I was recently informed that my paper proposal, “Taking Their Place with the Host of the Holy Ones: The Contribution of Biblical Texts to the Qumran Belief in Individual and Communal Ascent to Heaven,” has been accepted for presentation at the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Annual Meeting this November in Baltimore.  It was accepted for the Esotericism and Mysticism in Antiquity program unit session.  I have long enjoyed the sessions of this program unit, extending back to when they were called “Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism,” and it will be an honor for me to present at their session.

This paper will be similar, in a number of ways, to a paper I will be giving at BYU in October at the Sperry Symposium.

Here is the abstract:

The Qumran text entitled “Rule of the Congregation” (1Q28a/1QSa) declares that all who desired membership in the community needed to be sufficiently worthy to be admitted, “For the holy angels are [a part of] their [congrega]tion” (1QSa II:8-9).   Other Qumran texts such as the Hodayot (“Thanksgiving Psalms”), the related “Self-Glorification Hymn,” the “Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice,” and many other liturgical and poetical texts, imply a belief in liturgical communion with angelic beings and human access to the divine council in the celestial temple of God.  My research on these texts has uncovered a pattern perceptible in these texts that, when pieced together, entails:

a)  an individual, often the speaker of the hymn/psalm, or leader of the community/congregation, speaks as if he has been taken up into heaven to stand in the divine council of God;

b)  in that setting, he is instructed in the praise of God and is taught the heavenly “mysteries,” often by God himself in a theophanic experience;

c) the individual is appointed to be a teacher, often with the implication that he will teach the mysteries that he learned from God to others;

d) those who follow his teachings are similarly enabled to participate in the heavenly vision and praise God together with the angels, often singing or shouting for joy;

e) some texts indicate that these human worshippers are subsequently clothed with heavenly robes of righteousness in imitation of the heavenly beings.

This paper will build on the work of scholars such as Bjorn Frennesson, Crispin Fletcher-Louis, James Davila, Carol Newsom, Eileen Schuller, Esther Chazon and others, and further demonstrate that these bold concepts were based primarily on the authors’ interpretation of passages and themes from the biblical Psalms (e.g., Pss. 18, 63, 89, 132) and other scriptural writings (e.g., Isaiah’s “Servant Songs”) that borrow these motifs. The authors of these texts can be understood to be creating new poetic/liturgical works that more fully apply to their community and situation, putting themselves in the place of the biblical protagonists (e.g., king, priest, prophet, servant, congregation, Israel, Yahweh). Additionally, I will illustrate how these new compositions should be seen as inspired by cultic/temple practices prescribed in the biblical texts.  


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