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The Authority of Early Hebrew Scripture Texts

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Abstract Our investigation begins with an analysis of the abstract and tangible aspects of Scriptural authority after the first century ce, thus laying the foundation for a discussion of this topic in earlier times. It is much more difficult to define authority at that early stage than in later periods, because Scripture was still in the making. We avoid an analysis of canonization, focusing on ancient scrolls, but realize that scrolls were only copied after a book had obtained an authoritative status. Among the textual witnesses of Scripture, we assume textual plurality, which is particularly noticeable at Qumran, across the board, while the proto-rabbinic movement adhered only to the proto-MT texts, and the Samaritans only to their own Torah. We describe different kinds of Scripture scrolls, assuming that Scripture-like scrolls such as liturgical, excerpted and partial scrolls had no authoritative status, while all other scrolls did. These scrolls were authoritative throughout ancient Israel in spite of the differences between them, although it is unclear which source other than tradition granted that authority. We provide some tentative criteria for assuming an authoritative status.

Affiliations: 1: Hebrew University of Jerusalem Israel


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