Archives for the month of: November, 2012

 

Afternoon, 2007, oil on canvas

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This essay will explore the similarities and the differences between the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, being the Community Rule (1QS) and the Damascus Document (CD), and posit implications for the historical environment of the documents.

 

The 1QS scroll was found in a desert cave at Qumran in 1948. It contains the rules for a religious community that occupied the site from around the late second century BCE to the middle of the first century CE. The CD is a scroll found in the late nineteenth century in a synagogue in Cairo and is a medieval copy of scrolls also found at the Qumran site. The two texts show remarkable similarities in their intent but appear quite different in the theological method and the lifestyle of the two communities that they describe. It will be argued that the two texts have fundamental similarities which show that the CD was a prior document written in a time of persecution and that the 1QS was the later document that showed how the sect evolved to cope with the circumstances of its isolation.

In investigating the similarities between each text, three fundamental similarities appear. Firstly, both texts stress their community’s separation from the mainstream community. Secondly, both texts anticipate the arrival of a Messiah. Finally, both texts show a similarity between terms. In particular, they emphasise reliance upon the Law of Moses but as it is interpreted through a received divine Covenant. In this way, they show their roots in mainstream Judaism. However, both texts diverge from Judaism in the use of a solar calendar through which they must keep firmly ‘to the elect of the time’ and uphold ‘the seasons of Jubilee[1] in which the holy Sabbaths have been revealed by God[2]. The term ‘sons of zadok’[3] is applied to the authorities of both texts which shows that at some point in their history they recognised the authority of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, that officiated the change of religious authority from king to priest. Yet, in keeping to the original solar calendar, they seem not to recognise the change to the lunar calendar wrought after Babylonian exile. Therefore, both texts refer to a Hebraic priestly community that uses a prior system of keeping Sabbaths and festivals.

Separation from mainstream Judaism is stressed in both texts and results in an emphasis on perfection, which is asserted by the people of the community[4]. This emphasis on perfection reveals that both texts are based upon hierarchical communities where one’s position is determined by the leader[5]. The concept of hierarchical perfection may allude to the plant metaphor used to describe the community in both texts, where the root of the plant comes ‘from Israel and Aaron’[6] and will become the ‘Everlasting Plantation’.  It is inferred in both texts that this hierarchical perfection will allow the community to survive an age of wrath under the dominion of ‘Belial’[7]. Therefore, it seems that the similarities between the two documents point to a description of a similar, if not the same, community in two different periods of time.

The similarities that point to different time periods also show the crucial differences between the texts. The CD contains a history that relates the origins of the community which is not contained within the 1QS. In contrast, the 1QS scroll is composed as a set of community rules with a prayer at the end that is based upon the structure of a psalm[8]. The time stated within the CD text is 390 years after the capturing of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar[9].  There is also a reference to the ‘visitation’, in which the community was saved while ‘the apostates’ were given up to the sword and their ‘destruction was by the hand of Belial’[10].  Shortly after, the text refers to the ‘head of the asps [who] is the chief of the kings of Greece who came to wreak vengeance upon them’[11]. So perhaps it refers to the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, who violently suppressed a Jewish revolt in 168 BCE[12]. This would date the document’s origins in approximately the mid-second century BCE when there began a power struggle between different factions within the Jewish community in Judea[13]. The CD also relies upon the mainstream Hebrew texts as the scroll has fifty-one references to the books of the Old Testament, whereas the 1QS only has four. This implies reliance by the CD on the mainstream religious authorities while the 1QS has little reference to these authorities.

This reliance upon mainstream texts is reflected in the references to Temple worship found in the CD which are not found in the 1QS. In the CD, the three main sins cited are fornication, riches and the profanation of the Temple[14]. This stands in contrast to the concept of the Temple found in the 1QS, which sees the Council as the Temple[15]. The attainment of perfection in the 1QS is stated as being atonement for rebellion and unfaithfulness ‘so that they may obtain loving-kindness for the Land without the flesh of holocausts or the fat of sacrifice[16]. Further, it is stated in 1QS that the divine offering will be a blessing from the lips, which seems to be reliance upon the offering of prayers that uphold the seasons of Jubilee, rather than animal sacrifice[17]. This difference could imply that the community of the CD lived in a settlement that had already had a temple cult while the 1QS needed to find other methods of religious worship that suited their location in the desert.

This difference in the concept of the Temple is also borne out in the concept of the community. While the CD has rules for marriage and children[18] the 1QS makes no mention of women or children. The CD also excludes people from their community if they are found to be physically or mentally defective[19] and only allows men of a certain age to be in authority, while the 1QS is a semi-monastical community that shares its possessions and meals and makes no mention of exclusion through age or disability[20].  Both texts share the concept of a special Covenant with God but the CD advocates a New Covenant -‘a pact’- that will be (or has been in some parts of the text) declared in the land of Damascus[21]. The Covenant for the 1QS has a strict set of rules that governs every aspect of one’s life[22] whereas the CD demands a more generalised strict adherence to the ‘Laws of Moses’[23]. Therefore, there are quite distinct religiously conceptual differences between the two texts.

The historian, Eyal Regev, uses these theological differences to explain the divergences between the two texts and asserts that each text is based upon a different sect[24]. For Regev, the difference lies in the descriptions of each text’s social structures. Firstly, Regev points out that the CD was run by overseers who had exclusive authority[25], whereas the IQS was less hierarchical with the overseer not having religious authority[26]. Regev also points to theological differences such as concepts of divine revelation and the total separation from Israel that is stipulated by IQS[27].  However, the similarity in the texts requiring ten men of the Council needing one priest among them[28], their reliance upon the two prophesied messiahs from the houses of Aaron and Israel[29], and the endorsement of the solar calendar show that both texts had fundamental conceptual roots. The differences in divine revelation and total separation from the mainstream religion could infer that the sect evolved over a period of time into a much smaller and more intense community than the original sect.

This is also asserted by the historian, Charlotte Hempel, who uses the literary differences between the texts to map out their evolution[30].  Hempel states that the CD and the 1QS are more inter-textual than the other Qumran texts, with a particular reference to the perfection and holiness with which each text’s community describes itself[31]. This leads to Hempel’s conclusion that the texts originated independently of their place[32]. However, although they use similar vocabulary, one text appears to be a text that advocated a similar type of temple cult that was fundamental to the mainstream, while the 1QS became a more particular type of document that saw itself as the Temple. Therefore, textuality does not seem to be a completely effective method of explaining the two texts divergence and it could be inferred that each text shows its place through either the conformity to the temple cult of CD or the semi-monastic lifestyle of 1QS.

The historian, Phillip Davies, posits that the 1QS is based upon the older CD and that this text legitimised the community of 1QS[33]. For Davies, the CD is a description of a point of origin from Babylonian departure onwards, and rejects notions of the CD being a document from the religious strife in Judea during the mid-second century BCE. However, the CD is written in the historical genre and relates to itself as living in an age of wrath, with particular mention of the Greek kings. If one critically analyses the text, as Davies asserts one must[34], then it appears that the CD was the one of the original texts of the Dead Sea Sectarians that gives its history as a splinter group formed around the middle of the second century BCE during a time of persecution and religious strife.

The CD and the 1QS had a fundamental similarity and that was their belief that they had a special covenant based upon a more ancient law than the one advocated by Ezra and Nehemiah after the Babylonian exile. The sectarians considered themselves true believers that would be redeemed through their pursuit of perfection and strict adherence to ancient laws based upon the older, solar calendar. They suffered persecution for their beliefs, trying to remain separate themselves from the mainstream religion, and subsequently took refuge in camps in the desert. As time passed, this led to their semi-monastic isolation at Qumran, with the CD text being the one of the sect’s initial documents written while they were still in the mainstream community, and that evolved into the Community Rules of the 1QS. So, rather than a sect that splinters and dissipates into the mainstream, as Regev suggests, the Dead Sea Sectarians appear to be a splinter group of mainstream Judaism that became more isolated, intense and idiosyncratic over time.

 

 

REFERENCES:

 

  1. Vermes, G. (ed. & trans.), The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (London: Penguin Books, 2004 or 2011)
    1. Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, William Whiston, A.M., Ed.
    2. Regev, E., ‘Between Two Sects: Differentiating the Yahad and the Damascus Covenant’, in The Dead Sea Scrolls: Text and Context (ed., C. Hempel; Leiden: Brill, 2009)
    3. Hempel, Charlotte, ‘CD manuscript B and the Rule of the Community—Reflections on a Literary Relationship’, Dead Sea Discoveries 16 (2009)
    4. Davies, Philip R. “The prehistory of the Qumran community” in Dead Sea Scrolls: Forty Years of Research , Dimant, Devorah; Rappaport, Uriel , 1992

 

This essay will explore the similarities and the differences between the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, being the Community Rule (1QS) and the Damascus Document (CD), and posit implications for the historical environment of the documents.

 


 


[1] 1QS ix 15; CD ivi 5

[2] CD iii 15

[3] 1QS v 2; CD iv, 1

[4] 1QS i 12; CD ii 15

[5] 1QS ii 22; CD xiii 13

[6] CD i 7; 1QS xi 7

[7] 1QS. ii, 5; CD iv, 14

[8] 1QS, x.5 – xi.23

[9] CD. i,6

[10] CD. viii, 2

[11] CD. viii, 11

[12] Josephus, BJ 1.1.34

[13] Josephus, BJ 1.2.67

[14] CD. iv, 16

[15] 1QS. viii, 7

[16] 1QS. ix, 5

[17] 1QS. x, 1

[18] CD, vii, 6

[19] CD, xv, 15

[20] 1QS, v, 2; 1QS, vi, 2

[21] CD, viii, 21- ix, 12

[22] 1QS, vi, 25

[23] CD, xv, 12

[24] Regev, E., ‘Between Two Sects: Differentiating the Yahad and the Damascus Covenant’, in The Dead Sea Scrolls: Text and Context (ed., C. Hempel; Leiden: Brill, 2009) p. 431

[25] Regev, 2009, p.432

[26] Regev, 2009, p. 435

[27] Regev, 2009, p. 437

[28] 1QS, vi, 4; CD, xiii, 1

[29] CD, i, 7; 1QS, ix, 11

[30] Hempel, Charlotte, ‘CD manuscript B and the Rule of the Community—Reflections on a Literary Relationship’, Dead Sea Discoveries 16 (2009) p.374

[31] Hempel, 2009, p.382

[32] Hempel, 2009, p.374

[33] Davies, Philip R. “The prehistory of the Qumran community” in Dead Sea Scrolls: Forty Years of Research , Dimant, Devorah; Rappaport, Uriel , 1992 , p.121

[34]  Davies, 1992 , p.125

The Captives, 2010, egg tempera, pigment and mixed media on board

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Rural Woman

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The Aunties

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The Carpet Sellers

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Woman Riding a Camel

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Breadmaking

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The Knife-Sharpener

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The Bridge

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The Uncle

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Fishing Boats

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Zororastrian Burial Tower