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Title: Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism
Author: Stone, Michael E
Publisher: Oxford University Press; Publication Date: 2017
Hardcover; ISBN: 9780190842383
Volumes: 1; Pages: 192
List Price in Hardcover: $74.00 Our price: $59.99
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Were there groups in Ancient Judaism that cultivated esoteric knowledge and transmitted it secretly? With the discovery and burgeoning study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and particularly of the documents legislating the social structure of the Qumran group, the foremost paradigm for analysis of the group's social structure has become the "sect." This is still dominant, having replacing the monastic paradigm used by some of the earliest scholars of the Scrolls.
But after studying what has been written on secret societies more generally, Michael Stone has concluded that many known ancient Jewish groups-the Qumran covenanters, Josephus's and Philo's Essenes, and Philo's Therapeutae-should be viewed as societies at the heart of whose existence were esoteric knowledge and practice. Guarding and transmitting this esoteric knowledge and practice, Stone argues, provided the dynamic that motivated the social and conceptual structure of these groups. Analyzing them as secret societies, he says, enables us to see previously latent social structural dimensions, and provides many new enriching insights into the groups, including the Dead Sea covenanters.
By examining historical and literary sources, Stone uncovers evidence for the existence of other secret groups in ancient Jewish society. This line of study leads Stone not only to consider the "classical" Jewish apocalypses as pseudo-esoteric, but also to discern in them the footsteps of hidden, truly esoteric traditions cultivated in the circles that produced the apocalypses. This discovery has significant implications, especially considering the enormous growth of study of the apocalyptic in the Judaism of the Second Temple period and in nascent Christianity over the last seventy years.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Secret Societies in Ancient Judaism
Chapter 2. "Esoteric," Mysteries, and Secrecy
2.3 Religious Experience and the Claim of Authority
Chapter 3. Esoteric as a Social Category
3.1 Knowledge and Control of Knowledge
3.2. Oral or Written
Chapter 4. The Social Organization of Secrecy
4.1 Mysteries and Secrecy in Hellenistic-Roman Society
4.2 Secret Societies and Ancient Judaism
4.3 Essenes and Therapeutae in Secret Groups
Chapter 5. Initiation and Graded Revelation
5.2 Hierarchical Structure
Chapter 6. Other Secret Jewish Groups and Traditions
6.1 Indications of Other Secret Groups
6.2. Status and the Pseudo-Esoteric
Chapter 7. The Social Setting of Esoteric Tradition
7.1 Socio-Religious Groups
7.2 Teachings known to have existed that may have been secret
7.3 Narrative Frameworks and Secret Transmission
"Circles Behind" and Final Thoughts