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The Scriptural Background of the Penal Code in the Rule of the Community and Damascus Document

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This article analyzes the “Penal Code” of the Qumran sectarians, and argues that the list of sins and punishments included in it is based on three biblical pericopes concerning the holiness of the people of Israel and their dwelling place. Violators of these laws endanger the holiness of the community and thus need to be excluded. The idea that the structure of the penal code is based on readings of three specific biblical literal units bears interestingly on our understanding of the development of Midrash. This is taken up in the last part of the article.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Talmud, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel 52900 and Shalom Hartman Institute, 11 Gedalyahu Alon, Jerusalem, Israel 93113;, Email:


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