Liturgical Works

Liturgical Works

Liturgical Works

Liturgical Works

Synopsis


Among the invaluable manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are numerous fragments of liturgical texts pertaining to the ritual life of Jews living around the turn of the common era. These fascinating writings include prayers for annual festivals, a covenant renewal liturgy, a mystical liturgy for Sabbath sacrifices, a grace ceremony for mourners, daily and weekly prayers, liturgies of purification, and perhaps even a wedding ceremony. In this volume, the first to be published in the Eerdmans Commentaries on the Dead Sea Scrolls series, James Davila introduces, translates, and provides a detailed exegesis of these important documents.

The book begins with a general introduction to the Qumran library and Jewish liturgical traditions. Davila then provides an introduction, translation, notes on the original Hebrew, and line-by-line commentary for each of the Qumran liturgical works. Davila's excellent translation work combines overlapping fragmentary manuscripts into a single, smoothly flowing text, and his commentary includes numerous fresh insights and observations on these writings. Giving full attention to parallel texts found in the Hebrew Bible and other Jewish and Christian writings through late antiquity, Davila firmly situates the Qumran liturgical works in their historical context in Second Temple Judaism and discusses their significance as background to the Jewish liturgy, Jewish mysticism, and Christian origins.

Shedding light on a period of Jewish history whose ritual life formerly lay almost entirely in darkness, this volume makes--and subsequent ECDSS volumes will make--a valuable contribution to our understanding of the biblical world.

Excerpt

The story of the discovery more than half a century ago of a large cache of scrolls in caves overlooking the Dead Sea near the Wadi Qumran is too well known to require a detailed rehearsal here. the Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the greatest archaeological treasures ever recovered, and although all too often preserved only in small pieces, they have added immeasurably to our knowledge of pre-rabbinic Judaism and the cultural background of early Christianity. They include our earliest manuscripts of most books of the Hebrew Bible, copies in the original Aramaic and Hebrew of Jewish books that had survived otherwise only in translations (such as 1 Enoch and Jubilees), and numerous previously unknown Jewish compositions, mostly in Hebrew and Aramaic, some of which show a sectarian consciousness that defines itself in contrast to other contemporary forms of Judaism.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have been and remain a focal point of controversy, with even the most basic questions about them still subject to debate. It is agreed that they were hidden in the caves around the turn of the era, probably in response to the invasion of the Roman military forces in 68 ce. Some doctrines, precepts, and ideas in the sectarian texts resemble those of the Essenes, a Jewish group described by a number of writers in the first century ce, including the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, and the Roman author Pliny the Elder. Many but not all specialists in Qumran studies see a close relationship between the sectarian scrolls and the . . .

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