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The Nature And Aims Of The Sect Known From The Dead Sea Scrolls

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Chapter Summary

The Dead Sea Scrolls have shed important light on many aspects of ancient Judaism. Perhaps the most central issue, however, concerns the information they provide about a sectarian movement, which is generally assumed to have occupied the site of Qumran and to have been responsible for hiding the scrolls. The widely assumed identification of the sect known from the scrolls with the Essenes has played no part in author's description of the movement. It seems to the author unlikely that there existed another previously unknown sect that resembled the Essenes so closely in organization. But if the sect known from the Hebrew sources was indeed the Essenes, then the classical sources are not very reliable or adequate. Ultimately, the question of the identification is of secondary importance. It is to the Scrolls themselves that we must look in order to understand this strange and fascinating movement.

Keywords: ancient Judaism; Dead Sea Scrolls; Essenes; Hebrew sources; Qumran; sectarian movement



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