Dissertation in Progress:

“Scripting Identity: Engendering Violent Piety in the War Scroll and the Book of Revelation”

Violence is in the eye of the beholder, and this has proved especially true for ancient literary depictions of religious violence. Despite their context in environments of revolutionary ferment, scholars often approach the early Jesus movement and the Qumran sectarians who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls as non-violent. But these Jewish communities left literary fantasies of divine judgement and a coming eschatological war against their religious and social enemies. To date, what has not been fully considered is the role ritual performance plays in the most famous of these violent depictions: the War Scroll from Qumran and the book of Revelation from the New Testament. By locating these compositions in a culture of ritual and oral performance, this dissertation, explores ritual violence as a potent site for the formation of militant Jewish piety, especially when acts of violence are anticipated, even embodied, in a liturgical reading context. The project takes an interdisciplinary approach that draws on ritual, performance, and gender studies, as well as cognitive theories of violence. Complicating longstanding models of religious pacifism, the dissertation reveals how ritually coded scripts for eschatological war could construct and legitimize audience members not as victims or passive witnesses but as masculine, liturgical agents and potential contributors to violence in the present.

PhD Candidate at Princeton University

Advisor: Dr. Martha Himmelfarb