By November 24, 2008 Read More →

Dead Sea Scrolls Spotlight: The Temple Scroll, Magen Broshi, BAR 33:04, Jul-Aug 2007.

The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Temple Scroll is the longest Dead Sea Scroll (over 28 feet, preserved almost to its entire length) and one of the most important. It was excavated by Bedouin in Cave 11 in 1956 (since then no more scrolls have been discovered at Qumran).a

The Dead Sea Scrolls can be divided into three main categories- Biblical, sectarian and other. The Temple Scroll is sectarian, that is, it belongs to the Dead Sea sect, identified by most scholars with the Essenes. It was composed, most probably, in the second part of the second century B.C.E., approximately 200 years before the destruction of the Second Temple.

The scroll is a halakhic (legal) composition, a rewriting of Pentateuchal passages, dealing with the laws as they were interpreted by the sect (mostly laws that differ from the laws of normative, Pharisaic Judaism).

In the Pentateuch the Lord speaks to Moses and Moses speaks to the people. Here the Lord speaks directly to the people in the first person singular, and the style tries to imitate the language of the Book of Deuteronomy, but numerous slips betray its late origin.

Five major subjects are dealt with in the scroll- the Temple, the king’s statutes, the feasts, the festival sacrifices, and laws of purity. More than half of the scroll, however, is devoted to the Temple and the Temple City, hence its name. The members of the sect did not participate in the cult of the Temple that existed in their period because they regarded it as unclean. The temple described in the Temple Scroll is an ideal edifice that was never built.b

According to the scroll, the sect had a calendar of its own that was different from the calendar of the rest of the Jewish people. In addition to the regular Jewish feasts, the sect celebrated festivals of the first fruits such as the Festival of the First Wine and the Festival of the First Oil.
The law code of the sect is characterized by its harsh and ultra-conservative laws. For instance, they prohibited sexual relations in Jerusalem, and they prescribed that lavatories were to be built at a distance of about a mile away from the Holy City.

—Magen Broshi, former curator of the Shrine of the Book, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

a. It was recovered in 1967 and published in 1977 (Hebrew edition) and 1983 (English) by Yigael Yadin.

b. See Magen Broshi, “The Gigantic Dimensions of the Visionary Temple in the Temple Scroll,” BAR 13-06.

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