Love and Hate at Qumran: The Social Construction of Sectarian Emotion

  • Ari Mermelstein
  • Dead Sea Discoveries, January 2013, Brill
  • DOI: 10.1163/15685179-12341262

What is it about?

Employing a “social constructionist” approach, according to which emotions are culturally conditioned expressions of values, this study considers how the sect behind 1QS used the emotions of love and hate to teach its members the proper ways of evaluating the world. Sectarian love and hate were vehicles through which the sect communicated core beliefs about election and revelation. Because his entrance into the sect was made possible by divine love, the initiate was expected to recognize his utter dependence on the divine will by loving those whom God loves and hating those whom he hates, thereby affirming his place in the covenantal community. Since divine love and hate manifested itself in the selective revelation of knowledge, sectarian love and hate required the unselfish disclosure of knowledge to other group members and the concealment of the same knowledge from outsiders. This link between the emotions of love and hate and an ethic of disclosure and concealment left its mark on routine sectarian conduct in the practice of reproof. Reproof of insiders and the conscious withholding of reproof from outsiders was a “socially dictated performance” of either love or hate that demonstrated the sectarian’s commitment to communal beliefs about covenant, knowledge, divine will, and relations with outsiders.

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