The Qumran Community:
Essene or Sadducean?
Ever since the first days of the discovery of the scrolls in Qumran Cave 1 in 1947 and especially since the publication of its rule book, the Manual of Discipline,in 1951 and of other sectarian writings, the identification of the Qumran community with the Essenes has been in vogue. In fact, it is the identification most often encountered among scholars even today. Eleazar Lipa Sukenik, professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who had acquired three of the seven scrolls discovered in Qumran Cave 1, was apparently the first to propose this identification, as far as one can ascertain today.1 The French scholar André DupontSommer seems to have made the same identification independently of Sukenik,2 and many other reputable scholars engaged in the study of the Qumran texts have since espoused this identification.
Once, however, fuller knowledge of the Cave 4 text called miqşāt maăśê hattôrāh, “Some Deeds of the Law” (4QMMT), was revealed in the last decade,3 some scholars sought to challenge the Essene identification of the
1. See Y. Yadin, The Message of the Scrolls(ed. J. H. Charlesworth; New York: Cross-
road, 1992; originally published 1957) 176.
2. J. Dupont-Sommer, Aperçus préliminaires sur les manuscrits de la Mer Morte
(L'Orient Ancien Illustré 4; Paris: Maisonneuve, 1950) 106-17. Cf. H. H. Rowley, The
Zadokite Fragments and the Dead Sea Scrolls(Oxford: Blackwell, 1952) 78-79.
3. It had been called by J. T. Milik in earlier times 4QMišniquea-f (M. Baillet, J. T.
Milik, and R. de Vaux, Les ‘Petites grottes’ de Qumrân[DJD 3; Oxford: Clarendon, 1962]
222). Eventually, more detailed preliminary reports were published in K. Qimron and
J. Strugnell, “An Unpublished Halakhic Letter from Qumran,” in Biblical Archaeology To-
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Publication information: Book title: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins. Contributors: Joseph A. Fitzmyer - Author. Publisher: W.B. Eerdmans. Place of publication: Grand Rapids, MI. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 249.
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