“The Dynamics of Holiness in the Temple Scroll: Exclusion or Expansion?”

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By: Hannah K Harrington

Studies have focused both on the exclusionary and expansionist character of holiness in the Temple Scroll.  On the one hand, it has been argued that the stringent purity restrictions in this text are due to the protection of the holiness of the sanctuary and exclusion from evil (Regev).  On the other hand, holiness is described as so powerful that it unleashes itself beyond the borders of the Temple city to permeate the entire land (Schiffman).  Thus, there is a paradox between the elitist tendency of the Scroll to protect the sanctuary by making extra-biblical exclusions from its precincts and, at the same time, bringing greater holiness to all Israel.  Is the author’s vision to protect the sanctuary by keeping people at a maximum distance or to invade the secular realm with the divine presence? (more…)

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21 Comments for : “The Dynamics of Holiness in the Temple Scroll: Exclusion or Expansion?”
    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 13, 2012
    Reply

    On page 18 of his book, the Dead Sea Scrolls Today, James VanderKam gives dates for when 11QT was written or copied. The paleographic dates are given as "late 1st century BC/early first century AD. The Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) dates are given as "97 BC – AD 1". These dates cover the period of Herod's reign. Given the large size of this scroll (28.5 ft or 8.75 m), one would have expected that few copies would have been made. Also given the precious nature of this scroll, one would have expected that any copies would have been produced close to the time the original was written. The 11QT manuscript could be documentary.

    In Chapter 16, The Enigma of the Temple Scroll, p257 of Reclaiming The Dead Sea Scrolls, Professor Schiffman has: "The author/redactor of this scroll called for a thoroughgoing revision of the existing Hasmonean order, advocating its replacement with a temple, sacrificial system, and government representing his own understanding of the law of the Torah." So my questions are these. Why a replacement of the Hasmonean order? Why not a replacement for the Herodian order? Shiffman says that "we can safely date the scroll as a whole no earlier than the second half of the reign of John Hyrcanus to which the scrolls polemics apply. That would yield a date sometime after 120 BCE." That the scroll polemics apply to John Hyrcanus are Schiffman's assertions. They apply to Herod instead.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 14, 2012
    Reply

    "On the other hand, holiness is described as so powerful that it unleashes itself beyond the borders of the Temple city to permeate the entire land (Schiffman)."

    The writers of this scroll were seeking power rather than holiness. They were probably working in secret towards the time of Herod's death. What would Herod have done to the priests if he had known what they were writing?

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 14, 2012
    Reply

    THE TEMPLE OF THE TEMPLE SCROLL WAS MODELLED ON HEROD'S TEMPLE

    The writers of the Temple Scroll had watched Herod's temple being built. Because of what Herod had built, they realised what was possible. Herod had achieved the seemingly impossible. They dreamed of building a bigger temple which would be have no impurities. The lame, blind and deaf would be excluded. Not only that, some Jews would be excluded also.

    The temple of the Temple Scroll is on larger scale than Herod's temple. It would have been easy for the priests to envisage such a temple. The temple of the Temple Scroll had an outer court with overall dimensions of a 730 m square. The overall dimensions of the Temple of Herod (excluding the Antonia fortress) were 450m from south to north and 300m from east to west. (See p57 of Judaism, Sanders). On p58, Sanders has: "The new wall (the outer retaining wall) ran appreciably farther both north and south than had its predecessor (the pre-Herodian temple), and the enclosed area was approximately doubled. The hill slopes down, falling away more sharply the further south one goes, and area that was to be inside the wall was filled with rubble and levelled. At its deepest point the fill was almost 40 metres deep. To resist the pressure exerted by the fill, the retaining wall was built c. 5 metres thick." On p58, Sanders has: "According to Ben-Dov, the largest stone found thus far is 12 metres long x 3 high x 4 thick and weighs almost 400 tons." The writer of the Temple Scroll just had to make his ideal temple bigger than Herod's, yet still remain feasible. Although no actual place is mentioned for the location of the temple, the Temple Scroll clearly refers to 'the city', meaning Jerusalem . The intention was to build it on the site of Herod's temple.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 14, 2012
    Reply

    THE 'IDEAL' TEMPLE

    On p260, Schiffman has: "This is an ideal Temple, built upon the beliefs of the author or authors." On p258, Schiffman has: "To this day, we still do not know who wrote the scroll or why." So why would someone take the trouble to laboriously write such a 28.5 ft long scroll? What was the motive for this massive effort?

    Also on p258, Schiffman wrote: "The Temple Scroll does not mount a sustained polemic against the priestly establishment in Jerusalem, with which the sect argued." I presume Schiffman is referring to 4QMMT. And who were the members of the "priestly establishment", and why does Schiffman call them "priestly". Is Schiffman not telling us something? Were the "priestly" people prophets? Had the priests been kicked out of the temple by Herod?

    At the end of Herod's reign, the high priest Matthias tentatively wrote 4QMMT to Herod, which contained corrections to the existing conduct in the Temple that Matthias thought was against the Law. Matthias also wrote that he and other priests had separated from the people and the Temple. And finally, near the time of Herod's death, Matthias, probably thinking that Herod was dead, had given instructions to his pupils to throw down the altar that Herod had built. Remarkably, on p263 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman gives a quotation from 11QT 2:5; "Indeed you must tear down their altars". Throwing down the altar was already in their minds. So here was a group that was completely disatisfied the Temple of Herod and its practices. The polemic in the Temple scroll was directed at Herod. Matthias and his followers were planning a new era with a new Temple. The author of 11QT was Matthias. They had not yet gone public about what their beliefs were. But that did not stop them from writing the Temple Scroll in secret. It was a sustained polemic against Herod, which no doubt the writer imparted to his fellow priests. The priests were being increasingly isolated and paranoid, leading to their visions of the future temple.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 14, 2012
    Reply

    THE 'IDEAL' TEMPLE

    On p260, Schiffman has: "This is an ideal Temple, built upon the beliefs of the author or authors." On p258, Schiffman has: "To this day, we still do not know who wrote the scroll or why." So why would someone take the trouble to laboriously write such a 28.5 ft long scroll? What was the motive for this massive effort?

    Also on p258, Schiffman wrote: "The Temple Scroll does not mount a sustained polemic against the priestly establishment in Jerusalem, with which the sect argued." I presume Schiffman is referring to 4QMMT. And who were the members of the "priestly establishment", and why does Schiffman call them "priestly". Is Schiffman not telling us something? Were the "priestly" people prophets?

    At the end of Herod's reign, the high priest Matthias tentatively wrote 4QMMT to Herod, which contained corrections to the existing conduct in the Temple that Matthias thought was against the Law. Matthias also wrote that he and other priests had separated from the people and the Temple – they had more likely been kicked out of the temple by Herod. And finally, near the time of Herod's death, Matthias, probably thinking that Herod was dead, had given instructions to his pupils to throw down the altar that Herod had built. Remarkably, on p263 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman gives a quotation from 11QT 2:5; "Indeed you must tear down their altars". Throwing down the altar was already in their minds. So here was a group that was completely disatisfied the Temple of Herod and its practices. The polemic in the Temple scroll was directed at Herod. Matthias and his followers were planning a new era with a new Temple. The author of 11QT was Matthias. They had not yet gone public about what their beliefs were. But that did not stop them from writing the Temple Scroll in secret. It was a sustained polemic against Herod, which no doubt the writer imparted to his fellow priests.

    The priests were being increasingly isolated and paranoid, leading to their visions of the future temple.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 14, 2012
    Reply

    HASMONEANS WERE TRUE BLUE JEWS, HEROD WAS IDUMEAN

    Schiffman's Chapter, The Enigma of the Temple Scroll (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls) is full of conjectural expressions such as 'most likely', 'perhaps', 'probably' and 'may be', illustrating his own uncertainty.

    On p269, Schiffman states: "The requirement that a king be appointed is 'most likely' intended as a critique of the early Hasmonean rulers, while serving as high priests, arrogated to themselves the temporal powers of the king. Our passage requires that the monarchy and the high priesthood be two separate offices with two distinct incumbents." The passage quoted in Schiffman's book was from 11QT:56:12-14 (see Vermes): "When you enter the land which I give you, take possesion of it, dwell in it, and say, 'I will appoint a king over me as do all the nations around me!', you may surely appoint over you the king whom I will choose." Schiffman ended his quote at this point. But the text continues (see Vermes): "It is from among your brothers that you shall appoint a king over you. You shall not appoint over you a foreigner who is not your brother."

    Clearly, this polemic was not aimed at Hasmonean rulers who were all true blue Jews. It was aimed at Herod who was Idumean. Nor was it to do with separation of the offices of high priest and king.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 15, 2012
    Reply

    DOES THE TEMPLE SCROLL REFER TO THE HASMONEAN JOHN HYRCANUS OR HEROD?

    On p269 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman quotes Temple Scroll 56:15-19: "But he may not keep for himself many horses, nor may he send the people back to Egypt for war in order in order to accumulate for himself horses, silver and gold. For I have said to you, 'You may never go that way again.' Nor may he have many wives lest they turn his heart from following Me, nor may he accumulate for himself silver and gold to excess."

    Schiffman speculates that the amassing of wealth was by the Hasmonean John Hyrcanus who mounted military campaigns outside of Judea. But Herod had amassed wealth himself by military means. In particular, Herod had threatened war specifically against Cleopatra of Egypt. And he had a number wives. These are two points of the above quotation not mentioned by Schiffman in connection with the Hasmonean John Hyrcanus. The quotation describes a threat against Egypt not actually carried out.

    And notice how the writer of the quotation writes as though he is God.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 16, 2012
    Reply

    HEROD'S IDUMEAN SOLDIERS ARE INFERRED IN THE IN THE TEMPLE SCROLL

    On p269 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman quotesTemple Scroll 57:5-11: "He (the king) shall choose for himself from (those he has mustered) one thousand from each tribe to be with him, twelve thousand warriors, who will not leave him alone, lest he be captured by the nations. And all those selected whom he shall choose shall be trustworthy men, who fear God, who spurn unjust gain, and mighty men of war. They shall be with him always , day and night, so that they will guard him from any sinful thing, and from a foreign nation, lest he be captured by them."

    Schiffman states: "This description of the royal guard is in direct contrast to its Hasmonean counterpart. The author requires for the royal guard not only trustworthy Jews but also those who will keep the king from transgressing. Apparently, the author is here criticizing the Hasmonean rulers for being overly influenced by their foreign mercenaries."

    Notice Schiffman's use of "apparently" – he is speculating. All of his argument is immediately demolished. The writer of the scroll is criticizing the Idumean Herod for wielding power by means of his Idumean soldiery. These may have been converted to Judaism, but were not one of the twelve tribes. They were likely to reject the strict practices of the law that the priests tried to impose, and thus lead the king the same way.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 16, 2012
    Reply

    The Temple Scroll make no mention of Schiffman's "mercenaries".

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 16, 2012
    Reply

    MOSES AS AN INTERMEDIARY REJECTED IN THE TEMPLE SCROLL. WHY?

    On p261 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman wrote: "Because he wanted to claim that the law had been handed down directly by God without the intermediacy of Moses, the author altered the commandments of Deuteronomy, wherein God speaks through Moses, but preserved the language of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, wherein God speaks directly….".

    What Schiffman neglected to say was that throughout this long scroll of 11QT, despite its many references to the time of Moses, Moses does not recieve one mention at all. (Schiffman does say on p262: "In one passage the writer/redactor seems to have slipped, allowing an indirect reference"). It does mean what Schiffman said. The writers did not believe in the intermediacy of Moses. The writers of1QH (Hymn 14, p272 of The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Vermes) wrote in agreement: "For Thou wilt bring Thy glorious salvation to all the men of Thy Council, to those who share a common lot with the Angels of the Face. And among them shall be no mediator to invoke Thee, and no messenger to make reply; for … they shall reply according to Thy glorious word and shall be thy princes in the company of the Angels."

    They would speak to God directly using the words of the law and as a prince speaks to his king. And they saw themselves as being in the company of Angels. But there was more to this than simply the idea of rejecting Moses as an intermediary. Why the fuss over Moses?

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 17, 2012
    Reply

    THE PRIESTS HOSTILITY TOWARDS THE PROPHETS

    The writers of 11QT and 1QH had no time for Moses, although he gave them most of the Law. This was because Moses not only legislated for the priests, but the prophets also. The Temple Scroll doesn't have a good word to say about the prophets. And prophets had influence on kings.

    The first mention of prophets is a hostile warning (11QT 54:9-19, Vermes): "If a prophet or dreamer appears among you and presents you with a sign or a portent, even if the sign or the portent comes true, when he says, 'Let us go and worship other gods whom you have not known!', do not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer, for I test you to discover whether you love YHWH, the God of your fathers, with all your heart and soul. It is YHWH, your God, that you must follow and serve, and it is him that you must fear and his voice that you must obey, and you must hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for he has preached rebellion against YHWH, your god, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to lead you astray from the from the path I have commanded you to follow. You shall rid yourself of this evil."

    Notice that the quotation says "your god, who brought you out of the land of Egypt". Moses receives no mention.

    This was not about an individual prophet. This was the writer speaking to his followers against the Jewish prophets in general. The people in every village were not to have anything to do with the Jewish prophets. They were to be murdered.

    A Jewish prophet would preach his view of a Jewish God. There was thus a sharp theological difference between the priests and prophets. The writer conveyed his message as though it was his God speaking, thus: "I test you" and "I have commanded you". But it wasn't his God doing the testing and commanding, it was the writer himself.

    In the scrolls, the prophets are called: "teachers of lies", "seers of falsehood", "who exchanged the law engraved on my heart by Thee for the smooth things which they speak to Thy people", "lying prophets deceived by error". (1QH:4, Vermes). "They have banished me from my land", complains the writer of 1QH. They had been barred from the temple.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 17, 2012
    Reply

    The priests had been barred from the Temple.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 17, 2012
    Reply

    PRIESTS HATRED OF PROPHETS

    The second place where prophets are mentioned (11QT 71:1-4, Vermes) is also a hostile warning: "…to utter a word in my name which I have not commanded him to utter, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall be put to death. If you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which YHWH has not uttered?', when the word uttered by the prophet is not fulfilled and does not come true, that is not a word that I have uttered. That prophet has spoken arrogantly; do not fear him."

    There were a number of reasons for the priests to discredit the prophets. The first was that the prophets could easily get caught out predicting future events. The second was to do the commands or words which YHWH had uttered? For the priest, they were the words of the law of God, either written down or understood. For the prophet, they were the words actually spoken by God in his Spirit. For the priest, the way to God was by obedience of the law. For the prophet, it was by obedience of the Spirit, what the Spirit actually said on a personal level. In particular, the law and animal sacrifice had become irrelevant. A prophet had only to preach a slight deviation from the law to be accused by the priests of worshiping a false God. At the time of the Temple Scroll, the prophets were the 'in' people with Herod. He had kicked the priests out of the Temple.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 18, 2012
    Reply

    THE PHARISEES, SADDUCEES, AND ESSENES WERE INVENTED

    On p271 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman wrote: "The complete, edited scroll (11QT) may be seen to a large extent as a polemic against the policies of the Hasmoneans on the one hand and against the rulings of the Pharisees on the other. A similar polemic underlies the Halakhic Letter (4QMMT), confirming that Pharisaic rulings were being followed in the Temple in the early Hasmonean period."

    I have shown that the Temple Scroll was nothing to do with Hasmoneans. The polemic in the Temple Scroll was against Herod. And 4QMMT also has nothing to do with the early Hasmonean period. It is concerned with Herod. The priests who wrote 4QMMT had been kicked out of the temple. These rulings may have been 'Pharisaic' according to Schiffman, but they were certainly not the rulings of Pharisees. Pharisees did not exist then, despite the fact of their appearing out of the blue in interpolated text in the writings attributed to Josephus. Pharisees are not mentioned in the Temple Scroll, or indeed any where in the vast quantity of the DSS manuscripts.

    In another paragraph on p271, Schiffman has: "It appears that the Sadducean sources included laws dating back to pre-Maccabean days, a theory confirmed by comparing this scroll (11QT) with the Halakhic Letter." The words 'it appears that' show Schiffman's uncertainty, and that he is speculating. Neither Pharisees nor Sadducees existed when the scrolls were written. Neither are mentioned anywhere in the DSS. The writers of 11QT and 4QMMT were priests (not nonexistent Sadducees).

    In Philo's Hypoththetica, 11.1, Eusebius quotes (see P.E. 8.5.11ff) what is supposed to have been written by Philo : "But our lawgiver trained an innumerable body of his pupils to partake in those things, who are called Essenes, being as I imagine, honoured with this appellation because of their exceeding holiness. And they dwell in many cities of Judaea, and in many villages." Eusebius, has given the game away. Philo's original text undoubtedly had Moses as the "our lawgiver" (legislator) and 'Essenes' as prophets. Eusebius says he could only 'imagine' that they were called Essenes. He was lying. The prophets were alive when Philo wrote, so he wouldn't have imagined what they were called. 'Essenes' appear out of the blue in the extant text attributed to Josephus. The prophets have been written out of history, following a general pattern of dissimulation. This has led to the idea among scholars that the prophets had faded from history a long time before.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 18, 2012
    Reply

    WHERE DID SCHIFFMAN'S ESSENES GO?

    In Qumran and Jerusalem, 2010, on p.84 Schiffman wrote: “The text (of 4QMMT) was probably composed soon after 150 B.C.” On p.101,102 he wrote: “The Qumran sect came into being as a discrete group in the aftermath of the Maccabean revolt when the Hasmonean high priests decided to ally themselves with the Pharisees against the hellenizing high priests, many of whom had been Sadducees. A group of pious Sadducees left the temple and protested to no avail the abandonment of Sadducean priestly practice for the halakhic rulings of the Pharisees. This group, after failing to sway their colleagues and their Hasmonean leaders by means of the Halakhic letter (4QMMT), eventually relocated to Qumran, where they lived lives of piety and holiness, preparing for the end of days.”

    Where have Schiffman's Essenes gone!!!

    This sounds like a good story, as good as the myth of Masada. . Unfortunately, it uses terms like Pharisee and Sadducee that the Scrolls through their long and varied history up to the first century, do not use. In 2010, Schiffman can't even say 'may be' the scrolls were written by pious Sadducees who joined forces with the Pharisees. In 2010, he no longer speaks of things as 'Pharisaic' meaning Pharisee like. He is sure that the Scrolls were written by Pharisees and pious Sadducees

    Never mind that the writings attributed to Josephus have been edited to retrospectively incorporate Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 19, 2012
    Reply

    WHEN WAS 4QMMT WRITTEN AND TO WHOM WAS IT ADDRESSED ?

    On p.151 of Qumran and Jerusalem (2010) Schiffman wrote:

    "To whom is this letter addressed? The text alternates between the singular and the plural. When in the singular, the manuscript assumes that it is addressing a leader who can by virtue of his position, identify with the kings of Israel. It appears that the head of the Jerusalem establishment with such status must be the high priest during Hasmonean times."

    Schiffman's old uncertainty is back – 'it appears'. And the manuscript doesn't 'assume' anything what Schiffman says. It does refer to a king, not kings, as Schiffman implies. Schiffman has assumed that his kings must have been high priests from Hasmonean times. Schiffman offers no proof that 4QMMT was originally written in early Maccabean times, only the circumstantial evidence of the history recorded in Josephus. He offers no proof that a Hasmonean priest-king was being addressed.

    Professor Norman Golb on the other hand has a remarkably different answer as to the time when 4QMMT was written and who was being addressed. The time of writing is highly relevant to the Temple Scroll.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 19, 2012
    Reply

    WHEN WERE THE ACTS OF TORAH (4QMMT) WRITTEN?

    In Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1995, p.180, Golb wrote about Father Joseph Milik of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem:

    “in 1962 his interpretations of the minor 'caves' appeared in the extensive third volume of the Oxford series. Discussing certain linguistic features of the Copper Scroll, he compared them to analogous ones that he referred to as to as '4QMishn' (4QMMT), and gave several quotations from the latter showing its special idiom and content."

    On p.183, Golb wrote:

    "The importance of Milik's observations about the idiom of the Acts of Torah resided in the necessary implication that the work was written during the early or middle first century A.D., before which no evidence could be found for the existence of such an idiom. Indeed, Milik had made use of passages from the Acts of Torah to elucidate his discussion of a first-century A.D. documentary (an autographical) work composed in the same idiom – the Copper Scroll. The only other manuscripts written in essentially the same form of Hebrew were the early second century second century A.D. Bar Kokhba documentary texts. The idiom appears in no written testimony from before the turn of the era."

    Thus we have the opinion of one expert, Golb, that the text was early or middle first century CE. In 1962 that appears to be the opinion of a second expert, Milik.

    On p.210, Golb wrote:

    “the opinion (Schiffman’s) that the epistle was addressed to a priestly figure is capricious: Its wording actually carries no such implication. Secondly, its evocation of the deeds of past kings … indicates that he (the author) was addressing not a sacerdotal figure, but rather a royal one who was not a priest. In addition, the epistle reveals no demonstrable connection at all with Hasmonaean (i.e. second- and first-century B.C.) figures. The language of the text indicates that it was written around the beginning of the first century A.D., and its specific wording shows that it was addressed to a royal personage of that time.”

    Eisenman and Wise write in Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, p183,

    "If placed in the first century, where we would prefer to place it because of its language – a form of 'proto-Mishnaic Hebrew' … then the addressee is Agrippa I … who made a pretence at Torah observation."

    So now we have four experts in Hebrew who would place 4QMMT in the first century A.D. And two of them plumb for Agrippa I. But I think Agrippa I is just a little too late, and his grandmother was the Hasmonean Mariamne. So who was the king being addressed in 4QMMT?

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 20, 2012
    Reply

    THE ADDRESSEE OF 4QMMT WAS HEROD

    Golb wrote on p210 of Who wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls:

    "The language of the text indicates that it was written around the beginning of the first century A.D., and its specific wording shows that it was addressed to a royal personage of that time.”

    "around the beginning of the first century A.D." could be just before the start of the first century, near to the time of Herod's death in 4 B.C. The priests who wrote 4QMMT were getting bolder. Yet still they wrote with timidity.

    Professor Geza Vermes wrote an article on Herod in the Standpoint magazine: http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/text-janfeb-11-her… In that article Vermes describes Herod's attempts at keeping the Jewish law:

    A. "In obedience to Jewish law, he did not allow his effigy to appear on coins. Nor has any statue of his survived away from home."

    B. "Herod considered himself a Jew and at home he behaved as one… He also observed Jewish dietary laws."

    C. "He strictly adhered to Jewish rules governing mixed marriages and required circumcision of non-Jewish men before they were allowed to marry into his family."

    E. "Some of the pools discovered in Herodian palaces served for ritual purification, according to archaeologists."

    F. "The jewel in the crown of his exclusively Jewish creative activity was the reconstruction of the Second Temple."

    G. "To allay religious worries, he associated the Jewish clergy with the project, and to please them he ordered sumptuous robes for 1,000 priests."

    H. "His formal adherence to the Jewish religion…."

    I. "His unpopularity reached boiling point when he sentenced to death two respected religious teachers and 40 of their pupils for destroying the golden eagle, symbol of Rome, attached to the new Temple."

    I. is a dramatic sudden change in Herod's dealings with the priests.

  1. Pingback: Around the Blogosphere (09.21.2012) | Near Emmaus

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 21, 2012
    Reply

    THE PRIESTS WERE DISSATISFIED WITH HEROD'S KEEPING OF THE LAW. WHY, AFTER YEARS OF KEEPING IT?

    Imagine if you were king Herod and you were near life’s end. You had generally kept the Jewish Law, as Vermes said. You had not stamped your image on coins, put up no statues of yourself, observed the Laws on diet, required the circumcision of men who wanted to marry Jewish women, obeyed the Law regarding ritual purification, reconstructed the temple, associated the priests with the project, and bought 1000 of the Jewish priests sumptuous robes, to name a few things. This had been an experience that had lasted most of Herod's life.

    Yet there appears to be a deterioration in the relations between the king and the priests. Why, when things had gone on for years without a murmur from the priests. The priests had decided to leave the Temple and separate themselves, or Herod kicked them out. Then the priests sent him two letters (4QMMT) written in servile tone. In effect, they told him that his ways of behaving were not up to their standards – these priests had moved the goalposts with their special Jewish laws. The first letter was a complaint about Temple practices. The second letter was a complaint about Herod, personally. I could imagine Herod fuming into his beard. Real trouble was brewing.

    • Geoff Hudson
    • September 23, 2012
    Reply

    IN 4QMMT, WHO ARE 'THEY'?

    The priests (all 30,000 of them) have given up temple service and have nothing to do with the people in their villages from whom they have separated themselves (or anything to do with a few priests who have gone into mixed marriages). That leaves those who the priests disparagingly describe as 'they' to manage the temple. 'They' is a nondescript expression somewhat like the expressions: 'seekers of smooth things', 'the congregations of scoffers', 'who despise the law'. One thing is for sure: 'they' are not the 'priests' in 4QMMT.

    The things the 'they' were permitting seem akin to the things that are considered acceptable in the New Testament.

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