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Seth's dictionary gave the following definitions of sect:
>"a dissenting or schismatic religious
>body, esp. one regarded as extreme or heretical." versus an unmarked
>meaning: "a religious denomination."
I feared that the term "sect" might be brought down to something as
quasi-meaningless as a "religious denomination", which could indicate almost
any group that received a separate name: one might imagine Jesuite,
Nazirite, Dominican, Hasid (2nd cent bce type), allowing one to sneak across
the border to the other more common definition when it suits. WE know which
definition we mean though, don't we? Yet, as Seth says, the word is clearly
When, however, we talk about a "party", no not democrat, the problem does
not emerge: we can think of factions within one "organization". Seth and
Greg's statements on the weakening of the term to something else may be of
some use, diffusing the value laden content in the word "sect". However, we
must understand that the term was applied by twentieth century people, who
claim that the writers of the dss were in fact outside the mainstream in
If one wants to use the term "sect" for the group that controlled the temple
cultus, ie the priesthood, who clearly separated themselves -- at least in
and around the temple --, I cannot see any reason for using the word "sect"
anyway, why not simply "the temple priesthood", avoiding that load already
>"Sect" seems to me to be historically loaded (which does not mean it is
>useless, just a bit volatile); perhaps Talmon's "serekh", as Greg
>suggests, is a good term to use when one wants to be careful.
I guess if the mental equation doesn't develop that "serekh" = "sect (def.
1)" it might diffuse the terminological problem.