatological war the sect will become identical with all Israel who will follow the correct interpretation of the Torah. However, Collins points out that from the sect’s perspective not all Israel has a share in the world to come. In his discussion of dualism in the Instruction on the Two Spirits, Collins identifies three types of dualism: cosmic, ethical, and psychological (terminology he borrows from Jörg Frey). As there is no precedent for this type of thought in the Hebrew Bible, Collins finds the possibility that cosmic dualism may have entered the Jewish tradition from Persian, Zoroastrian influence to be compelling. He notes, however, that cultural influence was not akin to direct borrowing, but certainly the Jewish authors would have adapted these ideas to their own purpose. This is clear as well in Instruction, in that the idea of determinism was already present at creation, something absent from Persian dualism, as well as its innovative use of psychological dualism. Collins concludes the chapter with a discussion of how dualism and the idea of covenant are combined in the Community Rule. This is not, as suggested by Seth Schwartz, merely the juxtaposition of incongruous systems, but rather evidence “a serious revision of traditional covenant” (p. 192). In the new covenant “[e]lection was not only an offer made by God to select humans, but actually determined their fate” (p. 192).
Although most of the essays contained in this book have been previously published elsewhere, their collection into a single, readable volume nevertheless provides a valuable resource to scholars and students alike. Its inclusion of extensive indices of modern authors and ancient sources, further increases its accessibility and greatly contribute to the volume’s overall usefulness.
The Ancient Jew Review and Trinity Western University Dead Sea Scrolls Institute forums and reviews commemorating the 70th anniversary of the discovery of the Qumran scrolls were edited by Dr. Andrew Perrin (Trinity Western University), Dr. Andrew Krause (University of Münster), Dr. Jessica Keady (University of Chester), and Spencer Jones (Trinity Western University).
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