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orion-list "Doers of War" - Qumran Sectarians
Readers may recall my proposals (more or less tacitly
accepted) that the Qumran "Doers of the Law" probably
had their foundation in being "Doers of War" during the
This view would tie together many
separate strands of tradition: 1) Limited celibacy, 2) common
property, 3) frugality, 4) discipline, 5) strict rankings, 6) annual
promotions and demotions, 7) strict latrine/bathroom regulations,
8) use of terminology like "camps" and "volunteers",
9) factional extremes that sometimes employed assassination
and forced circumcision, 10) secret oaths (with no doubt
secret methods of recognition and conducting other business),
and 11) very harsh penalties including execution, especially for
switching alliances and/or betrayal; and 12) a broad
distribution of "camps" throughout Palestine as a remnant of a
clandestine militia distributed throughout the land.
Well, I just happened to be browsing through Peter Brown's
"THE BODY AND SOCIETY: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation
in Early Christianity" (Columbia University Press, NY, (c) 1988)
which had a short discussion of the Qumran and related communities.
Page 38 had this to say: "The community revealed in the Dead Sea
Scrolls appears to have demanded that a number of its male members
should live under a vow of celibacy for an indefinite period. It seems
they considered themselves to be warriors [ ? Doers of War ?] of Israel,
subject to the vows of abstinence that bound men for the duration of a
The celibate state of these few stood for the embattled character of the
Community as a whole. They were the true "Camp" of the children of
Israel, established, once again, in the Promised Land. In the Camp, male
devotees thought of themselves as standing beside the "holy angels" .
These angels were not thought of primarily as sexless beings. They
were imagined, rather, as the serried ranks of an expectant army, which
must not be allowed to crumble into the disordered state of mere
civilians, whose seed flowed freely when they slept at ease with their
[Footnote 20 - War Rule 7, Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Trans. G.
Vermes. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968, p. 133)]
[Footnote 21 - See Matthew Black, "The Tradition of Hasidaean-Essene
Asceticism: Its Origins and influence" .....]
The book has lots to think about in terms of WHERE the early Christians
discovered SUCH a strong interest in celibacy considering the strong
emphasis on procreation found in the Pharisaic schools (and later
Rabbinical schools) of the Middle East.
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