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Religious Experience and the Discipline of Imagination

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Tanya Luhrmann Meets Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls

image of Dead Sea Discoveries

Tanya Luhrmann’s explorations of religious consciousness address the structures of bodily, cognitive, and emotional discipline that contribute in specific ways to the cultivation of a particular experience of religious phenomena as real. Attention to Luhrmann’s methods provides a new set of tools for exploring dynamics of religious experience in an ancient Jewish context. The example of Philo’s Therapeutae serves as counterpoint for a discussion of disciplinary practices in the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls. Evidence for the disciplines of silent patient listening and tolerance for public judgment in the scrolls, along with descriptions of intensive study and prayer-practices suggest an atmosphere in which sectarians might have been primed to experience divine revelation, most likely through the authority of an angelic mediator. Attention to religious experience provides insights not only into sectarian life but also into some possible dynamics underlying the composition and development of textual traditions.

Affiliations: 1: University of


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