Skip to: Site Menu | Main content


The Sect of the Qumran Texts and its Leading Role in the Temple in Jerusalem During Much of the First Century BCE: Toward a New Framework for Understanding (Part II).





It is frequently supposed that the people of the Qumran texts opposed the Hasmoneans because the Hasmoneans combined the office of king and high priest. Texts such as the Temple Scroll are cited which envision a high priest superior to and distinct from the king. Other texts are cited which reflect a dual-messiah ideology of a separate king and high priest. CD 7.18-21 portrays a “prince of the whole congregation” distinct from an “Interpreter of the Law”, corresponding to a distinction between a Davidic warrior messiah and a high priestly messiah in other texts. It has been argued that since the Hasmoneans combined the offices of king and high priest contrary to this, the people of the Qumran texts can only have opposed, and in no way could have supported, the Hasmonean rulers. But this construction also evaporates when examined more closely.



See Also:

The Sect of the Qumran Texts and its Leading Role in the Temple in Jerusalem During Much of the First Century BCE (Part I)

The Sect of the Qumran Texts and its Leading Role in the Temple in Jerusalem During Much of the First Century BCE (Part III)



By Greg Doudna
April 2014


There used to be an idea in Qumran scholarship that the Hasmonean high priests of the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE were not descended from Zadok, the biblical priest in the time of David. The idea was that the Hasmoneans (then called Maccabees) in the mid-2nd century BCE replaced the then-ruling Oniad line of high priests, believed to have been “Zadokites”. In history the Oniad line of high priests in Jerusalem came to an end in the upheavals surrounding the Hellenistic crisis of the mid-2nd century BCE reflected in the book of Daniel.

1QS refers to the yachad’s priests as “sons of Zadok”. The notion was that the priests of the Qumran sect of the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE, contemporary with and opposed to the Hasmoneans ruling in Jerusalem, were survivors of or a branch of the earlier Oniad high-priestly line, no longer in power but regarding themselves as legitimate, still in Judea, now the leaders of the Qumran sect. The idea was that the “sons of Zadok” of the sect were opposed to the non-Zadokite Hasmoneans in power in Jerusalem who had usurped the Zadokite Oniads. Until recently this scheme was taken for granted by most scholars and presented in standard popular introductions to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

But there never was any evidence for that construction—that the Hasmoneans did not understand themselves to have been descended from Zadok. No ancient text attests to that notion (there is no sign the Hasmoneans were criticized for not being descended from Zadok), and a number of studies in recent years, from Liver 1967 (the Hasmonean priestly course of Joiarib was from Zadok), DeQueker 1986 (the Hasmoneans understood themselves to be Zadokites), Hjelm 2000 (the Hasmoneans identified themselves as Zadokites), Grabbe 2003 (all altar priests were assumed to have Zadok in their ancestry; Zadok was not a high-priestly line; “sons of Zadok”, “sons of Aaron”, and “priests’”were synonymous in Qumran sectarian texts), VanderKam 2004 (Hasmoneans as Zadokites very possible), Schofield and VanderKam 2005 (considerable reason to believe the Hasmoneans were Zadokites, no evidence to the contrary) and others have put an end to this idea. This means that when the Qumran Community Rule texts refer to their priests as sons of Zadok, there is no indication in that expression of a difference between those priests and priests of the temple in the era of the Hasmoneans.

And any assumption that the people of the Qumran texts practiced a different calendar than that of the 1st century BCE Hasmonean high priests, and therefore the Teacher could not have been a high priest of the 1st century BCE temple for that reason, or the priests of the Qumran texts could not have supported a high priest of the 1st century BCE for that reason, is no better founded than the non-Zadokite Hasmonean notion—since there is no independent knowledge of the calendar ideology of the priests of the temple in the era of the Hasmomeans, and therefore no basis for assuming that a regime of priests of the temple held views different than those of priests of the Qumran texts, as opposed to the same or compatible views.

1QpHab 11.4-8 has almost certainly been misunderstood in Qumran scholarship. In 1951 Shemaryahu Talmon proposed a reading of this pesher as indicating a calendar dispute between the Wicked Priest and the followers of the Teacher of Righteousness. As Talmon, followed by virtually every Qumran scholar since, read it, these lines give a picture of the Wicked Priest pursuing the Teacher of Righteousness to a place of exile, whereupon he (the Wicked Priest) attempts to disrupt the righteous when they are observing their holy fast day, the Day of Atonement. Obviously, the logic goes, if the Wicked Priest and the Teacher were following the same calendar, the Wicked Priest—the high priest—would be in Jerusalem in the temple on the Day of Atonement, not leading a military attack somewhere away from Jerusalem on that day. The conclusion, it is argued, is that the Wicked Priest was operating on a different calendar—/p. 79/ the pesher portrays an event occurring on the Day of Atonement of the calendar used by the sect of the Teacher, but this was not the Day of Atonement of the calendar of the Wicked Priest or the temple. This passage in Pesher Habakkuk and the interpretation of it just described have been pivotal in virtually every discussion of the Teacher of Righteousness in the more than half century since then. But that reading or interpretation of those lines is likely in error.

The two sentences in the pesher of 1QpHab 11.4-8 almost certainly allude to two distinct events in the world of the text, not one as commonly supposed. The first is a murderous pursuit by the Wicked Priest of the Teacher driving the Teacher to a place of exile. The second takes place in the temple in Jerusalem, where the Wicked Priest appears in glory on the Day of Atonement and casts the righteous (who also are in the temple in Jerusalem on this day) into disarray. The issue, from the point of view of the text, is a usurpation of the high priesthood by the Wicked Priest. The Wicked Priest drives the Teacher into exile, and then the Wicked Priest assumes the office of high priest now vacated by the Teacher. 1QpHab 11.4-8 therefore has nothing to do with a calendar dispute. Rather than being a calendar dispute, 1QpHab 11.4-8 is a legitimate high priest and usurpation dispute. The real significance of 1QpHab 11.4-8 has been lost by the mistaken reading. The real significance is a glimpse of a dramatic scene of the Wicked Priest appearing as high priest in the temple on the Day of Atonement, an allusion to a usurper who has driven out the Teacher, the legitimate high priest. It is an image of a usurper assuming the office of high priest formerly held by the Teacher—a traumatic and shocking event to the righteous in the world of the text.

~ ~ 7 ~ ~

It has been suggested that the 364-day calendar of many Qumran texts might have been used in the temple in the time of John Hyrcanus I and Alexander Jannaeus and sporadically at later times (Glessmer 1999: 273-74). But others such as Baumgarten (1987) and Stern (2000, 2010) have suspected the 364-day calendar of the Qumran texts did not involve repudiation of the lunar calendar in practice, but could have represented an ideal rather than intended to be practiced in real life. Helen Jacobus has published an analysis of 4Q318 Zodiology and Brontology showing that that text is extremely accurate in calculating the zodiac sign in which the moon is situated for most dates of the Hebrew calendar, even to the present day. Jacobus says that the lunar calendar (today’s Hebrew calendar) was in use anciently and that “it was harmonised with the 360-day year and the zodiacal arrangement in the text. The 4Q318 zodiac calendar would therefore integrate three cycles: the sun, the moon, and the stars (the zodiac) into a single, perpetual calendar” (Jacobus 2010: 374).

Sacha Stern suggests that scholarly studies of Qumran calendrical texts may have confused theoretical discussions in texts with practice, and that apart from Jubilees (2nd century BCE) there is little actual evidence for Jewish calendar sectarianism in practice anciently. Josephus, for example, knows nothing of calendar disputes. Undercutting much of what has long been taken for granted in scholarly literature, Stern argues that “the notion that the calendar was critical to Qumran sectarianism remains no more than a modern scholarly assumption” (Stern 2010: 249) and “the 364-day calendar … does not appear in Qumran sources as a polemical issue, nor does it appear to have played a particular role in forging the Qumran community’s sectarian identity” (ibid: 250).

The calendar that is attached, for example, to 4Q259 Se has nothing in it that warrants interpreting it as in contrast to a different calendar used by temple priests. The calendar of 4Q259 Se reads perfectly well as a text of priests associated with or running the temple, and there is nothing in the text contrary to this. The calendrical texts among the Qumran finds have been read as in opposition to temple practices in the absence of knowledge of what calendrical practices and ideology in the temple actually were. Unless there is evidence to know otherwise, it should be considered that the calendrical texts among the Qumran finds may be actual glimpses into the world of priests of the temple in the era of the Hasmoneans concerning calendar issues, because these may be their texts—missed because of the blinding effect of a scholarly construction.

~ ~ 8 ~ ~

It is frequently supposed that the people of the Qumran texts opposed the Hasmoneans because the Hasmoneans combined the office of king and high priest. Texts such as the Temple Scroll are cited which envision a high priest superior to and distinct from the king. Other texts are cited which reflect a dual-messiah ideology of a separate king and high priest. CD 7.18-21 portrays a “prince of the whole congregation” distinct from an “Interpreter of the Law”, corresponding to a distinction between a Davidic warrior messiah and a high priestly messiah in other texts. It has been argued that since the Hasmoneans combined the offices of king and high priest contrary to this, the people of the Qumran texts can only have opposed, and in no way could have supported, the Hasmonean rulers.

But this construction also evaporates when examined more closely. An article of Israel Knohl (2009) can be cited as the corrective here. Knohl notes the context of scholarly debate concerning the single- versus dual- messiah issue in the Qumran texts. Knohl notes that both views are represented in the Bible. On the one hand kings such as David exercise priestly prerogatives and there is Melchizedek of Genesis who is king and high priest. On the other hand the Torah separates king and high priest, and a dual messiah ideology can be seen reflected at Zech. 4:14. Knohl argues that just as in the Bible, so in the Qumran texts: both views are represented. Knohl cites /p. 80/ 11QMelchizedek as combining in one figure the high priestly and royal messiah. Against a widespread scholarly notion that the figure of 11QMelchizedek is an angel, Knohl argues: the figure is human, an eschatological human figure. The figure sets people free. This figure is described with names of God, but this is like divine names associated with messianic figures in the Bible; it does not mean this figure is an angel or is God. Knohl cites 2.13 as showing the distinction: the figure “carries out the vengeance of God’s judgments”. Knohl argues that the figure of 11QMelchizedek combined both kingship and priesthood within a single person, and is identical to the figure of the Qumran Self-Glorification Hymn which has received so much discussion. Knohl argues that the figures of these texts are both royal and priestly, and that at least some authors of Qumran texts “saw the Community leader as the messianic king and high priest” (Knohl 2009: 266).

Meanwhile, as other studies have shown, the Self-Glorification Hymn, in which a priestly figure speaks as if glorified in a heavenly setting, appears to speak with the same “I” voice of the Hodayot, the voice of the Teacher (Abegg 1997; Wise 2000; Angel 2010). Kings and priests are combined in Aramaic Levi (3rd or 2nd century BCE), seven copies of which were found at Qumran (Stone 2006: 62-63).

These analyses remove the basis for the assumption that the yachad groups would have opposed the Hasmoneans over the issue of uniting king and high priest in one person, since some of their own texts have this. To this it may be added that there is not a single fragment among the finds at Qumran that attests opposition to or polemic against a figure on the grounds of combining king and priest. What some scholars have reified and perceived as a central issue, there is no evidence internal to the texts to indicate was an issue at all.

[The above is excerpted from G. Doudna, “The Sect of the Qumran Texts and its Leading Role in the Temple in Jerusalem During Much of the First Century BCE: Toward a New Framework for Understanding”, in D. Stacey and G. Doudna, Qumran Revisited: A Reassessment of the Archaeology of the Site and its Texts (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2013), pp. 75-124, at 78-80.]



REFERENCES:

Abegg, M. (1997), “Who Ascended to Heaven? 4Q491, 4Q427, and the Teacher of Righteousness”. Pp. 61-73 in C. Evans and P. Flint (eds), Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

Angel, J. (2010), “The Liturgical-Eschatological Priest of the Self-Glorification Hymn”. Revue de Qumran 96: 585-605.

Baumgarten, J.M., (1987), “The Calendars of the Book of Jubilees and the Temple Scroll”. Vetus Testamentum 37: 71-78.

DeQueker, L. (1986), “I Chronicles XXIV and the Royal Priesthood of the Hasmoneans”. Pp. 94-106 in A.S. van der Woude (ed.), Crises and Perspectives. Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Polytheism, Biblical Theology, Palestinian Archaeology and Intertestamental Literature. Leiden: Brill.

Glessmer, U. (1999), “Calendars in the Qumran Scrolls”. Pp. 213-78 in P. Flint and J. VanderKam (eds), The Dead Sea Scrolls after Fifty Years. Vol. II. Leiden: Brill.

Grabbe, L. (2003), “Were the Pre-Maccabean High Priests ‘Zadokites’?”. Pp. 205-15 in J.C. Exum and J.C.M. Williamson (eds), Reading from Left to Right. Essays on the Hebrew Bible in Honour of David J.A. Cline. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Hjelm, I. (2000), The Samaritans and Early Judaism. A Literary Analysis. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Jacobus, H. (2010), “4Q318: A Jewish Zodiac Calendar at Qumran?”. Pp. 365-95 in C. Hempel (ed.), The Dead Sea Scrolls: Texts and Contexts. Leiden: Brill.

Knohl, I. (2009), “Melchizedek: A Model for the Union of Kingship and Priesthood in the Hebrew Bible, 11QMelchizedek, and the Epistle to the Hebrews”. Pp. 255-66 in R. Clements and D. Schwartz (eds), Text, Thought, and Practice in Qumran and Early Christianity. Leiden: Brill.

Liver, J. (1967), “The Sons of Zadok the Priest”. Revue de Qumran 6: 3-30.

Schofield, A. and J. VanderKam (2005), “Were the Hasmoneans Zadokites?”. Journal of Biblical Literature 124: 73-87.

Stern, S. (2000), “Qumran Calendars: Theory and Practice”. Pp. 179-86 in T. Lim et al. (eds), The Dead Sea Scrolls in their Historical Context. New York: T and T Clark.

-------- (2010), “Qumran Calendars and Sectarianism”. Pp. 232-53 in T. Lim and J. Collins (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stone, M. (2006), Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and Armenian Studies. Collected Papers. Volume I. Leuven: Peeters.

Talmon, S. (1951), “Yom Hakkippurim in the Habakkuk Scroll”. Biblica 32: 549-63.

VanderKam, J. (2004), From Joshua to Caiaphas. High Priests after the Exile. Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Fortress.

Wise, M.O. (2000), “A Study of 4Q491c, 4Q471b, 4Q427 7 and 1QHA 25:35-26:10*”. Dead Sea Discoveries 7: 173-219.





Comments (8)


I speak from a thoroughly inexpert point of view. Just to ask who would the Wicked Priest be if not a Hasmonean leader, either a specific one or a 'type'?
#1 - Martin Hughes - 04/30/2014 - 16:23



To Martin H.: I agree that the Wicked Priest alludes to a Hasmonean leader regarded by the texts as wicked.
#2 - Greg Doudna - 04/30/2014 - 19:04



If that is so then presumably the Qumranites had some sort of profound objection to the Hasmonean regime? Or a merely transient objection to the regime in one phase? The latter seems unlikely if the opposition between the Wicked and Righteous individuals had been so dramatic.
So the question would be 'why' there was this objection, not 'whether'?
I'm merely feeling my way in this topic, hoping someone better informed might join in.
#3 - Martin Hughes - 05/01/2014 - 12:57



Yes "why" would the texts reflect such opposition to a Hasmonean ruler? Good question. What do the texts say? (a) he ousted the legitimate ruler, the now-exiled Teacher of Righteousness; (b) he persecuted the righteous; (c ) he defiles the temple (of which he is now in charge); (d) he robbed wealth of the temple; (e) he tried to kill the Teacher, drove him into exile, etc. The rhetoric represents the standpoint of loyalists to the exiled Teacher. Why assume the exiled Teacher, formerly high priest in Jerusalem until usurped, was non-Hasmonean? What support is there for that in the texts, or reason to suppose that? One of the most basic themes in Josephus for 1st century BCE is the conflicts between rival Hasmoneans that in the end destroyed the dynasty. Why assume the Qumran sectarian texts, which come out of exactly the time and place of those conflicts, are outside or removed from that known history, instead of rhetoric emerging from actors or partisans within that history?
#4 - Greg Doudna - 05/01/2014 - 14:36



At this rate we're talking about a split in the Hasmonean regime, of which there do seem to have been a few. Where in the record should we locate the split that turned out, for these purposes, to be crucial? Was Qumran opposed to the regime permanently from that point or was the Teacher restored and the tables turned on the Wicked? If there was an ideological element to the split can we identify the points at issue?
#5 - Martin Hughes - 05/01/2014 - 17:44



I give my ideas and arguments on this in my 2013 piece in Stacey and Doudna. I make the argument for Antigonus Mattathias as WP and a rival exiled high priest being TR, with texts at Qumran reflecting criticism of Antigonus Mattathias from the standpoint of partisans of the exiled high priest.
#6 - Greg Doudna - 05/01/2014 - 21:29



This is on the very edge of pertinence. No reply deserved/expected.
If the Hasmonean ruler in question is a Wicked Priest rather than (that more biblical figure) the Wicked King, wouldn't that indicate a time before the Hasmoneans moved on from being High Priests to being Kings as well?
I note the echo of these ideas - is there a connection? - in II Thessalonians, where the wicked person sitting in the Temple is no longer set off against a Teacher of Righteousness but a more shadowy Restrainer, who will soon, apparently, be out of the way.
I don't know if you know MR James' ghost story, one of the best, 'The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral', which is about a wicked priest. His attention is drawn to II Thess and also to Psalm 109 (Protestant numbering). This was long before Qumran had been heard of in the modern world, but could it be the case that II Thess is an echo of Qumranite ideas and Ps 109/110, with a new 'Melchizekian' priest taking over, a manifesto on the other side of the dispute?
#7 - Martin Hughes - 05/02/2014 - 12:58



I see no reason why the disparaging mocking nickname "Wicked Priest" of two texts, which is a pun in heb. on this figure claiming to be and acting as "high priest", means the figure was or was not king as well. (I think the same figure does show up in a different text as a wicked king.) Maybe the choice of nickname indicates the high priest issue was the issue to the authors. On 2 Thes 2 as a metaphor for a figure removing a restraining influence before becoming gloriously powerful and wicked, I looked up and read the MR James story, sort of a psychological study version of 2 Thes 2 in a way, with the unexplained but just ending analogous to the just ending the WP receives in the texts (from the point of view of the readers). I am sure there is no direct connection, but the metaphors are surely timeless.
#8 - Greg Doudna - 05/02/2014 - 19:42






Use the form below to submit a new comment. Comments are moderated
and logged, and may be edited. You must provide your full name.
Inappropriate material will not be posted.

Name
E-mail (Will not appear online)
Comment