The following was published in NEXT, the Graduate Journal of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a comparative literary analysis of two early sectarian Jewish stories to understand the creation and preservation of identity throughout history. The War Scroll expresses the identity of the Essenes as the last righteous interpreters of God, who will not succumb to the surrounding chaos. The Book of Job expresses the identity of the early Jewish people as moral challengers to unjustified suffering. Both stories place emphasis on the groups’ freedom from external oppression/unjustified suffering due to God’s intervention as long as they maintain a moral identity. This paper argues that while it is apparent that the Book of Job and the War Scroll are wildly different in form, content, and contextual history, both were responses to the external struggles each group faced and both emphasized a moral identity for each respective group. The Book of Job, as Wisdom literature, addressed the issue of theodicy and early Jewish identity, and the War Scroll, as apocalyptic literature, addressed the end times and Essene identity. Despite differing approaches, both of these scriptural texts reflected the external political chaos of each group during the time of authorship and the belief that moral behavior or identity was the key to God’s intervention. Though there is discontinuity in practice of the contemporary Jewish traditions and early sectarian Judaism, there is continuity in the experience of suffering as informing their thought and in creating a sense of group identity. This is articulated by the writing of, and the continued faith in, past stories of suffering.
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