Origin and Early History of the Qumran Sect

By Lawrence H. Schiffman

To understand the schism that gave birth to the Dead Sea sect, we need to frame it against the background of Jewish history and sectarianism in the Hellenistic period. But we now have even more specific information about the particular conflicts, mostly over sacrifices and ritual purity, that led the sectarians to break away and form a distinct group. Indeed, we will see that the origins of the sect are to be traced to the internal priestly turmoil associated with Hellenistic reform, the Maccabean Revolt, and the rise of the Hasmonean dynasty and high priesthood.

Evidence of the Halakhic Letter

A Qumran text, today known as the Halakhic Letter, demonstrates quite clearly that the root cause that led to the sectarian schism consisted of a series of disagreements about sacrificial law and ritual purity.1 The full name of this document is Miqsat Ma�ase ha-Torah (some legal rulings pertaining to the Torah). The writers of its text list more than twenty laws that describe the ways their practices differed from those prevailing in the Temple and its sacrificial worship. But even more important, the document reveals more precise information than we have previously had about the origins of the sect.

The Halakhic Letter begins with a statement about its own intent:

These are some of "our (legal) rulings" [regarding Go]d's Torah which are [some of] the rulings of [the] laws which we hold, [and a]ll of them are regarding [sacrifices] and the purity of� (Halakhic Letter B1-3).(2)

The first sentence announces that what follows are some of "our [legal] rulings" that "we hold." Throughout the letter the authors refer to themselves in the plural. What then follows is a list of twenty-two halakhic matters over which the sectarians disagree with the addressee of the letter. For most of these, the text includes both the view of the writers as well as that of their opponents. Such phrases as "but you know" and "but we hold," indicate the polemical nature of the text. Later we will look at one of the document's specific laws, which demonstrates unquestionably that this group adhered to the Sadducean trend in Jewish law. The second part of the letter returns to general principles, presenting the writers' general views on the schism now under way. The authors state:

[You know that] we have separated from the mainstream of the peo[ple and from all their impurities and] from mixing in these matters and from being involved w[ith them] regarding these matters. But you k[now that there cannot be] found in our hands dishonesty, falsehood, or evil (Halakhic Letter C7-9).

The writers here state that in accepting the aforementioned rulings, they had to withdraw from participation in the rituals of the majority of the people. The purpose of this document was to call on their erstwhile colleagues in Jerusalem and the Hasmonean leader to effect a reconciliation that would allow them to return to their role in the Temple. Needless to say, reconciliation meant accepting the views this document put forth. Accordingly, the authors make the general statement that the addressees know that the members of this dissident group are reliable and honest, meaning that the list of laws is indeed being strictly observed as stated by the authors.

At this point, the letter plainly explains its purpose:

[For indeed] we have [written] to you in order that you will investigate the Book of Moses [and] in the book[s of the p[rophets and of Davi[d�, in the deeds] of each and every generation (Halakhic Letter C9-11).

The sectarians have written to the addressee (now for the first time in the singular) in order that "you" will examine the words of the Torah, the Prophets, and David (presumably the biblical accounts of the Davidic monarchy), as well as the history of the generations. The text now turns to what is to be found in those particular documents, that is, the Scriptures that the sectarians want their opponent to search. The addressee is told (again in the singular) that it has been foretold that he would turn aside from the path of righteousness and, as a result, suffer misfortune. The text of the Halakhic Letter then predicts that in the End of Days, the ruler will return to God. All of it is in accord with what is written in the Torah and in the Prophets. This time the authors do not mention the Writings, probably because the relevant blessings and curses do not occur there.

The text now returns to the discussion of the kings, recalling the blessings fulfilled during the time of Solomon, son of David, and the curses visited on Israel from the days of Jeroboam, son of Nebat (ca. 922-901 bce, son of Solomon), through the time of Zedekiah (597-586 bce, last king of Judah).

Next the writers state that in their view some of the blessings and curses have already come to pass:

And we recognize that some of the blessings and curses which are written in the B[ook of Mo]ses have come to pass, and that this is the End of Days when they will repent in Isra[el] for[ever�] and they will not backsli[de] (Halakhic Letter C20-22).

Here the authors reveal their belief that they are currently living on the verge of the End of Days, a notion that later became normative in Qumran messianic thought. It is also clear that they considered their own age the period foretold by the Bible as the final repentance of Israel. In light of these beliefs, the authors exhort the addressee (singular) to recall the events surrounding the reigns of Israel's kings, to examine their deeds, and to note that those who observed the laws of the Torah were spared misfortune, their transgressions forgiven. Such was the case with David, whom the addressee is asked to remember.

The authors then sum up why they sent this text to the addressee:

And indeed, we have written to you some of the rulings pertaining to the Torah which we considered were good for you and your people, for [we have seen] that you have wisdom and knowledge of the Torah. Understand all these [matters] and seek from Him that He correct your counsel and distance from you evil thoughts and the counsel of Belial, in order that you shall rejoice in the end when you find some of our words correct. And let it be considered right for you, and lead you to do righteousness and good, and may it be for your benefit, and for that of Israel (Halakhic Letter C26-32).

Here the phrase Miqsat Ma'ase ha-Torah appears. The authors state that the letter is intended for the benefit of the addressee and the nation. The addressee is credited with being wise and having sufficient knowledge of the Torah to understand the halakhic matters presented in the letter.3 The writers call on him to mend his way and renounce all of his incorrect views on matters of Jewish law. Doing so will lead him to rejoice at the end of this period (the End of Days), for he will come to realize that the writers of the letter are indeed correct in their views. His repentance will be judged a righteous deed, beneficial both for him and for all Israel.

One of the interesting features of the Halakhic Letter is the way the grammatical number of addressees shifts. In the introductory sentence, the letter is addressed to an individual, but in the list of laws, the authors engage in a dispute with a group ("you," plural). When the text returns to its main argument-at the conclusion of the list of laws-it shifts back to the singular. We will see later that the plural sections are addressed to priests of the Jerusalem Temple, and the singular to the Hasmonean ruler. To understand the nature of this text, we will consider an example of one of its halakhic controversies-the law regarding liquid streams: [And even] regarding (poured out) liquid streams, we sa[y] that they do not have [pu]rity. And even the liquid streams do not separate between the impure [and the] pure. For the moisture of the liquid streams and (the vessel) which receives from them are both considered one identical moisture (Halakhic Letter B56-58).

This enigmatic rule refers to questions of ritual purity in the pouring of liquids from one vessel to another. In a case when the upper vessel is pure and the lower one is not, the question in our text concerns whether the upper vessel-the source of the liquid stream-can be rendered impure when the stream itself links the two vessels together. The text of the Halakhic Letter asserts that the entire entity is "one moisture," that is, that the impurity does rise back up the stream, against the direction of the flow, so as to render the upper vessel impure.

This law has a close parallel in the Mishnah. There, in reporting a number of disputes between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the Mishnah states:

The Sadducees say: "We complain against you Pharisees. For you declare pure the (poured out) liquid stream" (M. Yadayim 4:7).

In contrast to our text and the Sadducean view quoted in the Mishnah, the Pharisees ruled that in such cases the stream did not impart impurity to the pure vessel from which it was being poured. To them, the impurity of the lower vessel could not flow up, against the flow of the stream, to render the upper vessel impure. Because the Sadducees, in this and many other cases, share the same positions we find in the Halakhic Letter, we can convincingly show, using this and other Qumran texts, that the Qumran sect had a substratum of Sadducean halakhic views.

It appears that this letter was written to the head of the Jerusalem establishment, the high priest. The comparisons with the kings of Judah and Israel must have been particularly appropriate to someone who saw himself as an almost royal figure. In the letter, the ruler is admonished to take care lest he go the way of the kings of First Temple times. Such a warning could be addressed only to a figure who could identify, because of his own station in life, with the ancient kings of biblical Israel.

The Halakhic Letter makes no mention of the Teacher of Righteousness or any other leader or official known from the sectarian documents. Because the sect's own official history, presented in the Zadokite Fragments, claims that their initial separation from the main body of Israel took place some twenty years before the coming of the teacher, we can conclude that the Halakhic Letter was written by the collective leadership of the sect in those initial years. This explains why the teacher does not appear in this text.

Historical Ramifications

The Halakhic Letter has wide ramifications for our understanding of Jewish history in the Hasmonean period. In the letter, the views ascribed to the opponents of the emerging sect are the same as those usually attributed in rabbinic literature to the Pharisees or the early Rabbis. When Mishnaic texts preserve Pharisee-Sadducee conflicts over the same matters discussed in the Halakhic Letter, the views of the letter's authors match those of the Sadducees.

Only one possible explanation can be offered for this phenomenon: The earliest members of the sect must have been Sadducees unwilling to accept the status quo established in the aftermath of the Maccabean revolt.4 The Maccabees, by replacing the Zadokite high priesthood with their own, reduced the Zadokites to a subsidiary position for as long as Hasmonean rule lasted. Even after leaving Jerusalem, the Dead Sea sect continued to refer to itself or its leaders as the "Sons of Zadok." Our text makes clear that the designation "Sons of Zadok" is to be taken at face value. These were indeed Sadducees who protested the imposition of Pharisaic views in the Temple under the Hasmonean priests.

That interpretation explains why the writers of the Halakhic Letter constantly assert that the addressees know the authors' views to be correct. The founders of the sect aimed their halakhic polemics (addressed to a plural opponent) at their Sadducean brethren who continued to serve in the Temple and accepted the new reality. It was these remaining Jerusalem Sadducees who now followed views known to us from Pharisaic-rabbinic sources and who, in the view of the authors of this letter, knew very well that the old Sadducean practices were otherwise than what they were now observing.

Although it may be hard for us moderns to conceive that a schism of such magnitude could occur over what appear to be minor aspects of ritual law, we must remember that to the various factions in the Jerusalem priesthood and to the Jewish people in ancient times, the correct conduct of sacrificial worship was the primary guarantor of their welfare. Indeed, they regarded the sacrificial system as the prime connection of the people of Israel to God, the source of blessing for the land and its inhabitants. Had not many Jews only recently risen up in arms in the Maccabean Revolt in order to ensure the purity of that worship against foreign, pagan influence? Now, in the aftermath of that rebellion, no one was willing to accept easily the conduct of this worship in any way inconsistent with his own particular views.

Thus, when Temple worship was entrusted to a usurper-the Hasmonean high priest who acted according to already existing Pharisaic views-some pious Sadducees formed a sect and seceded from participation in the ritual of the Jerusalem Temple. At first the sect sought a reconciliation. When that failed, the members experienced disappointment and confusion.

The dissonant Zadokite priests increasingly saw themselves as a sectarian group. We can date the true beginnings of our sect to the moment the Qumran Zadokites' moderate attempts at reform failed, convincing them that Hasmonean succession was not temporary but permanent. Some have challenged this theory of the sect's Sadducean origins, arguing that it does not explain the group's more sectarian or radical tendencies, especially the animated polemic and xenophobia so often found in later sectarian texts. But those later texts reveal the eventual effects of the earlier schism. After they failed in their initial attempts, exemplified by the Halakhic Letter, to reconcile and win over the Hasmoneans and the remaining Jerusalem Sadducees to their own system of Temple practice, the Qumran Zadokites gradually developed the sectarian mentality of the despised, rejected, and abandoned outcast. Accordingly, they began to look upon themselves as the true Israel, condemning and despising all others.

Another challenge to this theory is the incongruity between some of the beliefs of the sect in its heyday with teachings Josephus attributes to the Sadducees. However, Sadducean priests were not uniform in their degree of Hellenization nor in all their beliefs. Josephus's descriptions concern only the somewhat Hellenized Sadducees of the Roman period. Moreover, I am not claiming that the Dead Sea sect as we know it is Sadducean, only that its origins and the roots of its halakhic tradition lie in the Sadducean Zadokite priesthood.

The Halakhic Letter is a sectarian document from the earliest stage in the sect's development, when its members still hoped to return to participation in Temple worship. It is not even certain that the letter postdates the beginning of the self- imposed exile of the sect. In this document we learn of the disagreements about Jewish law that led to the formation of the sect. It was only later that the Teacher of Righteousness and other leaders, most probably priestly, developed the group that was to produce the complete corpus of sectarian texts. Another Qumran text-the Temple Scroll, essentially a rewritten Torah into which the author has inserted his own views on Jewish law-is also composed of sources deriving from the Sadducean tradition.5 Indeed, the finds at Qumran are now providing us with insights into this tradition never before available.

The revelations contained in the Halakhic Letter demand that we reevaluate some of the older theories identifying the sect with known Second Temple groups. First, the theories that seek to link the sect and its origins with the Hasidim (pietists) must now be abandoned. Other theories tying the emergence of the sect to some subgroup of the Pharisees are certainly no longer tenable. The dominant Essene hypothesis, if it is to be maintained at all, requires radical reorientation. Those holding this theory must now argue that the term "Essene" came to designate the originally Sadducean sectarians who had gone through a process of radicalization until they became a distinct sect. Alternatively, they must broaden their understanding of the term to include a wide variety of similar groups, of which the Dead Sea sect might be one.

The notion that the collection of scrolls at Qumran is not representative of a sect but is a balanced collection of general Jewish texts must also be rejected. There is by now too much evidence proving that the community that collected those scrolls emerged out of sectarian conflict and that that conflict sustained it throughout its existence. The Halakhic Letter characterizes the conflict as a disagreement over points of Jewish law with those in control of the Temple in Hasmonean Jerusalem.

Further, the nature of the collection, even if it contains many texts not explicitly sectarian, which might have been acceptable to all Jews in Second Temple times, is still that of a subgroup with definite opposition to the political and religious authorities of the times.

The Exodus to Qumran

When the group who composed the Halakhic Letter decided to move to Qumran, the members took a decisive step in their own evolution. They now defined themselves as a dissenting group struggling against an unsympathetic majority. This was not a sudden step, however. It seems likely that the Qumran center was established after a period of groping that lasted about a generation. Only then did the sect retreat to Qumran. The Teacher of Righteousness, whose leadership had been established sometime after composition of the letter, probably influenced the decision.

How can we determine the nature and date of the exodus to Qumran? Our conclusions must rest on the archaeological finds at Khirbet Qumran and on the literary evidence of the sectarian texts. And central to an understanding of the event is familiarity with the text known as the Zadokite Fragments, the first scroll discovered by Solomon Schechter among the manuscripts of the Cairo genizah.6 Today, we know of at least nine additional manuscripts of this text, which were found at Qumran. Affinities in language and ideology indicate that this document belonged to the Qumran sectarians. Further, other sectarian texts contain excerpts from that text, indicating that it indeed was a document central to the thought of the Qumran sect. Modern scholars refer to this text also as the Damascus Document or Damascus Covenant due to its symbolic reference to Damascus as the land of the sect's exile.

The text is divided into two parts: the Admonition and the laws. Our discussion focuses on the Admonition. Although the Qumran manuscripts of this text indicate there was additional material at the beginning of the Zadokite Fragments, they preserve very little significant material from that section, which must at one time have been part of a much longer passage. The text of the Zadokite Fragments as preserved in medieval manuscripts begins by declaring that in ancient times, Israel went astray. As a result, God "hid His face" and allowed the destruction of the First Temple (dated in modern scholarly chronology to 586 bce). Yet a remnant of the defeated people remained, and it was they who ultimately formed the sect. In this narrative, the sectarians regard their way of life and belief as a direct continuation of biblical tradition, claiming to be the tradition's true recipients.

The text presents its understanding of the formation of the sect as follows:

And in the period of wrath, three hundred ninety years after He had handed it (the Temple) over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylonia, He remembered them (Israel) and caused to grow from Israel and Aaron the root of a plant (i.e., the sect) (Zadokite Fragments 1:5-7). This official chronology, written by the sectarians themselves, poses problems for scholars (Rabinowitz 1954). If we calculate from the modern scholarly dating of the destruction of the First Temple, we arrive at 196 bce for the founding of the sect. This dating does not square with the archaeological data, however. Further, based on evidence in the Halakhic Letter, the sect must have formally separated itself after the Maccabean Revolt of 168-164 bce.

Nevertheless, there is evidence that ancient Jews did not have a chronology that matches ours for dating the destruction of the First Temple. Because of a vast gap in the chronology of the Persian period, it is doubtful whether ancient Jews could have made such a calculation with any degree of accuracy. Therefore, we can only assume that we have approximate information from the period. We therefore must be content to date the founding of the sect sometime in the second century bce.

The text of the Zadokite Fragments then tells about a period of confusion followed by the rise of the sect's leader, the Teacher of Righteousness:

Then they understood their transgression and knew that they were guilty. They were like blind (men) groping on the road for twenty years. Then God paid attention to their deeds for they sought Him whole-heartedly, and He set up for them a Teacher of Righteousness to direct them in the way of his (the teacher's) heart (Zadokite Fragments 1:8-11 = Da 2 I 12-15). It appears that during an initial period-perhaps of twenty years-the sect was leaderless and perhaps even formless until the Teacher of Righteousness established his leadership over it. Only with the teacher's emergence and his assumption of control did sectarian teachings and a distinctive way of life take shape.

From what we learned earlier from the Halakhic Letter, we can accept as reliable the account in the Zadokite Fragments that describes this initial period between the schism and the emergence of the teacher's leadership. It was during that period, most probably, that the Halakhic Letter was sent and a reconciliation attempted. After their failure to win over the Jerusalem Sadducees and the Hasmonean high priest, the sect became a permanent entity, no longer expecting to rejoin the Jerusalem establishment.

The Teacher of Righteousness assumed leadership of the sect and introduced his teachings; at that time or shortly thereafter the sect moved to its site in the wilderness at Qumran. Both the archaeological dating of the site and the literary materials about Damascus confirm the fact. The Zadokite Fragments has a portion that has become known as the "Well Midrash" (6:3-11), which prominently features the Damascus imagery (Brooke 1980). It is an excellent example of pesher interpretation, a form of biblical interpretation that reads biblical verses as prefigurations of contemporary events. Here a verse from Numbers is interpreted: "A well which the officers have dug, which the notables of the people have dug�" (Numbers 21:18). The Zadokite Fragments explains:

The well is the Torah and those who dig it are the returnees (or: penitents) of Israel who leave the land of Judea and who live in the land of Damascus (Zadokite Fragments 6:4-5). On the face of it, this text seems to refer to an exodus of the sectarians from Judea to Damascus, where they settled, at least for a time. Below this, on the same page, the sectarians are described as: those who enter the new covenant in the land of Damascus (6:19). Again this text refers to an exodus to Damascus.

Before continuing, I would like to comment on the expression "new covenant." In several texts the sectarians term themselves "those who have entered the covenant," referring to the new covenant they entered when they constituted or joined the sect. This idea derives from Jeremiah 31:31-32, which speaks of a renewal of God's covenant with Israel in the End of Days. The term as it is used in this text must be sharply distinguished from the Christian concept of a new covenant, that is, a New Testament, which will replace the old covenant (so-called Old Testament) with a new scripture.

In another pesher-type exegesis, the text (Zadokite Fragments 7:14-21) interprets Amos 5:26-27, "And you shall carry�the star of your God which you have made for yourselves, and I will exile you farther than Damascus." There we find:

And the "star" (Amos 5:26) is the interpreter of the law (the sectarian official who interprets Torah for the sect with divine inspiration) who comes to Damascus (Zadokite Fragments 7:18-19).

A literal reading of this passage suggests that the interpreter of the law left Judea and joined his fellow sectarians at Damascus. Later on, in describing sectarians who ceased to live according to the ways of the sect, the Zadokite Fragments speaks of:

those people who had entered the new covenant in the land of Damascus and have turned away and rebelled, and turned aside from the well of living waters (Zadokite Fragments 19:33-34). The "well of living waters" is God's Torah as correctly interpreted by the sectarians. The Damascus theme is continued further on when the text describes those:

�who have despised the covenant and the agreement which they swore to in the land of Damascus which is the new covenant (Zadokite Fragments 20:11-12).

Writing before the Halakhic Letter was known, many scholars deduced from these passages that after the initial schism, there was an actual exodus to Damascus. This theory further claims that in Damascus the sect took shape and set down the foundation of its teachings. From there, it is assumed, the group moved on to the sectarian settlement at Qumran. Some have actually sought to locate a historical event that might have led to that exodus. Others have suggested excavation of modern-day Damascus in an attempt to find the remains of this group. What then is Damascus? (Davies 1990; Iwry 1969; Milikowsky 1982; North 1955a; Wieder 1962:1-52; cf. Knibb 1983) Is it a real place or a metaphorical term? We know that the sectarians, especially in the Zadokite Fragments, often spoke in code words. We find all kinds of pseudonyms for actual personages, yet almost never a personal name that would allow a definite identification. The Jewish sects of the day are never mentioned by name even though we see numerous references to them designated with code words in the sectarian texts. Why then should we fall into the trap of taking place names literally? Rather it is more likely that "Damascus" is a code word for Qumran.

The notion is strengthened even more by the use of Damascus as a symbol in other texts of the period. The New Testament pictures Paul receiving a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6). It is likely that the symbolic meaning of Damascus as an eschatological stopover would have led to its use here. Indeed, even in Amos 5:27 it is connected with the destruction of syncretist Israelites-those who had mixed worship of the God of Israel with pagan ways-in the End of Days.

In addition, we should mention the suggestion that Damascus was actually at one time the name of the toparchy (administrative district) in which Qumran was situated. This suggestion assumes that Qumran, even though it is located on the western shore of the Dead Sea, was at one time part of the same administrative unit as Damascus and could, therefore, bear its name. In any case, these possibilities all taken together allow us to regard Damascus as a symbol. Accordingly, we need not seek any specific exodus to Damascus. Rather, we can assume that the desert settlement of Qumran was the Damascus to which the sectarians referred and that it was there that the sect established its settlement at about the same time as the Teacher of Righteousness (perhaps the very same first interpreter of the law) came to the fore.

It is indeed curious that the sectarian texts from Qumran contain no mention of the name of the site; Khirbet Qumran is the Arabic name. Some scholars have theorized that it may be the biblical place Secacah7 (Joshua 15:61), although this is probably an Iron Age site located four miles (seven kilometers) southwest of Qumran. In any case, it was to Qumran, not to Damascus, that the sect migrated.

There is one additional text, Rule of the Community, that must be considered here because it makes the connection between the sectarian's separatism and the desert.8 Rule of the Community, also known as Manual of Discipline (a Christian monastic term imposed on the text), was one of the first seven scrolls discovered in cave 1. This almost intact document lays out the basic theology of the sect as well as its rules of admission and initiation and its code of punishments. At one point, the scroll speaks of the separation of the Qumran sectarians from the main body of Israelites:

When these form a community in Israel, according to these rules they shall be separated from the midst of the settlement of the people of iniquity to go to the desert, to clear there the road of the Lord, as it is written, "In the desert clear the road of the Lord; straighten in the wilderness a highway for our God" (Isaiah 40:3). This is the interpretation of the Torah [which] He commanded through Moses to observe, according to everything that is revealed from time to time, and as the prophets have revealed by His holy spirit (Rule of the Community 8:12-16).

The passage appears to refer directly to the exodus to the desert. But in fact, this separatism is to be understood symbolically as fulfilling the command of Isaiah 40:3 to prepare a way through the wilderness as part of the preparations for the End of Days. The passage then goes on to tell us how to interpret that preparation. To prepare the way in the desert means to interpret the Torah, specifically to explain it according to sectarian interpretations. Despite its mention of the wilderness, the text makes no direct connection between the sect and

the desert region. Nonetheless, it is only against the background of the sect's settlement at Qumran that such desert imagery makes sense. In fact, the desert motif is extremely prominent in sectarian literature. The sectarians saw themselves as living a pristine life like that of the Israelites in the period of desert wandering. Further, they saw themselves as having gone into the desert to receive the Torah, just as Israel had in the period of the Exodus. All this is to be expected from a group that had left the more thickly settled areas of Judea to relocate in the wilderness, there to maintain its own standards of sanctity and purity.

The sect came into being, then, after the Hasmoneans had taken over the high priesthood, about 152 bce. Thereafter, they attempted, as we can see from the Halakhic Letter, to reconcile with their Zadokite-Sadducean brethren who continued to serve in the Jerusalem Temple, as well as with the Hasmonean leaders. When this failed, they still were leaderless until, at some point, the Teacher of Righteousness arose to lead them. It was he who gave the sect shape and direction. Eventually he led the group from its Sadducean origins toward its intensely apocalyptic, sectarian mentality and toward the many beliefs that differentiated the sect from the Sadducees. Probably during the early years of the teacher's career-within a generation or so after the founding of the sect-the members of the group established the sectarian center and library at Qumran.


This article excerpts pages 83-95 of Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls: The History of Judaism, the Background of Christianity, the Lost Library of Qumran. Philadelphia and Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society, 1994.


(1) The existence and contents of the Halakhic Letter were first reported by Qimron and Strugnell (1984, 1985) in two separate articles, both entitled "An Unpublished Halakhic Letter." Further discussion may be found in Schiffman (1990)." The entire text, in an early version of the edition by Qimron and Strugnell, was published-without the permission of the editors-in Eisenman and Robinson, A Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, (1991) in the Publisher's Foreword, by Shanks, as figure 8. This edition was in turn based on Kapera (1990). Figure 8 appeared only in the first edition of Eisenman and Robinson, but was subsequently removed in accord with the ruling of an Israeli court. This text was the cause of the lawsuit by Qimron against Shanks.

(2) All translations presented here are by the author, except for biblical texts, which for the most part follow the New Jewish Publication Society translation. Square brackets are used to indicate restorations made by scholars to fragmentary scroll texts. Parenthesis are used to indicate explanatory material added to the translation.

(3) General discussion of the various systems of Jewish law observed during the Second Temple period, together with a more detailed discussion of the Halakhic Letter, may be found in Schiffman (1989, 1991) and Baumgarten (1991). Extremely important is Sussmann (1989/90). The first to realize the Sadducean halakhic tendencies of the Halakhic Letter, when only a short passage from it was known, was Baumgarten (1980:163-64). A thorough study of the law of the document is found in Qimron and Strugnell (1994:123-77). The text of Sussmann's Hebrew article appears in translation with selected footnotes in that same volume, on pp. 129-200.

(4) The Halakhic Letter confirms the priestly origins of the sect, which fact had been suggested by, among others, Cross (1971); cf. also Schwartz (1990, 1992a). The historical relevance of the Halakhic Letter to the founding of the sect is discussed in Schiffman (1990). On this issue, see Qimron and Strugnell (1994:109-21), who see the letter as originating during the leadership of

the Teacher of Righteousness. We, however, see the letter as dating to before his career. (5) in addition to the Halakhic Letter, another Qumran text, the Temple Scroll, also shows some affinity with Sadducean halakhah, as shown in Schiffman (1989). Attention was called to Sadducean elements in the Temple Scroll by Lehmann (1978). This and other articles by Lehmann on the scrolls are collected in his Massot u-Massa'ot (1982). The Sadducean connection was also proposed early in Qumran research by North (1955b). Burgmann (1989) also alleges a Sadducean background for this scroll, but Burgmann fails to argue his thesis in a sustained manner, dealing only with the Levitical favoritism in the Temple Scroll. This connection is also prominent in Wacholder (1989:99-169), on which see Basser (1984) who raises some of the fundamental problems in Wacholder's argumentation.

(6) The Zadokite Fragments provides important information for determining the history of the sect's establishment. This text was first published by Schechter (1970), and has recently been reedited by Qimron (1992). For a description of the manuscripts of this document that were discovered in Qumran cave 4, see Baumgarten (1992). The text of these manuscripts has now been published from preliminary transcriptions by Milik in Wacholder and Abegg (1991-92) in fascicle 1. On the reliability of the medieval copies, see Baumgarten (1992:62). See also Rowley (1952) for the relationship of the genizah find to the Qumran corpus. The best commentary remains Rabin (1954). Extremely important is Ginzberg, (1976) which was a path-breaking study of this text. See Davies (1983), for a study of the "Admonition", which, however, ignores the legal section of the text. Davies shares the notion of Babylonian origins for the Essenes with Murphy-O'Conner (1972A, 1972B, 1985) who analyzes this text. See also Davies (1982a). For a discussion of the sectarians' viewing themselves as the direct heirs of biblical Israel, see Talmon (1989:11-52).

(7) This identification has been suggested by Bar-Adon (1977) and Allegro (1960:68-74). Cross and Milik (1956) suggest that Qumran is to be identified with "The City of Salt." A useful discussion of both views may be found in Davies (1982b:36-40).

(8) See Talmon (1966) and Schwartz (1992b:29-43) on the significance of the desert and the exodus to it in the thought of the Qumran sectarians. On the influence of the Bible in general, see Freedman (1971).


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