2015-35-Main Body-Preterist View of “Romano-Judaean Eschaton”
|Josephus: Henry Leeming: Josephus’ Jewish War and Its Slavonic Version: A Synoptic Comparison (2003) “This volume presents in English translation the Slavonic version of Josephus Flavius’ “Jewish War, long inaccessible to Anglophone readers, according to N.A. Materskej‘s scholarly edition, together with his erudite and wide-ranging study of literary, historical and philological aspects of the work, a textological apparatus and commentary. The synoptic layout of the Slavonic and Greek versions in parallel columns enables the reader to compare their content in detail. It will be seen that the divergences are far more extensive than those indicated hitherto.”
|Josephus Pleads Still
“the ‘Way’ terminology, so widespread in these materials, is evoked, a phrase, as we have seen, delineated in the Community Rule in terms of the ‘study of the Torah‘ and known to the Book of Acts as a name for early Christianity in Palestine from the 40s to the 60s (22:4, 24:22, etc.)”
THIS DOCUMENT RECONSTRUCTED
0 ‘we broke with the majority of the people and refused to mix with or go along with them on these matters.’
Jewish Apocalyptic Writings:
The “Dead Sea Scrolls”
OF THE JERUSALEM TEMPLE, MILITANT ZEALOTS & PELLA-BOUND CHRISTIANS
WORKS RECKONED AS RIGHTEOUSNESS
And we recognize that some of the blessings and curses have come, those written in the Bo[ok of Mo]ses; therefore this is the End of Days
(5) For by reason of these . . . because of] violence and fornication [some] (6) places have been destroyed. [Further,] it is writt[en in the Book of Moses,] ‘You [are no]t to bring the abomination t[o your house, because] (7) the abomination is despised (by God).’
[Now, you know that] we broke with the majority of the peo[ple and refused] (8) to mix or go along wi[th them] on these matters. You also k[now that] (9) no rebellion or Lying or Evil [should be] found in His Temple. It is because of [these things w]e present [these words] (10) [and (earlier) wrot]e to you, so that you will understand the Book of Moses [and the words of the Pr]ophets and of Davi[d, along with the (11) chronicles of every] generation.
In the Book (of Moses) it is written, . . s[o] that not . . . (12) It is also written, ‘[(If) you turn] from the W[a]y, then Evil will meet [you.’] Again, it is written, (13) ‘It shall come to pass when [al]l [t]hese thing[s com]e upon you in the End of Days, the blessing (14) [and] the curse [that I have set before you, and you ca]ll them to m[in]d, and return to me with all your heart (15) and with [a]ll [your] soul’ [. . . at the En]d [Time,] then you will l[i]v[e . . . Once again, (16) it is written in the Book] of Moses and in [the words of the Prophe]ts that [blessings and curses] will come [upon you . . . (21) the ble]ssin[gs that] cam[e upon i]t (Israel) in [his d]ays [and] in the days of Solomon the son of David, as well as the curses (22) [that] came upon it from the d[ays of Jer.] (23) [For] he may bri[n]g them upon . . . And we recognize that some of the blessings and curses have come, (24) those written in the Bo[ok of Mo]ses; therefore this is the End of Days, when (those) in Isra[e]l are the return (25) to the La[w of God with all their heart,] never to turn bac[k] (again).
Meanwhile, the wicked will increase in wick[ed]ness and . . . (26) Remember the kings of Israe[l], and understand their works. Whoever of them (27) feared [the L]aw was saved from sufferings; when they so[ug]ht the Law, (28) [then] their sins [were forgiven] them. Remember David. He was a man of pious works, and he, also, (29) was [sa]ved from many sufferings and forgiven. And finally, we (earlier) wrote you about (30) some of the works of the Law, which we reckoned for your own Good and for that of your people, for we see (31) that you possess discernment and Knowledge of the Torah. Consider all these things, and beseech Him to grant you (32) proper counsel, and to keep you far from evil thoughts and the counsel of Belial.
(33) Then you will rejoice at the End Time, when you find some of our words were true. Thus, ‘It will be reckoned to you as Righteousness’, your having done what is Upright and Good before Him, for your own Good and for that of Israel.
‘We have determined that… [Je]rusale[m] is the ‘camp’, and that outside the camp [is ‘outside of Jerusalem’]. … For Jerusalem is the holy camp. It is the place which He chose from all the tribes of Israel, for [Jer]usalem is the foremost of the c[a]mps of Israel’ (4QMMT B:29–30; 60–61).
The First Complete Translation And Interpretation of 50 Key Documents Withheld For Over 35 Years
Robert Eisenman & Michael Wise
That this text is a second letter is clearly signaled in Lines 29-30, quoted above, which refer to a first letter already having been written on the same subject – ‘works reckoned as justifying you’ (italics ours). Though fragments of the two letters are in the same handwriting, it is not clear that these are directly connected or on the same or succeeding columns. That the same scribe wrote both letters would not be either unexpected or surprising – nor would the possibility that both letters were already circulating as part of the same document or manuscript, as for instance 1 and 2 Corinthians or 1 and 2 Thessalonians noted above. The second letter is, in any event, extant in a single document.
This short epistle of some 35 extant lines is also of the most far-reaching significance for Qumran studies, not only for all the reasons set forth in our discussion of the First Letter, but also because this text is clearly eschatological. The question then becomes, when were people thinking in such an eschatological manner, i.e., using expressions in daily correspondence like ‘the End of Days’ (13 and 24) or a less familiar one used here for the first time in the new materials we have been considering, ‘the End Time’ (15 and 33)? Together these terms are used four times in an extant document of only some 35 lines. This also distinguishes this letter to a certain extent from the first one, where they were not used, at least not in extant fragments.
Besides these points, the exact nature and context of the ‘split’ between the group responsible for these writings and ‘the majority of the people’ is delineated here. Its words are pregnant with meaning: ‘we broke with the majority of the people and refused to mix with or go along with them on these matters.’ The word used in Line 7 is parash, the presumable root of the word ‘Pharisee’, but these are obviously not anything resembling normative Pharisees. The very issue of ‘mixing’ in Line 8 (cf. Line 87 above) is, of course, related to that of ‘improper separation’ and not ‘separating clean from unclean’ just discussed above. This sentence alone — known but not revealed for over 35 years – would be sufficient to identify our group as sectatian — at least according to their own evaluation. And it definitively identifies them as a group — a movement.
Finally, the issues over which the split occurred are brought into stark relief. These are always firmly attached to ‘the Law’, repeatedly and unequivocally called here ‘the Book of Moses’ (11,16,24 and compare Line 6 of the last column of the Damascus Document below: ‘the Torah of Moses’). Added to these are the Prophets, David (presumably Psalms), and some additional writings, probably Chronicles and the like (10-11); that is, we are at a point when the Bible, as we know it, has to a very considerable extent emerged and the Deuteronomic blessings and curses are recognized as being intimately connected with the arrival of ‘the last days’ (23-24). These ‘blessings and curses’ will also be the focal point of the last column of the Damascus Document at the end of this chapter.
The vocabulary is rich in Qumranisms throughout, including references to hamas (‘violence’), (macal) (‘rebellion’), zanut (‘fornication’), Sheker (‘Lying’), and ‘heart’ and ‘Belial’ imagery. Many of these phrases are to be found in the Damascus Document. For instance, CD,iv.7, as we have seen, actually uses the terminology ‘condemning the Wicked’ (25) — as opposed to ‘justifying the Righteous’ — when describing the eschatological activity of the ‘sons of Zadok.. in the last days’.
Probably reinforcing the impression that this is addressed to an actual king, the particular example of David is developed in Line 27ff., as are his works — which were in their view ‘Pious’ (Hassadim). Again the ‘Way’ terminology, so widespread in these materials, is evoked, a phrase, as we have seen, delineated in the Community Rule in terms of the ‘study of the Torah‘ and known to the Book of Acts as a name for early Christianity in Palestine from the 40s to the 60s (22:4, 24:22, etc.) Here, forgiveness from sin is found in ‘seeking the Torah‘, just as in the Community Rule ‘the Way in the wilderness’ — applied in the Gospels to John the Baptist’s activities — is interpreted as ‘the study of the Torah‘ and, immediately thereafter, ‘being zealous for the Law and the time of the Day of Vengeance’ (note the parallel use of the word ‘time’ again). This expression ‘study of the Torah‘, familiar in Rabbinic Judaism too, will reappear in the last line of the Damascus Document below.
The text ends with a ringing affirmation, as we have noted above, of what can be described as the Jamesian position on ‘justification’: that by ‘doing’ these ‘works of the Law’ however minute (note the emphasis on doing again) in the words of Gen. 15:6 and Ps. 106:31 — a psalm packed with the vocabulary we are considering here — ‘it will be reckoned to you as Righteousness’. As a result, you will have kept far from ‘the consel of Belial’ and ‘at the End Time you will rejoice’ (32-3). This last most surely means either ‘being resurrected’ or ‘enjoy the Heavenly Kingdom’, or both — an interesting proposition to be putting to a king or Community Leader in this time. Note, too, the allusion to this word ‘time’ paralleling the second exegesis of ‘the Way in the wilderness’ material in 1QS, ix. 19 above. The tone of the address, like that to King Jonathan below, is again most certainly warm and conciliatory.
For his part, Josephus provides a glimpse of how Daniel was seen by a first-century Jewish historian: ‘One of the greatest prophets…for the books that he wrote (note the plural here) and left are read by us even now… He not only predicted the future, like the other prophets, but specified when the events would happen (Ant. 10.266-8)”
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
“This description would not only have relevance for this text, but also for the view of the prophets as soothsayers and fortune-tellers with special knowledge about the future in the first century, which we discussed in the introduction to this chapter. The belief that Daniel had predicted not only what would happen, but when, was no doubt a significant factor in the timing of the war with Rome in AD 66. For instance, the 70 years of wrath in Dan. 9:3 – a known interest in the War Scroll at Qumran – could have been seen as the period between the first outbreak of revolutionary activity at the time of Herod’s death in 4 BC (not coincidentally the time assigned to Jesus’ birth) and the final proclamation of the uprising (AD 66); or ‘the time, two times, and a half’ leading up to ‘the End Time’ in Daniel 12:7, the 3 1/2 years between the stoning of James the Just in AD 62 and the outbreak of the uprising. (p.64)”
1QpHab and 4QMMT
© 2004 Ronald L. Troxel
Taken together, the Damascus Document and the Community Rule give us a sense of a community developing from a schism with the temple and the mainstream of Judaism to establish its own system of worship and life, pure of the defilements that were believed to plague others. Over time, this movement gained an even sharper division between its members and those outside, accompanied by a stronger sense that this wicked age was about to end, with the faithful members of the community joining the divine forces in the final battle that would eradicate evil.
Another window on these developments is provided us by the Pesher on Habakkuk. I included this among the six foundation documents funding the summary I gave of Qumran ideology. It’ not that it was the only commentary on a biblical text written at Qumran. Indeed, as you know, we have remains of no less than 17 of these running commentaries on biblical books, and more than one commentary is attested for some books, such as Isaiah. The reason the Pesher on Habakkuk is considered so important for study of the Qumran community is that it reveals more about the community’s life than does any other commentary, although (as we’ll see) some of the others illuminate code words used for various groups in the Habakkuk pesher.
As VanderKam notes, the author of the pesher operates from the premise that the words of the prophets concern his own era, which he understands to be the end of human existence as dominated by evil and evil-doers. In fact, he finds this in the interpretation of the first two verses of Habakkuk: “[The interpretation of this concerns the beg]inning of the [final] generation [äwhich will c]ome upon them.” (1.2-3) He reiterates this assumption in commenting on the first two verses of chapter 2: “And God told Habakkuk to write what was going to happen to the last generation.” (7.1) And so a fundamental assumption of the author is that the words have to do with events of the final days, which are his days.
Even more striking, however, are the words connected to the assertion we read from 7.1: “but he did not let him know the end of the age. And as for what he says, “So that the one who reads it /may run/” [Hab 2.2], its interpretation concerns the Teacher of Righteousness, to whom God has disclosed all the mysteries of the words of his servants, the prophets.” While God revealed through Habakkuk what would happen to the last generation, he did not comprehend the entire unfolding of his words. Only to the Teacher of Righteousness has God disclosed “all the mysteries of the words of his servants, the prophets.” We have seen previously this language about divine mysteries known only to the Teacher of Righteousness, as well as references to the Teacher interpreting the prophets. Here, however, we find an even stronger statement about what this entails. It’s not just that the Teacher has skills in literary interpretation; rather, he has been given insight into the true meaning of the prophet’s words, which concern the end of the age.
Even more striking, the Teacher of Righteousness was so central to community life that adherence to his teaching was the litmus test that determined whether one was among the elect. At the head of column 8 stands an interpretation of Habakkuk 2.4b. The end of that verse, although not preserved in the scroll, reads, “the righteous shall live by their faithful-ness.” The pesher’s comment on this is, fortunately, preserved: “Its interpretation concerns all observing the law in the house of Judah, whom God will free from punishment on account of their deeds and their loyalty to the Teacher of Righteousness.” While one might at first think that “all observing the Law in the House of Judah” would include numerous people throughout the nation, that group is subsequently restricted to those who maintain “their loyalty to the Teacher of Righteousness.”
Not surprisingly, then, the commentator speaks disparagingly of a group that seems to have parted ways with the Teacher. This emerges in his commentary on Habakkuk 1.5, only the end of which survives in the scroll: “[Be astonished! Be astounded! For a work is being done in your days that you would not belief if] you reported it. [The interpretation of the word concerns] the traitors with the Man of Lies, since they do not [believe in the words of the] Teacher of Righteousness from the mouth of God; (and it concerns) the traito[rs of the] new [covenant] since they did not believe in the covenant of God [and dishonored] his holy name.” (2.1-5) Notice that even though the language of “traitors” is used for those who did not believe the Teacher, there is no hint that this was a group that was once part of the community of the Teacher. Nevertheless, there is a sense of estrangement that permeates this text: these are people who have been unfaithful to what they should have held fast.
The immediately succeeding lines suggest that the dispute between the groups included the Teacher’s expositions of the events about to befall Israel: “Likewise: the interpretation of the word [concerns the trai]tors in the last days. They shall be violators of [the coven]ant who will not believe when they hear all that is going [to happen to] the final generation, from the mouth of the Priest whom God has placed wi[thin the Community,] to foretell the fulfillment of all the words of his servants, the prophets, [by] means of whom God has declared all that is going to happen to his people, [Israel].” (2.5-10) Obviously, this group of “traitors” didn’t buy the apocalyptic predictions of the Teacher.
The reference to this group called “traitors” allows us to broaden our understanding of the dispute by noting the reference to them in the commentator’s interpretation of Habakkuk 1.13b: “‘Why are you staring, traitors, and you maintain your silence when a wicked person consumes someone more upright than himself?’ Its interpretation is the House of Absalom and the members of his council, who kept silent at the time of the reproach of the Teacher of Righteousness, and did not help him against the Man of Lies, who rejected the law in the midst of their whole Comm[unity.]” (5.8-12)
In keeping with the previous passages, notice that this “reproach of the Teacher of Righteousness” amounts to “a rejection of the law.” It’s doubtful that the “Man of Lies” actually repudiated the Torah; more likely he disputed the Teacher’s interpretation of it, which (to the community) was tantamount to rejecting the law.
The choice of “the house of Absalom” as an epithet for those understood as the “traitors” referred to by Habakkuk is apt, since Absalom betrayed his father, David, establishing his own rule over Jerusalem and chasing his father out of town.
The type of betrayal in view here is silence; clearly they failed to oppose the “Man of Lies” when he reproached the Teacher of Righteousness, an action that amounted to siding with that heretic, as we might call him.
By the way, the translation “and the members of his council” is errant. The text actually reads, “and the members (lit. men) of their council.” While the word “council” could designate a subset of this group, in the Qumran scrolls “council” typically refers to a group as a whole. Consequently, “the House of Absalom and the men/members of their council” likely doesn’t designate two groups, but one, with “House of Absalom” a derogatory epithet for them.
Where did this verbal assault on the Teacher by the “Man of Lies” take place? “In the midst of their whole community.” This might mean that another Jewish teacher, “the man of Lies,” appeared in the community led by the Teacher of Righteousness and disputed his interpretations of the Torah. However we’ll soon see evidence that makes it more likely “in the midst of their whole community” refers to the larger Judean society. So the dispute with “the Man of Lies” and the rejection of the Teacher’s instruction by a group called “the traitors” likely has to do with the rejection of the Teacher’s interpretations of Torah by the majority within Judea.
In any case, based on these excerpts, it is clear that the community at Qumran considered the Teacher of Righteousness and his instruction the core element of community life, so that one’s status vis-‡-vis the Torah and God hinged on one’s response to the Teacher.
As for the figure of “the Man of Lies,” another passage in this Pesher suggests that this individual was intent on converting people to his cause. The text from Habakkuk 2.12-13 is cited first: “‘Woe to him who builds a city with blood and founds a town on a misdeed! Does this not stem from *YHWH* of Hosts? The people wear themselves out for fire and the nations are exhausted for nothing.'” Now the comment: “The interpretation of the word concerns the Spreader of Deceit, who has misdirected man, building a useless city with blood and erecting a community by subterfuge for his own renown, wearing out many by useless work and by making them conceive acts of deceit, so that their labors are for nothing; so that those who derided and insulted God’s chosen will go to the punishment of fire.” (10.5-13)
By the way, the words translated “Spreader of Deceit” are not as removed from “the Man of Lies” in Hebrew as in English. “Spreader of Deceit” is metiph hakazab, while “Man of Lies” is ‘ish hakazab. metiph simply describes this person as an agent of falsehood: he proclaims the Lie. The important charge is that he deals in falsehood, with the result that he “has misdirected humans,” leading such “to the punishment of fire.”
The title of “Spreader of Deceit” appears also in column 19 of the Damascus Document, where it speaks of someone who kept the people of Judah from seeing how they ought to behave, blaming their obtuseness on “one who raises up storms, and man preaching lies, against whose congregation God’s wrath has been kindled.” (CD 19.25-26) Here again the words metiph and kazab are used for this “man preaching lies.”
It is most likely this same individual that is spoken of in the summary of the time of the Qumran community’s earliest days under the Teacher, in CD, column 1: “And he (God) made known to the last generations what he had done for the last generation, the congregation of traitors. These are the ones who stray from the path. This is the time about which it has been written, ‘Like a stray heifer, so has Israel strayed’ [Hosea 4.16], when ‘the scoffer’ arose, who spread [hetiph] the water of lies [kazab] over Israel and led them astray into a wilderness without a path.” (CD 1.11-15)
Notice that, as in Pesher Habakkuk, the emphasis on what God has revealed “to the last generations.” And, by the way, that statement is connected with the work of the Teacher, who is mentioned in the line just prior to this passage.
Also similar to what we witnessed in the Pesher on Habakkuk is the mention of the “congregation of traitors” who have strayed from the path under the influence of one who “spread lies.” As in the Pesher, the group affected by the liar is designated as “the last generation,” but also as Israel, whom the “scoffer” has led astray.
Significant also is the description of their behavior that is so detestable: “For they sought easy interpretations, chose illusions, scrutinized loopholes, chose the handsome neck, acquitted the guilty and sentenced the just, violated the covenant, (and) broke the precept.” (1.18-20) Obviously what is objectionable is this group’s lax approach to halacha that is equivalent, in the community’s mind, to setting aside the Torah.
The description of this group as “seeking easy interpretations” – literally, “they inquired about smooth things” [dareshu bechalaqoth] – is significant, because this language appears frequently in another of the Pesharim, the Pesher on Nahum. For instance, column 2 of that work contains commentary on Nahum 3.1, which is cited first: “‘Alas, the bloody city, all of it [treachery,] stuffed with loot!’ Its interpretation: it is the city of Ephraim, those looking for easy interpretations [doreshey hachalaqoth] in the final days, since they walk in treachery and lies.” (4Q169 fragments 3-4, 2.1-2) As in the Damascus Document the wicked are those seeking “smooth things” or “easy interpretations.” Notice, also, that their behavior is also characterized as “walking in treachery and lies.”
Just a few lines later, following another condemnation of those “looking for easy interpretations,” we find a comment on Nahum 3.4, which is cited first: “‘On account of the many fornications of the prostitute, full of elegance and mistress of enchantment, who misleads nations with her sorceries. [Its] interpretation concerns those who misdirect Ephraim, who with their fraudulent teaching and lying tongue and perfidious lip misdirect many.” (4Q169 fragments 3-4, 2.7-8) Once again the notion of those who mislead others with lies surfaces.
Consequently, the community at Qumran viewed themselves as fighting an uphill battle. While they were convinced that their Teacher alone had the words of life – the correct interpretation of the Torah and the prophets, they knew themselves only one of the groups vying for people’s loyalty and recognized that the majority of their society preferred a different message, one evidently less rigorous and threatening than that of their Teacher. The “man/preacher of the lie” castigated in the Pesher on Habakkuk was evidently a persuasive spokesperson for that alternative message. And yet, he wasn’t the only or even most severe threat, according to the Habakkuk Pesher.
The other opponent of the Teacher of Righteousness mentioned by Pesher Habakkuk is “the Wicked Priest,” whom we’ve encountered before. That this isn’t simply another name for the “man of Lies” is established from the different role he plays in society. Rather than leading people astray by his deceitful words, the Wicked Priest is a good ruler gone bad, as is apparent from the commentator’s notes on Habakkuk 2.5-6. I’ll skip the lengthy quotation from Habakkuk and simply jump to the comment: “Its interpretation concerns the Wicked Priest, who is called by the name of loyalty at the start of his office. However, when he ruled over Israel, his heart became conceited, he deserted God and betrayed the laws for the sake of riches. And he stole and hoarded wealth from the brutal men who had rebelled against God. And he seized public money, incurring additional serious sin. And he performed repulsive acts of every type of filthy licentiousness.” (1QpHab 8.8-13)
Scholars have, by an large, come to agree that the “Wicked Priest” in view here was the successor to Judas Maccabee, his brother Jonathan (161-143 B.C.E.). The notion that he began as one loyal, but later “betrayed the laws for the sake of riches” might relate to the consolidation of his assumption of the high priesthood and his consolidation of power.
The Habakkuk Pesher characterizes him as not simply a purveyor of lies, but a formidable opponent who even, as column 11 reports, “pursued the Teacher of Righteousness to consume him with the ferocity of his anger in the place of his banishment, in festival time, during the rest of the day of Atonement. He paraded in front of them, to consume them and make them fall on the day of fasting, the sabbath of their rest.” (1QpHab 11.5-8) This description fits with the opposition John Hyrcanus seems to have shown to the Pharisees, who also held to more rigorous interpretations of the Torah.
VanderKam has already mentioned the other group that appears as a threat in this Pesher, the Romans (under the guise of the name “Kittim”), although they are primarily a threat to the leaders of Judea, not to the Qumran community specifically. VanderKam gives you enough information about their role, so I won’t say any more about them.
One final feature of this Pesher I do want to comment on, however, is a passage that fails to get much attention, but gives a significant insight into the mindset of those at Qumran. Column 7, line 5, cites Habakkuk 2.3a for comment: “‘For the vision has an appointed time, it will have an end and not fail.’ Its interpretation: the final age will be extended and go beyond all that the prophets say, because the mysteries of God are wonderful.” It then tackles the last half of the verse: “‘Though it might delay, wait for it; it definitely has to come and will not delay.’ Its interpretation concerns the men of truth, those who observe the Law, whose hands will not desert the service of truth when the final age is extended beyond them, because all the ages of God will come at the right time, as he established for them in the mysteries of his prudence.” (1QpHab 7.5-14)
As intensely as the community believed that they were living in the end days, it also had a mechanism to deal with the problem of what happened if the expected end didn’t materialize during their lifetimes. And the very fact that this explanation is embedded in this text indicates that it had become an issue for them. They handled the problem by reasserting the certainty of the end and appealing to their deep-seated belief in determinism: “all the ages of God will come at the right time.”
What this Pesher contributes to our understanding of Qumran, then, is greater specificity about the sorts of opposition the sectarians faced. We find their recognition that their message was not the most frequently accepted in Judea. We are also able to pin down a likely identity for the “Wicked Priest” who vigorously opposed the movement.
Beyond that, we get a clearer understanding of the central role played by the Teacher of Righteousness. He was more than just a revered figure of the past or the founder of the movement; his interpretation seems to have remained law, so that one’s fate was determined by whether or not one accepted his teachings.
And finally, we get a glimpse into how the community handled the tension that arose when their expectations failed to be fulfilled within an individual’s lifetime. Their deep-seated deterministic convictions enabled them to affirm that the times were determined by God, in whose hands the end of the age was securely fixed.
We have so far explored three documents in developing a profile of the community at Qumran. We have ascertained, among other things, that the community originated in a dispute with those in charge of the Jerusalem temple and that its members came, over time, to distinguish themselves strongly from not only the priestly establishment, but also the people of the land generally, whom they regarded as having been led astray by strong voices into what they considered a dangerously lax interpretation of the Torah.
The central role of the Teacher of Righteousness for the community is apparent not only because his rulings became the law of the community, but also in as much as one’s response to him became a measure of who was “elect” and who was “damned.”
The most consequential opponent of the community was a figure called “the Wicked Priest,” evidently a label for the Hasmonean Jonathan (161-143), brother of and successor to Judas. Apparently he even visited the community, threatening the Teacher of Righteousness.
The rejection and even persecution of the Teacher led to a hardening of the lines between the community and the outside, so that the community viewed those not in sync with its teachings as those predestined to damnation and consigned to wickedness under the angel of darkness. Those belonging to the community, however, enjoyed the oversight of the angel of light. And yet, evil was such a powerful force in the world that even they could be led astray. And so as an aid to shielding themselves, they lived by a rigid code that included isolation from the “sons of darkness” and their maintenance of correct ritual behavior, so that they might prove themselves among those predestined to salvation.
The future held an ultimate showdown between the sons of light and the sons of dark-ness, each championed by their respective angelic heads. The final battle would be won by God, who would defeat and eradicate evil. The other side of that battle would see a new temple which, like the rest of the world, would be in accord with the Torah, as understood by the sectarians. The community would be headed by dual messiah’s, one from Aaron and the other from Israel, as well as a figure called simply “the prophet.”
Today I want to further our understanding of this community by turning to one more of their compositions, the document labeled 4QMMT. As you know, the 4Q indicates that this document – or at least the six manuscripts of it that survived, albeit in fragments – were found in cave 4. Unfortunately, none of them preserves the beginning of the document; that has been entirely lost. The earliest section we have is the conclusion of a discussion of a solar calendar, as indicated by the specification that the calendar has 364 days.
The abbreviation MMT, represents the Hebrew phrase miqtsat ma’asey hatorah, which is found towards the conclusion of the document: “And also we have written to you some of the works of the Torah which we think are good for you and your people.” (lines 112-113) Similar phraseology appears early in the mss, just after the end of the calendar discussion: “These are some of our regulations (miqtsat debarenu) [concerning the law of G]od, which are pa[rt of] the works we [are examiningä].” (lines 4-5) These words, of course, introduce the exposition of a series of disputes the group has over purity practices, each time staking out their position with the words, “we think.” The vast majority of these pertain to behavior in the temple. In fact, a couple of times the document commends its position with the words, “priests should oversee in this matter in such a way that the [sons of Aaron] do not lead the people into error.” (lines 15-16, cf. 29-30)
Of course, the look back on these issues as something “we have written to you” suggests this document is a communiquÈ or letter. Moreover, recall that the full sentence of lines112-113 specifies the note’s intent: “And also we have written to you some of the works of the Torah which we think are good for you and your people.” In fact, the closing sentence of the document assures the addressee, “And it shall be reckoned to you as justice (litsdaqah) when you do what is upright and good before him, for your good and that of Israel.” The author is convinced that the welfare of Israel hangs on adoption of these halakoth and that he is equally convinced the addressee is in a position to do enforce these practices.
The question of the identity of the addressee is intriguing, because the communiquÈ varies between the second person plural pronoun (“you all”) and the singular (“you, an individual”). Significantly, all the addresses to a group in the various specifications of correct halakoth are in the plural. E.g. the command of line 34 to “remove the ashes from the altar” is addressed to a group. So also the address of a “you” as knowing about certain things at the end of line 71, the start of line 83, and towards the end of line 93 are all plural: “you all know such and such.”
The switch to the masculine singular second person pronoun begins in line 95 with the statement, “to you (singular) we have wri[tten] that you (singular) must understand the book of Moses [and the words of the pro]phets and of David.” In fact, from that statement on “you” is grammatically singular, including in the closing appeal: “Remember (you, sg.) the kings of Israel and reflect on their deeds, how whoever of them who respected [the Torah] was freed from his afflictions; those who sought the Torah [were forgiven] their sins. Remember (you, sg.) David, one of the ‘pious’ and he, too, was freed from his many afflictions and was forgiven. And also we have written to you (singular) some of the works of the Torah which we think / are good for you (sg.) and for your (sg.) people, for in you (sg.) [we saw] intellect and knowledge of the Torah. Reflect (you, sg.) on all these matters and seek from him so that he may support your (sg.) counsel and keep far from you (sg.) the evil scheming and the counsel of Belial, so that at the end of time you (sg.) may rejoice in finding that some of our words are true. And it shall be reckoned to you (sg.) as justice when you (sg.) do what is upright and good before him, for your (sg.) good and that of Israel.”
Consequently, it appears that in the section enumerating halakot, the author has in mind all the priests, a group that apparently includes the addressee. However, in the direct address of the recipient to take to heart what he has written, he switches to the singular because the letter is especially addressed to an individual. Again, this reinforces the suggestion that the addressee was assumed to have authority to make certain that these regulations were adopted, thus ensuring his own good and that of Israel as a whole.
Also significant is the author’s appeal to this individual to “remember the kings of Israel” and David, focusing on their obedience or disobedience to the Torah and the blessings or curses they encountered as a consequence. That the author should appeal to royal figures as an example for the addressee, together with his focus on behaviors the priests as a group should adopt, while implicitly including the addressee among them by using the “you (plural),” suggests the addressee is a figure we have encountered previously: a priest who also serves as the people’s ruler. And comparison of 4QMMT with one of the pesharim yields striking evidence that the addressee is the Wicked Priest mentioned elsewhere.
You’ll recall that the Pesher on Habakkuk referred to a confrontation between the Wicked Priest and the Teacher of Righteousness: “the Wicked Priestäpursued the Teacher of Righteousness to consume him with the ferocity of his anger in the place of his banishment, in festival time, during the rest of the day of Atonement.” (1QpHab 11.4-7)
We read of a similar encounter in a Pesher on Psalm 37.32-33. First the verses are cited, then the comment is given: “‘The wicked person spies on the just person and tries [to kill him. *YH]WH* [will not relinquish him into his hand,] n[or] let him be condemned when he is judged.’ Its interpretation concerns the Wicked [Pr]iest, who sp[ie]s on the ju[st man and wants to] kill him [ä] and the law which he sent him.” Both prior to this and afterwards the commentary talks about the Teacher of Righteousness, while the epithet of “the just man” in Hebrew is hatsadiq, the same root translated “Righteousness” in referring to the Teacher of Righteousness. Accordingly, there is little doubt that “the just man” spoken of here, based on the quotation from Psalm 37, refers to the Teacher of Righteousness.
That association is supported, also, by the fact that the commentator has not simply any “just” individual in mind, but a particular “just man,” one who “sent a law” to the Wicked Priest. While the lacuna (missing words) makes it difficult to know exactly what role the law the Teacher of sent to the Wicked Priest played in the Wicked Priest’s attack, it is beyond dispute that it was involved, and quite likely as a motivating factor in the attack. In any case, it is remarkable to find reference here to a law sent to the Wicked Priest by the Teacher, given that 4QMMT gives us a document addressed to someone of priestly status who seems not only to have had control over temple life, but also held a role analogous to the kings of Israel. When we recall the identification of the Wicked Priest with Jonathan, based on the Pesher of Nahum, and the recollection of the assertion in the Pesher on Habakkuk that the Wicked Priest was “called by the name of loyalty at the start of his office,” but later “betrayed the laws for the sake of riches,” we can put some of the pieces together and correlate them with what we have already concluded.
First, 4QMMT seems likely from early in the sect’s life and specifically during the period when it considered Jonathan to be loyal to the Torah, or at lest open to the group’s interpretation of it. That fits with the appeal to the addressee to change, laced with the complement that they had perceived in him “intellect and knowledge of the Torah,” suggesting they held out hope he would reevaluate his actions and change course. Indeed, a few lines earlier the author asserts that it was predicted the addressee would do so. Of course, the author also asserts that the addressees’ current disobedience was equally predicted.
Jonathan was apparently not amused, however, and pressed the matter on the Teacher’s home turf, where he threatened him. Having been rebuffed, the Teacher and his small community decided to cut ties with those in Jerusalem, and their positions hardened into the kind of sectarian mindset witnessed in the documents composed and modified over time at Qumran. In any case, that would put the Teacher’s initial activity in the community in the early part of Jonathan’s reign, say around 161-155 B.C.E. So 4QMMT fleshes out for us a little more some of the early events of this community’s life.
Before leaving this document, we need to consider more specifically what this document indicates were the primary issues that concerned the community.
The bulk of the letter deals with specific disputes between the community and the addressee over ritual purity laws, the vast majority of which were of concern only to priests. The surprise that arises from this is that the community’s separation from the mainstream of society was not due to large ideological differences or to a major scandal. The issues that led to the breach between the community and the Jerusalem temple were over ritual purity. Of course, that is consistent with the evidence of the importance of ritual purity evidenced from the archaeological remains at Khirbet Qumran, with its six miqvaoth (ritual baths), and the presence of stone vessels. And yet, it is startling to think that such disputes were the cause of this rift, given the sort of sectarianism grew from those disputes. We might expect such a distinctive community, voicing its strong denunciation of its society as wicked, would be rooted in a more patently divisive issue than purity laws. That, however, is to look at it from our value system; within ancient Judea, these were hot issues.
Also intriguing about the issues under dispute in this letter is what they suggest about the Qumran community’s alliance with the groups we know to have existed in Judea at this time. E.g. let’s consider the following dispute: “And also concerning flowing liquids: we say that in these there is no purity. Even flowing liquids cannot separate unclean from clean because the moisture of flowing liquids and their containers is the same moisture.” (57-61)
At issue here is whether pouring liquid from a pure container into an impure one renders the pure container impure – i.e. whether impurity can travel against the flow of the liquid and contaminate the pure vessel from which the liquid is being poured. The contention of the sectarians was that it could. To this we can compare tractate Yadayim in the Mishnah: “The Sadducees say, We cry out against you, O Pharisees, for you declare clean an unbroken stream of liquid.” (4.7) The importance of this, obviously, is that the position adopted by the sectarians runs contrary to the view of the Pharisees and align with the Sadducees. And something similar proves true in the disputed issues, when we can track down parallels in the Mishnah. Clearly, then, the Sectarians did not trace their roots back to Pharisaic circles. But equally unlikely is it that they were (at least primarily) Sadducees, since they believed in the existence of angels and anticipated the resurrection of the dead. The crucial issue is that they found themselves at odds with the priestly establishment in Jerusalem, which appears to have been influenced by positions held by the group that would become the Pharisees.
So it is these issues, as indicated by 4QMMT, that led to the schism between the community and the temple. It appears from this communiquÈ that early in the community’s life an attempt was made to heal the breach, by calling on the temple priests – and above all, the high priest, Jonathan – to reconsider their interpretation of the Torah, but to no avail. It was this rejection that led, ultimately, to the strikingly sectarian community at Qumran.
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Date:07 Dec 2004Time:22:28:03
Wow, this is very interesting stuff. Again, thanks Todd for the publicity of little-known, but crucial study materials! -Josh R.
Date:15 Dec 2004Time:21:16:41
Well this looks like a teaser to get people to buy the book. Isn’t it kind of hypocritical to seek to gain financially from information that was supposed to be free in order to save our souls? Why are the dead sea scrolls kept secret anyway. I heard that the “schollars” who are supposed to be interpreting and studying the scrolls are already getting paid pretty well. It is beyond me how anyone would try to capitolize on the words of the prophets and apostles inspired by God. If anyone really believes that this would help people understand God, and that the words of the scrolls were supposed to be part of the bible, then why wouldn’t they just pump it out like there was no tomorrow? Why try to make money that they will not be able to take with them? Why is the information so little known? Why would anyone try to keep it a secret? Why would anyone try to stand in the way of us understanding our creator? Why do people allow it? This is weird! Anyway, this really doesn’t say much at all that isn’t already in the bible as we know it. This is just a marketing ploy, plain and simple. I may buy the book just to study the hypocracy and foolishness of our society.
[TDD: This book is not available for purchase at this site. This page points to other places where, if interested, you can buy it to learn more. The idea is to encourage study and learning so that we may avoid mistakes.]
Date: 31 May 2006
I also wish these could copied somehow and made publicly available.
Date: 07 Oct 2012
I think the scholars that did these books deserve at least something for their efforts. Very little in this world comes free- life itself can be difficult, and I feel everyone should be free to make money legally, support themselves thereby, and prosper any way they can.
I commend the people who made this knowledge public (as long as it was done so ethically and legally), even if the general public is unfit to know these things (although most people, thankfully, will not even begin to know the correct interpretation of these writings, as wisdom is given only to a select few).
Thanks to MMT, The Bible, and the Works of Josephus, ‘Judgment Day’ is now upon us all (ongoing eschatological judgment, that is). No one can now say that the information about ‘Judgment’ and how it functions is not publicly available. Even the Catholic Church has felt the need to amend it’s doctrine to incorporate the precepts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. May God have mercy on us… and may we have mercy upon ourselves.