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The Body in Qumran Literature: Flesh and Spirit, Purity and Impurity in the Dead Sea Scrolls

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This article examines the concept of the body within a wide range of Qumran literature. In a comparison with the biblical tradition, which does not evince a consistent and systematic idea of the body, this article demonstrates that the sectarians developed their own somatic model. The sectarian model, as revealed through a close reading of such texts as Hodayot, 1QS, 1QSa, CD and 1QM, is one that repeatedly emphasized the body as a corporate entity comprised jointly of flesh and spirit. This article then reexamines the same Qumran texts to show that this concept of the body explains the extreme focus on purity at Qumran, particularly the sectarian conflation of moral and ritual purification. A final comparison with Philo, who espoused a dualistic model of the body, underscores just how truly unique the sectarian view of the body and purity was among early Jews.

Affiliations: 1: Ursinus College ; 2: New York University


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