Judean Nationalism in the Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls

David Goodblatt
University of California, San Diego

As someone whose professional research interests have always included the Second Temple period, I applaud the Orion Center for their choice of the topic for this symposium: Jewish History from the Maccabees to Bar-Kokhba in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I applaud the choice because it encourages a dialogue between Qumran studies and the study of the history of Judea during late Second Temple times. Such a dialogue has been all too rare during the first half century of study of the scrolls. Not that Second Temple history was absent from Qumran studies. But reading the general surveys and introductions to the Dead Sea Scrolls, I often felt the way I do when reading introductions to the New Testament. That is, Jewish history from the Maccabees onward was invoked as background and context. Qumran scholars looked to Second Temple history in their attempts to identify the group which produced (at least some of) the scrolls. They used that history to identify the (very few) historical personages mentioned by name in the texts, and to suggest possibilities for uncovering the persons hiding behind such sobriquets as the Wicked Priest and the Young Lion.1 What was relatively lacking was the revers e: using the Dead Sea Scrolls to illuminate the history of the Jews. And this lack meant that there was little mutual dialogue between the two disciplines and their respective practitioners. Like most generalizations this one has exceptions, which is why I used qualifications such as "relatively." One exception concerns the period between the death of Alcimus in about 160 BCE and the appointment of Jonathan as high priest in 152 BCE. Several scholars have used Qumran materials in an attempt to reconstruct what happened in Jerusalem during these years.2 But it is hard to think of other such cases. There are also instances of scholars who contribute both to Qumran studies and to the history of Second Temple Judea, and one would hesitate to say there was absolutely no overlap between their work on these two subjects. Still, we are dealing with exceptions and not the rule.

That the first half century of Qumran studies has had limited impact on the historiography of Second Temple Judea can be illustrated in various ways. Let us begin by looking at the Revised Edition of Fitzmyer's bibliography, which will give us a sense of the state of the field as of 1990. Chapter 10 of that work contains a "Select Bibliography on Some Topics of Dead Sea Scrolls Study." Ten topics appear including such subjects as archaeology, the Bible and biblical interpretation, theology, messianism, the New Testament, the calendar, and the history of the Qumran community. The history of Judea or of the Jews, however, is not one of the topics. The situation has not changed during the 1990's as a perusal of more current scholarship will indicate. I begin with three recently published introductions to Qumran studies. Vanderkam's 1994 book has chapters on Discoveries, Survey of the Manuscripts, The Identification of the Qumran Group, The Qumran Essenes, The Scrolls and the Old Testament, The Scrolls and the New Testament, and Controversies about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Cross, in his revised version of 1995, has chapters on Discovery of an Ancient Library, the Essenes, the People of the Scrolls, The Righteous Teacher and Essene Origins, The Old Test ament at Qumran, and The Essenes and the Primitive Church. And the chapters in Jonathan Campbell's 1996 book cover What Are the Dead Sea Scrolls?, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Judaism, Christianity Reconsidered, and Controversy and Conspiracy. No one has a chapter on the scrolls and the history of the Jews or of Judea.3

The absence of Jewish and Judean history characterizes not only these introductory surveys, but also studies representing the cutting edge of Qumran research. Let us examine three symposia held during this decade. The papers presented at the 1992 conference sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences were grouped for publication under the following five headings: Archaeology and History of the Khirbet Qumran Site; Studies on Texts, Methodologies and New Perspectives; The Scrolls in the Context of Early Judaism; Books, Language and History; and Texts and the Origins of the Scrolls. The history alluded to in the title of the fourth section is exhausted by a study of whether the list of treasures in the Copper Scroll is factual. The 1993 Notre Dame symposium organized its papers with the following rubrics: The Identity of the Community; The Community and Its Religious Law; The Scriptures at Qumran; Wisdom and Prayer; and Apocalypticism, Messianism, and Eschatology. Finally, to return to our present venue, the symposium sponsored by the Orion Center in 1996 was explicitly devoted to the use and interpretation of the Bible.4 In view of this trend, it is not surprising to find the following in the foreword to a "study edition" of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The editors mention that their work is intended, inter alia, for scholars who do not specialize in Qumran studies. Thus they hope their work will be useful for people who work on the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, rabbinic literature, Semitic languages, the History of Judaism, or the History of Religions. Conspicuous by its absence from this list of specialities is the history of Judea or of the Jews.5

What is implicit in the evidence just cited is made explicit by Vermes. He writes, "Looking at the Qumran discoveries from an overall perspective, it is--I believe--the student of the history of Palestinian Judaism in the inter-Testamental era (150 BCE- 70 CE) who is the principle beneficiary." Conversely, "The contribution of the Scrolls to general Jewish history [emphasis in original] is negligible...." And Vermes continues immediately with an explanation: "The chief reason for this is that none of the non-biblical compositions found at Qumran belong to the historical genre."6 No doubt this fact constitutes a large part of the explanation. Certainly those who focus on political or diplomatic history will find little of immediate interest in the Qumran materials. The near or total absence of documentary texts from Qumran also deterred historians.7 Perhaps the fact that we deal with a relatively out of the way site peopled by as few as 60 individuals was another deterrent to interest by historians of Judea.8 Further, the biblical, parabiblical and religious character of the manuscripts attracted students whose interests lay much more in the history of Judaism than in Jewish history. The background of both the original group of editors and the current group is overwhelmingly in religion, including Bible, Apocrypha and--more recently-- rabbinics.

There may be yet another factor which made historians hesitate to exploit the Qumran scrolls. Until recently much of the material was unavailable to those outside the charmed circle of scholars with access to the manuscripts. Drawing conclusions from t he texts already in the public domain carried with it the danger of relying on only part of the testimony. To be sure, any conclusion can be overtaken by subsequently discovered evidence. But in the case of Qumran the danger was not a vague possibility. Everyone knew there was additional material out there, liable to surface at any time. As they say in the Talmud, bedidi hava ovada. At the beginning of this decade I was putting the finishing touches on a book concerning Jewish self-government in antiquity. One chapter discussed the view that the ideal and proper form of government was a diarchy of high priest and Davidic prince. Among other evidence I discussed what has commonly been called the doctrine of the two messiahs in some of the Qumran texts. My discussion was already completed and the book almost finished when I came upon the 1990 publication of 4Q376 by Strugnell. In this case I was fortunate. First, I managed to see the text in time to treat it in the book. Second, the text in no way weakened the argument I was making. What I found particularly annoying was Strugnell's admission that the transcription of the text and apparently an analysis of it had been lying in a desk drawer for a decade.9 In any case, I was well aware that things could have turned out differently. Texts contradicting my argument could have appeared while my book was in press. Under these circumstances, the better part of scholarly valor seemed to be discretion. That is, the safest policy for those of us without access to the unpublished scrolls was to wait until everything had appeared before attempting to exploit the Qumran materials. And most historians of Second Temple Judea were not among those privileged to have access. Now that photographs of all the Qumran texts are available to the public and that the rate of publication has accelerated, scholars need no longer worry about drawing conclusions from only part of the evidence.

Another factor encouraging more intensive exploitation of the Qumran materials by historians is a broadening of the scope of historical interests. While I am probably part of a dying breed still interested in political and diplomatic history, I also share the interests of my colleagues in other approaches for which the absence of overtly historiographical texts is less important. For those pursuing social history, for example, study of the origins and development of the Qumran community may tell a lot about Judean society in general--and not just about several dozen individuals living on the fringes. Similarly useful for those interested in social history would be full publication of the Qumran excavations and, were it only feasible, further excavations in the Qumran cemetery. Even those who focus on the more religious side of Qumran may be able to tell us things about broader Judean society, as Al Baumgarten attempted to do in his recent book on sectarianism.10 Thus as we begin the second half century of Qumran studies, with the full publication of the Qumran texts finally near, I predict that more and more historians of Second Temple Judea will draw on these materials. The question then will be, to what extent will the religious studies scholars who have dominated the Qumran field pay attention to the work of the historians. My own experience has not been encouraging. I already alluded to my treatment of the diarchic tradition in Second Temple times. In the same book I also discussed the doctrine that rule by the high priest was the proper and traditional form of Jewish self-government. Part of the evidence, and potentially important for the argument that this doctrine antedates the Hasmoneans, was the Levi literature from Qumran.11 Here, then, are two instances where I tried to exploit the Dead Sea scrolls for political history. Others will judge how successful these attempts were. What is striking, however, is that both these discussions have been ignored in the scholarly literature on Qumran, despite their relevance to topics frequently discussed there. At least, I have been unable to find any reference to them in Qumran studies which appeared after publication of my book. Genuine dialogue by definition must be mutual.

The discussion up to this point has already shown how topics which appear in the Qumran texts may reverberate with issues central to the political life of Second Temple Judea. These texts may shed light on the debate about the legitimacy of the Hasmonean high priesthood, on the political role of the high priest and possibly on the assumption of the royal title by the high priest. Indeed, a view widely held among scholars is that the Qumran group originated in, or at least shared in, opposition to the Hasmonean regime. My point here is that examination of this opposition is important not only for the history of the few members of the Qumran group, but for the history of the Hasmonean dynasty and thus for all of Judea. In what follows I wish to offer another historical subject where the Qumran material may make an important contribution. The topic I have in mind is Judean nationalism. In order to show what Qumran may contribute to this subject, a digression on nationalism is necessary. During the past generation social scientists have devoted considerable attention to the definition of nations and nationalism. Some of the most influential studies argue that nations are a purely modern phenomenon. This is the case made, for example, by both Anderson and Gellner. To be sure, this assertion is not new. The great semitist of the last century. Ernst Renan, already argued, "The idea of nationality as it exists today is a new conception unknown to antiquity."12 Even social scientists willing to recognize some form of nationality in antiquity concede that it was not quite like what exists in the modern period. To emphasize the difference, these scholars prefer to avoid the simple term "nation" when discussing the ancient phenomenon. Thus Armstrong speaks of "proto-nationalism" or "precocious nationalism," and Smith uses the terms "ethnic consciousness" and "ethnie," rather than "nationalism" and "nation," when treating antiquity. Even Connor, who stresses the "tribal" nature of nationalism, still insists that there were no real nations until the nineteenth century!13 I shall return to these reservations below. But first I want to draw on this body of scholarship to suggest a definition of nation and nationality applicable to the ancient world.

To begin with, I have trouble seeing a distinction between an ethnic and a national identity. So I start by citing Weber's definition of the former: "We shall call ethnic groups those human groups that entertain a subjective belief in their common descent....it does not matter whether or not an objective blood relationship exists...."14 To the subjective belief in common descent I would add an equally subjective belief in a common culture. Under the heading of culture I include language, religion, customs, material culture and concepts of historical and geographic origins. Not all the latter items may be seen as indicative of ethnic identity in every case, but usually some of them are invoked. 15 The subjective nature of the belief in both a shared descent and a shared culture means that national identity is what contemporary scholarship calls "socially constructed."16 If we leave aside the issue of subjectivity, my definition of national identity can be documented in ancient literature. The clearest example may be found in Herodotus VIII, 144. In this passage the Athenians are reassuring the Spartans that they will not abandon the anti-Persian coalition. First, the Athenians explain, they would never make common cause with the destroyers of the temples and statues of the gods. Further,there is our common Greekness [to; ďEll hnikovn]: we are all one in blood and one in language, those shrines of the gods belong to us all in common, and the sacrifices in common, and there are our habits, bred of a common upbringing.17

Even if Herodotus' attribution of this statement to the Athenians is fictitious and has an ironical intent, I do not think this changes my point.18 We see here a mid-fifth century B.C.E. author de fine a concept of Greekness based on common descent, language, religion and customs. The last three items can be collapsed into the single notion of culture, as described above.

In the following century that same combination of kinship and culture lies behind the argument of Isocrates that the cultural component is more significant. In Panegyricus 50 he writes,

Athens has become the teacher of the cities and has made the name of Greek [to; tw~n ďEllhvnwn o[noma] no longer a mark of race [gevno▀] but of intellect [diavnoia], so that it is those who have our upbringing [paivdeusi▀] rather than our common nature [koinhv fuvsi▀]who are called Hellenes.19

Some take Isocrates to be extending the term Hellene to whoever has adopted Greek culture, while others say he is restricting the term to only those Greeks who share Athenian culture. For my purposes what matters is the underlying view, which Isocrates is trying to modify, viz., that Greek identity is based on shared kinship and culture. It is worth noting that the emphasis on culture over kinship (whether for inclusion or exclusion) is apparently shared by the author of II Maccabees. The critique of t he high priest Jason for bringing about the height of ďEllhnismov▀ in 4:13 refers to cultural matters, since his ancestry was never questioned. (Compare also 11:24-25). Consequently, the Ioudai>smov▀ which the book's heroes are fighting to defend according to 2:21 is also cultural. Thus for the author, Israelite ancestry is not sufficient (though it may be necessary) for true "Judeanness."20

What was the basis of the belief in a shared kinship and a common culture among the Judeans? It is unlikely that family traditions went back far enough, or extended broadly enough, to lead thousands of people spread over a fairly extensive geographical area to believe they were all related. And as to culture, all indications are that Judeans shared not only the general material culture of the area, but also the language and customs of most of their neighbors. For example, it is generally agreed that Aramaic was the common spoken language of most inhabitants of the area including many or even most Judeans. And certainly Judeans, like their neighbors, used Aramaic for legal documents and for much literary production as well. A good illustration of this shared culture is the Edomite marriage contract in Aramaic recently published, which is strikingly similar to the Aramaic ketubbot used by Judeans.21 Yet these common cultural factors did not prevent Judeans from despising Edomites. Contemporary with the aforementioned marriage contract is the passage in Ben Sira 50:37-38 expressing hate for (inter alia) "the nation (ywg) which dwells in Se'ir." In fact, the existence of Judean nationality or ethnic consciousness is widely acknowledged despite the fact of shared language and legal practices with non-Judeans and the lack of private knowledge of shared ancestry with all other Judeans.22 What then was the source of the belief in a common culture and descent?

Pondering the sources of Jewish "national identity," indeed their "nationalist movements of a strikingly modern kind," F. Millar suggests the following, among others.23

the possession of a text, the Bible, which was both a national history and a source of law; a national language, Hebrew; a system of law...; social institutions, such as schools, synagogues and Sabbath worship....

Millar is speaking of the first and second centuries C.E. But I think his explanation applies to the Second Temple era as well (leaving aside the issues of schools and synagogues, on which more below). And we can reduce the list to its first item, from which the others follow. It was the Biblical books which provided the foundation and the building blocks for constructing the beliefs in shared descent and common culture. First, the stories about the patriarchs and the tribal eponyms in the Pentateuch established the shared ancestry of all Israelites. And the books which treated later history explained the connection of the residents of Second Temple Judea with the founding fathers and mothers of the Israelite people. Second, it was the same books which preserved the Hebrew language and saved it from sharing the fate of Phoenician, Edomite and other languages which were swept away by Aramaic. Even those who didn't speak Hebrew might still write, or read, or at least hear Hebrew. And paradoxically, the existence of the Hebrew books enabled people to believe that their shared culture could exist in other languages. We recall that the defense of "Judeanness" in II Maccabees was written in Greek. The existence of a Greek translation of the Pentateuch and other books made possible the conception of a genuine Judean culture in Greek. Similarly, parabiblical literature composed in Aramaic, such as the Genesis Apocryphon, the Enoch literature and the Levi materials, could also be considered part of Judean culture. The transposition of Biblical books into other languages by translation, rewriting or supplementation provided a Judean vocabulary for those languages.

In view of the evidence just presented, one can ask why so many contemporary scholars are reluctant to use the categories of nation and nationality with regard to the pre-modern world. After all, as both Millar and Smith note, the Judeans appear to exhibit something very akin to modern national identity. For Smith among the factors which distinguish modern national identity from ethnic identity, which could exist in pre-modern societies, is "a common, mass public culture."24 In the case of Second Temple Judea, however, this was restricted to the religious sphere. Thus he attributes the mass culture aspect to "the rise of the synagogue and the Pharisees," by which time the hope of political autonomy had been extinguished.25 It is for the same reason that Anderson emphasizes the importance of vernacular "print languages" for the emergence of nationalism in the early modern period.26 What both approaches share is the sense that so long as the belief in common descent and culture is limited to small circles of the elite, nationalism cannot emerge. What these two and other students of nationalism look for is a mass movement. And that would seem to require widespread literacy with access to material printed in a vernacular language--at least prior to the age of mass communication by radio, television and audio or video recording. Of course, as both Millar and Smith realize, dissemination of the shared culture and national language could take place before printing. Hence their references to schools and synagogues. Indeed, this point can be strengthened. Mass communication through non-print media did not have to await the invention of radio and television. The potential of mass oral culture in antiquity is increasingly recognized.27 So the question now is whether we have sufficient evidence for the existence of any mass medium, either written or oral, for the broad dissemination of the socially constructed belief in a common descent and culture. In the case of the Judeans we must ask whether the Biblical books, the repository of the shared culture and the source of the belief in shared descent, were widely disseminated in Second Temple times?

The schools and synagogues invoked by Millar and Smith are, in fact, difficult to trace back into Second Temple Judea. Let us begin with the issue of schools. Close to twenty years ago I reviewed the evidence for the existence of a network of Jewish elementary schools (or community supported teachers) in pre-70 Judea. I discussed at length the two rabbinic texts which are the basis for the claim that some such network existed. A source appearing in Yerushalmi Ketuvot 8:11, 32c, attributes to Simeon son of Shetah an ordinance that "the children should attend school." Simeon is portrayed in rabbinic tradition as a contemporary of Alexander Jonathan and Salome Alexandra and so can be dated to the early first century B.C.E. Another source, at Bavli Bava Batra 21a, attributes to Joshua son of Gamala the ordinance that teachers should be appointed in every town and district to teach children beginning at age 6 or 7. This person is commonly, though not universally, identified with the well known Joshua son of Gamala who served as high priest in 63-64 and was killed about four years later by the Idumean faction during the Judean revolt. I concluded that both sources may be of tannaitic provenance. However, I also argued that there is no reliable evidence to corroborate either one, neither in rabbinic literature nor in sources from Second Temple times. Perhaps more importantly, the Second Temple sources which refer to education among the Jews do not mention a network of elementary schools or publicly supported teachers as the means by which children learn. Instead they refer to other means of education, such as private tutors for the wealthy and, most commonly, instruction by parents in the home.

A striking instance of silence concerning schools in a context where we would expect them to be mentioned is the famous apologetic passage in Against Apion II, 175-178. Here Josephus asserts a universal knowledge of Jewish law by his compatriots. In contrast to other peoples, he writes,

should anyone of our nation be questioned about the laws, he would repeat them all the more readily than his own name. The result, then, of our thorough grounding in the laws from the first dawn of intelligence is that we have them, as it were, engraven on our souls. A transgressor is a rarity; evasion of punishment by excuses an impossibility.

And how was this thorough grounding beginning with the dawn of intelligence accomplished? Josephus had already explained a few lines earlier.

For ignorance he [Moses] left no pretext. He appointed the law to be the most excellent and necessary form of instruction, ordaining, not that it should be heard once for all or twice or on several occasions, but that every week men should desert their other occupations and assemble to listen to the law and to obtain a thorough and accurate knowledge of it, a practice which all other legislators seem to have neglected.28

The failure of Josephus--who lived over a century after the floruit of Simeon son of Shetah and was a contemporary of Joshua son of Gamala-- to mention schools in an apologetic context such as this is, to my mind, a very loud silence. And the evidence of Josephus accords with what can be gleaned from Philo and other sources. From all of this I concluded that the only common educational institution among the Jews of antiquity, aside from parental instruction, was the public reading of scripture.29

The practice of publicly reading passages from the biblical books may have something to do with the emergence of the synagogue institution. However, the origins and early history of the synagogue are much debated, and no consensus has emerged. Few would claim that the procedures in the synagogues of Late Roman and Byzantine Palestine can be projected back to Second Temple times. For our purposes here we may avoid these issues. Instead we can treat the evidence for public reading of scripture without always resolving the question of its institutional context.30 The importance of such public readings is that they could serve as a vehicle for bringing the biblical texts to non-literate audiences . If the practice was widespread, then the belief in a common ancestry and culture could become the possession of the masses, thereby satisfying the requirement of many current definitions of nationalism. As we shall see, there is abundant literary evidence for public readings. What is less clear is the extent of the practice. Public reading from an authoritative text is attested in the Bible itself, if we assume the accounts are historical. However, the case of II Kings 23:1-3 is clearly a one time event. The description in Nehemiah 8-9, by contrast, seems to suggest a yearly occurrence. But even here there is no indication of anything more frequent, nor of having public readings outside of Jerusalem.

Other early evidence is also inconclusive. Thus Hecataeus of Abdera writes about the high priest as follows,

It is he, we are told, who in their assemblies and other gatherings announces what is ordained, and the Jews are so docile in such matters that straightaway they fall to the ground and do reverence to the high priest when he expounds the commandments to t hem. And at the end of their laws there is even appended the statement: "These are the words that Moses heard from God and declares unto the Jews."31

Neither "announcing" (ejkfevrein) nor "expounding" (eJrmhneuvein) need imply that the high priest was reading from a text. On the other hand, Hecataeus was not so well informed that we must pay close attention to his choice of verbs. Certainly one could construe the passage to describe a public reading from the Torah. And the plural "assemblies and gatherings" could suggest some regularity in the practice. However, the presence of the high priest would seem to limit the reading to the vicinity of the Temple. Many scholars make the reasonable assumption that the translation of the Torah into Greek during the third century B.C.E. implies the practice of a public reading, but I am not aware of any explicit evidence for this assumption. The Letter of Aristeas 308, 310--probably from the second century B.C.E.--does report that at the completion of the translation the finished work was read out to the assembled Jewish community. However, there is no indication that this was or became a regular practice. 32

It is not until we reach the first century C.E. that we have clear statements asserting regular public reading of scripture. Both Philo and Josephus refer to weekly readings on the Sabbath. Some of the descriptions of what occurs at the gatherings ever y Sabbath are vague, for example at Life of Moses II, 216, Embassy to Gaius 156, the account of the Therapeutae at Contemplative Life 30-33 and that of the Jews of Ionia at Jewish Antiquities 16:43. In these passages we find references to studying the ancestral philosophy or being instructed in the laws. They likely do refer to public reading of scripture, but we cannot be certain. Fortunately, other texts are more explicit. Thus at Hypothetica 7:10-13 Philo recounts how Moses ordained assemblies ever y seventh day to hear the laws read.33 Equally clear in referring to reading out loud from scripture every Sabbath is Philo's account of Essene practice in Every Good Man is Free 81-82 Similarly, in On Dreams II, 127 Philo has a contemporary opponent of Egyptian Jewry's Sabbath observance allude to their reading out loud (ajnaginwvskonte▀) from the holy books in their synagogues. And in the above cited passage from Against Apion II, 175 Josephus expressly mentions the assembled hearing the laws. Since the last four sources undoubtedly describe weekly public readings from the Torah, it is likely that the first four do also. But of the eight references, six describe the Diaspora. The description of the Essenes in Every Good Man is Free does refer to Judea, but it concerns a small, elite group. While we would normally assume that Josephus describes the situation in Judea in Against Apion, many assume that the encomium of the Torah in this book relies on an Egyptian source. And this is aside from the clearly apologetic and probably hyperbolic tone of the passage, and the fact that it was written after a quarter century of residence in Rome.34 Thus we still lack unambiguous evidence for a common practice in Judea.

Unambiguous testimony to public reading in Judea does appears in the famous inscription of Theodotus. This recounts how the latter built the synagogue for, inter alia, "the reading [ajnavgnwsin] of the law and the teaching of the commandments." The inscription thus suggests that such reading was a regular function of the institution. However, the dating of the inscription to before 70 is common but not assured. More importantly, we are dealing with a Graecophone synagogue in Jerusalem.35 How indicative its practices are of other synagogues in Judea remains to be established. For contrast note the evidence of Pseudo-Philo's Biblical Antiquities 11:8. This work is commonly assigned to first century Judea and assumed to have been written in Hebrew. In his additions to the fourth commandment the author asserts that the only activity permitted on the Sabbath is praising God in assemblies. Granted, the addition echoes Psalm 107:32. But had the author felt Torah study was central to the Sabbath gathering, he could have found another verse.36 Were we able to rely on it, Luke 4:16-30 would provide additional evidence for Judean practice. Verses 16-21 describe how Jesus attended synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath and was given a scroll of Isaiah from which he read out loud to those assembled. However, the parallels at Mark 13:54-58 and Matthew 6:1-6 lack the circumstantial detail of Luke and simply mention Jesus "teaching" in the synagogue. This same vague description recurs in the account of Jesus teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum at Mark 1:21-28 // Luke 4:31-37 (the partial parallel at Matthew 7:28-29 comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount and does not involve a synagogue setting). Similarly, the summary account of Jesus' activities in the Galilee at Mark 1:39 // Matthew 4:23-25 // Luke 4:44 (see variants) refers simply to his "teaching" or "preaching" in the synagogues. Thus the specific reference to reading from a book is unique to Luke. The same author also refers to public reading from scripture on two occasions in Acts. At 13:14-16 we read how Paul was invited to speak in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch on the Sabbath "after the readings from the Law and the Prophets." Then, in the account of the "apostolic council," James (the brother of Jesus) is quoted at 15:21 as saying, "Moses... has never lacked spokesmen in every town for generations past; he is read in the synagogues sabbath by sabbath." While the setting here is Judea, as it was in Luke 4, we may wonder how much knowledge the author had of Jewish practice in the homeland half a century before he wrote. My own suspicion is that the Lukan descriptions reflect the practice in the author's own community and/or in the Graecophone Jewish diaspora.37 The latter is also the likely background for Paul's reference, in II Corinthians 3:15, to the Jews "reading Moses [ajnaginwskh`tai Mwu>sh`▀]."

The evidence surveyed appears to me to attest the custom of regular public reading from scripture in the Diaspora. But unambiguous evidence for this practice in first century Judea is minimal. All the more so are we unclear as to how widespread the custom was in the latter land.38 This issue is crucial in the present context. Only if regular public reading was common throughout Judea could it fill the role of a mass medium needed to disseminate a socially constructed national identity among the people. Here is where Qumran may be able to help. Not that Qumran supplies additional evidence for the weekly public reading of scripture. I am not aware of any evidence in the Qumran texts attesting such a practice.39 The Rule of the Community calls for an institutionalized form of daily study. Thus 1QS 6:6b-7a requires continuous study of the Torah, in shifts, wherever there are at least ten members of the group. And 7b-8a ordains that "the Many" should spend a third of each night "reading the book" along with legal discussion and "blessing together." Even if we assume that the residents of Qumran were Essenes, and apply the testimony of Philo to them, this still would not allow us to ascribe a weekly reading to the general public. As Josephus puts it (War 2:128), the Essenes had unique forms of piety. In any event, the contribution of Qumran to our discussion comes from a different are a. It is the abundance of manuscripts at Qumran that is telling. By all accounts, the number of manuscripts recovered from the caves near Qumran exceeds 800. Of these about one quarter are manuscripts of books in the Hebrew Bible.40 What is the significance of this find?

One point is that for the first time we have concrete evidence for the existence of a large number of books. It should be remembered that our sources tell us very little about collections of books in Second Temple Judah. As Shavit has noted, the literary sources do not mention public or temple libraries. II Maccabees 2:13-14 attributes the assembling of a collection of books to both Nehemiah and Judah the Maccabee, but it provides few details. While the passage describes the documents assembled by Nehemiah, it does not do so for those collected by Judah. Nor does it state where these collections were kept. Perhaps the author envisaged some kind of Temple library, but he does not say this explicitly. The idea or reality of a temple library may lie behind the references in Jubilees 45:16 and in the Testament of Qohat to a collection of books possessed by the patriarchs and passed on to Levi and his descendants. As is well known, rabbinic literature assumed authoritative copies of the Torah were held at the Temple. One source speaks of a single copy of the Pentateuch, another of three. But no wider collection is mentioned.41 In II Maccabees 2:15, after reporting how Judah had collected books scattered during the war, the author offers to supply his addressees with any books they might need. This suggests the existence of some kind of library in Alexandria. But it is unclear whether that library is private or public. Since the named addressee is "Aristobulus tutor of King Ptolemy," the author might even be thinking of the royal library. That is, this passage might be an analogue to the story of the Septuagint. In any event, given the ongoing uncertainty about the authenticity and date of the letter in which these lines occur, we cannot learn very much from them.42 The description of the Essenes in Josephus alludes to their books three times. At War 2:136 he tells of their interest in "the writings of the ancients," ta; tw`n palaiw`n suntavgmata, from which they chose especially those concerned with spiritual and physical well being. Further on, at line 142, Josephus tells how initiates swear to preserve "the books of their sect," ta; te th`▀ aiJrevsew▀ aujtw`n bibliva. Finally, at line 159, he reports how some of the Essenes claim prophetic ability based in part on being well versed in "the holy books." All this does suggest a library, but the description is not specific with regard to the identity of the books or their number.

Not only are references to the existence of libraries in Judea rare, Second Temple sources hardly mention possession of books by private individuals. I have already cited II Maccabees 2:14 and its references to "books scattered" during the war. I Maccabees 1:56-57 refers to the destruction of Torah scrolls and the execution of those found in possession of such scrolls during the Epiphanian persecutions. Both references are too general to be very helpful. For example, neither one tells us who possessed the books that were scattered or destroyed or how common such possession was. The same is true of the report in Josephus, War 2:228-231 // Antiquities 20: 113-117. During punitive actions under Cumanus (48-52) against villages several miles north of Jerusalem (Antiquities) in the Bet Horon area (War), a soldier found a copy of the Torah in one of the villages and destroyed it. This stirred up so much outrage that Cumanus had the soldier executed. While these passages indicate that a Torah scroll could be found in a rural village, it also seems to me to suggest that possession of such a scroll was not all that common. Indeed, the rarity of the scroll might explain the extreme reaction of the Jews to its destruction. And it is not clear that the scroll was owned by an individual, as opposed to the community.43 The scroll of Isaiah from which Jesus read, according to Luke 4, presumably belonged to the Nazareth synagogue. Similarly "the laws," tou;▀ novmou▀, which the Jews took with them when they fled Caesarea must have belonged to the local synagogue. Otherwise the Jewish leaders could not have been charged with improperly removing "the laws" from the city. Unfortunately, it is not cl ear whether this phrase at War 2:291-292 refers to one scroll or many.

In view of the relatively few references to books in the literary sources, the concrete evidence of hundreds of books at Qumran is important. It reminds us that evidence from silence can be misleading. Books may have been sufficiently prevalent in Judean society to allow the biblical texts to become a mass medium. Still, Qumran may not be representative of Judea as a whole. Even so, a scarcity of books need not indicate that knowledge of biblical writings was limited. What we must keep in mind is the extent to which many ancient books were performance texts. By this I mean that these texts were not intended only or even primarily for private use by individuals who read them on their own. Instead the texts commonly were read out loud at public gatherings. To this day Torah scrolls are used as performance texts. No one takes them home during the week for private study. To be sure, nowadays other copies of the Torah are readily available for private reading at home as well as for group study. But as our survey of the literary sources suggested, private copies were rare in antiquity. The role of books as performance texts was common in surrounding Graeco-Roman society as well as in the early Christian movement.44 A telling example, albeit relating to a much earlier period, is cited by Thomas from a report in Plutarch. The latter reports how the Athenian statesman Lycurgus, in the late fourth century B.C.E., kept copies of the plays of t he three great tragedians in a public archive and required adherence to the "original" text. However, the removal of the copies for private consultation was not allowed. Nor were the performers even allowed to read the documents at the archive. Instead the texts were read out loud to them by a secretary.45 The characterization of many ancient manuscripts as performance texts is also supported by the limited extent of literacy in ancient society, including Judea during Second Temple times.46 It against this background also that we should assess the Qumran manuscripts.

I would argue that many of the scrolls found near Qumran functioned as performance texts. If this is the case, then the number of manuscripts multiplied by the effect of public reading attests the kind of mass medium necessary for the social construction of a Judean national consciousness. To a certain extent my argument is independent of the question of the origins of the scrolls. In the unlikely event that Golb is right and what we have found are the remains of several libraries from Jerusalem, we s till must explain the distribution of titles. That is, why do we have so many copies of certain books and so few of others. On the common view that the manuscript finds were the library of the settlement at Khirbet Qumran we must explain the same thing, as well as why a small settlement needed so many copies of certain books. An attempt to address these questions was made by Stegemann, who also modifies the consensus view on the nature of the library. He argues that the Essenes constituted a large, countrywide movement, and that Qumran was the movement's center for book production. Thus the Qumran library was a sort of reference library for the movement and its publishing arm.47 Stegemann goes on to explain the composition of the library: some manuscripts were master copies, some were worn out copies withdrawn from use, some were the subject of special study, while those occurring in many exemplars were for communal study. By special study I assume he means private reading by an individual, while communal study is study in groups of the kind mandated by 1QS 6:6-8. He adds that the number of exemplars of a given book might indicate the number of participants involved in the communal study of that work.48 If I understand this correctly, he envisions a group of people studying together with each holding his own copy of the text. However, this would be a departure from what we know of ancient practice in the Greco-Roman and early Christian world. Nor am I aware of any Jewish evidence for group study with each person having a text before him. As noted above, group study in antiquity usually consisted of oral recitation or having some one read a text aloud to the assembled.

If the Qumran scrolls were read out loud at communal study sessions, we must still address the distribution of titles. A reasonable assumption is that the books with the largest number of exemplars at Qumran were likely to have been considered the most authoritative by the people living there.49 And the most authoritative books were the ones most likely to be read out loud at group sessions. Let us look at a list of the books attested at Qumran in at least five exemplars. Obviously, the numbers are subject to further refinement with additional study of the manuscripts.50

5--Aramaic Levi Document; Tobit (including both Aramaic and Hebrew versions); 4Q Berakhot
6--Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Miqsat Ma'ase Hatorah
8--Numbers; Twelve Prophets; Daniel; Rule of War
10--Damascus Document (not counting the Cairo Genizah texts); Shirot Olat Hashabbat (including Masada manuscript)
12--Community Rule
14--Enochic literature

The suitability of these texts for public reading is, in most cases, obvious. Psalms, Shirot Olat Hashabbat and 4Q Berakhot contain hymns that could be recited in public worship. And the recitation of hymns could be what 1QS 6:6-8 meant when it prescribed "blessing together" as one of the activities at the nightly sessions of "the Many." The Community Rule, Damascus Document and MMT were also suitable for public lection. Another activity of the nightly sessions was legal discussion (fpšm šwrdlw) . This might refer to a reading and discussion of the aforementioned documents.51 The other frequently occurring texts are the four prophetic books (= Judaism's "Latter Prophets"), Daniel, the books of the Pentateuch, and three "parapentateuchal" works: Jubilees, Enoch, and Aramaic Levi. Certainly the central significance of "the Law and the Prophets" in ancient Judaism needs no argument. And Daniel was probably considered part of the prophetic canon, as it is in the Christian Bible. Of the three last named books, it is clear from CD 16:3-4 that Jubilees was considered authoritative at Qumran. So in this case our argument does not merely assume what needs to be proved, that many exemplars mean the text was considered authoritative. As to Aramaic Levi, the tribal eponym certainly was important as the progenitor of the priestly clan, and I have already mentioned the tradition in Jubilees and Testament of Qohat that he inherited the patriarchal library. The importance of the Enoch literature may involve the realms of calendar and angelology. In sum, the only frequently occurring book which I have difficulty explaining as a performance text is Tobit, and this work is at the low end of the frequency list.

Assuming that we are dealing with performance texts, it is also possible to suggest why Psalms, Deuteronomy and Isaiah occur in the most exemplars. Other compositions like Shirot Olat Hashabbat, 4Q Berakhot and Hodayot show the importance of hymns at Qumran. Psalms was the model and inspiration for these compositions and thus the most likely source of hymns read out loud. Deuteronomy is perhaps the most suitable of all the books of the Pentateuch for public recitation. It has the highest concentration of homiletic material and rhetorical embellishment. For example, it is the book that contributed the shema, the emergent central prayer of Judaism. The suitability of Isaiah, with its poetic style and variety of themes, for public reading is also obvious. Less clear is why it was considered more suitable than Jeremiah or the Twelve Prophets. But it is worth noting that Isaiah provides more haftorah readings, i.e., lections from the second of the three parts of the Hebrew Bible known as the Prophet s, than any other book.52 Finally, Ulrich points that these three books are also the ones most frequently cited in the New Testament.53 This could mean no more than that Psalms, Deuteronomy and Isaiah were the most widely available manuscripts. After all, those who wrote the New Testament were literate. However, it might also indicate that these three books were the most familiar to the nonliterate earliest followers of Jesus. And they were most familiar because they were most often read aloud. It is probably coincidental that the one book, in addition to "Moses/the Law," which the New Testament mentions by name as read in a synagogue is Isaiah--but perhaps not!

To sum up, the finds at Qumran give us for the first time a large collection of books from Second Temple times. In view of the evidence from other sources on the practice of public reading from authoritative texts, the large numbers of Qumran scrolls could demonstrate that the practice of public reading was relatively widespread in Judea. This is especially true if Golb is right, or if we accept Stegemann's arguments on the extent of the Essene movement. And if we agree that many of the scrolls functioned as performance texts, then the impact of the number of texts involved can be multiplied. The presence of 27 copies of Deuteronomy does not mean that this book could reach only 27 people at one time. That number of texts could easily reach hundreds, even thousands, of people at any one time. The public reading of books allowed them to reach large audiences throughout the country, including the nonliterate masses. In other words, public reading converted the books into a mass medium. And considering the content of the books read out, such as Deuteronomy and Isaiah, what this mass medium created among the Judeans was a consciousness of common descent and a shared culture. In other words, thanks to Qumran, we can now understand how a mass national consciousness could have been constructed in Second Temple Judea. And this, in turn, allows us to interpret various historical phenomena--such as the expansion of the Hasmonean state and the anti-Roman movements--as expressions of Judean nationalism without the fear that we are guilty of anachronism.

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