Seers, Sibyls, and Sages in Hellenistic-Roman Judaism

By John J. Collins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
THE ORIGIN OF THE QUMRAN COMMUNITY:
A REVIEW OF THE EVIDENCE

After five decades of study, the origin of the Qumran community is still the subject of widely diverse hypotheses.1 The reason is, of course, that the evidence of the scrolls is very elliptic on this subject. The imminent publication of 4QMMT, the supposed letter of the Teacher of Righteousness to the Wicked Priest, may cast some new light on the issue.2 For the present, however, it is worthwhile to review the available evidence and try to clarify how far the main current hypotheses can claim a textual basis. I will focus on three issues: (1) the causes of dissension between the Dead Sea sect and the rest of Judaism; (2) the time at which the sect emerged as a distinct organization; and (3) the opposition to the Teacher associated with the Man of Lies.


1. The Causes of Dissension

The Damascus Document addresses the issues which distinguished the sect from the rest of Israel in three passages. In CD 3:12 we are told that “with those who held fast to the commandments of God, those who were left over of them, God established his covenant with Israel forever, to reveal to them the hidden things (nistārôt) in which all Israel strayed: he manifested to them his holy sabbaths, his glorious feasts, the testimonies of his righteousness and the ways of his truth and the desires of his will which man must do and by which he must live.” In this passage the “covenant with Israel” is restricted

1 For a sampling of recent proposals see B.Z. Wacholder, Ute Daum of Qumran (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College, 1983); P.R. Davies, The Damascus Covenant (Sheffield: JSOT, 1983); R. Eisenman, Maccabees, Zadokites, Christians and Qumran (Leiden: Brill, 1983); B.E. Thiering, Redating the Teacher of Righteousness (Sydney: Glenburn, 1979). N. Golb (“Who Hid the Dead Sea Scrolls?” BA [June, 1985] 6882) denies that Qumran was an Essene settlement but fails to account for the community described in 1QS or Pliny's reference to an Esscne settlement between Jericho and Ain Gedi (Nat. Hist. 5.15).

2 E. Qimron and J. Strugnell, “An Unpublished Halakhic Letter from Qumran” in Biblical Archeology To-Day: Proceedings of the International Congress on Biblical Archeology (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1985) 400–407. See now E. Qimron and J. Strugnell, Qumran Cave 4. IV. Miqsat Ma'ase Ha-Torah (DJD 10; Oxford: Clarendon, 1994).

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