Daniel C. Timmer, «Sectarianism and Soteriology. The Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6,24-26) in the Qumranite Community Rule (1QS)», Vol. 89 (2008) 389-396
In an attempt to go beyond conventional sociological and anthropological analyses of the religious aspect of the Qumranite sectarian corpus, this article considers the reuse of the Priestly Blessing (PB) of Numbers 6 in the Community
Rule (1QS). Comparison of how curses were applied elsewhere in Second Temple Judaism informs reflections on what this imaginative redeployment of the PB tells us of the ideology and self-identity of the Qumran group, highlighting their
reconfiguration and exclusive appropriation of the covenants with Israel.
See more by the same author
Sectarianism and Soteriology.
The Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6,24-26)
in the Qumranite Community Rule (1QS)
While sociological differences regarding food, dress, and other practices can
and did signal tension between some religious groups in Second Temple
Judaism, distinctions directly related to the question of personal salvation in
the afterlife served that purpose for others (1). This is particularly true of the
group that settled at Qumran about 150 B.C.E., and due to the prominence of
religious language and thought in the Qumranitesâ€™ sectarian writings,
conventional sociological and anthropological analyses are not capable of
dealing comprehensively with the groupâ€™s secession from, and continued
existence apart from the rest of Second Temple Judaism (2). Since corporately-
uttered curses and blessings are valuable avenues for understanding the
ideology of the groups who author and use them, this article will first consider
the reuse of the blessing-curse pattern based on the Priestly Blessing (PB) of
Numbers 6 in the Community Rule (1QS) (3). Comparison of how curses in
particular were applied elsewhere in Second Temple Judaism informs some
closing reflections on what the imaginative redeployment of the PB at Qumran
tells us of the groupâ€™s ideology and self-identity (4).
(1) An earlier version of this paper was presented in the Curses and Curse Stories in
Mediterranean Antiquity Group at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical
Studies, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, 28 May 2007. While recognizing the value of
conventional indices of sectarianism (tension, separation, difference, exclusivity, etc.; see
B.R. WILSON, The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism. Sects and New Religious
Movements in Contemporary Society [Oxford 1990]; R. STARK â€“ W.S. BAINBRIDGE, The
Future of Religion. Secularization, Revival and Cult Formation [Berkeley, CA 1985]), this
paper explores their expression in terms of a religion concerned above all else with personal
salvation from sin and its consequences.
(2) See over the last few decades W.H. BROWNLEE, â€œAnthropology and Soteriology in
the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the New Testamentâ€, Use of the Old Testament in the New and
Other Essays. Essays in Honor of William Franklin Stinespring (ed. J.M. EFIRD) (Durham,
NC 1972) 210-240; B. JANOWSKI â€“ H. LICHTENBERGER, â€œEnderwartung und Reinheitsidee:
Zur eschatologischen Deutung von Reinheit und SÃ¼hne in der Qumrangemeindeâ€, JJS 34
(1983) 31-62; M.A. SEIFRID, Justification by Faith. The Origin and Development of a
Central Pauline Theme (NovTSup 68, Leiden 1992) 81-108; M. BOCKMUEHL, â€œ1QS and
Salvation at Qumranâ€, Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 1: The Complexities of
Second Temple Judaism (ed. D.A. CARSON â€“ P.T. Oâ€™BRIEN â€“ M.A. SEIFRID) (WUNT 2/140;
Grand Rapids, MI â€“ TÃ¼bingen 2001) 381-414.
(3) I define a curse (and, mutatis mutandis, a blessing) as a verbal expression of the
wish that evil might befall someone, including but not limited to a â€œcurseâ€ lexeme but
excluding pronouncements of woe. Blessings so defined overlap with prayers.
(4) See further S.H. BLANK, â€œThe Curse, Blasphemy, the Spell, and the Oathâ€, HUCA
23 (1950) 73-95; B. NITZAN, â€œBlessings and Cursesâ€, Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls
(eds. L.H. SCHIFFMAN â€“ J. C. VANDERKAM) (Leiden 2000) I, 95-100. Such an approach has
the advantage of constructing an understanding of the groupâ€™s self-image from the
perspective of the group itself rather than by using a model from elsewhere; see J.M.
JOKIRANTA, â€œâ€˜Sectarianismâ€™ of the Qumran â€˜Sectâ€™: Sociological Notesâ€, RevQ 20 (2001)