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Functions And Contexts Of Physiognomic And Astrological Learning In The Dead Sea Scrolls And Second Temple Period Judaism

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Chapter Summary

4QZodiacal Physiognomy (4Q186) and 4QPhysiognomyar demonstrate the existence and dissemination of certain forms of physiognomic and astrological knowledge in Palestine during the Hellenistic-Early Roman period. Comparison with similar texts from Babylonian and Greco-Roman cultures, taking their socio-cultural background into account too, suggests that these two physiognomic lists from Qumran represent examples of ancient Jewish science. Scholars disagree on the status of the physiognomic lists within the collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls. According to some scholars 4QZodiacal Physiognomy astrological learning was controversial and of minor interest to the Qumran community. The chapter suggests two possible contexts for the diagnostic value of the physiognomic-astrological knowledge in 4QZodiacal Physiognomy. First, knowing the nature of zodiacal spirits could have been important in a more general magico-medicinal context. Second, in line with earlier proposals, this knowledge could have been relevant in a sectarian context to control and regulate admission to the Qumran community.

Keywords: 4QZodiacal Physiognomy (4Q186); astrology; Babylonian; Dead Sea Scrolls; Greco-Roman cultures; Palestine; Qumran community



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