1995-1996 Orion Programs


Orion Center Program Summaries 1995-1996

Sponsored by the Orion Center and the Israel Museum

Schiffman: lecture summary

Lecture Summary

Professor Lawrence H. Schiffman, New York University

Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls and Why? [in Hebrew]

Lecture at the Israel Museum, Dec. 26, 1995
Sponsored by the Orion Center and the Israel Museum

Schiffman's lecture was the first in a series of lectures open to the general public and was, therefore, broad in scope and content. He discussed the history of the Judean desert discoveries, the caves and the site (library and communal quarters), the life style of the community and the question of the group's identity. The slides were most helpful in illustrating these issues.

Schiffman nuanced the question of "Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?" by reminding the audience that only about one third of the scrolls were actually authored by this sect while the rest (biblical and apocryphal works) were brought to Qumran by the sect but actually composed by different authors in different periods. New insights as well as salient points on the identity of the sect are summarized below. (A full Hebrew text of the lecture will be published first on the Orion web site and later in a Hebrew book of studies on the Dead Sea Scrolls.)

Regarding the archaeological excavations and their recent interpretations, Schiffman dispelled the fortress theory while admitting that the earliest main area may have been standing when the sect arrived (and perhaps was originally a villa). The question of a scriptorium or benched room remains open. Schiffman reiterated the figure of 400 people living on the site (based on the size of the assembly hall and number of dishes in the pantry). The ritual baths indicate the sect observed purity laws. Schiffman argued that the skeletons of women and children in the excavated graves as well as the halachic (legal) material argue against celibacy (and Essene identity unless there were different kinds of Essenes as Josephus suggested). The two types of tefillin suggest members came from more than one stream of Judaism.

Schiffman emphasized again the Sadducean basis of the halachic system reflected in the scrolls (especially the halachic letter MMT). Any serious proposal for the identity of the sect must take account of this Sadducean halacha as well as the similarity between the communal life of the Qumran sect and that of the Essenes. Schiffman refined the issue further by asking: How similar is this sect to the Essenes, on the one hand, and to what extent was there Sadducean influence, on the other hand? He suggested two plausible theories of origin and identity - a Sadducean splinter group, or perhaps an Essene group with Sadducean roots. Schiffman ruled out Christian origin but rather argued that the scrolls further illuminate the Jewish roots of Christianity.

Dr. Esther Chazon
Associate Director
Orion Center

Between the Bible and the Mishnah: "Those Who enter the New Covenant" from the Period of the Second Temple.

Professor Shmaryahu Talmon, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Lecture at the Israel Museum, March 20, 1996

Sponsored by the Orion Center and the Israel Museum

In the 800 scrolls and fragments of scrolls from the caves at Qumran are reflected the social organization, the conceptual world and the history of the growth of a religious movement in Second Temple period Judaism. This movement, called the "Congregation of those who entered the new covenant" or "the Community (YaHad) of those who enter the new covenant" or simply "the community," was unknown previously. In spite of the almost fifty years that have passed since the discovery of the Scrolls in the summer of 1947, numerous questions remain open as to the identity and nature of the Congregation. None of the attempts to identify it with one of the streams or sects of the Second Temple period known to use from the classical sources has met with general acceptance. Nor have the individuals who play central roles in the conflict between the Congregation and its opponents been identified, neither the Righteous Teacher, the central figure in the organization of the Community and in the basic formulation of its beliefs; the Wicked Priest, not the High Priest of the Jerusalem Temple, who led the Congregation's opponents and persecutors.

Only part of the writings discovered at Qumran belong to the distinctive literature of those "who entered the new covenant", while the rest (perhaps most of the manuscripts) are part of the general cultural heritage of the Jewish people towards the end of the Second Temple period. These do not represent the distinctive religious works of the Community. Consequently, those who wish to reconstruct the history of the Congregation and its social organization, or to describe its ideas and beliefs must base their research upon scrolls which indubitably contain basic writings of the Congregation. Above all, these include the Manual of Discipline together with Community Rule, the Damascus Document , the Temple Scroll, the Commentaries (pesharim) on the prophetic books of Nahum, Habakkuk and Micah and on Psalms, and more. Morsels of information may be culled from other fragmentary writings but in the final analysis, they play a secondary role.

From a careful study of these basic writings we may learn the following. The members of the Congregation were caught between their existence in the historical context of the later Second Temple period, i.e., the Hellenistic-Roman period, and their conceptual identity as the only legitimate remnant of the people of Israel from the time of the First Temple. They were the "Returning Remnant", "the Remnant of Israel and the Survivors of the House of Jacob" referred to by the prophet Isaiah 10:20-22. The were the "holy seed", the "tenth part" which God left of the people of Judah after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (Isa. 6:13). With them the Creator made "a new covenant", his covenant in "days coming with the house of Israel and the house of Judah", which the prophet Jeremiah foresaw in his vision (Jer. 31:31).

Thus, the "Congregation of the Community" is a representative of a prophetic-messianic stream in Judaism. It drew the foundations of its faith from the teaching of the great prophets of the First Temple period and those active in the early Second Temple period, Haggai and Zechariah. The sources of this stream come from the time of the Restoration. In the later part of the Second Temple period, at the end of the third or the early second century B.C.E., this stream crystallized under the leadership of the Righteous Teacher into a stable socio-religious entity. The prophetic-messianic Congregation of "those who enter the new covenant" grew in strength at the same time as did a rationalistic stream within Judaism, which also began to emerge in this period. This rationalistic stream found its clearest expression in the spiritual world of the Sages. The growth of these two streams is reflected in the literature which the Congregation of the Yahad left in the caves of Qumran, and muffled echoes of it sound in Rabbinic literature. In the end, the "first Mishnaists" won out over the "last Biblicists". The Community of those who enter the New Covenenant disappeared and fell silent almost completely until fragments of its writings were discovered a half-century ago in the Judean desert.

On Dependent Clauses in Ben Sira

Steven Fassberg

The language of the Hebrew manuscripts has received far less attention than has the question of the originality of the Hebrew text and its relationship to the Greek and Syriac versions. One aspect of the language that has been particularly neglected is syntax. The lecture investigated the syntax of five types of dependent clauses in the Hebrew text of Ben Sira: conditional, relative, temporal, circumstantial, and final.

The investigation shows that the dependent clauses are, on the whole, similar to dependent clauses in Classical Biblical Hebrew. Infrequently one finds clauses are that are representative of other periods and corpora.Among temporal clauses, note "`im + inf. cst." as in Late Biblical Hebrew and Qumran Hebrew; among final clauses, "lema`an lo' + imperf." turns up as in Late Biblical Hebrew and Qumran Hebrew, and "shelo' + imperf." as in Tannaitic Hebrew; among circumstantial clauses, "keshe + nominal clause" stands out, as in Tannaitic Hebrew.

There are three syntagms in dependent clauses that are unattested elsewhere in Hebrew sources. The first two occur in final clauses, and are similar to, but slightly different from the corresponding Biblical syntagms:
"`avur + imperf." and "ba`avur + le- + inf. cst." The third syntagm occurs in a circumstantial clause: "she- + nominal clause"; it is reminiscent of the Tannaitic use of "she-" for expected "keshe-" in temporal clauses.

Yizhar Hirshfeld

"Recent Discoveries in the Archaeology of Qumran"

There are various interpretations as to the function of Qumran. A comparison of Qumran with similar sites from the Hasmonean and Herodian Kingdoms of Judaea may clarify the original function of the structures. Qumran is not a unique site in comparison with settlements of similar size, function and date. Recent discoveries of comparable sites from the Late Hellenistic and Early Roman periods in Judaea may indicate that Qumran was part of a pattern of settlement characteristic of Judaea in the first century BCE to the first century CE.

Within the boundaries of the Herodian Kingdom of Judaea several sites have recently been uncovered that can be identified as manor houses. The sites share some common features. They are located on high spots giving them a strategic view and control of the nearby roads. They are large complexes covering at least several hundred square meters. All of them combine a fortified tower with residential quarters. Several of the sites include sophisticated water supply systems and agricultural installations, indicating that the principal occupation of the owners was agricultural. The final feature common to all these sites is that all of them reveal evidence of destruction and neglect, dating to the Great Revolt of about 70 CE.

The location of Qumran on a raised plateau, about 60 m. above the Dead Sea, makes it an observation post from which the entire northern half of the Dead Sea and the coastal road as far as Ein Feshkha can be seen. Two ancient roads meet at Qumran--one from Jerusalem and another from Jericho--and continue through Ein Feshkha to Ein Gedi.

The part of Qumran which is most similar to the other sites is the main building. The dominant feature of the main building is the tower in the northwestern corner of the courtyard. The main building was probably the pars urbana, that is, the living quarters of the site. The surrounding wings were the pars rustica, the industrial area of the site. The water supply system of Qumran was capable of collecting 1,127 cubic m of water. This is a considerable amount of water, but not unusual in comparison to the quantities that were collected at other desert fortresses in the region. The number of ritual baths is not exceptional relative to the number discovered at other sites in Judaea.

The site of Qumran does not appear to have been a center for the people living in the nearby caves. A systematic survey of the caves has demonstrated that they were used for hiding objects, not for permanent inhabitation. On the other hand, the site does not appear to be a fortress either. The tower surrounded by a glacis made the site defensible, but the living quarters, featuring several entrances and irregular construction, were characteristic of a civilian complex. The industrial installations and the nearby tracts of work land prove that the principal occupation of the inhabitants was agriculture and agricultural processing. The integration of these elements--the tower, living quarters and installations--indicates that Qumran functioned as a fortified manor house.

Abstract prepared by Adam Oded, Orion Center intern, from the Greenfield Scholars Seminar delivered on March 19, 1998, and from Yizhar Hirshfeld, "Early Roman Manor Houses in Judaea and the Site of Khirbet Qumran," JNES [in press].

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