ISBN : 9780190842383
Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism proposes a new approach to the understanding of many Jewish groups and sects from the last centuries BCE and the first centuries CE. Michael Stone argues that the known ancient Jewish groups-the Qumran covenanters, Josephus's and Philo's Essenes, and Philo's Therapeutae-can 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 these groups as secret societies enables us to see previously latent social structural dimensions, and provides many new enriching insights into the groups, including the Dead Sea covenanters. Drawing on sociological analyses of secret societies, Stone also compares these Jewish groups with mystery religions of the contemporary Greek and Roman world, and of early Christianity. His approach casts a powerful new light on ancient Jewish religious groups and highlights unstudied aspects of the world of Christian origins.
Preface; Chapter 1. Secret Societies in Ancient Judaism; Chapter 2. Esoteric, Mysteries, and Secrecy; 2.1 Esoteric; 2.2 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; 5.1 Initiation; 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; Bibliography