By April 14, 2008 Read More →

Non-Jews in the Halakhic Letter, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1994.

The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Halakhic Letter contains (of a total of twenty-two) two laws relating to non-Jews.
The founders of the sect, writing to their former priestly colleagues in Jerusalem soon after 152 B.C.E., criticize them for accepting grain offerings (terumah) from the produce of non-Jews-

[And regarding the g]rain of the [non-Jews, which they bring] and cause to come into cont[a]ct wi[th their …] and render [it] im[pure, but one is not permitted to eat] of the grain of [the non-J]ews [and one is not permitted] to bring (it) to the Temple. (HALAKHIC LETTER B3–5)

Such produce, the sectarians assert, is not to enter the Temple lest it defile the offerings collected from Jews. In fact, it is forbidden even to eat of such produce. Sectarians also oppose accepting sacrificial offerings from non-Jews, which was the current practice in the Temple-

And regarding the sacrifice of the non-Jews, [we say that they] sacrifice […]. (HALAKHIC LETTER B8)

Certainly, the continuation of this fragment would condemn this practice. No such laws are known from the Pharisaic-rabbinic tradition.

These two cultic matters were certainly important to the sect’s founders. The exclusionist views expressed here fit well with their eschatological ideas- they expected the nations ultimately to disappear from the face of the earth. The alternative approach of the Pharisaic-rabbinic tradition envisioned the nations coming to Jerusalem to recognize God’s sovereignty and to participate in the worship of the Lord.

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