Monday, September 10, 2012

H-JUDAIC book reviews

Joseph L. Angel. Otherworldly and Eschatological Priesthood in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Leiden: Brill, 2010. xiii + 380 pp. $179.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-90-04-18145-8.

Reviewed by
James Bowley (Millsaps College)
Published on H-Judaic (September, 2012)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

Priests in Heaven, the Eschaton, and Qumran

This study began as Joseph L. Angel’s 2008 dissertation at New York University, under the tutelage of Lawrence Schiffman. Angel takes up interesting issues of priesthood within Dead Sea Scrolls that have not received a full-scale systematic inquiry heretofore, namely, the frequently encountered images of an angelic (or “otherworldly”) priesthood and an eschatological priesthood. His turn toward these nonhistorical priestly imaginings of the ancient scroll writers is motivated not just by curiosity but also by his awareness of the thorniness of trying to derive any secure data about historical and social priestly realities of the authors’ community or communities. He writes that “the present study therefore largely abandons such historical inquiry in favor of investigation of the imagined constructs of priesthood in the Scrolls corpus” (p. 15). Acknowledgement of uncertainties is always commendable, and in chapter 1 Angel notes that the varied explanations of the religious and social origins of the authors of the scrolls have “highlighted the gaps in our knowledge regarding the variety of groups in Second Temple period Judaism” and “underscored the need to broaden our perspective regarding Qumran origins beyond the confining borders of the Essene hypothesis” (p. 8). As the book proceeds, it is clear that the study does not depend on or promote a certain viewpoint of these matters.

I have not read this book but, judging by the reviewer's summary, I would probably agree with many of its conclusions.
Ada Rapoport-Albert. Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, 1666-1816. Translated by Deborah Greniman. Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2011. xvi + 386 pp. $64.50 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-904113-84-3.

Reviewed by Michael Galas (Jagiellonian University)
Published on H-Judaic (September, 2012)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

Female Messiahs in Judaism

In recent years, the study of Sabbatianism and its final phase, Frankism, has experienced a renaissance. The movement was first studied on a large scale by Gershom Scholem; currently many books and articles are being published which seek to undermine his "authority" on the subjects but these rarely offer new approaches or interpretations. Ada Rapoport-Albert's book is a breakthrough in this field, interpreting previously known sources in a way that sets up new research areas that had been overlooked or ignored.

Rapoport-Albert examines the role of women in Sabbatianism by incorporating a number of innovative studies on women in Hasidism. She begins with the theme of women in Sabbatianism by arguing that women are the factor that distinguishes this mystical-messianic movement from others: "One of Sabbatianism's most distinctive and persistent features was the high visibility of women within its ranks. They were among the movement's earliest and most ardent supporters--championing the messianic cause, proclaiming its gospel, and from time to time emerging as its chief protagonists" (pp. 11-12). She then adds that if one wants to look for the roots of "feminism" in the premodern period it can be found precisely in Sabbatianism, not Hasidism. It is this statement that she tries to prove within the pages of her book.

For lots more on Shabbetai Zvi and Sabbateanism, see here and links.