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A Cognitive Approach To Ritual Systems In First-Century Judaism

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Chapter Summary

Cognitive approaches to religious socio-political organization are distinguished from sociological ones by the fact that religious systems are viewed as centering on rituals, rather than upon the ideological tension in which they exist in their broader socio-cultural environment. This chapter examines religious developments and factionalism within Judaism in first-century Palestine in light of the cognitive theories of religious systems. It analyses the emergence of such groups as the Qumran community and the early Jesus movement, and shows whether they fit the patterns predicted by cognitive theory. It relies heavily on a few standard historical studies of the period, especially on E. P. Sanders' exemplary volumes. Since much of cognitive theorizing concerning religious rituals still rest upon many untested assumptions, the chapter finally reflects on the adequacy of the theories in light of the material at hand.

Keywords: cognitive theory; early Jesus movement; first-century Palestine; Judaism; Qumran community; religious rituals; socio-political organization



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