Legalism and apocalypticism in early Judaism

Depoix, D. J. (1999-11)

Thesis (M.A.) -- University of Stellenbosch, 1999.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Early Judaism, between approximately 200 BCE and 70 CE, had developed two significant strains of belief which affected the reli~ious and social conduct of the i various sections of the population: legalism and apocalypticism. They had evolved over a long historical period, in£luenced by political developments and social insecurity within Palestine, and by the destabilizing effects of .Hellenization on the traditional values of Judaism. The literature of the period indicates separate groups within the diversified culture of Judaism, in which , , allegiance was to either Temple-based adherence to the Law or to the dissident apocalyptic tradition, with different I I eschatological expectations. In contrast, the Qumranic, socially-integrated, sectarians icombined within their thought-processes and praxis both an extremely strict legalism and also significant elements of apocalyptic belief. They were able to accommodate both aspects because of a realized eschatologx which considered the group to be the sole chosen remnant of Israel, already in the company of the holy angels and predestined for salvation. Within the greater Jewish milieu, legalism and apocalypticism were oppositional forces : within Qumran they were complementary. Rigid legalism, to maintain ritual purity, would hasten the imminent eschaton, with , apocalyptic annihilation of evil by God and his angels.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Gedurende die vroee JudaYsme, tussen 'ongeveer 200 v.C. en 70 n.C., het twee betekenisvolle religieuse verskynsels ontwikkel wat die godsdienstige en sosiale optrede van verskeie seksies van die bevolking beYnvloed het, naamlik die legalisme en apokaliptisisme. Hierdie verskynsels het oor 'n lang historiese periode ontwikkel en is beYnvloed deur politieke verwikkeli~ge en sosiale onsekerhede binne Palestina, sowel as deur die destabiliserende effek van die Hellenisme op die tradisionele waardes van die JudaYsme. Die literatuur van hierdie tydvak dui op afsonderlike groepe binne die uiteenlopende kulture van die JudaYsme, waarin daar getrou gebly is aan 'n tempel-gebaseerde vaskleef aan die Wet, aan die een kant, of aan die afwykende apokaliptiese tradisie, met uiteenlopende eskatologiese verwagtinge, aan die ander kant. In kontrashiermee, het die sosiaal geYntegreerde Qumran sekte binne hulle denke en praktyk beide 'n ekstreme streng legalisme, asook betekenisvolle elemente van apokaliptiese geloofsperspektiewe:gekombineer. Hulle was in staat om beide aspekte te akkommodeer as gevolg van 'n gerealiseerde eskatologie wat die groep beskou het as die uitsluitlike uitverkore oorblyfsel van Israel, wat alreeds in die teenwoordigheid van heilige engele was en voorbeskik was vir redding. Binne die groter Joodse milieu was legalisme en apokaliptisisme kontrasterende kragte; in Qumran daarenteen funksioneer hulle komplementerend. Strenge legalisme, om, onder andere, die rituele reinheid te handhaaf, sou die ophande eschaton, met die gepaardgaande uitwissing van die bose deur God en sy engele, verhaas.

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