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Jewish Sectarianism in Second Temple Times, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Great Schisms in Jewish History (Ed. Raphael Jospe and Stanley M. Wagner), Ktav, New York 1981.


IN THE FALL of 540 B.C.E., Cyrus (II) the Great, already king of Persia and Media, vanquished Babylonia’s army and soon controlled the entire area of Mesopotamia. He immediately adopted a policy which was to be characteristic of his reign; he encouraged the repatriation of exiles and the rebuilding of shrines, all in a benevolence which seemed to sit well both with his temperament and with the need to govern a large and far-flung empire. In 538 B.C.E. Cyrus decreed that the Temple of the Jews in Jerusalem be rebuilt and that all the exiles who wished might return to Judea.1 It was this decree that inaugurated the period of the Second Temple or Second Commonwealth.

But the period of the Second Temple cannot be understood without reference to the seven hundred years before.2 In about 1250 B.C.E., the Hebrews had escaped from servitude in Egypt to begin a long trek through the desert. This was the formative period of their national and religious character. A common ancestry, history, and the belief that God had revealed His will to them at Sinai all contributed to the molding of the Israelite nation. While the period of the con-quest and the Judges was one of relative political and religious instability, the Israelites emerged from it ready to become a great empire and to receive the message of the prophets.

The great kingdom of the united monarchy under David and Solomon unfortunately gave way to regionalism, and the result was the split of the kingdom. This led in turn to the political, economic, and military weakening of the country and eventually to the conquests of Israel by Assyria in 722 and of Judah by Babylonia in 586. Each conquest resulted in the exile of substantial groups of people to Mesopotamia. Even worse, the combined depredations of both enemies brought about the destruction of the economy, so that life in the Land of Israel was, to say the least, very difficult. It was now that Cyrus came on the scene.

The rise of Cyrus and the fall of Babylon in 538 B.C.E. were viewed by the Jews as God’s work.3 Immediately after his conquest of Babylonia, Cyrus issued the aforementioned edict al-lowing the return of the Jews to Judea and the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem. While then, as today, settling in Israel was an option exercised by a small and devoted minority, the entire Jewish Diaspora gave financial and moral support to the newly reestablished community.4

With the rise of Cyrus we enter the Persian period. A new kind of bureaucracy was now ruling.5 While at times the Judeans had trouble with the ruling powers, Jews were able to rise in the civil service and even constituted military units employed by the Persian Empire at the frontiers.6 The Persian period was formative for the Second Jewish Commonwealth in that Jerusalem was rebuilt and its sacrificial cult reconstituted. A final important development was the granting of temporal (not merely religious) authority to the high priesthood. Little is known of the period between the rebuilding of Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah and the coming of Alexander the Great,7 which was to begin a new period in the history of the Near East.

The Hellenistic period begins officially with Alexander’s arrival in the Near East in 334 B.C.E.8 It is common to think of Hellenization as the sudden importation of Greek culture into the Near East. Nothing could be further from the truth. First, commercial contacts and their attendant cultural effects had already been developing for several centuries. Second, Alexander and his armies did not represent native Greek ways. Alexander was a Macedonian. As his armies moved through the East, native soldiers (with their cultural baggage) were added to his units. In his wake a new Hellenistic culture was created which was, in fact, an amalgam of Alexander’s Macedonian Greek culture with the ways and beliefs of the Near Eastern peoples.9

After Alexander’s death his empire was divided by his generals.10 Henceforth, until the coming of the Romans in 63 B.C.E., the Land of Israel was to be ruled by the Ptolemaic (Egyptian) and Seleucid (Syrian) kings in alternating succession. It was during this period that Judaism suffered strife and war to determine its ultimate relation to Hellenism. A small minority had sought to gain control of the nation and to impose extreme Hellenism on the people. This would have meant the abandonment of the Torah as the national constitution and the norm of Jewish life. In its stead would have been the Hellenic cosmopolitan ideal and the Greek city-state, the polis. When intermittent civil war over this issue began, Antiochus Ephiphanes, the Seleucid ruler, reacted by supporting the Hellenists. His tactic was to outlaw Jewish practice and then mandate extreme Hellenization. It was against this policy that the Maccabees rose in revolt (167–164 B.C.E.). Their struggle has become for Jews a reminder of their ability to over-come persecutions, no matter how dire.11

It is not uncommon for the victor to become the vanquished. When ancient Rome conquered Greece, native Roman culture soon gave way to that of Hellas. When Alexander conquered Iran, he soon became a Persian monarch, wearing Persian clothes and keeping a Persian harem. So went the Hasmoneans, the later descendants of the Maccabees. Ultimately, the descendants of those who had risen so defiantly against extreme Hellenization became so Hellenized as to alienate their subjects.12

It was a relief to the Jews, then, when Pompey took control of Judea for Rome in 63 B.C.E. Two Hasmonean pretenders had both appealed to Pompey for help in ascending the throne, and he saw an easy opportunity to take control.13 Roman rule took several different forms. For most of the time, the Empire was represented in Judea by procurators. Many of these were opportunists who had little concern for their responsibilities. Others, however, were genuinely sincere in trying to rule wisely and fairly. At other times, the country was ruled by the Herodians, a puppet dynasty of “Jewish” kings controlled by Rome, and totally acculturated to Roman ways. Constant strife characterized this period as Rome showed little ability to under-stand or respect the religious sensitivities of the Jews.14

Further, by this time the Hasmonean period had been idealized in the minds of the people, and a staunch desire to attain political freedom from foreign domination had become wide-spread. By 66 C.E. the Jews had begun their revolt against Rome, which was to end by 74 C.E. in total destruction and defeat. The Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70. With this revolt, the Second Commonwealth comes to an end.15 The Rabbis of the Talmud claimed that the revolt failed because of dissension among Jewish groups,16 probably a result of the sectarianism of the Second Commonwealth to which we now turn.


Our study of the sectarianism of the Second Jewish Commonwealth will seek to fulfill two primary purposes. First, it will describe the main sects and their relationships to one another. Second, it will investigate the underlying cause of the deep divisions which we will see in the period under discussion. Others have seen the causes of the rift in the political, social, or religious circumstances of the Hellenistic period.17 We will argue, however, that almost every sectarian trend was already present in biblical times, and that Hellenism, while certainly a factor in encouraging sectarianism, was not its overriding cause. Hellenism simply heightened conflicts which had begun centuries before. In demonstrating this thesis, we will avoid the usual cataloguing of sects, choosing instead to concentrate on basic issues among the sects and how each group reacted to them.

A word is in order about sources. Two major characteristics may be mentioned for the sources we have regarding the sects and their biblical background. First, we are very often reading the works of opponents, whose writings may be colored by their negative view of what they describe or by the polemical purpose for which the material was written. Second—and this applies both to the biblical and post-biblical data—the literature often shows evidence of a complex literary history which involves editing and revising and which is usually far re-moved chronologically from the subject matter. At many points, therefore, we will have to pause to assess the reliability of the sources and traditions which form the basis for our inquiry so as to be able properly to evaluate the degree of certainty we may rightfully ascribe to our conclusions.

Let us now survey the sources we will use in our inquiry. First, there is the Bible itself. It is from the Bible that we will seek to identify the conflicts which lie at the root of the sectarianism of the Second Commonwealth. After all, the thesis of this study is that the central issues of Second Temple times were already factors in the biblical period.

Here we must take several factors into consideration. First, the biblical materials have gone through a long process of editing and transmission, which means that we cannot be certain that the reports are accurate.18 More important, though, this process has clearly been influenced by the ideological stance of those who handed down the material.19 Specifically, the Bible was edited by Judeans who espoused pure monotheism and loyalty only to the God of Israel. As we shall see below, others disagreed. Further, these editors were convinced that Jerusalem and its Temple were the only place in which sacrifice might take place.

The earliest postbiblical Hebrew sources at our disposal are the Dead Sea Scrolls. These texts were found in the caves of Qumran, at the shore of the Dead Sea.20 They clearly describe the religious life and theology of some group within the Judaism of the Second Commonwealth. Various considerations have led to the conclusion that the texts date from the second century B.C.E. through the first century C.E.21 Besides the texts of a clearly sectarian nature, there are also biblical manuscripts as well as copies of some books of the Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha to which we shall presently turn.22

Scholars are divided regarding the identity of the sect which authored these texts and inhabited the caves and buildings of Qumran.23 The majority opinion sees these texts as the literature of the Essenes.24 Since this view remains unproven, this study will simply refer to the authors of these texts as the Dead Sea Sect.

“Apocrypha” and “pseudepigrapha” are loose designations covering a wide literature composed by Jews during the Greco-Roman period in Palestine and in the Diaspora.25 By far the majority of these books were written during the same period as the Dead Sea Scrolls.26 These works were composed in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Because later Judaism for the most part rejected these works,27 they survive only in Greek or in Christian translations from late antiquity or the Middle Ages.28 The ideology of much of this literature represents Hellenistic Judaism.

Since we are dealing with translations and not original compositions, we are presented with numerous textual and linguistic problems. We cannot determine with precision the dates of composition or the identity of the author(s) of these books. These works are of great value, however, in that they shed light on the general religious and intellectual climate in the Jewish communities of the Greco-Roman period.

An extremely important source regarding Hellenistic Judaism in the Diaspora is Philo Judaeus (ca. 20 B.C.E.–50 C.E.). Philo lived in Alexandria, the center of Hellenistic culture. While he himself espoused a Judaism which synthesized the law and theology of the Torah with the philosophy of the Greeks, he described other Jews who had abandoned the ancestral law and lore under the influence of Greek ways.29

The New Testament is also of value to our study. Although even the earliest material in the Gospels was not edited until somewhat later, Jesus lived in the last years of the Second Temple period. Much of what the New Testament says about the history of this period can be corroborated by other sources. However, we must exercise great caution, particularly in regard to the description of the Pharisees. The New Testament writers clearly polemicize against the Pharisees and attempt to present them in an unfavorable light.30 The same may be said of the New Testament descriptions of the priests and the Temple officials.

Then there is Josephus Flavius (ca. 38–after 100 C.E.), the famous Jewish historian.31 His works are indispensable to the study of this period, yet he is not unimpeachably reliable. First, while he himself claims to have been a priest of aristocratic lineage and to have studied with the Sadducees (as well as the Pharisees, the Essenes, and a desert hermit named Banus), he states that he was a Pharisee. Hence, he can be expected to have prejudices against the Sadducees. Second, he described the Jewish sects of the Second Commonwealth in such a way as to make them resemble Greek schools of philosophy in an attempt to present the Jewish traditions in a good light to his non-Jewish readers. Third, he seems to have had first-hand familiarity with the major sects in his own day, and it would seem that he considered this experience sufficient to project back data into the early Hasmonean period. Finally, he was writing after the abortive Jewish revolt against Rome, during which he switched to the Roman side. Thereafter, the alignment of sects in Judaism was changed radically, as we shall see later on.

The last major literary source is Rabbinic literature—Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash. Here we encounter three problems. First, the Rabbis regarded themselves as the spiritual heirs of the Pharisees. Hence, the Sadducees were the opponents. Second, as a result of censorship of Jewish texts by Christians in the Middle Ages, the word seduqi (“Sadducean”) was often introduced into the text of the Mishnah and Talmud to replace words for “Christians” or “heretics.” Therefore, many of the alleged references to the Sadducees in Rabbinic texts have no bearing on them.32 Third, the earliest strata of talmudic literature are, in their present form, like Josephus, far removed from the early years of the Hasmonean period and can at best be considered reliable for the last years of the Second Temple period.

Recent years have seen increasing evidence of our period emerging from archaeological re-search.33 While Palestinian archaeology began as an attempt to uncover the realia of biblical times, it has increasingly concentrated on the Second Temple period. Archaeology has revealed the material culture of the times and has greatly illuminated the extent of Hellenization in Palestine as well as the general religious climate, specifically the amount of foreign worship. Because the artifacts were buried and are found in situ, the information which they yield is not subject to as much suspicion as is the literary evidence. Questions do arise, however, about the dating of what has been uncovered and its evaluation.

In view of the nature of our sources and their composition after the events they describe, it is important to remember that what follows is, of necessity, a reconstruction of the sectarian controversies based on the available data. It would be nearly impossible to study this period by using only information which can be proven without question. It is hoped that the careful weighing of the material has allowed us to come close to an understanding of this difficult and formative period in the history of Judaism, despite the many historical problems and uncertainties which remain.


What then are the basic issues in the biblical period, and how do they manifest themselves later on? A major conflict concerned the very nature of Israelite religion. Was the God of Israel to be worshipped alongside “other gods,” or was He to be venerated exclusively?34 Along with this issue went the question of the centralization of worship. In an attempt to root out syncretistic worship and to control the priesthood, the Deuteronomic tradition, as followed by Hezekiah and Josiah, stood for limitation of sacrificial worship to the Jerusalem Temple. Further, only Zadokite priests (descendants of one of Solomon’s high priests, Zadok) were to offer the sacrifices.35 Needless to say, those believing that the God of Israel was to be one among many saw no reason to centralize worship or to limit membership in the legitimate priesthood.

Behind these political and religious questions lay a larger cultural question which was to concern the Jews in the Second Commonwealth. It may seem strange to those of us who are familiar with Rabbinic Judaism, but in the biblical and Hellenistic periods a fundamental question was whether Israelite religion should be a total way of life which left no room for outside elements, or whether it was to be only a part of the life of the individual and the nation. Whether it was the paganism of the Canaanites or the Hellenism of the later period, the question was the same.

It ought to be made clear that despite some of the rhetoric to the contrary, the question was not a black-and-white one. The issue was never whether or not to reject outside influence. The question was rather whether to assimilate some elements not considered harmful or to allow the wholesale entry of foreign elements into the way of life of the Jews. Those seeking exclusive worship of God in both the biblical and Hellenistic periods felt that adoption of foreign elements without restriction was nothing more than apostasy and the abandonment of Judaism. Others, against whom our sources so often polemicize, disagreed.


This complex of issues was to manifest itself early in the Second Temple period. As the returning Jews began to rebuild the Temple, the Samaritans offered to help and were rejected.

When we come to discuss the Samaritans, we are immediately plagued by the problem of sources. While the Bible describes the origins of Samaritanism,36 we must remember that the Scriptures were handed down by Jewish groups which were fundamentally anti-Samaritan. It is therefore probable that there is some bias in these materials. Second, all the Samaritans’ own traditions appear in writings which are of very late date and many of which have been clearly influenced by Islamic sources. Finally, the material in Rabbinic literature and in Josephus is also subject to the claim of bias.37

From these various sources, we can reconstruct the following account. The Samaritans were a mixed people made up of strains of Northern Israelites who had not been exiled in 722 and the various foreign nations that the Assyrians had brought into the area in an attempt to en-sure that national aspirations could not again come to the fore. This mixed group, the Samaritans, had adopted a syncretistic form of Judaism. They seem to have maintained the old Northern traditions and to have combined them with those of the nations settled among them. More important, however, was the genealogical problem.

In First Temple times it was possible for foreigners to join the Jewish people in an informal way by moving physically and socially into the land and adhering to its religion and laws. During the exile, Judaism had been transformed from a nationality which depended on connection to the land and culture to a religion which depended upon descent. For how else could Judaism ensure its continuity when deprived of its homeland? The returning Jews from Babylonia could not accept the questionable genealogy of the Samaritans. On the other hand, there was not yet a system for religious conversion as developed later on in the Second Temple period. Hence, there was no choice but to reject the Samaritans, even had they agreed to abandon their syncretistic practices.38

This issue had political overtones as well. The Samaritans attempted, although with limited success, to influence the Persian authorities to stop the building of the Temple and to limit the powers of the priestly and temporal government of the Jews.39 This split between the Samaritans and the Jews was final, the Samaritans remaining a separate community to this day.

The Samaritan problem was, no doubt, complicated by another long-smoldering issue. There can be no question that as far back as the earliest days of the monarchy, there was division between North and South. It was this division that eventually led, after Solomon’s death, to the split of the kingdom.

There were several aspects to this problem. First, after David’s death, the South accepted the idea that the monarchy was hereditary. The North, on the other hand, did not. Apparently, this difference characterized the two kingdoms, for the South maintained the Davidic dynasty while the North repeatedly changed dynasties.40

A second aspect was religious. We cannot doubt that there was Northern opposition to the centralization of the cult at Jerusalem. This opposition must have surfaced already in the time of Solomon, even when worship at the bamot (“high places”) was still considered legitimate. The North rejected the constant efforts to centralize worship at the Jerusalem Temple and to restrict the priesthood to the Aaronides. Accordingly, after the split of the kingdom, the North set up sanctuaries at Bethel and Dan.41 The opposition of Southern, Judean circles to these sanctuaries and the bull-images which were erected in them is clearly stated in the books of Kings.42 We will explain below how the same Northern opposition to centralization of the cult was bolstered by a Northern calendar reform.

From the linguistic point of view, we know that the Northern and Southern Israelites spoke somewhat different dialects, as these differences are in evidence in the Bible.43 The Hebrew Scriptures, however, were generally edited to conform to the dialect of Judah in the last years of the First Temple. Later on, in the Second Temple period, the Northerners would shift more quickly to Aramaic, while Hebrew would hold on for much longer in the southern regions.44

Thus, the issue of the Samaritans in the Second Temple period may be viewed, to some ex-tent, as a continuation of the North-South schism of the First Temple. Like their Northern predecessors, the Samaritans insisted on the right to sacrifice outside of Jerusalem. Evidence seems to point to their adoption of Aramaic at an earlier stage than their Judean counterparts. Under Persian rule, the Judeans had rejected the Samaritans due to their syncretistic worship and the presence among them of non-Israelite elements. Clearly, the Judeans had chosen to fol-low in the footsteps of those who believed that only the God of Israel was to be worshipped, and that this worship was to be done only according to the ancient traditions of Israel. The same question was to arise again in the Hellenistic period.

The issue of Hellenism, then, can be seen as a larger issue of openness to foreign cultures and influences, a conflict which was foremost in biblical times and which continued into the Second Temple period. As the constellation of world politics and culture changed, Judaism first found itself in confrontation with the Canaanite culture and then with the phenomenon of Hellenism.


Generally speaking, there were five groups in the Jewish population of Palestine during the Hellenistic period. (It must be remembered that many Jews in the Diaspora were very thoroughly Hellenized.45) There was a small group who clearly believed that Jews ought to enter into the mainstream of Hellenistic culture. They believed that Greek educational and cultural forms ought to be imposed on the biblical heritage so that Jews might enter into the cosmos as Hellenistic citizens. Judaism would then become one of the Hellenistic cults, and the God of Israel just one of the many manifestations of Zeus, the major god of the Greek pantheon.46 Af-ter all, throughout the rest of the Hellenistic world, the local deities were identified with the gods of the Hellenic pantheon. It was against this extreme Hellenization that the Maccabees revolted, as we have said. With time, those holding these views, whether in the Land of Israel or in the Diaspora, probably assimilated so totally into the Greek way of life that they and their descendants were lost to the Jewish people.

A second group of somewhat Hellenized Jews is that of the Greek-speaking Jews. Their primary loyalties were to the Jewish tradition, but their culture was very much influenced by the atmosphere in which they lived. Alexandria, Egypt, was certainly a center for this kind of Hellenization,47 typified by Septuagint (Greek translation of the Bible)48 and the writings of Philo Judaeus (ca. 20 B.C.E.–50 C.E.), who attempted to synthesize the revelation of the Torah with Platonic thought.49 This moderately Hellenistic Judaism also found a place in Judea, as represented, for example, by Josephus and the Greek-speaking Jews.50 Many of the Greek books of the Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha are products of this approach. Among this group were, no doubt, many aristocrats and members of the Sadducean priesthood.

In speaking of the Sadducees, the problem of sources is especially acute for the reasons mentioned above. Nonetheless, considerable data can be gleaned about the Sadducees, and in the main, it seems to be reliable. Josephus explicitly mentions the Sadducees (along with the Pharisees and the Essenes) as existing as early as the time of Jonathan Maccabee (ca. 150 B.C.E.).51

The most repeated characteristic of the Sadducees is their aristocratic aspect. Most of them were apparently priests or those who had intermarried with the high priestly families.52 The Sadducees derived their name from that of Zadok, the high priest of the Jerusalem Temple in the time of Solomon.53 It was this family of high priests who served at the head of the priest-hood throughout First and Second Temple times, the only interruptions being when foreign worship was brought into the Temple and when the Hasmoneans took control.54 Further, ac-cording to Josephus, the Sadducees rejected the “traditions of the fathers” observed as law by the Pharisees.55 These traditions seem to have been a forerunner of the later Oral Law.56 For the reasons described above, it is difficult to evaluate the many legal differences between the Sad-duccees and the Pharisees mentioned in the tannaitic sources.57 The Sadducees also differed to some extent in theological matters with the Pharisees, a subject to which we shall return.

Closely allied with the Sadducees were the Boethusians. This group seems to have adopted similar views to those of the Sadducees. Scholars ascribe the origin of the Boethusians to Simeon ben Boethus, appointed high priest by Herod in 24 B.C.E. so that he would have sufficient status to marry Herod’s daughter Mariamne (II). There certainly were some differences between the Sadduccees and the Boethusians, but it is probable that the Boethusians were a subgroup of the Sadduccees.58

It is clear that many of these Sadducean and Boethusian priests and their families were con-siderably Hellenized. They, therefore, represent the focal point of a group which accepted many aspects of Hellenistic culture while remaining loyal to the Jewish tradition.

A third group may be said to have rejected almost all aspects of Hellenistic culture. This is not to say that they had not picked up Greek vocabulary in their Hebrew and Aramaic speech or that the intellectual traditions of the oikuméne (the Hellenistic world) had not affected them at all. Rather, this group seems to have remained primarily Near Eastern in culture. We refer here to the Pharisees. The name of this sect is derived from the Hebrew perushim, “separate.” This designation most probably refers to their separation from levitically impure food and from the tables of the ‘am ha-’ares, the common people, who were not scrupulous regarding the laws of Levitical purity or tithes.59

For the Pharisees as well we face the can be said with certainty about the Pharisees in the pre-70 C.E. period.60 Three major characteristics seem to emerge from the sources before us. First, they represented primarily the middle and lower classes.61 Second, and perhaps as a con-sequence of their social status, they were not really Hellenized. To be sure, certain Greek words or intellectual approaches may have been part of their lives. However, they viewed as authoritative only what they regarded as the ancient traditions of Israel.62 Third, they accepted the “traditions of the fathers.” The laws of purity, tithing, and Sabbath were of primary interest to the Pharisees.63

The Pharisees first appear by name in the time of Jonathan Maccabee (ca. 150 B.C.E.).64 Many scholars have attempted to identify the Pharisees with the Hasidim who appear as allies of Judah in the Maccabean revolt.65 This theory, however, cannot be substantiated. Further, our knowledge of the Hasidim in this early period is very limited. It is most probable that they were not really a sect or party, but rather a loose association of pietists such as are denoted by this term in talmudic literature.66

Rabbinic sources trace the history of the Pharisees back to the Men of the Great Assembly, who are said to have provided the religious leadership for Israel in the Persian and early Hellenistic periods.67 Some modern scholars have associated the Soferim (“scribes”) with the Men of the Great Assembly. The Soferim would then be forerunners of the Pharisaic movement. Unfortunately, historical evidence does not allow any definite conclusions here.68 All that can be said is that the Pharisees cannot have emerged suddenly, full-blown in the Hasmonean period. Their theology and organization must have been in formation somewhat earlier. How much earlier and in what form, we cannot say.

A fourth group seems to have eschewed Hellenism much more thoroughly than the Pharisees. While Pharisaic Judaism seems to have been Hellenized to at least a minor degree, the Dead Sea sect used no Greek words in its writings and, despite some views to the contrary,69 was in no way Hellenized. This sect was apparently founded at about the time of the Maccabean uprising.70 From the role of Zadokite priests in the legal teachings of the sect,71 one would assume that such priests made up the nucleus of the sect. Two possible explanations can, therefore, be offered for its founding. It may have been founded by Zadokite (perhaps Sadducean) priests who left the Temple and Jerusalem in protest and disgust over what the Hellenizing priests were doing in the sanctuary. Alternately, it may have been founded by righteous Zadokite priests who were expelled from Temple service when the Maccabees arrogated to their family the right to officiate as high priests. At any rate, this group went off to the desert, where they lived at the shore of the Dead Sea in Qumran and some surrounding settlements.72 They left us a series of scrolls, dating from about 150 B.C.E. to 70 C.E., which clearly outline the life and doctrines of this sect to which we will return so many times below.73

Among the most important characteristics of the Dead Sea or Qumran sect is its rejection of the validity of extra-biblical traditions for the derivation of law. This group derived its law solely from biblical exegesis, an activity which occupied a major part of the daily life of the sect.74 In this respect, they shared the Sadducean daily view. On the other hand, they seem to have reached conclusions very much like those to which the Pharisees adhered as part of their “traditions of the fathers,” later part of the Rabbinic Oral Law.75

It should be noted here that the Dead Sea sect wrote down legislation. Later talmudic sources forbade the writing of Oral Law and ascribed such a proscription to Second Temple times.76 There is no way of knowing whether the Pharisees would have written down their extra-biblical “traditions of the fathers.”77 We can say with certainty that no clearly identifiable Pharisaic legal manuscript from the Second Temple period has come down to us, but neither has any Sadducean manuscript.78

Many scholars have identified the sect of the Dead Sea Scrolls with the Essenes described in Philo and Josephus.79 Indeed, this suggestion has the merit of solving the problem of why Josephus does not mention such a major sect as that of the Qumranites. The Essenes, however, cannot be identified with the Qumran sect except by correcting Josephus in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Such a process is somewhat circular, so that the most we may say is that the sect of Qumran might be the Essenes. Josephus mentions Essenes as existing as early as 150 B.C.E.,80 but we must remember again how much later he was writing. No information as to the founding of this group is given, and no convincing etymology of the name has been proposed.81 Further, Josephus might have generalized numerous smaller groups under the heading Essenes.82 It is a pity, as well, that there is no mention of the Essenes in talmudic literature—at least not by name. The most prominent characteristic of the Essenes seems to have been the community of property; some practiced celibacy.83

With regard to the Hellenistic continuum, we have a problem concerning the Essenes. If they are to be identified with the Dead Sea sect, then Hellenistic influence would seem out of the question. If, however, they are a separate group, and Josephus’ description is accurate, Hellenistic influence might account for many of their divergences from the Pharisaic approach.84 Further, Philo describes the sect of the Therapeutae,85 located at Lake Mareotis in Egypt, clearly an area of strongly Hellenized Judaism, and this sect has many affinities with the Essenes.

We have omitted discussion of a number of minor sects mentioned in Rabbinic literature. In-formation on these is too scant and it is often not possible to tell if we are dealing with an organized group or not.86

All the groups we have discussed probably altogether accounted for less than ten percent of the Jewish population of Palestine in the Second Commonwealth. Who were the rest? Most people belonged to a class called by the Bible and the later Rabbis the ‘am ha-’ares, “the people of the land.”87 This group was primarily rural and of the lower economic class. Their faith was probably a simplified version of the teachings of the Bible, and their observance was similar to that of the Pharisees except that tithing and purity laws were widely disregarded. Nevertheless, we can safely assume widespread Sabbath observance and abstinence from forbidden foods.88 Regarding prayer and the status of the synagogue at this time, evidence is scant, and no definitive conclusions can be reached.89

The ‘am ha-’ares was probably affected by Hellenism only in regard to what we may call surface culture, i.e. some vocabulary terms of a technical nature, and material culture, as shown by the widespread finds of Greek pottery and wares in Palestine of this period.90 We know that after the Great Revolt of 66–73 the bulk of this group followed the Pharisees into the Rabbinic movement.91 It may perhaps be said that this was only the end of a long process. This group, regarding Hellenism and the Hellenists as interlopers into their ancient way of life and culture, had greatest sympathy for the Pharisees in our period. Indeed, such an impression is certainly given by Josephus,92 but it may be the result of post-70 C.E. developments or of his own prejudices.


We have already seen that the issue of centralization of the sacrificial cult, i.e. the prohibition of all sacrificial worship except in the Jerusalem Temple, was linked to that of the exclusive veneration of the God of Israel. In order to ensure the proper worship of the Israelite God, the author of Deuteronomy, followed by Hezekiah and Josiah, prohibited worship elsewhere.93 Further, Josiah had reduced the priests from outlying areas, whose worship was often syncretistic, to a secondary status at Jerusalem.94 Ezekiel, in his vision of the restored Second Temple, for the same reason, expected only Zadokite priests to minister, with others relegated to a secondary status.95 This seems to have become the practice in Second Temple times.96

Various exceptions to the centralization of sacrificial worship can be observed in the Second Temple period. Before investigating them we must note how insignificant these exceptions are. By and large, from the Josianic reformation on, Jews did not attempt to sacrifice except in Jerusalem. Hence, the Babylonian exiles made no attempt to sacrifice in Babylonia. Of the exceptions we will mention, only the Samaritans are actually to be considered a sect. Nevertheless, the other examples provide the background for understanding the Samaritan position on this issue.

Three exceptions should be mentioned. In the Persian period, a Jewish garrison was established at Yeb or Elephantine, now Aswan, on the Nile. This garrison had a somewhat syncretistic cult including not only the God of Israel but some local gods as well. Their temple in Egypt included sacrifices offered to the God of Israel, who was the head of their pantheon.97 This is probably a late survival of the syncretistic worship of the bamot (“high places”) of First Temple times.

A second Egyptian cultic place to the God of Israel is the so-called Temple of Onias at Leontopolis. Founded in the mid-second century B.C.E., this temple was probably established as the result of internecine strife among candidates for the high priesthood in Jerusalem. At any rate, its priests were Zadokite, and it was built on the model of the Jerusalem Temple. There is no reason to doubt its exclusive worship of the God of Israel, especially if the talmudic traditions are to be accepted.98

A third example is the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim. According to a report of Josephus,99 the veracity of which has been questioned by many scholars,100 this temple was also founded as the result of strife within the priesthood. Manasses, a brother of the high priest Jaddua, married Nikaso, daughter of Sanballat, governor of Samaria. Because of his marriage, Manasses was expelled from Jerusalem. His father-in-law built him a temple on Mount Ger-izim (modern-day Nablus on the West Bank) with the permission of Alexander the Great. It seems, at the very least, that this date can be accepted for the building of the Samaritan temple. Additional confirmation comes from the recently discovered papyri from Wadi el-Daliyeh.101

The exact details given by Josephus regarding the cause of the founding of this temple may be fictional. However, it certainly took place after the success of the Judeans in building the Jerusalem Temple. After all, the attempt of the Samaritans to join in the building of the Jerusalem sanctuary had been rebuffed by the Judean authorities. This rejection must have resulted in the founding of an independent temple.

It is impossible to reconstruct the cult of the Samaritan temple since the texts we have are of so much later provenance. It seems, though, that only the God of Israel would have been wor-shipped there, and that the sacrificial system would have been very much in accord with the biblical cultic codes as found in the Samaritan version of the Pentateuch.102


An important area of divergence among the Jews of the Second Commonwealth concerns the biblical canon and text. By canon we mean those books which are considered authoritative and holy.103
The Pharisees probably accepted as sanctified and authoritative the Torah, Prophets, and a corpus of writings.104 Only in Mishnaic times, however, was the final decision made on certain of the writings.105 The Sadducees were said by the Church Fathers to have accepted only the Pentateuch,106 yet there is no evidence for this claim.107 While we cannot be sure, it seems that the Sadducees would have shared at least the canon of the Pharisees.108 It is also possible that they accepted even more books as authoritative. The canon of the Hellenistic Jews of Alexandria, as evidenced by the Greek Bible (and followed in the Catholic tradition), includes the books classified as Apocrypha.109 These additional books were written during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, some in Hebrew and most in Greek. Some of the apocryphal books are representative of the point of view of the Hellenistic Jews of Alexandria. It is therefore possible that the Hellenized Sadducees may have also been attracted to these books and included them in their canon. Some of the apocryphal books, on the other hand, were written in the last days of the Second Temple, and there seems little chance that the Sadducees would have considered these works canonical.

The Samaritans regarded as canonical only the Pentateuch.110 Some scholars have argued that this limited canon shows that the Samaritans broke away from normative Judaism before the Prophets had been canonized. This claim, however, has been seriously challenged.111

At Qumran every biblical book has been found except Esther. There are also various apocryphal or pseudepigraphical books.112 The problem is that we cannot be sure whether the Dead Sea sect had a concept of canon. Perhaps at Qumran the canon was open, with new books being added at times.113

Regarding the biblical text, it has been established that three basic text types existed side by side during our period.114 Evidence for this comes primarily from the Dead Sea Scrolls, but also from the ancient translations of the Bible. The three recensions were as follows- (1) The Alexandrian recension is that which served as the basis for the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible. This text was used by Hellenized Jews, including many of the Sadducees. It was later a factor in facilitating the spread of Christianity. (2) The Palestinian text can also be described as proto-Samaritan. This version was similar to the Samaritan Pentateuch as we know it except that it did not contain the tendentious variants which supported the Samaritan doctrines re-garding the sanctuary at Mount Gerizim.115 Finally there is (3) the Babylonian recension, which was used by the Pharisaic forerunners of the talmudic Rabbis. This last version served as the basis for what was later called the Masoretic Text, the Hebrew biblical text in use until this day.

Among the Qumran scrolls were found biblical manuscripts in both the square Hebrew script as well as in the paleo-Hebrew script. From later sources we know that the Samaritans wrote their biblical texts in paleo-Hebrew script.116


Still another aspect of the divergence among sects at this time is the calendar. In the history of religions, calendar reform or variation has often played a part in religious schisms. To mention some familiar cases, there is the Christian shift of emphasis from Saturday to Sunday, the elimination of the intercalation of the month in the Moslem calendar, and the variations be-tween the Eastern and Western Churches in Christianity. Such a variation or change is found in the Bible, and it will not surprise us to see a calendar dispute play a part in the Second Commonwealth as well.

Jeroboam, ruler of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (928–907 B.C.E.), had already attempted to use a calendric change as part of his efforts to separate the people of the Northern Kingdom from their Judean coreligionists. To this end, he postponed the celebration of Sukkot from the seventh to the eighth month.117 Even if this adjustment may have been more in accord with the agricultural realities of the North, with its somewhat colder climate than the South,118 the fact remains that his purpose was to complete the shift of allegiance from the sanctuary at Jerusalem to those of Beth El and Dan to shore up his political structure.

Calendar controversy was also prominent in Second Temple times. The major issue now revolved about whether to use a series of twelve lunar months periodically adjusted by intercalation of a thirteenth to constitute a year (lunar-solar) or to use a fixed calendar of thirty-day and thirty-one-day months, twelve of which would constitute the solar year (solar). While Jewish tradition assumes that the former was the ancient Israelite calendar, and that the latter was an innovation, rightly opposed, some scholars have held the less likely view that it was the lunar month which was the innovation. In any case, the calendar of the Pharisees must have been the lunar-solar, while the Dead Sea sect and the pseudepigraphic books of Jubilees and Enoch fol-lowed solar calendars. (We cannot be sure about the Sadducees.)119 It is possible that this 364-day solar calendar had as its purpose ensuring that the festivals would not fall on the Sabbath as this entailed numerous problems regarding Temple and home observance.

A related calendar dispute pertained to the date of the festival of Shavuot.120 The Bible commanded that forty-nine days be counted from the “day after the Sabbath” (Lev. 23-15). The Pharisees, according to later sources, took “Sabbath” here, based on context, to mean the first day of Passover (a day of rest, or “Sabbath”); hence, the fiftieth day after Passover was the date of Shavuot. The other groups took this passage as referring to the Saturday after either the first or last day of Passover.121 That these variant calendars were actually put into practice by the different groups is shown by the Habbakuk Commentary from Qumran, which tells of how the Jerusalem high priest attacked the sect on a day which they regarded as the Day of Atonement.122


The character of the various groups was also influenced by the degree of urbanization each group accepted. When the nomadic tribes of Israel invaded the land of Canaan, they were con-fronted with large urban centers. Most Israelites accepted at least limited urbanization as conducive to their way of life.123

One group already took strong exception in First Temple times. The Rechabites were a group tracing themselves back to the early monarchical period. They did not drink wine, cultivate vineyards, or even own fields or houses. They remained pastoral tent-dwellers until the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, when they were forced to take refuge in Jerusalem. The Rechabites must have lived much in the style of Bedouin. In other words, this group either maintained or imitated the pre-conquest way of life of ancient Israel. There is evidence that at least the progenitor or spiritual ancestor of this group took action against the worship of Baal in the early days of the divided monarchy.124

Descendants of the Rechabites certainly survived into the Second Commonwealth period.125 In Second Temple times, not everyone was content with the increasing urbanization and the changes it introduced into the agricultural way of life. Much later the Talmud was to remark that the signs of urbanization were robbery, sexual immorality, and deceitful oaths.126 The rural environment was regarded as fostering scholarship and the piety which went with it. This attitude must have been widespread in the Hellenistic and Roman period, as the mores of these foreign societies, with their disdain for sobriety and moderation, became increasingly familiar to the Jews of Palestine.127

Unfortunately, the Sadducean priests, with time, seem to have surrendered themselves totally to the lure of the city and its attractions.128 The Pharisees, despite the widespread support they had among city-dwellers, must have stood fast against much of this.129 It was the Dead Sea sect that made clear its opposition in its writings, attacking the Jerusalem establishment for fornication, materialism, and impurity.130 This opposition was no doubt manifested in the way of life of the group which set up its headquarters at Qumran.131 To be sure, the sect allowed the use of wine,132 although we may assume that it shared the biblical view that wine had to be taken in moderation.133 Nonetheless, the sect had physically relocated in an environment which made contact with the evils of urbanism impossible.

Particularly important is the Dead Sea sect’s view of property.134 While not rejecting the con-cept of private property so important to the society envisaged by the Hebrew Bible,135 the sect required that the use of all property belonging to members be common. In other words, the use of all property was shared while ownership remained in the hands of the individual. Certainly, an approach such as this would eliminate the need to accumulate large amounts of personal wealth, often at the expense of those less advantaged. Most important, it constituted a sharp denial of the materialistic attitude so prevalent in the increasingly Hellenized cities.

It is of interest as well that while certain communal buildings were built by the Dead Sea sect at Qumran, no individual houses were found. Scholars have been forced to speculate on where the Qumranites lived. Two views have emerged- Some have seen the caves in which the scrolls and other material remains were found as the dwelling places, while others have as-sumed that individual tents would have been pitched around the main buildings.

We have noted that it cannot be determined with certainty whether the Essenes and the sect of the Dead Sea Scrolls were one and the same. The Essenes, as described by Philo and Josephus, went even further than the Dead Sea texts. The Essenes denied private ownership and held all property in common.136 Indeed, such an approach would later be seen in the emerging Church.137 The Essenes clearly denied the urban materialism, and many are described as having shunned towns because of the immorality of their inhabitants.138 We know from Josephus and the New Testament that in the period under discussion, there were also hermitlike holy men who had left society and separated themselves from its evils,139 but we must emphasize that this phenomenon is very different from that of organized groups.

We have pictured the Dead Sea sect as to a great extent anti-urban in its outlook. Even so, despite its sectarian organization and particular economic system, the settlement at Qumran and its offshoot at Ein Fashka140 in many ways may be regarded as a mini-city, or what might be called in Israel today a development town.


Another area in which the various sects disagreed was that of theology and the future of man. The Bible speaks of a Hades-like existence in Sheol after death. This kind of afterlife concept makes no distinction between body and soul, as the location of Sheol is below ground, and that is where Jews have always interred their dead.141 Indeed, the Bible regards the individual as a unitary being, making no distinction between man’s physical and spiritual aspects.

When the Jews found themselves in the Hellenistic environment, the Greek concepts of body and soul began to have an influence on Judaism.142 If we can believe Josephus, the Sadducees, the most Hellenized group of Jews, rejected this concept,143 and, hence, retained the biblical concept of afterlife. While it is indeed hard to believe that the Hellenized Sadducees would have rejected this Hellenistic concept, it is possible. After all, the Sadducees were a very conservative group in religious matters. The Pharisees, gradually accepting the Greek division of body and soul, modified their concept of life after death. They came to believe that the body ceased to function at death, while the intangible soul continued in existence. During this after-life, people would be rewarded or punished. Eventually, the righteous would be resurrected to eternal life in the end of days.144 The views of the Essenes of Josephus are almost the same as those of the Pharisees.145 The Dead Sea sect had no problem with afterlife as they believed that they were living on the verge of the future age. They would still be alive for the dawn of the Messianic era.146 Nonetheless, they seem to have viewed the person of man in the old biblical sense, making no distinction between body and soul.147

Interesting in this connection is the question of fate and the free will of man. The Sadducees are said by Josephus to have believed in absolute freedom of the individual, with providence playing no part in the affairs of men. The Essenes, according to him, believe that all is “in the hands of heaven.” The Pharisees are pictured as occupying a middle ground, believing that man’s free will interacts with the force of divine providence.148 Some scholars have questioned this schematization, believing it to be influenced by Josephus’ knowledge of Greek philosophy.149 Nonetheless, it is important to observe that the Dead Sea Scrolls deny man free will, and accept predestination. These texts go so far as to blame men for their transgressions, and yet to assert that it is predetermined whether one is to be in the camp of the “sons of light” or that of the “sons of darkness.”150 Apparently, along with the sect’s constant calls for repentance goes the idea that only those whom providence has so designated are capable of repentance.

In light of later developments, Messianism is of central concern. The extent to which Messianic belief is enshrined in the Hebrew Scriptures is the subject of great controversy. On the one hand, already by the time of Isaiah, there is the concept that there will eventually arise a future Davidic king who will have excellent qualities and whose reign will usher in a period of great tranquility and peace.

Further, the prophets foretell a great day of the Lord on which all the evildoers will receive their due. This day of the Lord will be accompanied by earth-shattering, cataclysmic events. The followers of the way of God will reign supreme at its conclusion. Fi-nally, by the Second Temple period, as shown by the Book of Daniel, there was an apocalyptic notion that the deliverance of Israel would come only after a succession of divinely appointed kingdoms had reigned. After this, the Messianic era would dawn.151

These ideas represent a complex of notions, and we must assume that in the First Temple period there were various differing views and conflicts regarding them. There is no way, how-ever, to pinpoint the various views or the parties that held them.

By the Second Commonwealth, fortunately, we can be more specific. First, we have various sectarian apocalyptic works such as are found in the Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha.152 It would seem that to many of these writers what was important was the idea of the coming of the Messianic age and not necessarily the personal Messiah. The apocalyptic groups emphasized the war and the punishment of evildoers that would inaugurate the coming end of days, while the Pharisees, we may presume, emphasized the utopian kingdom to be established by the Davidic Messiah.

Another position was taken by the Dead Sea sect and some pseudepigraphical texts. They believed that the coming age would indeed begin with a great war and punishment, yet they saw the leadership of the people in the hands of two Messianic figures. A priestly Messiah would take precedence and reestablish the Jerusalem sacrificial cult. Along with him, a Davidic Messiah would rule over the reestablished temporal kingdom.153 The precedence given to the priestly, or Aaronide, Messiah was, no doubt, the result of the priestly origins and dominance of the Dead Sea group which we have already discussed.

Many scholars have taken the view that the Sadducees did not believe at all in Messianism.154 Their conclusion is based on the Sadducean denial of fate, divine providence, immortality of the soul, and resurrection. On the other hand, the Sadducees may have adhered more closely to First Temple sources and expected a more natural turn of events which would lead to the restoration of ancient Jewish glory.

Of course, the issue of Messianism really comes to the fore in the rise of Christianity. Early Christianity seems to have combined the apocalyptic view of the sects with a heavy emphasis on the Davidic Messiah, apparently the hallmark of the Pharisaic approach. From this combination emerged a concept that the Messianic era was in fact at hand as Jesus was identified as the Davidic Messiah. When his mission failed to bring about the expected results foretold in the Hebrew prophets, nascent Christianity revised those prophecies through the medium of exegesis and so was able to preserve the concept of the Messiahship of Jesus despite the disappointment. Christianity went even further and saw the Messiah as a divine or semi-divine being.155 Soon Christianity abrogated Jewish law and so took the steps which would separate it decidedly from Judaism. When this breach became fully apparent, the Christians realized the deep gulf separating them from Judaism and began to shift their mission toward the gentiles. The Christian view that Jewish law had been abrogated served to make gentile Christianity a realistic possibility.


Palestine was a small country in which the bulk of the populace lived a simple rural life. Nevertheless, Judaism is a communally practiced religion, necessitating cooperation and consensus in the manner of discharging religious duties. For this reason alone, sectarian divisions might become sources of tension and aggravation within a community. Add to this a central sacrificial sanctuary, for control of which various groups might vie, and here are the necessary ingredients for the extension of sectarianism from the philosophical and intellectual realm into real conflict.

On the other hand, the common national heritage and a common foreign enemy often galvanized the people into overcoming and rising above their internal divisions. Further, most of the people belonged to the class called by the Talmud the ‘am ha-’ares, the common people. This class must have been for the most part unaware of such matters.

Relations between the sects in the Greco-Roman period ranged from cordial disagreement to armed conflict. Let us survey a few examples.

The Maccabean revolt can certainly be seen as beginning with a civil war between pro- and anti-Hellenistic factions within Judea.156 This civil war eventually resulted in the arrogation of high priestly and royal powers by the Maccabees and their Hasmonean descendants. It was probably as a reaction to this usurpation that righteous Zadokite priests went to the desert to live at Qumran. There one of the Jerusalem priests, by now Sadducean in outlook, attacked the sect’s leader on the day which was Yom Kippur according to the sectarian calendar.157

The Pharisees eventually raised their objection to the Hasmonean usurpation of the priest-hood and kingship, and this resulted in the slaughter of many Pharisees by the Hasmonean king.158 At the same time, the Hasmonean rulers fought the Samaritans and destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim.159

Many differences existed between the Pharisees and Sadducees in regard to Temple service. We know of later scuffles and even riots in the Temple regarding these practices.160 There is no reason to suspect that such conflicts did not also erupt in earlier times.

On the other hand, the Mishnah portrays cordial dialogues between Pharisees and Sadducees regarding questions of Jewish law.161 There is again no reason to doubt that such discus-sions took place, especially in times when tensions were eased for one reason or another. Tal-mudic reports, however, paint the Boethusians as sabotaging the Rabbinic proclamation of the new moon in an attempt to confuse the Pharisaic calendar, which the Boethusians regarded as illegitimate.162 We must remember, however, that the Rabbinic dislike for the priestly house of Boethus163 may have colored their opinions of the Boethusians.

Relations between Jews and the early Christians seem to have been friendly at first. Many peaceful dialogues relating to religious matters are recorded in the New Testament. As the divergences of Christianity from Judaism became increasingly clear, Jews and Christians began to turn against each other. This is already evident in the priestly opposition to Jesus. By the year 70 C.E. the Christian community of Jerusalem would see their national destiny as separate from that of the Jews.164 It may be that Messianic overtones to the revolt against Rome (of which we shall speak below) made it impossible for the Christians to participate fully in the revolt.

What was the impact of these conflicts on daily life? First, we know that some of the groups, namely the Pharisees and the Dead Sea sect, had special purity laws which required that they eat only food prepared according to regulation.165 Sadducees would have observed similar laws in regard to the eating of Temple offerings. These groups would have abstained from the food of the ‘am ha-’ares, who were not careful in regard to purity or tithes. The social consequences of these differences are readily apparent. What needs to be stressed is that, with the exception of the priesthood, one could join another group simply by adopting the rules of the sect. These were not closed groups.166

Regarding marriage, we have already seen that beginning in the early years of the Second Commonwealth, the genealogical conception of the Jewish people did not allow their marriage with non-Jews. Hence, marriage with the Samaritans was prohibited, and it remains even so today.

In the case of Christianity, the matter is more complex. Jews and Jewish Christians would probably have married one another in the early years of Christianity. Once Gentile Christianity became the norm, the Jews defined Christians as non-Jews and prohibited marriage with them. Beyond this, we know of no other prohibitions on marriage between the sects. On the other hand, the tendency of people to marry within their own socio-economic group must have operated then as it does today. Indeed, aristocratic and Sadducean priestly families tended to intermarry throughout our period.167

Some Jews, those holding the views of extreme Hellenizers desiring complete assimilation into the mainstream of the Greco-Roman world, would have ignored the prohibitions on intermarriage. A small number of individuals would have also found themselves intermarrying for purely personal reasons.

There was, as we mentioned, some disagreement about the dates of holidays. We cannot be sure which dates were followed, except that the Sadducees must have controlled Temple worship. Rabbinic sources and Josephus, however, portray the Pharisees as in control, at least from the time of Salome Alexandra (79 B.C.E.). This account may be idealized, as it is hard to see the Sadducees accepting Pharisaic domination of the Temple.168 It is not impossible, though, that the immense popularity of the Pharisees gave them considerable leverage over the less popular Sadducean officials of the Temple.

In spite of these accounts of struggles, we must not lose perspective on the extent of these conflicts. Our sources tend to highlight conflicts and disagreements. The fact is that there were affinities among all the groups since they shared many religious principles and practices and a common nationality.

Here we come to a central question. Why do we regard the Samaritans and Christians as having left the Jewish fold while regarding the others as sects within Judaism? There is no general rule. Rather, the answer must be investigated for each specific case.

Regarding the Samaritans it was a combination of their questionable lineage and their religious syncretism which led to their initial rejection by the Judeans. Once they established their own sacrificial sanctuary and adopted a radically limited canon, there was no longer any question of their being considered Jewish. Eventually, political and social developments in the Land of Israel strengthened this division, and it remains permanent to this day.

Regarding Christianity, it was initially the belief in the doctrine of Jesus as the Messiah which divided the Jewish-Christian from the Jew. Given time alone, this

this disagreement would probably have resulted in a complete and permanent schism. Nonetheless, the relationship between the Jews and early Christians did not result in unreconcilable differences until Christianity increasingly turned toward the gentiles. To this end, the Christians abrogated Mosaic law, the cornerstone of Judaism. They, therefore, would be regarded henceforth as non-Jews.




In the last years of the Second Commonwealth, as Roman rule became more and more intolerable, different revolutionary groups began to spring up. Foreign domination was nothing new for the Jews. In First Temple times there never ceased to be disagreements about how to relate to the dominant empires. Often, it was assumed that a revolt against the Mesopotamian power would be supported by Egypt, or vice versa. More often than not, these were but vain hopes. Such an assumption led in part to Zedekiah’s rebellion against Babylonia, which resulted in the destruction of the nation and its Temple in 586 B.C.E.169 Indeed, there can be discerned at this time pro-Egyptian and pro-Babylonian parties. The former counseled rebellion as their ally, Egypt, was expected to lend support. The latter, including the prophet Jeremiah, advised the king to pay tribute to Babylonia. After all, they reasoned, foreign or military domination was but a small price to pay for internal self-government and the freedom to pursue their ancient way of life.

In the Maccabean uprising, the lines had been drawn more clearly. The rebellion had begun in a civil war regarding the extent to which Judea was to be Hellenized. At the outset there were the Hellenizers and their opponents. Once Antiochus stepped in and outlawed certain basic Jewish practices and defiled the Temple, the masses of Jews rallied behind the Maccabean family, leaving only the extreme Hellenizers and the armies of Seleucid Syria on the other side. Thus, the revolt became primarily that of the Jewish people against their Greco-Syrian overlords.170

With Rome the situation was much more complex. Josephus speaks of the so-called Fourth Philosophy (alongside Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes).171 This group seems to have been identical with the Sicarii (“dagger-carriers”), who played so important a role in the revolt against Rome. These were primarily Galileans who, under Judah the Gaulanite, began to attack the Romans in 4 B.C.E. This faction must have continued its operations and stayed under the leadership of the same family through the Great Revolt of 66–74 C.E. They held that Israel had no master but God Himself and steadfastly refused to accept foreign domination. Josephus states that these men agreed in other respects with the Pharisaic approach. It should be remembered that the revolt against Rome was brewing from the very start of the century, and guerilla groups such as the Sicarii were active throughout this period. The Fourth Philosophy, then, seems to be a Pharisaic-like group especially dedicated to the revolt against Roman domination.172

Another group involved in the rebellion was the Zealots. Some have tried to see the Zealots as identical with the Sicarii, but this view is unacceptable. Further, it cannot be argued that the description Josephus gives us of the Fourth Philosophy is a composite portrait of several revolutionary groups (as was argued above regarding the Essenes). After all, Josephus was himself a participant in the revolt and gives us elsewhere very detailed accounts of the revolutionary groups and specifically differentiates them from one another.

The Zealots were a group that crystallized quite late in the revolt. Its main leadership came from lower-level priests of the Jerusalem Temple. Indeed, it was they who suspended the twice-daily sacrifice for the welfare of the Roman emperor—an act tantamount to a declaration of war (66 C.E.). Like the Sicarii their methods were those of terrorists. For both groups terrorism, including assassination of moderate Jews whom they regarded as Roman sympathizers, ultimately may have caused the populace, at least in Jerusalem, to turn against them.173

Simeon bar Giora and John of Giscala (Gush Halav in Galilee) stand out as individuals who led factions in the revolt. Both of these men seem to have been charismatic leaders who headed private armies. Simeon was closest in approach to the Sicarii and John to the Zealots, although these leaders cannot be identified with these two groups. Simeon seems to have embodied Messianic dreams to some of his followers, like the later Simeon bar Kosiba (bar Kokhba), who led the revolt against Rome in 132–135 C.E. John, on the other hand, seems to be have been more moderate and was friendly with Simeon ben Gamliel, the leading Pharisee.174

The Essenes are mentioned by Josephus only once in regard to the revolt. A certain John the Essene appears as a revolutionary commander.175 While there is no other direct evidence of Essene participation in the war, the reports that the Romans tortured the Essenes would seem to indicate that the Essenes had thrown in their lot with the rebellion.176 To be sure, Philo had pictured the Essenes as pacifists,177 but we must assume that they saw this war as the eschatological battle and, therefore, that they had no qualms about participating in it.178

We have discussed above the issue of whether the Essenes are to be identified as the sect of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here we should say that various theories regarding participation by the Qumran sect in the revolt have been proposed. The War Scroll has been seen as a description in eschatological terms of the already-brewing revolt. The Copper Scroll has been viewed as indicating where the Temple treasures were hidden at the outbreak of war.179 These are but speculations. We do know that Qumran was destroyed in the aftermath of the revolt and that some of the sectarians probably fled to Masada, where they perished in the final conflagration.180

Who opposed the revolt?181 The aristocratic leaders, most probably high-level Sadducean priests and their supporters, as well as the extremely Hellenized Jews supported Roman rule, from which, no doubt, they gained commercial and financial advantage. In addition, the moderate Pharisees believed, as did Jeremiah so many years before, that it was better to submit to the military domination of Rome than to risk subjecting religious freedom and the Temple to the wrath of the Empire. Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, who established an academy at Yavneh in the last hours of the revolt, certainly took this view.182 It was as a consequence of the Pharisaic tolerance of Roman rule that the descendants of Rabban Gamliel were entrusted by the Romans with the internal self-government of the Jewish people, usually termed the Patriarchate.183

What emerges from this picture is an alignment which cut across sectarian lines. It seems that the Sicarii represented those followers of the Pharisaic order who actively supported the revolt. This was despite the much more moderate, almost pacifist view of some members of the Pharisaic leadership. Whereas the upper-level Sadduceans would have preferred peaceful coexistence with Rome, it was lower-level priests, also of the Sadducean order, who formed the Zealots and effected the formal declaration of revolt. Whereas the sectarian group at Qumran seems to have sat out the war, although ultimately engulfed and destroyed by it, some Essene sectarians were actively involved. While some Judeans saw the revolt as the culmination of the apocalyptic movements of Second Temple times,184 this was certainly not the view of most rebels or their supporters among the population. Finally, both rebels and moderates had urban and rural, rich poor constituents. With all we have said, though, it is doubtful whether the revolt could ever have gotten as far as it did if not for the support of the majority of the Jewish population of Judea.




From this cursory survey, in which we have covered only a small number of issues, it is already clear that Palestinian Judaism in the Hellenistic period was variegated and certainly not monolithic. This situation continued until the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. The Talmud gives its reason for the destruction as the Jews’ lack of ability to function as a unified people.185 In fact, Rabbinic tradition looked askance at the entire phenomenon of sectarianism. Its view was that Pharisaism, the intellectual and religious approach the Rabbis had inherited, was in direct continuity with the Mosaic oral tradition.186 From the vantage point of Rabbinic Judaism, everyone else was a schismatic. Had Israel only adhered to the tradition of the Pharisees, there would have been no Hellenization, no revolt, and no destruction. Just as the Deuteronomic editor of Kings saw the misfortunes of the Israelites in biblical times as stemming from deviation from the teachings of the Lord, so it was this deviation, in the form of the rejection of the true tradition, that led, in the talmudic view, to the destruction in 70 C.E.

We must inquire here as to whether this evaluation is valid. We have seen that the issues raised by the sectarian movements in the Second Temple period were not, in almost every case, new questions. Rather, they constitute a series of unresolved problems remaining from First Temple times. What was new was the venue. It was no longer the Israel surrounded by Semitic paganism that would argue these issues. It was now a nation of Jews first in the Persian, and then in the Hellenistic or Greco-Roman world. This new environment, culturally and historically, gave new impetus to some conflicts and modified others. By and large, though, it did not bring about the schisms; they were already present in biblical times.

So the sectarianism of the Second Temple period is really a continuation of earlier divisions. If so, can we speak of a normative tradition at any time in pre-Rabbinic times? I think not. Despite the Rabbinic ideal, it seems that the Jewish people always had room for differences and for movements within it. These could be religious, political, or socio-economic.

Were these divisions beneficial or harmful to Jewish life? There is no question that from a political or military point of view they were a disadvantage. Had the Jewish people been unified, there would have been a better chance of holding out longer against Rome, although there can be no question that enough Roman men and materiel would have eventually been victorious.

But Judaism was not meant to be simply a military or political entity. It was and is a way of relating to God and man, of bringing meaning and purpose to human existence, and of explaining the world around us. The emergence of the Jewish people into the Hellenistic period was in many ways analogous to its emergence into modern times. The world in which the Jews lived was suddenly changed. This new world intensified the old conflicts. At the same time, the Hellenistic environment created a greater need to answer the pressing questions Judaism raised. As such, this was a period in which Judaism was not sure in which direction to go. What Judaism and the Jewish people needed was to experiment by playing out the results of the old conflicts to see how the various approaches would work in this new era. Thus, the sects were a proving ground from which emerged an answer to which way Judaism would move in the post-70 C.E. period.

It was the destruction in 70 C.E. which served as the time of decision. It must be remembered that the destruction of the Temple was not just a religious tragedy. By the time Jerusalem and the Temple fell, the entire country had been devastated by years of war and pillage. The entire socio-economic, political, and religious order had been overturned. Finally, the conflicts that had seethed above and below ground in Second Temple times needed to be resolved. It was here that history played its usual role. It decided.

Apocalypticism and the approach of such groups as the Essenes and the sect of the Dead Sea Scrolls had already served as the background for emerging Christianity. After all, it was these groups that had seen the end of days about to dawn. Their energies and many of their ideals, from an historical point of view, found their way into the nascent Christian Church, and these approaches were no longer to be considered Jewish. The mainstream of Jewish life would confront this approach again only in the guise of false-Messiah movements, most notably that of Shabbatai Zevi, or in the form of Christian conversionist preaching.

The Sadducean movement was so tied up with the priestly aristocracy and Temple worship that when the Temple was destroyed and the social order decimated, the priestly, Sadducean approach simply could not endure. Perhaps its emphasis on the primacy of the Temple made its views untenable in the new situation. Perhaps it was the religious victory of the Pharisees and the attendant recognition of their political powers (which we shall mention below) which further weakened the Sadducees. There are some references to Sadducees in post-70 times in talmudic literature, but, as we have said, these are often the result of Christian censors in the Middle Ages who changed words meaning “Christian” or “heretic” to “Sadducee.”

We must also consider a theory suggested in the nineteenth century. It is possible that Sadducean sectarians or beliefs went underground and survived to emerge later in the literalist sect of the Karaites.187 In view of the many similarities which scholars have noted between the Dead Sea sect and the Karaites,188 it is more likely that if there were any survival of Second Temple sectarianism in the early development of Karaism, it was that of the Dead Sea sect. The confluence of several of these disenfranchised traditions is also possible.

What of the Pharisees? It seems that a combination of their religious and political views made them uniquely able to serve as the continuers of the Jewish tradition. On the political front, they had always counseled cooperation with the existing authorities, and it was through them after the catastrophe of 70 that the Romans set up a system of local Jewish self-government known as the Patriarchate.

On the religious front, of all the sects of the Second Common wealth, the Pharisees seemed best able to command the allegiance of the common people, the ‘am ha-’ares. Most important, the Pharisaic approach to halakhah, Jewish law, was flexible. By allowing it to change with the times, at least in terms of practical applications, they made it a livable system, denying the later Pauline view that Jewish law was an insuperable burden. Thus, Judaism never faced the problems it might have, had a literalist approach to Jewish law become the norm. In regard to theological questions, the Pharisaic beliefs had long accorded with those of most Jews, for in times of trouble, the Jewish people longed to believe in such ideas as afterlife and the Messianic era. If life in this world was not what it should be, they would be rewarded in the next for their observance in this world.

And so it was that after the destruction, the Pharisaic approach, as interpreted by the Rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud, furnished the groundwork for what we have come to call Rabbinic or normative Judaism. This Pharisaic heritage in the Middle Ages, when Judaism faced the challenges of the Islamic and Christian worlds, was again able to prevail and to flourish by the process of organic, subtle, and imperceptible self-modification and adaptation. Rabbinic Judaism has again had to face alien values in the modern world. It still remains to be seen how the heritage of the Pharisees will continue, but there can be no question that it will.





  1. J. Bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1972), 360–363: M. Noth, The History of Israel (New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, 1960), 300–308. For the text of the decree see Ezra 1:1–6, 2 Chron. 36:22 f., and cf. Cyrus’ inscription in ANET, 315 f. which confirms the plausibility of the biblical material.
  2. For thorough accounts of biblical history see Bright, History of Israel, and W. F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1957).
  3. See Isa. 45:1–13, U. Rappaport, “Cyrus,” EJ 5, 1184–86.
  4. Bright, 363, 377 f.
  5. See C. Huart, Ancient Persia and Iranian Civilization (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1927), 73–79.
  6. This was the case of Elephantine, on which see below, p. 11, and the thorough study by B. Porten, Archives from Elephantine: The Life of an Ancient Jewish Military Colony (Berkeley and Los Angeles; University of California Press, 1968).
  7. Rabbinic tradition saw the period of the Second Temple under Persian rule as lasting only thirty-four years, thus losing almost a century in its chronology. See J. Z. Lauterbach, “Midrash and Mishnah,” Rabbinic Essays (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1951), 253 f.
  8. V. Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1966), 1–7.
  9. See H. Jonas, The Gnostic Religion (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), pp. 3–27, Albright, Stone Age, 334–344.
  10. Tcherikover, 7–10.
  11. Ibid., 152–234.
  12. One of the major objections to the Hasmoneans was their assumption of the high priesthood and kingship at the same time. See the talmudic story in B. Qiddushin 66a.
  13. E. Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, ed, G. Vermes and F. Millar (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1973), 233–242.
  14. Ibid., 267–470.
  15. Ibid., 484–513. On the date of 74 C.E. for the fall of Masada, see p. 512 and n. 139.
  16. See B. Gittin 56a.
  17. See, for example, L. Finkelstein, The Pharisees (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1966), 2 vols., and M. Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), 2 vols.
  18. Cf. J. Maxwell Miller, The Old Testament and the Historian (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 1–39 on the literary evidence of Scripture.
  19. M. Smith, Polities and Parties that Shaped the Old Testament (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971), 1–14.
  20. The best account of their discovery is in Y. Yadin, The Message of the Scrolls (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957), 15–30.
  21. R. de Vaux, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), 97–99.
  22. For surveys of the material from Qumran, see F. M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961), 30–47, and J. T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judaea (London: SCM Press, 1959).
  23. De Vaux, 126–128.
  24. Cross, 51–106, de Vaux, 128–138, Yadin, 160–189.
  25. For definitions, see J. M. Grintz, “Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.” EJ 3, 181 f. These works are, for the most part, collected in R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913).
  26. On the dating of the individual hooks, see the introductions in Charles and the many individual articles in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, which, in most cases, provide an up-to-date consensus. For apocryphal and pseudepigraphal material found at Qumran, see the sources in n. 22. For a thorough but sometimes outdated study of this literature, see E. Schürer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (New York: Scribners, 1891), vol. III.
  27. For various views on why Judaism rejected these texts, see the essays of G. F. Moore, L. Ginzberg, S. Zeitlin, J. Bloch, and M. Haran in S. Leiman, ed., The Canon and Masorah of the Hebrew Bible (New York: KTAV, 1974), 115–253.
  28. For later Jewish relationship to the Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, see Y. Dan, “Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, In Medieval Hebrew literature,” EJ 3, 186 f.
  29. Schürer (1891) III, 321–381; H. A. Wolfson, Philo (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968) I, 1–86.
  30. J. Neusner, From Politics to Piety (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973), 67–80.
  31. See A. Schalit, “Josephus Flavius,” EJ 10, 251–263, bibliography, 265; Schürer I (1973), 43–63.
  32. K. Kohler, “Sadducees,” EJ 10, 633.
  33. Most notable is E. R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, 13 vols. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1953–68).
  34. This is the theme of Smith, 15–56.
  35. Bright, 280–282, 318–323.
  36. 2 Kings 17.
  37. For a thorough examination of these sources, see R. J. Coggins, Samaritans end Jews (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975). Our conclusions, however, are not the same as his.
  38. Y. Kaufmann, Toledot Ha-’Emunah Ha-Yisra’elit (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1966/67) IV, 296–301.
  39. Bright, 382–384.
  40. Bright, 191–193, 226 f.
  41. Bright, 233f., cf. Smith, 22 f.
  42. 1 Kings 13:1–10, 33 f.
  43. Northernisms are the pl. -in (for examples see Gesinius § 87c), and fem. singular pronominal suffix, -ekhi (for examples see Gesenius § 91c). It is true that most of these examples occur in late biblical books (C. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook [Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1965], 99, n. I, and “North-Israelite Influence on Post-exilic Hebrew,” Eretz Israel 3 [1954], 85–88), but early examples can be cited.
  44. C. Rabin, “Hebrew and Aramaic in the First Century.” The Jewish People in the First Century, ed. S. Safrai and M. Stern, II (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 1033–1037. Cf. also J. Greenfield, “The Languages of Palestine, 200 B.C.E.–200 C.E.,” Jewish Languages: Theme and Variations, ed. H. Paper (Cambridge, Mass.: Association for Jewish Studies, 1978), 143–154.
  45. See Tcherikover, 269–377.
  46. See F. E. Peters, The Harvest of Hellenism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970), 446–479.
  47. See E. Schürer, “Alexandria,” JE 1, 361–366.
  48. See H. St. John Thackeray, The Septuagint and Jewish Worship (London: H. Milford, 1921), and S. Jellicoe, The Septuagint and Modern Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968).
  49. See H. A. Wolfson, Philo (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), 2 vols., for a detailed study of this synthesis.
  50. S. Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine (New York: P. Feldheim, 1965), 29–67; G. Mussies, “Greek in Palestine and the Diaspora,” The Jewish People in the First Century, ed. Safrai and Stern, II, 1040–1064; Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism I, 58–65.
  51. Antiquities XIII, 5:9.
  52. Schürer (1891) II, ii, 29 f. On the priesthood and offerings, sec ibid., II, 207–305.
  53. Ibid II, 31–34.
  54. On the Zadokites see L. Schiffman. Halakhah at Qumran (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1975), 72–75; J. Liver, “Bene Sadok She-Be-Khat Midbar Yehudah,” Eretz Israel 8 (1967), 71–81. Although the Hasmonean takeover of the priesthood resulted in the expulsion of the Zadokites, it is interesting that the Hasmonean family under John Hyrcanus eventually adopted the views of the Sadducean priests and aligned themselves with them politically (Schürer I [1973], 211–213).
  55. Antiquities XIII, 10:6; Schürer (1891) II, ii, 34–38.
  56. J. Neusner, “The Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before A.D. 70: The Problem of Oral Transmission,” JJS 22 (1971), 9 f., correctly points out that these traditions of the fathers are not to be identified with the Oral Law. On the other hand, we see these traditions as a step toward the development of a full-fledged Oral Torah concept.
  57. Surveyed in Schürer (1891) II, ii, 35–38 and discussed in detail in Finkelstein. Pharisees, I, 101–144, II, 637–753. This discussion, however, tends to find socio-economic background for practically all differences. It must also he remembered that different approaches to legal exegesis of the Scriptures may have played a part.
  58. L. Ginzberg, “Boethusians,” JE 3, 284 f. remains the best summary.
  59. Schürer (1891) II, ii, 19–22. He is probably correct that this name was first given to them by their adversaries. They seem from tannaitic sources to have called themselves haverim, “fellows” or “colleagues,” on which see Schürer, pp. 22–24.
  60. On the pre-70 C.E. Pharisees and the problems in dealing with the sources regarding them, see Neusner, From Politics to Piety, 1–95.
  61. Finkelstein I, 73–81.
  62. Cf. S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews II (New York, Columbia University Press, 1952), 37.
  63. Neusner, From Politics to Piety, 91.
  64. Antiquities XIII, 5:9. Cf. Schürer (1891) II, ii, 26.
  65. So Schürer, loc. cit. following Wellhausen.
  66. The little that is know about the Hasidim is conveniently brought together in K. Kohler, “Essenes,” JE 5, 225, 227, and in “Hasidim,” EJ 7, 1383–1388.
  67. This is the import of M. Avot 1:1. See L. Finkelstein, Ha-Perushim Ve-’Anshe Keneset Ha-Gedolah (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1950).
  68. G. F. Moore, Judaism (New York: Schocken Books, 1971) I, 33, sees the Scribes as the successors to the Men of the Great Assembly and predecessors of the Rabbis, i.e. the Pharisees. Others saw the Soferim as the originators of that assembly (Y. D. Gilat, “Soferim,” EJ 15, 79–81). Y. Kaufmann, Toledot IV, 481–5 takes the view that there never was a period of the Soferim. He sees the term sofer (“scribe”) as a general professional term not denoting a class of teachers of any specific period. Indeed, the entire concept of an era of Soferim may be the result of the tendency of the Wissenschaft des Judentums to see halakhic categories, in this case divre soferim, in historical terms. But of. B. Qiddushin 30a and P. Sheqalim 5:1.
  69. Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism I, 218–247, takes the view that the Essenes, who according to him are identical with the Dead Sea sect, were greatly influenced by Hellenism.
  70. See F. M. Cross, “The Early History of the Qumran Community,” New Directions in Biblical Archaeology, ed. D. N. Freedman and J. C. Greenfield (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971), 70–89.
  71. Schiffman, Halakhah at Qumran, 70–75.
  72. On the settlements, see R. de Vaux, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1–90.
  73. For a catalogue of the texts, see above, n. 22. On the relationship of the scrolls to the settlement, see de Vaux, 95–102.
  74. Schiffman, Halakhah at Qumran, 75 f.
  75. Cf. ibid., 134–136.
  76. H. Strack, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 12–20; S. Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1962), 93–99; and Neusner, “Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before A.D. 70,” 1–18.
  77. But cf. J. Neusner, “The Written Tradition in the Pre-Rabbinic Period,” JSJ 4 (1973), 56–65.
  78. It is alleged by the post-talmudic scholion to Megillat Ta‘anit that the Sadducees did have a written legal code, the Sefer Gezerata’. For this text, see H. Lichtenstein. “Die Fastenrolle: Eine Untersuchung zur jüdisch-hellenistichen Gerichte,” HUCA 8–9 (1931–32), 331.
  79. See above, n. 24.
  80. Antiquities XIII, 5:9; Schürer (1891) II, ii, 191.
  81. The etymologies are surveyed by Schürer, 190 f.
  82. Cf. M. Mansoor, “Essenes,” EJ 6, 901 f.
  83. Schürer (1891) II, ii, 195 f., 200.
  84. See above, n. 69.
  85. Philo, On the Contemplative Life; K. Kohler, “Therapeutae,” JE 12, 138 f.
  86. For a survey see K. Kohler, “Essenes,” JE 5, 225–227. There is no basis on which to connect these groups with the Essenes, except in the most general way.
  87. This term, when used in the Bible to describe Israelites, clearly refers to some social or political group within the society of Israel during the First Temple period. Some scholars take the term to refer to some kind of legislative-judicial assembly, while others see it as denoting the free citizenry. For the various views, none of which can be conclusively proven, see S. Talmon, “‘Am Ha-’Ares,” ‘Ensiqlopedia Miqra’it 6, 239–242. In tannaitic usage the term refers to the common people, but already in tannaitic sources, it begins to mean an unlearned Jew, a usage much more prominent in amoraic times and in medieval Jewish folklore.
  88. Finkelstein, Pharisees II, 754–761. Contrast the less flattering view of A. Oppenheimer, “Am Ha-Arez, Second Temple and Mishnah,” EJ 2, 833–36.
  89. On the origins of the synagogue, see J. Guttmann, ed., The Synagogue: Studies in Origins, Archaeology and Architecture (New York: KTAV, 1975), 3–40. On prayer and the worship service, see I. Elbogen, Ha-Tefillah Be-Yisra’el (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1972), 177–189.
  90. “Pottery,” EJ 13, 942. Cf. Smith, 61 f.
  91. Same hesitations on both sides may be the cause of the reports of tension found in Rabbinic sources. For these, see Oppenheimer, above, n. 88.
  92. Antiquities XVIII, 1:3.
  93. R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (New York, Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 1965) II, 331–344.
  94. On the Josianic reformation, see Bright, 316–321, and E. W. Nicholson, Deuteronomy and Tradition (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 1–17.
  95. Ezek. 44:6–16.
  96. See Schiffman, Halakhah at Qumran 73–75, and J. Liver, Hiqere Miqra’ U-Megillot Midbar Yehudah (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 1971), 131–154.
  97. Porton, Archives from Elephantine, 105–186.
  98. A. Schalit, “Onias, Temple of,” EJ 12, 1404 f.
  99. Antiquities XI, 8:2, 4.
  100. Coggins, 95–97.
  101. F. M. Cross, “Papyri of the Fourth Century B.C. from Daliyeh,” New Directions in Biblical Archaeology, 45–69.
  102. Some have claimed that sacrifices were offered at Qumran by the Dead Sea sect, but this is most unlikely. See my Response to B. Bokser, “Philo’s Description of Jewish Practices,” Center for Hermeneutical Studies, Colloquy 30 (Berkeley, 1977), 20 f.
  103. N. M. Sarna, “Bible, Canon, Text,” EJ 4, 817. Sarna explains the term as coming from Sumerian into Semitic and then Greek usage, for a “reed, cane,” and later “measuring rod.”
  104. The tripartite canon, as Sarna terms it, was known to Ben Sira (ca. 180 B.C.E.), his grandson who translated his work into Greek (ca. 132 B.C.E.), the author of 2 Maccabees, Josephus, and the New Testament (Sarna, 821). There is no evidence that this was disputed except by the Samaritans, on which see below.
  105. See Sarna, 824f. Canonization of the Ketuvim is seen by him as a gradual process ending “well into the second century C.E.” For this reason, “The widely held, although unsupported, view that the formal and final canonization of the Ketuvim occurred at the Synod of Jabneh (c. 100 C.E.) has to be considerably modified. More probably, decisions taken on that occasion came to be widely accepted and thus regarded as final in succeeding generations” (col. 825).
  106. Origen, Jerome, and Pseudo-Tertullian (for the texts see Schürer [1891] II, ii, 34 f., n. 89).
  107. Ibid., ii, 35.
  108. After all, it was shared by all the sources mentioned in n. 104.
  109. See Sarna, 825 f., on the Hellenistic canon, but contrast Coggins, 154, who follows G. W. Anderson, “Canonical and Non-Canonical,” The Cambridge History of the Bible (Cambridge: University Press, 1970) I, 145–9, who sees the Torah as the extent of the Hellenistic Jewish canon of Alexandria.
  110. Sec Coggins, 148–155. The Samaritan Book of Joshua is a medieval Arabic text containing much legendary material. Although its author claims to have translated it from a Hebrew source, this cannot be adduced as evidence for the claim that the Samaritans had the biblical Book of Joshua. See A. Loewenstamm, “Samaritans, Language and Literature,” EJ 14, 754.
  111. Coggins, 148–155.
  112. Cross, Ancient Library, 30–47, and the index of biblical passages in J. A. Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Major Publications and Tools for Study (Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press, 1975), 152–170.
  113. See J. A. Sanders, “Cave 11 Surprises and the Question of Canon,” New Directions in Biblical Archaeology, 113–130.
  114. Cross, 163–194.
  115. The absence of these variants in what are clearly the proto-Samaritan fragments from Qumran shows that these are late, tendentious readings. It is not possible that they are authentic.
  116. E. Würthwein, The Text of the Old Testament (Oxford: Blackwell, 1957), 3–5. Cf. Coggins, 149 f.
  117. Bright, 233 f.
  118. Cf. S. Talmon, “Divergences in Calendar-Reckoning in Ephraim and Judah,” VT 8 (1958), 48–74.
  119. S. Talmon, “The Calendar Reckoning of the Sect from the Judean Desert,” Aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. C. Rabin and Y. Yadin (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1958), 162–199.
  120. Ibid., 185–187.
  121. The odd features of the Samaritan calendar seem to be the result of Byzantine and Islamic influence and need not be discussed here.
  122. Pesher Habakkuk 11:4–9; cf. Talmon, Aspects, 167.
  123. On urbanization in ancient Israel, see H. Reviv, “City,” EJ 5, 583–590; E. Neufeld, “The Emergence of a Royal-Urban Society in Ancient Israel “ HUCA 31 (1960), 31–53.
  124. De Vaux, Ancient Israel I, 14 f.; S. Abramsky, “Rechabites,” EJ 13, 1609–1611.
  125. Abramsky, 1611.
  126. B. ‘Eruvin 21b.
  127. Tcherikover, 90–116; Hengel I, 58–106; Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine, 91–114.
  128. Cf. Schürer (1891) II, ii, 39 f., for the Hellenism of the Sadducees.
  129. Pharisaic support seems to have come from the plebeian classes in the city of Jerusalem, while the aristocrats aligned themselves with the Sadducees.
  130. See “The Sect and its Opponents,” in C. Rabin, Qumran Studies (Oxford: University Press, 1957), 53–70. Regardless of how we identify the sect’s many opponents, described by the Dead Sea Scrolls in epithets, it is certain that they represented the Jerusalem establishment, priestly, Pharisaic, or both.
  131. Most theories for the founding of the sect presume that the Qumranites withdrew at some time from Jerusalem due to a disagreement with the establishment there. See above, p. 15.
  132. See Rule of the Congregation (1QSa) 2:11–21, and my discussion of it in Response to B. Bokser, 24–26.
  133. For the biblical attitude, see J. H. Tigay, “Drunkenness,” EJ 6, 237 f. On a possible wine cull in Palestine, see M. Smith, “On the Wine God in Palestine,” S. W. Baron Jubilee Volume, ed. S. Lieberman and A. Hyman (New York: American Academy for Jewish Research, 1974), II, 815–829.
  134. Rabin, Qumran Studies, 22–36; J. Licht, Megillat Ha-Serakhim (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 1965), 10–13; Schiffman, Halakhah at Qumran, 90. See also M. Hengel, Property and Rides in the Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), although to some extent this work is aimed at pointing the way for modern Christians.
  135. This is despite prophetic criticism of excesses and social divisions. See Hengel, Property, 12–19.
  136. Schürer (1891) II, ii, 195–197.
  137. See Acts 2:44, 4:32, and Hengel, Property, 31–34.
  138. Philo, Every Good Man Is Free, sec. 76; Schürer II, ii, 192 f.
  139. Josephus, Life 2 (Banus), Matt, 3:1–12, Mark 1:1–8, Luke 3:1–18, John 1:6–8, 19–28 (John the Baptist).
  140. On these sites, see R. de Vaux, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1–48, 61–83, and E.-M. Lapperousaz, Qoumrân (Paris: A. & J. Picard, 1976), 63–92.
  141. S. Loewenstamm, “Mawet,” ‘Ensiqlopedia Miqra’it 4, 754–763; “She’ol,” ‘Ensiqlopedia Miqra’it 7, 454–7. Ossuaries and other forms of burial in caves should also he seen as below ground. Cf. E. Meyers, Jewish Ossuaries: Reburial and Rebirth (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1971).
  142. J. Guttmann, Philosophies of Judaism (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966), 24 f.
  143. Wars II, 8:14 (note the use of “Hades”); Antiquities XVIII, 1:4; Schürer (1891) II, ii, 13.
  144. Ibid.
  145. Wars II, 8:11; Schürer, 205. Josephus’ account does give a gnostic tinge to the views of the Essenes, but this is probably the result of his attempt to appeal to his Hellenistic readers.
  146. W. S. LaSor, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1972), 93 f.; H. Ringgren, The Faith of Qumran (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 148 f. Ringgren notes that only one doubtful passage would support the idea that the dead were to be resurrected for the final battle at the end of days. He notes that the sect seems to have known the Book of Daniel, which includes this teaching. Nonetheless, we should note that the Book of Daniel at Qumran was still not closed, and that some sections we have may not have been in their recension.
  147. Ringgren, 149–151. Some passages have been taken by others to refer to immortality of the soul, but we interpret these to refer to Messianic bliss. Ringgren notes that Josephus’ account of the Essene tenet of the immortality of the soul disagrees with the Qumran texts. If so, and if the two groups are to be identified, he notes the need to assume that Josephus modified his description in accord with his “Hellenizing tendency.”
  148. Antiquities XIII, 5:9, XVIII, 1:3; Wars II, 8:14.
  149. Schürer (1891) II, ii, 14–17.
  150. Ringgren, 52–55, 100–112.
  151. Sec J. Liver, “Mashiah,” ‘Ensiqlopedia Miqra’it 5, 507–526, and J. Licht, “Yom ’Adonai,” ‘Ensiqlopedia Miqra’it 3, 593–595 for a survey of the sources.
  152. For a thorough discussion, see R. H. Charles, Eschatology (New York: Schocken, 1963), 167–361.
  153. A considerable literature exists on this question. See J. Liver, “The Doctrine of the Two Messiahs in Sectarian Literature in the Time of the Second Commonwealth,” HTR 52 (1959), 149–85. For further bibliography see Halakhah at Qumran, 51, n. 202.
  154. Schürer (1891) II, ii, 14; K. Kohler, “Sadducees,” JE 10, 631.
  155. For an enlightening view on Jesus within the context of Jewish Messianic movements, see W. D. Davies, “From Schweitzer to Scholem: Reflections on Sabbatai Svi,” JBL 95 (1976), 529–558.
  156. So Tcherikover throughout his discussion, 152–234.
  157. Talmon, Aspects, 167.
  158. Schürer (1973) I, 213 f.
  159. Coggins, 114.
  160. T. Hagigah 2:11–12.
  161. Collected in Schürer (1891) II, ii, 5–8. Many other tannaitic sources of this kind can also be cited.
  162. T. Rosh Ha-Shanah 1:15 and parallels cited by Lieberman, ad loc.
  163. Ginzberg, “Boethusians,” JE 6, 285.
  164. Schürer (1973) 1, 498.
  165. Rabin, Qumran Studies, 1–21, describes the relationship of these purity laws to membership in the group.
  166. See Rabin, loc. cit., and S. Lieberman, “The Discipline in the So-Called Dead Sea Manual of Discipline,” Texts and Studies (New York: KTAV, 1974), 200–207.
  167. Finkelstein, Pharisees I, 21–23 describes the exclusiveness of the priesthood in regard to marriage.
  168. Neusner, From Polities to Piety 45–66, takes the view that Josephus’ claims of Pharisaic popularity and control of the Temple only emerged as a bid to the Romans to support the Pharisees. In this he follows M. Smith, “Palestinian Judaism in the First Century,” Israel: Its Role in Civilization, ed. M. Davis (New York: Harper & Row, 1956), 75 f.
  169. See Bright, 323–339.
  170. Tcherikover, 152–234.
  171. Antiquities XVIII, 1:6.
  172. D. M. Rhoads, Israel in Revolution: 6–74 C.E. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 111–122; M. Stern, “Zealots,” Encyclopaedia Judaica Yearbook (Jerusalem: Keter, 1973), 134–140.
  173. Rhoads, 97–110; Stern, 140–145.
  174. Rhoads, 122–137, 140–148; Stern, 145–149.
  175. Wars II, 20:4, III, 2:1.
  176. Rhoads, 156; Stern, 150 n. 17.
  177. Every Good Man Is Free, sec. 78.
  178. So Stern, loc. cit.
  179. But see Cross, Ancient Library, 20–25.
  180. Rhoads, 156–158; de Vaux, Archaeology, 37–44; Y. Yadin, Masada (New York: Random House, 1966), 174.
  181. See Rhoads, 150–159.
  182. See A. J. Saldarini, “Johanan hen Zakkai’s Escape from Jerusalem: Origin and Development of a Rabbinic Story,” JSJ 6 (1975), 189–204.
  183. Schürer (1973) I, 523–527.
  184. Rhoads, 170–173.
  185. B. Gittin 55b–56a.
  186. This is the import of M. ’Avot, chap. 1.
  187. This theory is propounded by A. Geiger in numerous places. For a survey and bibliography see B. Revel, The Karaite Halakah (Philadelphia: Dropsie College, 1913), 9–14. For medieval sources espousing the same view, see ibid., 6–8.
  188. N. Wieder, The Judean Scrolls and Karaism (London: East and West Library, 1962). But cf. L. Nemoy, “Karaites,” EJ 10, 762 f., who rejects the possibility of any historical relationship.



Finkelstein, Louis. The Pharisees. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1960.

Caster, Moses. The Samaritans. London: Milford, 1925.

Lauterbach, Jacob Z. Rabbinic Essays. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1951.

Neusner, Jacob. From Politics to Piety: The Emergence of Pharisaic Judaism. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1973.

Rabin, Chaim. Qumran Studies. New York: Schocken Books, 1975.

Simon, Marcel. Jewish Sects at the Time of Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967.

Tcherikover, Victor. Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1966.

Yadin, Yigael. The Message of the Scrolls, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957.

Zeitlin, Solomon. The Rise and Fall of the Judean State, Vol. 1: 332–37 BCE; Vol. 2: 37 BCE–6 CE; Vol. 3: 66 CE–120 CE. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1962–1978.

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