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Beyond the Qumran Community: Social Organization in the Dead Sea Scrolls

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The Dead Sea Scrolls refer to different kinds of communities. The Damascus Document speaks of people who live “in camps” throughout the land, and marry and have children. The Rule of the Community, in contrast, does not speak of women or children at all. It does, however, speak of small communities with a quorum of ten, as part of the yahad. The Rule of the Community also speaks enigmatically of twelve men and three priests, who are supposed to go into the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. It is possible but not certain that these were the founders of the Qumran settlement. Qumran was surely a sectarian settlement in Roman times. It is possible, but not proven, that it was a Hasmonean fort before the Romans came. It was never more than one of many sectarian settlements. The yahad should not be equated with “the Qumran community.”

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