[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Re: orion some congeners and analogues of "sect"
>The same book derives "sect," with its marked and unmarked meanings, from
the very neutral-sounding Late Latin secta, "organized ecclesiastical
body." Over the course of time, certain neutral words acquire an ominous
cast: compare the modern use of "cult" to mean a marginal religious
group with its Latin ancestor "cultus", meaning "care, adoration." <
A good point (though cultus actually comes from colere, to cultivate; the
Latin use of the same vocabulary for working the earth as for operating the
cult precisely parallels the connection between Greek ergon (work), orgy,
and even liturgy; and ultimately to Hebrew use of the same verb 'abad (to
work) for tilling the soil (see Gen.4:2), as for doing God's "work" (i.e.
the 'abodah in the Sanctuary). (The same vocab. was taken over from Judaism
into Islam, where 'ibadah is ritual worship, and Abdullah, of course, means
servant of God -- exactly modelled on 'ebed-YHWH' (the designation of Moses
in Deut. 34:5). All of this is no accident. Man's primary physical work
was and is tilling the soil; man's primary spiritual work is doing the cult<
>More precise is a Hebrew translation of the beleaguered "sect;" (if one
does not use the barbarous loanword "sekt") this is kat, which also has
the sense of "party, division." Jastrow tells me that "ilu sheva' kittim
shel tzaddiqim" (Midrash Tillim to Psalms) means "these are the seven
classes of righteous men;" the word had a certain neutrality for the
Rabbis, and a fluent speaker of Modern Hebrew could tell me if this is
still so. <
Heb. *kat*, of course is the sameword as mishnaic *kat* meaning class or
division. Like sect in Latin, it comes from a word meaning to divide or .
cut (pure coincidence that cut and *kat* sound the same, though!).*kat* is
the same word as *kittah*, which has essentially the same meanings of "sect"
and "class." (Since *kat* has two plurals, *kittim* and *kittot*, it is quite
possible that *kittah* is a back-formation from *kittot.*)
What Jastrow calls Midrash "Tillim" is, in fact, Midrash Tehillim. I've no
idea why he abbreviates it in that strange way! The citation from Jastrow
begins with the word "elu", not the word "ilu", of course -- but no doubt
this was a typo on the part of Seth Sanders.
Sanders' main point, though, is well taken. "Sect", like "cult", had a neutral
meaning originally. So even if the DSS people called themselves a *kat*, this
need not carry a pejorative meaning either from their point of view, that of
their contemporaries, nor from our own.
Judith Romney Wegner