The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls brought to light the richest collection of early Jewish writings ever retrieved from the ancient world, including copies of biblical writings centuries older than other surviving manuscripts. Their gradual publication unleashed a flurry of research and considerable speculation. One such area of speculation concerns the understanding of sexuality in the ancient Jewish world.
William Loader here investigates every document of potential relevance for understanding ancient attitudes towards sexuality, aside from the biblical writings -- and there are many such documents. They include the Temple Scroll; 4QMMT; the Damascus Document; and a number of legal, liturgical, wisdom, and exegetical documents. These texts treat a wide range of matters pertaining to sexuality, from ritual and cultic concerns to visions of human community and family in future expectation. Far from the common view that the writers of the Scrolls held a low view of sexuality and marriage, Loader concludes that most of these sources reflect an affirmative stance towards sex and marriage within a framework of clear boundaries marking out where sex did and did not belong. The Dead Sea Scrolls on Sexuality
offers the first comprehensive treatment of this subject and comprises both detailed exegetical discussion of each work and a synthetic analysis of themes. The attention to detail displayed and the helpful summaries included make this book an indispensable resource for both scholars and students.
James C. VanderKamUniversity of Notre Dame
"In The Dead Sea Scrolls on Sexuality William Loader makes a second, definitive contribution to his larger project of researching attitudes toward sexuality in Judaism and Christianity in the Greco-Roman period. He subjects major texts (the Temple Scroll, 4QMMT, the Damascus Document) and significant types of texts (legal, liturgical, expository, sapiential) to the same detailed, systematic analysis that he carried out in his Enoch, Levi, and Jubilees on Sexuality. Leaving no stone unturned, he reveals the attitudes in the texts to diverse aspects of sexuality and finds some changes of emphasis over time. The Scrolls present human sexuality positively, as a divine gift, though it is an area in which one must exercise special care lest one misuse it. This book is the best, most complete study of the topic available."
Kelley Coblentz BautchSt. Edwards University
"An excellent, much-needed study. I especially appreciate Loader's engagement with others' research — a particular strength of the work — and his up-to-date bibliography. This book will generate lively discussion among Scrolls scholars."