The sect of the Covenanters, best known from the Rule Scrolls discovered in the Qumran caves, was one of a myriad of voluntary associations that flourished in the Greco-Roman period. Its features have many analogies with the features of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian associations. In Part One, I show that such analogies may be explained by a model of associational formation developed in dialogue with social theorists from Plato and Aristotle to Hegel and Weber. Within rationally constructed social systems, the administrative bureaucracy of a state's cities, military, public cults, and laws provide patterns upon which voluntary associations base their own features. This helps to explain the consistency of associational features. Further, voluntary associations flourish in "civil society," a sphere of social action between the state and the household that exists when state authorities extend specific liberties to subjects. Most voluntary associations that form within civil society assimilate state ideology and disseminate it among members. Associational "assimilative civic ideology" is invaluable for long-term political stability and helps explain why state authorities in the Hellenistic and Roman eras commonly promoted licit associational activity. When civil society flourishes, associations with "alternative civic ideology" may also form. The Covenanters of the Dead Sea Scrolls were, like the Epicureans and Pauline ekklēsiai, members of a voluntary association that identified and organized themselves as citizens of a commonwealth other than and superior to that of the contemporary state. Within associations with "alternative civic ideology," replication and alteration of state features can function as a powerful tool for critiquing the political status quo. In Part Two, I show in detail how the features of the Covenanters' sect were established along the lines of a holy commonwealth, from common "citizens" to a governing "council," from courts and military to a cult modeled after that of the Jerusalem temple. The Covenanters' replication and "improvement" of constitutional and legal patterns not only presented an alternative civic ideology that stood as a powerful critique of the Judean state; it also contained the rudiments of a new constitution of Israel that the sect expected would be established imminently through divine intervention.
|School:||The University of Chicago|
|School Location:||United States -- Illinois|
|Source:||DAI-A 68/08, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Bible, Ancient civilizations, Judaic studies|
|Keywords:||Civic ideology, Covenanters, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, Greco-Roman, Qumran, Voluntary associations|
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