Prayer in the Qumran texts

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The Dead Sea Scrolls are the single most valuable source for the study of Jewish prayer in the Second Temple period. Other evidence for Jewish prayer practice during this period is notoriously ambiguous: what prayers are preserved appear almost exclusively in literary contexts – either narratives or poetic collections – and references to liturgical prayer are rare. By contrast, in the Dead Sea Scrolls are collections of prayer texts for various designated occasions and indications of a detailed cycle of liturgical prayer such as is otherwise only clearly attested after the destruction of the second temple. Thus, this body of data is potentially a valuable link between the mostly ad hoc prayers glimpsed in the Hebrew Bible and the later synagogue liturgy. On the other hand, neither the source of these prayers nor the relationship between those who prayed them and Judaism at large are obvious. Some view the prayers in the Dead Sea Scrolls as sectarian products representing a marginal practice of limited relevance to the study of Jewish prayer in general. According to this view, the Yaḥad (a common self-designation for the sectarian community in the Qumran texts) developed its liturgy in the place of the sacrificial cult from which it was alienated, anticipating by over two centuries the ‘service of the heart’ which would emerge after the destruction of the second temple. However, a growing conviction among scholars that many of the Dead Sea Scrolls did not originate within the Qumran community – and many of the prayer texts fall into this category – raises the possibility that these prayers reflect Jewish practice more widely.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Judaism
Subtitle of host publicationVolume Three: The Early Roman Period
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781139053662
ISBN (Print)0521243777, 9781107071872
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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