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Maskil, Community, and Religious Experience in the Songs of the Sage (4Q510–511) 1

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Abstract The present study seeks to illuminate how the recitation of the prophylactic magical hymns known as 4QSongs of the Sage engendered religious experience for worshipers. Previous research on this composition has focused on locating it within the broader streams of early Jewish magical and apocalyptic tradition, but little attention has been paid to the apotropaic function of the Songs within the larger religious experiential framework implied by the text. This study argues that despite the lack of concrete information pertaining to ritual praxis, the language of the Songs reveals that participation in the ritual was designed to bring worshipers to understand themselves as realizing essential Qumranite ideals such as perfect purity and supernal knowledge, and to experience communion with the angels in the image of “the eternal sanctuary.” It is suggested that the protection from the demons offered by the Songs is not so much the result of “magic” as it is a natural outcome of the perceived attainment of these ideals.


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Affiliations: 1: Yeshiva University New York


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