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Between Center and Periphery: The Yahad in Context

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Scholars have long equated the Yahad with the inhabitants at Qumran, thereby establishing an unwieldy two-community model of those behind The Rule of the Community (S) and others of the Damascus Document (D), or Qumranite, bounded, and peripheral versus integrated and “normal.” Yet this two-fold paradigm does not account for both the shared and divergent material between S and D, and other Rule material now available. This article offers a new socio-anthropological model for understanding sectarian community formation, one that accounts for a dynamic relationship between both the Jewish codifying center at Jerusalem and the sectarian movement at large, as well as on a micro-level within the Yahad itself. For as the Yahad created its own, new authoritative center at Qumran, it generated new, divergent traditions, but ones which never developed in isolation. This “radial-dialogic” model of development proposes that communities, and their traditions, diversified in continuing conversation with their authoritative center(s).

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies, University of Denver Sturm Hall 172, 2000 E. Asbury Ave., Denver, CO 80208, Email:


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