Scripture - Who's In? Who's Out?
“(De)weaponizing Scripture at Qumran”
Mitchell Chillcot of Duke Divinity School explores the close connection between חרב (sword) and the Kittim (a term commonly understood as a reference to imperial rule) in the Dead Sea Scrolls. He argues that this relationship is intended to highlight the Kittim as curators of violence throughout history, whereas the Qumran community itself is diametrically opposed to such a violent way of life.
“Three Models of Wielding Lev. 19:17 in Antiquity”
Matthew Goldstone of New York University describes the diverse spectrum of responses to the biblical injunction of Leviticus 19:17 that commands that one actively rebuke his or her fellow. The semi-isolated members of the Qumran center strove to forge a system of complete control over daily life while the culturally insecure position of the early rabbis motivated them to formally recognize the danger of verbal offense. The mixed message that we find in the gospels reflects the tension between the ideal of love and humility and the practical demands of communal stability. The juxtaposition of these traditions reveals the divergent ways religious leaders of antiquity wielded this biblical passage as a means to ensuring their formative goals.
“In the interests of peace: Jews, gentiles and land management in Mishnah Peah”
Christine Landau of the University of Virginia demonstrates how how the rabbis, who lived in a culturally and religiously diverse area, wielded Scripture alongside the sickle to define themselves as a community that farmed the land God had given them in accordance with God’s commands. At times, rabbinic and gentile farmers appear to have collaborated quite closely in harvesting and other tasks, and the rabbis explain some of their legal positions as being “in the interests of peace.” Yet for them coexistence with gentiles required careful self-definition and negotiation of boundaries, together with the awareness that scripture itself required such boundaries to remain somewhat fluid.
“Revealed Words and Subjunctive Worlds: The Uncreated Qur’an and the Order Transforming Power of God’s Speech”
Evan Anhorn of Boston University will take up Eisenstadt’s theory on the order-maintaining and order-transforming dimensions of culture. He will apply his findings to the role of Sunni theology as a social institution of Islamic civilization—an institution which establishes social boundaries, distributes power and meaning and maintains social roles and authority. Building on this, he will examine the createdness of the Qur’an as a specific location of charismatic social renewal. The contours of this theological debate suggest alternate visions of society and the division and regulation of power within it.