The Dead Sea Scrolls on Sexuality; Attitudes towards Sexuality in Sectarian and Related Literature at Qumran

By Ellens, J. Harold | Cross Currents, June 2012 | Go to article overview

The Dead Sea Scrolls on Sexuality; Attitudes towards Sexuality in Sectarian and Related Literature at Qumran


Ellens, J. Harold, Cross Currents


William Loader

Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009. pp. 439 + x, cloth $44.00.

William Loader is Professor Emeritus at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia. He is currently a Professorial Research Fellow of the Australian Research Council studying attitudes toward sexuality in Judaism and Christianity. He has written numerous volumes in this global project. They include the following in reverse order of publication: The Pseudepigrapha on Sexuality, Attitudes Towards Sexuality in Apocalypses, Testaments, Legends, Wisdom, and Related Literature (2011); Sexuality in the New Testament, Understanding the Key Texts (2010); Enoch, Levi, and Jubilees on Sexuality, Attitudes Towards Sexuality in the Early Enoch literature, The Aramaic Levi Document, and the Book of Jubilees (2007); Sexuality and the Jesus Tradition (2005); The Septuagint, Sexuality, and the New Testament, Case Studies on the Impact of the LXX in Philo and the New Testament (2004). The present volume (2009) obviously fits between the ones on Enoch and on The New Testament.

Professor Loader has earned the right to be known as the specialist on sexuality in the ancient Judeo-Christian world on two grounds. First, he has studied all the literature on sexuality in the Bible including the LXX translation of the OT, in all the literature on sexuality of Second Temple Judaism, and on sexuality as related to the Jesus traditions. Second, he has exercised a consistent, thoroughgoing, and meticulous methodology in his work that explores the intricate details of each relevant text, drawing out their meaning and implications, and both the literary and theological relationship between them. His approach is based upon careful exegesis of each textual element related to the matter in focus and he has drawn global conclusions from the insight thereby derived. So he gives us the data, meaning, and the relevant rationale.

This volume contains an illumining introduction, eight chapters, and an appropriate scholarly bibliography of 420 volumes, as well as indexes of 2700 entries. The chapter titles and subject categories are helpfully revealing, a kind of trademark of Professor Loader's publications. Chapter one is on Attitudes Towards Sexuality in the Temple Scroll and addresses its discussion of idolatry, sexuality, the relevant laws of Moses, and those of the kings of Israel and Judah. The second chapter is about Attitudes Towards Sexuality in 4QMMT, one of the more important Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). It concerns issues or relations with non-Jews. Chapter three is nearly 100 pages long and is preoccupied with Attitudes Towards Sexuality in the Damascus Document (CD). It is a meticulous study of the four different accounts in the CD, together with its catalog of transgressions. Chapter three then analyzes the laws of community regulations and discusses them in connection with the catalog of transgressions.

Chapter four, on Attitudes Towards Sexuality in the Legal Texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, has four sub-units: The Community Rule, The Rule of the Congregation, The War Scroll, and Other Legal Texts. These were some of the most important documents in the life of the DSS community. Chapter five deals with purification rituals, the thanksgiving hymns, conflict and sexuality in the community, self-deprecation and sexuality, and numerous other regulations related to marriage, festival prayers, incantations, and rituals of purification. It is entitled Attitudes Towards Sexuality in the Legal Texts.

This is followed by Attitudes Towards Sexuality in Biblical Exposition and Related Material, chapter six. It deals with various commentaries and celebrations or expositions of the psalms, plus discussions of Genesis, the Pentateuch in general, Jubilees as a rework of the Pentateuch, Exodus, and the Exile. Attitudes Towards Sexuality in the Wisdom Texts comes next as Chapter seven. It contains dissertations on married women and men, marriage itself, dualism and sexuality, mysteries and their rituals, the testament and visions of Amram and Qahat, and the wiles of woman who lead one astray.

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