Document Type


Publication Date



This essay re-examines the difficult questions concerning the origins of apocalyptic literature and the rise of Jewish sectarianism. Since the publication of O. Plöger’s Theokratie und Eschatologie and P. Hanson’s The Dawn of Apocalyptic, the search for proto-apocalyptic origins in early post-exilic period sectarian conflict has generated a fair amount of debate. The most cogent and sustained response to Hanson’s and Plöger’s theories, S. Cook’s Prophecy & Apocalypticism (1995), attempted to purge the influence of “deprivation theory” from the field of biblical studies, and, more broadly, social anthropology. The present essay makes a fresh study of some central lines of thought in these works, especially as they relate to the issue of sectarianism and the social framework used for drawing exegetical conclusions. In particular, one prominent theory of the symbolic—in this case, textual—expression of sectarian groups, that of the anthropologist Mary Douglas, is applied to a series of enigmatic and highly debated texts in Trito-Isaiah in order to show the continued viability of the “sectarian” interpretation of these passages.


Originally published in Biblical Theology Bulletin Volume 40 Number 1, Pages 9–26 © The Author(s), 2010.