“nascent Christianity Between Sectarian And Broader Judaism: Lessons From The Dead Sea Scrolls” By Serge Ruzer

Various aspects of Dead Sea Scrolls study may inform our attempts to better understand nascent Christianity. In this paper, however, I will focus upon one particular aspect—the relation between the pat-terns of belief peculiar to a specific sect and those reflecting broader contemporaneous trends. In Qumran scholarship, this general issue has been addressed on a number of levels. First, in discussions pertaining to the nature of the collection of the scrolls as a whole, the question arises whether it represents the worldview and religious concerns of only one specific close-knit community or is, in fact, a library of broader appeal.

Second, researchers have been seeking reasonable criteria to distinguish—at the level of the individual scrolls—between sectarian compositions and those reflecting an outside Jewish input. And third, scholars have aspired to develop methods and insights that would make it possible to distinguish—even within an individual scroll—between beliefs and practices exclusive to the group that supposedly produced the text (among ideas of a sectarian character, the belief in double predestination holds pride of place) and those shared with “wider Judaism.” Patterns of the latter kind may be addressed by Qumran authors either polemically or approvingly, or simply invoked in an apropos manner. It goes without saying that the scrolls remain the most important source for the study of the illuminating—and peculiar—phenomenon of Second Temple Jewry they seem to rep-resent. However, in light of the above mentioned developments in research, the Dead Sea Scrolls must also be recognized as a crucial resource for achieving better understanding of some characteristic Jewish trends of broader circulation

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Serge Ruzer lectures in the Department of Comparative Religions at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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