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From Qumran to Philo, Precedence for Paul's Use of Israel

From Qumran to Philo, Precedence for Paul's Use of Israel

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Published by Thomas Whitley

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Published by: Thomas Whitley on Mar 07, 2010
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08/29/2010

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SOUTHEASTERN COMMISSION FOR THE STUDY OF RELIGIONREGIONAL MEETING 2010FROM QUMRAN TO PHILO:
PRECEDENCE FOR PAUL’S USE OF
VIsrah.l
 PRESENTATED DURING THENEW TESTAMENT V SECTIONBYTHOMAS J. WHITLEY7 MARCH 2010
 
 
Almost sixty five years ago certain Bedouin tribesmen in the Judean desert found someold scrolls, the first seven of almost nine hundred found since. From these Dead Sea Scrolls, asthey have come to be called, we are able to catch a glimpse into the prevalent thought-worldsand world-views of the time period from the second century B.C.E to the first century C.E. Of 
particular interest to this paper is the definition of “Israel” that the Dead Sea Scrolls seems to
offer. The Scrolls community, however, is not the only group to offer
a definition of “Israel
.
The Jewish philosopher Philo offers his own interpretation and definition of “Israel
.
” This paperholds Philo’s work and understanding of “Israel” not only as very germane to the discussion, but
also as a crucial step in interpre
ting “Israel
.
” For Philo, “Israel” is an honorary title that signifies
a spiritual level reached only by an elite group of Jews.This paper examines literature from the Dead Sea Scrolls and Philo to show precedence
for Paul’s use of “Israel” in his writings, especially his letters to the Galatians and the Romans.Paul uses “Israel” almost as if it were technical language, for instan
ce, when he speaks of the
“Israel of God” (Gal 6:16) and when he says that “not all
who are out of Israel are Israel
” (Rom
9:6).
This paper argues that Paul’s understanding and use of “Israel” did not happen in a
vacuum, but rather, that there was a literary precedence for understanding and interpreting
“Israel” in such a way as to build group and individual identity. Further, this paper approaches
the topic at hand from a literary-historical perspective, working to illustrate the literary contextin which
Paul wrote his letters insofar as it relates to his use of the term “Israel.”
 
 
 
Community Rule
The Community Rule (1QS) contains occurrences of 
ל ֵא ָר ְש ִי
at several places. At columntwo, line 22
ל ֵא ָר ְש ִי
is used as the name for the priests, Levites, and people collectively who are
ordered so that “each Israelite *shall+ know his proper standing in the
Yahad 
of God, an eternal
society” (1QS II, 22
-
23a). Thus, “Israel” refers to all Israel, yet also refers to the community of 
God, which is, at times, less
inclusive than “all Israel.”
 The next occurrence of 
ל ֵא ָר ְש ִי
is at 1QS column three, lines 24b-
25a: “Yet the God of Israel (and the Angel of His Truth) assist all the Sons of Light.”
ל ֵא ָר ְש ִי
 
is not parallel to the “Sonsof Light” in this verse. Rather, here
ל ֵא ָר ְש ִי
 
still refers to a broad group, while the “Sons of Light”
refers to a subgroup of the wider group; a subgroup, it should be noted, with which God andthe Angel of His Truth are especially interested.The last main section of the Community Rule that contains
ל ֵא ָר ְש ִי
is in column eight.Lines 4b-12a are of note here:When [these twelve laymen and three priests who are blameless in the light of all thathas been revealed from the whole Law] come to be in Israel, then shall the party of the
Yahad 
 
truly be established, an “eternal planting,” a temple for Israel, and –
mystery!
 –
a
Holy of Holies for Aaron; true witnesses to justice, chosen by God’s will to atone for the
land and to
recompense the wicked their due. They will be “the tested wall, the preciouscornerstone” whose foundations shall neither be shaken nor swayed, a fortress, a Holy
of Holies for Aaron, for all of them knowing the Covenant of Justice and thereby offeringa sweet savor. They shall be a blameless and true house in Israel, upholding thecovenant of eternal statutes. They shall be an acceptable sacrifice, atoning for the landand ringing in the verdict against evil, so that perversity ceases to exist. When thesemen have been grounded in the instruction of the
Yahad 
for two years
 –
provided theybe blameless in their conduct
 –
they shall be set apart as holy in the midst of the men of 

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