Rebekah HaighCandler MTS alumna and current ThM student Rebekah Haigh 16T 17T has received a Fulbright Scholarship for the 2017-2018 academic year. Considered one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world, the Fulbright is a merit-based award supporting international educational exchanges between the United States and more than 160 other countries. The typical grant covers one year of study abroad.

Haigh will spend her Fulbright year at Hebrew University in Jerusalem studying the War Scroll, one of the first Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts to be discovered in 1947 in caves around Khirbet Qumran, the location of a religious sect that coexisted alongside early Christianity.

The War Scroll, commonly known as “The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness,” specifies how the Qumran community should organize, fight, and pray as warriors in a coming supernatural battle against the armies of darkness to attain the political and religious restoration of Israel. Haigh’s project, Desert Drama: The War Scroll as a Performance Text, will draw on the field of performance studies through orality and textual analysis to consider how the scroll’s disparate elements—made up of ritual, descriptive, narrative and liturgical material—might be holistically understood.

“By showing that the War Scroll possesses these oral features in its dramatic and descriptive sections, I aim to demonstrate that the entire text was intended for oral, communal performance,” Haigh says. “Performance criticism might also reconstitute our understanding of the Qumran community as a group that performatively entered into battle against the forces of darkness.”

During her three years at Candler, Haigh’s research interests have centered on ancient Judaism, specifically Second Temple period literature and Hellenistic Judaism. She served as research assistant to Charles Howard Candler Professor of New Testament Carl Holladay during his writing of Acts: A Commentary (Westminster John Knox, 2016). She also studied the Dead Sea Scrolls with Charles Howard Candler Professor of Old Testament Carol Newsom, an expert in the field.

“Dr. Newsom equipped me to engage the Dead Sea Scrolls critically, provided the opportunity for me to translate various Qumran texts, and inspired my fascination with the community’s rituals and rhetoric,” Haigh says. Her directed study on the War Scroll with Newsom prompted Haigh’s proposed Fulbright project.

“My project will hopefully lay the groundwork for further research on the performativity of Dead Sea Scroll texts and expand the ways we might imagine these texts functioning, as well as shaping the community’s sense of identity,” she says.

Haigh received her bachelor’s degree from Rochester College, where she concentrated broadly in religion, focusing on ancient languages, the Hebrew Bible, and archaeology in Israel and Jordan. She credits her father’s stories of a trip spent hiking around the Sea of Galilee and experiencing Israeli culture with “sparking a childhood fascination that eventually inspired my own academic interest in ancient Israel, its society, and its history.”

Founded in 1946, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.