Simon Joseph on the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit in L.A.

Simon Joseph provides an interesting review of the recent Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit in Los Angeles. About ten years ago a Scrolls exhibit passed through Grand Rapids, Michigan, incorporating as part of its narrative Gabriele Boccaccini’s perspective on the Enochic/Essene nature of the documents and the yachad community. It looks like the naysayers are having their turn. About the same time the exhibit was held in Grand Rapids, Lawrence Schiffman was our guest speaker for the Judaism and Christianity in the Greco-Roman World series sponsored by the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and the Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies. Over lunch Larry argued that the inhabitants of Qumran were Sadducees. I simply pointed out that the eschatology of the Qumran scribes alone would rule out any possibility of a Sadducean character of the yachad. Larry’s argument was based in part on Mishnaic descriptions of Sadducean halakhah compared to halakhah in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The problem with that kind of comparison is that various Jewish groups from this period shared halakhic practices, and it was only the very small, minute details of halakhic observance that actually defined sectarian difference — a case of losing the forest for the trees. At any rate, Simon provides a nice review and, I think, an accurate criticism.

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