Community, Rule of the, Jerome Murphy O’Connor, Anchor Bible Dictionary (ed. David Noel Freedman), Doubleday, New York 1992.


Rule of the Community

Rule of the Community. CC BY-SA 4.0,

COMMUNITY, RULE OF THE (1QS). 1QS was among the first scrolls discovered by the bedouin at the beginning of 1947 in what came to be known as Qumran cave 1. Since the trustworthiness of the intermediaries who spread reports about it around Jerusalem could not be assumed, and their credibility was further compromised by contradictory statements, there was some initial hesitation regarding its authenticity (Trever 1965- 25, 75, 180), but this was quickly overcome. Plates and a transcription of 1QS were published with exemplary speed by Burrows, Trever, and Brownlee in 1951, and in the same year Brownlee furnished an annotated translation.

The script of 1QS dates it to the period 100–75 B.C. (Avigad 1958- 71; Cross 1965- 258 n. 116), making it one of the 3 oldest copies of the Rule (Cross 1961- 119). None is an autograph, and so the composition of the Rule must be pushed back into the 2d century B.C. (Cross 1961- 120). Ten fragmentary copies of the Rule were found in Cave 4. They remain unpublished, but Milik (1960- 411–16) has provided a list of variants (all minor), noting in particular that 3 mss offer a shorter and more intelligible version of col. 5 and that 1QS 8-16–9-11 is missing in one ms. 5Q11 contains part of 1QS 2-4–7, 11–14, and 5Q13 iv 2–3 cites 1QS 3-4–5 (Milik 1962), but since these come from texts that were originally independent of the Rule, it is not sure that they represent copies of the Rule.

The syntax of 1QS has been studied by Leahy, and the most convenient Heb text is that of Lohse (1964- 4–43), which has a facing German translation. Other important annotated translations are- French (Guilbert), English (Leaney 1966; Wernberg-Møller 1957; Vermes 1983; Knibb 1987- 72–144), Italian (Moraldi 1971- 113–72), and German (Maier 1960, 1-21–45). Reports on the state of research have been published by Bardtke (1973), and in somewhat less detail by Delcor (DBSup, 851–57).

Bardtke (1973- 263) perceptively highlighted different literary analyses of 1QS as the most important contributions; they necessarily exercise a decisive influence on all interpretations. The earliest commentators (Dupont-Sommer 1953- 90; Kuhn 1960- 652; Maier 1960, 1-21; Wernberg-Møller 1957- 56, n. 49) recognized the composite character of 1QS, but went no further. An effort by Guilbert (1959) to head off this approach by arguing that 1QS was entirely consistent in style and logical in development won no support. In fact, its effect was just the opposite. Close attention began to be paid to the limits and definition of the various literary units, and this led to a number of important insights and partial hypotheses.

The pioneer in this respect was J. Becker (1963- 39–42), who highlighted significant shifts in style and content, but did not get beyond the level of possibility in explaining their origin. The same is true of Leaney’s commentary, and it is regrettable that the new edition of Schürer (HJP² 3/1- 383) has regressed to this level. Real progress was made by Denis (1964- 40–44) in his analysis of the crucial cols. 8–9, where he discerned 2 interpolations (8-10b–12 and 8-16–9-2). A more detailed examination of the same cols. by Klinzing (1971- 50–66) produced much less satisfactory results (Murphy-O’Connor 1972- 436–38). Although it needed some refinement (Duhaime), von der Osten-Sacken’s (1969- 17–27) discovery of 3 levels in the Instruction on the Two Spirits (1QS 3-13–4-26) was a major breakthrough.

The first attempt to find a comprehensive explanation for the composition of the Rule was made by Murphy-O’Connor (1969). Rejecting the view that it was a heterogenous compilation, an evolutionary hypothesis involving 4 chronological stages was proposed. The earliest stage was represented by 1QS 8-1–16 plus 9-3–10-8, followed in order by (2) 8-16–9-2; (3) 5-1–7-25; and (4) 1-1–4-26 and 10-9–11-22. This hypothesis was subjected to a book-length critical analysis by J. Pouilly. He found the 4-stage evolution to be correct, but convincingly argued that details needed modification. In consequence he assigned 8-10–12 to stage 2 and 5-13–6-8 to stage 4. His conclusions, which take into account all other contributions to the literary analysis and which have given rise to no serious objections (Davies 1987- 60), must be accorded a very high degree of probability, and can be set forth as follows-

Stage 1- 8-1–10a, 12b–16a; 9-3–10-8.

Stage 2- 8-10b–12a; 8-16b–9-2.

Stage 3- 5-1–13a; 6-8b–7-25.

Stage 4- 1-1–4-26; 5-13b–6-8a; 10-9–11-22.

Stage 1. This is the manifesto that led to the foundation of the Essene community at Qumran. When there have been found 12 men (= the 12 tribes) and 3 priests (= the levitical clans) who live the Law perfectly, “they will be separated from the midst of the habitation of ungodly men in order to go into the desert” (8-13; 9-20). There they will constitute a spiritual temple (8-5) and offer spiritual sacrifices (9-4–5) to expiate the sins of the land (8-6, 10). The hint of a breach with the Jerusalem temple is confirmed by the insistence on the importance of the authentic calendar (10-1–8). In this program the maskil has an essential role; he will be responsible for the choice and preparation of candidates (9-12–26). Ultimate authority in the future community will belong to the priestly members (9-7).

Stage 2. The community envisaged in stage 1 has been in existence for some time, and the problems of conventual life have manifested the need for basic penal legislation. The integration of such legislation into the foundation document indicates that the latter retained its value as a definition of the community. The severity of the sanctions is but the other face of the vitality of its idealism.

Stage 3. The life-situation demanded by the material of this stage is that of a large community at some distance from its origins. The redefinition of the community (5-1–6), underscored by the fact that the material of this stage was inserted before stages 1–2 in the arrangement of 1QS, clearly manifests the institutionalization and democratization characteristic of a late stage of development. The precise rules for the conduct of a general assembly (6-8–13) and the admission of new members (6-13–23), when taken in conjunction with the casuistry of the penal code (6-24–7-25), confirm this assessment. A significant increase in the numbers at Qumran about 100 B.C. is attested by the extensive building program of period Ib (de Vaux 1973- 5). See also QUMRAN and ESSENES.

Stage 4. This stage is the most complex because a number of elements had an independent existence before being incorporated into the Rule. Nonetheless, they are ascribed to the same stage because they all serve a single purpose, viz. revitalization of the fervor of the community. The intention to infuse a new “spirit” into the “letter” of the Rule is particularly evident in the way the redactor brackets stages 1–3 with material derived from the liturgy of the renewal of the covenant (1-1–3-12 and 10-9–11-22), whose message is that external observance is meaningless without genuine conversion of the heart. The Instruction on the Two Spirits (3-13–4-23a) had its own literary history (Duhaime 1977) before being adapted to its place in the Rule by the addition of 4-23b–26, which emphasizes the responsibility of the individual to choose good rather than evil. The function of the long interpolation 5-13b–6-8a is twofold, to insist on the stringent examination of new members and to highlight the importance of community life with particular stress on the need for continual study of the Law.

Besides attesting to the internal evolution of the Qumran community, the Rule is our best witness to its institutions, which are a key element in the identificaiton of its members as Essenes.


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Bardtke, H. 1973. Literaturbericht über Qumran VII- Die Sektenrolle 1QS. TRu 38- 257–91.

Becker, J. 1963. Das Heil Gottes- Heils- und Sündenbegriffe in den Qumrantexten und im Neuen Testament. SUNT 3. Göttingen.

Brownlee, W. H. 1951. The Dead Sea Manual of Discipline. BASORSup 10–12. New Haven.

Burrows, M., Trever, J. C., and Brownlee, W. H. 1951. Plates and Transcription of the Manual of Discipline, Vol 2, fasc 2 of The Dead Sea Scrolls of St. Mark’s Monastery. New Haven.

Cross, F. M. 1961. The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies. Rev. ed. Garden City.

———. 1965. The Development of the Jewish Scripts. Pp. 170–264 in BANE.

Davies, P. R. 1987. Behind the Essenes. History and Ideology in the Dead Sea Scrolls. BJS 94. Atlanta.

Denis, A. M. 1964. Evolution de structures dans le secte de Qumran. Pp. 23–49 in Aux origines de l’Eglise. RechBib 7. Brugge.

Duhaime, J. 1977. L’instruction sure les deux esprits et les interpolations dualistes à Qumran. RB 84- 566–94.

Dupont-Sommer, A. 1953. Nouveau aperçus sur les manuscrits de la Mer Morte. Paris.

Guilbert, P. 1959. Le plan de la Règle de la Communauté. RevQ 3- 323–44.

———. 1961. La Règle de la Communauté. Pp. 11–80 in Les textes de Qumran, vol. 1. Ed. J. Carmignac and P. Guilbert. Paris.

Klinzing, G. 1971. Die Umdeutung des Kultus in der Qumran Gemeinde und im Neuen Testament. SUNT 7. Göttingen.

Knibb, M. 1987. The Qumran Community. Cambridge.

Kuhn, K. G. 1960. Der gegenwärtige Stand der Erforschung der in Palästina neu gefundenen hebräischen Handschriften. TLZ 85- 649–58.

Leahy, T. 1960. Studies in the Syntax of 1QS. Bib 41- 135–57.

Leaney, A. C. R. 1966. The Rule of Qumran and Its Meaning. London.

Lohse, E. 1964. Die Texte aus Qumran. Hebräisch und deutsch mit masoretischer Punktation. Munich.

Maier, J. 1960. Die Texte vom Toten Meer. 2 vols. Munich.

Milik, J. 1960. Review of P. Wernberg-Møller 1957. RB 67- 410–16.

———. 1962. Pp. 211–302 in Les ‘petites grottes’ de Qumran. DJD 3. Oxford.

Moraldi, L. 1971. I Manoscritti di Qumran. Torino.

Murphy-O’Connor, J. 1969. La genèse littéraire de la Règle de la Communauté. RB 76- 528–49.

———. 1972. Review of G. Klinzing 1971. RB 79- 435–40.

Osten-Sacken, P. von der. 1969. Gott und Belial- Traditionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zum Dualismus in den Texten aus Qumran. SUNT 6. Göttingen.

Pouilly, J. 1976. La Règle de la Communauté de Qumran- Son évolution littéraire. CahRB 17. Paris.

Trever, J. C. 1965. The Untold Story of Qumran. London.

Vaux, R. de. 1973. Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Schweich Lectures 1959. Rev. ed. Trans. D. Bourke. London.

Vermes, G. 1983. The Dead Sea Scrolls in English. London.

Wernberg-Møller, P. 1957. The Manual of Discipline translated and annotated. STDJ 1. Leiden.

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