Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives

By James M. Scott | Go to book overview

THE CONCEPT OF RESTORATION IN
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS

Lawrence H.Schiffman
New York University


INTRODUCTION

The subject of “restoration,” when applied to the Dead Sea Scrolls, can be looked at through a narrow or a wide-angle lens. The narrower way of construing this topic would be to discuss only the restoration of Israel as a political entity in the aftermath of its destruction and exile under the Babylonians in 586 BCE. Such an approach would yield rather minimal results. A wider approach would instead include this return or restoration, as understood in the scrolls, but also the restoration which the sectarians expected in the aftermath of the Hasmonean period and the Roman domination that followed it. Further, the wider approach would speak of restoration on several planes: the restoration of the Land of Israel, the Jewish people, Jerusalem and its Temple, and the restoration of sacrificial worship and ritual purity and perfection.1

To make matters more complex, these various aspects of restoration may be looked at in various temporal planes. Sometimes we will find them expected in the present, pre-Messianic age. At other times, that is, in other texts, they will be expected to occur in the end of days. But for some Qumran texts this distinction is hard to maintain, since, as has been argued by some, the sectarians who gathered the Qumran library and composed the sectarian texts saw themselves as living on the verge of the eschaton, with one foot in the present age and one foot in the future age.

Before embarking on our study, an important aspect of the concept of restoration as it relates to the study of Judaism must be introduced. The Jewish messianic tradition has been seen by G. Scholem as subject to classification in terms of two major trends, restorative and

1 For a brief survey of restoration in the Qumran texts, see M.A. Elliot, The
Survivors of Israel: A Reconsideration of the Theology of Pre-Christian Israel
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000) 540–52.

-203-

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