New Halakhic Texts from Qumran, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Hebrew Studies 34 (1993).


Zadokite Fragment (Damascus Document)

Zadokite Fragment (Damascus Document)

The study of halakhah, legal matters, at Qumran will be advanced considerably by the present availability of the materials. The author discusses several issues using the previously accessible material and the new preliminary forms and concludes that a Sadducean sub-stratum was more pervasive than previously assumed.

The opening of the entire corpus of Dead Sea Scrolls materials is sure to have many effects on the field of Qumran studies and on the study of Judaism in Late Antiquity. These effects, if they are to be positive, will certainly have to be based on accurate editions of the texts and on detailed philological and literary analysis. In the case of the legal materials, what the Rabbis later termed halakhah, detailed legal interpretation will also be necessary. Nonetheless, it is possible to draw important conclusions already from the material available to us in various preliminary forms- from the research of E. Qimron, Joseph M. Baumgarten, and Emanuel Tov, and Sidnie White, who are editing these materials for the Oxford series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, as well as from the preliminary editions by the original editors, published with some revisions by Benjamin Z. Wacholder and Martin G. Abegg, as well as from the photographic plates themselves, whether from the Eisenman-Robinson volume, the less readable Huntington microfilms, the PAM photographs themselves, or from the excellent and definitive microfiche edition of the entire Judean Desert collection, edited by Emanuel Tov and published by E. J. Brill.

At the outset, even before introducing our topic, something must be said about the recent publication of fifty texts and translations, with introductions, by Robert H. Eisenman and Michael Wise. This volume illustrates well the problems inherent in the opening of the scrolls to the general scholarly community, difficulties of which even those of us who supported this approach must be cognizant. First, it does not, as it claims, publish fifty unpublished texts. One half of those texts published here were fully published before the volume came out. Of the remaining half, half again were published previously in part.

The authors have explained that Wise was responsible for the text editions and Eisenman prepared the introduction and commentary. They seem to be aware of this in the introduction where they say that some of the materials may have been published, but in their bibliographic notes at the end of each chapter they describe as “previous discussions” even full-fledged scholarly editions and full translations of texts. In several easily identifiable cases, despite their claim to have deciphered all the material from the plates themselves, they depend on the very same published editions, or on hand¬outs distributed at conferences, which they refuse to acknowledge to their readers. Their claim not to have used the previously circulated edition of MMT by Strugnell and Qimron has been found to be false by an Israeli court. Many of the authors’ own readings and translations are unsupportable, and typographical and other errors give the impression that this book was rushed headlong to the press.

As regards the thesis of the book, it is clear that the authors began with the preconceived theories of Eisenman, views accepted nowhere but in the popular media, and they imposed this unacceptable theory of Jamsian Christianity on the entire corpus. The resulting Christianization, even of halakhic texts like 4QMMT, creates a totally false impression of the nature and context of the material. Let us hope that future attempts to mine the unpublished texts will base themselves on true originality, appropriate credit of the work of others, real philological competence, and methodological objectivity. In the meantime, we can only warn the public to beware of the problematical interpretations found in this volume.

Our discussion will address the following materials- 4QMMT, the non-Pentateuchal additions to 4QPentateuch Rewritten (Pentateuchal Paraphrase), the Zadokite Fragments (usually termed the Damascus Document), the “Tohorot” and “Halakhah” texts, and a few other assorted items. As is to be expected, all the material to be treated here stems from Cave 4, that which was the least published and about which the controversy in which we all participated took place.


My views on the Halakhic Letter, 4QMMT, are already well known. But I must at least repeat the basic elements of them as an introduction to what will follow, and also in light of the recent treatment of the material in Eisenman-Wise. In my view, this text is the foundation document of the sect, indicating clearly that it was formed after ca. 152 B.C.E. when a group of Sadducean priests refused to accept the new order in the Hasmonean Temple. As a result of the Hasmonean takeover, the Maccabean priests made common cause with the Pharisees to clean up the Temple, which had become Hellenized. At that time, a group of pious Sadducees, unwilling to make peace with the new status quo, formed the sect. After a short period the teacher of righteousness emerged and led the sect, transforming them into the radical sectarian group we encounter in the sectarian scrolls.
Accordingly, the laws in this scroll represent Sadducean views, as can be shown from parallels in the Mishnah and other Rabbinic texts, and the views against which they polemicize represent Pharisaic views. We can therefore use this material to show the antiquity and accuracy of Pharisee-Sadducee conflicts recorded in Tannaitic sources. This enables us to demonstrate, through the judicious use of parallels, that the sources of the Temple Scroll as well are Sadducean, dating to before the founding of the sect. All this explains why it is that sectarian law has so many Sadducean parallels, a matter which previously we could not explain.

I must clarify a misunderstanding of my views. I never stated that the sect was “the Sadducees.” Rather, I maintained only that the group which formed the sect at its beginning was Sadducean, and, therefore, that there is a Sadducean substratum to the material in the Halakhic traditions of the sect, and I dare say, in other aspects of the sect’s exegesis and approach to purity and impurity. That the sect developed considerably under the teacher and afterwards is clear. Further, while I cannot go into detail here, the picture Josephus gives us of the Sadducees is of the Hellenized Sadducees of the later Hasmonean period and the Herodian period, not of the group of pious Sadducees which constituted the earliest members of the Dead Sea sect.


It should be apparent now why I insist on using the old name, Zadokite Fragments, for the next text we will discuss, rather than its more widely accepted designation, the Damascus Document. Although Zadokites, the sons of Zadok, i.e. Sadducees, are mentioned over and over in this document, Damascus appears only as a symbol, and the members of the sect—take it from me on faith—never lived in the Arab capital. The new fragments of the Genizah version of this text which have been made available now teach us much about the halakhah of the sect. It has already been noted by Baumgarten that the fragments of this document indicate that the medieval copies were extremely reliable, despite the fact that they did not preserve large parts of the text. We should add that, as a result, many of the earlier emendations of this text, now available in the extremely reliable edition of Elisha Qimron, must be discounted. Here I am happy to say that I had explained away many of these difficulties in my books and my tendency to avoid emendations was confirmed.

I will concentrate here on the new material which Baumgarten is editing and mention a few interesting examples which support our general hypothesis. It was Baumgarten who first put forward the notion of Sadducean laws in the Qumran corpus and it is in his wake that we travel here.

There is a problem in the numeration of the manuscripts here, since Milik and Baumgarten have changed the designations from those used in the Preliminary Concordance and, hence, in Wacholder-Abegg. To avoid confusion, we will use only the 4Q numbers, ignoring the letter designations which have been changed so extensively. We should note in passing that the Cave 4 fragments of both the Zadokite Fragments and the Rule of the Community conform in their entirety with the general view of the sectarian approach to Jewish law put forward by me in my first book, Halakhah at Qumran.

A number of interesting laws appear here. In one case (4Q266 6 ii 4-¬7=4Q267 4 iii 7-8) there is a law disqualifying a priest from service within the curtain (parokhet) or from eating of the holy offerings (the term is the same as the Rabbinic qodsey ha-qodašim) who has been a captive in the hands of the gentiles. The presumption is clearly that such a priest was defiled in captivity. This very same assumption is made about women in the Tannaitic legal system, but is nowhere mentioned regarding priests. This heavy emphasis on priestly purity and qualification is in line with other Qumran documents which require the highest standards for priests in the Temple. Another law there is difficult to interpret but likewise concerns priestly qualifications.

Baumgarten has already pointed to the important texts regarding skin diseases which, among other things, indicate a sense of the circulation of blood already at this early date. The detailed interpretation of the biblical sources of these laws would take us too far afield. Suffice it to say that here again we are dealing with priestly matters, as is to be expected in a sect the founders of which were Zadokite priests. The same is the case for the laws of the gonorrheac flux which appear in fragmentary form here. Just as in the Serekh Ha-Edah (1QSa 2-3-11), we find here the prohibition on entry into the community (in the present age?) of those who, if priests, would have been disqualified by reason of permanent blemishes from participation in the Temple service (4Q266 17 i 6-9=4Q270 10 ii 7-9).

In regard to menstrual impurity we learn here that a man who has relations with a menstrually impure woman becomes impure by the same degree. Further, we are told that the niddah herself may not enter the Temple or eat of the sacrifices until the eighth day. This is the familiar issue of tevul yom. According to Pharisaic-Rabbinic practice, once the sacrifice and lustrations of the seventh day were complete, it was permitted to eat of the sacrifices. Such as person was known as one “who had immersed and was waiting for the end of the day.” The Temple Scroll and MMT, following Sadducean halakhic tradition, several times repeat that this is forbidden. Here we see that the Zadokite Fragments was also of the same mind. It insisted on the completion of the sunset at the beginning of the eighth day before any of the impurity restrictions were lifted (4Q266 9 ii 1-4). Here we clearly see the placement of this document in the Sadducean halakhic camp.

Other areas are represented in the new halakhic material as well. We are given specific quantities (shi‘urim) for the minimum amount of produce which, if it falls to the ground, must be left for the poor, regarding ‘ollalot ha-kerem (grapes on a stalk) and peret (individual grapes; cf. Lev 19-9-10). There is a small text dealing with laws of leqet (grain which has fallen to the ground during harvest and must be left for the poor) as well as other agricultural laws (4Q266 13 2-9=4Q270 6 10-16). The Terumah offering is alluded to in detail as well (4Q270 6 16-21).

An interesting fact concerns the famous CD 9-1, regarding devoting a person, which was largely assumed to need emendation. This passage occurs in two Qumran manuscripts (4Q266 17 ii 8-9=4Q270 10 iii 15-16). Some had speculated that this text was corrupt and that something was missing before it. In the Qumran manuscripts the formula we-’ašer ’amar proceeds this sentence which is otherwise the same. Immediately before this section there is a vacat showing that it is an independent text. The new reading confirms the view that this law begins with a quotation of Lev 27-28-29. This difficult text should most likely be taken as a law prohibiting the handing over of a Jew to non-Jewish courts for trial in a capital matter. Interesting is the requirement that the mevaqqer, the “examiner,” be involved in all business transactions of the sectarians (4Q266 18 ii 1-3).

Baumgarten has dealt at length with the penal code which now exists in several versions, specifically those in a text entitled “SD,” to be discussed below, as well as in the Rule Scroll and the Zadokite Fragments (4Q266 18 iv 1-15, 4Q267 12 1-5, 4Q270 11 I 1-15). He points out that this code was apparently an independent work which in varying recensions was included in these documents. It still remains to be seen whether the literary development in the various versions of the penal code can be used to trace the history or evolution of the penalties and, therefore, of the sect, or whether the different versions relate to different communal or social contexts. We see these penalties as closely linked to the purity system of the sect, and we hope that the new material will be evaluated in this context as well.

In the context of the penal code we should mention the text describing the expulsion of a recalcitrant member from the sect (4Q266 18 v 5-14). After God is blessed and the evil are cursed, the text instructs that the one being expelled should leave. This indicates that expulsion from the sect was intended as a real penalty.

A number of texts seem to indicate that marriage was the norm in the group whose way of life is described in the Zadokite Fragments. One text requires that one who knows the blemishes of a woman inform her fiancé so that he not violate the curse against one who leads another astray on the road. In particular, this text indicates that a bad marriage is like the yoking of unlike animals together, kil’ayim. Further it is considered forbidden to take a wife who has had relations with another during engagement or during widowhood, or one who has been accused of non-virginity. Only trustworthy women acceptable to the mevaqqer may be married (4Q271 1 i 7-15=4Q270 5 14-21=4Q269 9 1-7). One passage is a discussion of the law of the adulterous woman, although the details cannot be easily reconstructed. The laws of the handmaiden promised in marriage are also discussed there (4Q270 8 1-16, cf. 4Q266 14A 2).

One passage provides a table of weights and measures (4Q271 1 ii 1-3) which parallels that which appears in 4Q Ordinances in two different versions (4Q159 1 ii 7-14, 4Q513 1-2 i 2-6). Apparently, it was common to include such conversions from the biblical to Second Temple systems of measurement in legal texts.

A number of sacrificial laws include the prohibition on bringing animals used for pagan sacrifices (or perhaps the offerings of non-Jews) and the use of metals used in idolatrous worship. Leather and cloth items of non-Jews or other vessels which were used for any work and, therefore, are legally considered vessels, if impure by impurity of the dead, have to be purified (4Q271 1 ii 8-12=4Q269 1O-3-6=4Q270 7-20-21). This last prescription is exactly the same as is provided for in the Temple Scroll (l1QT 49-11-19).

I have maintained that this text expects normal commercial relations, not communal ownership of funds. In this light it is important to notice the repetition of the prohibition of interest which must originally have been accompanied by some added halakhic detail not clear in the present text (4Q267 6 9-11).

A very difficult law in the penal code of the Zadokite Fragments provides that “one who approaches to commit illicit sexual relations” (liznot) or “for illicit sexual relations with” (liznut) “his wife, which is not according to the regulation, should leave and never return” (4Q267 12 4¬-5=4Q270 11 i 12-13). Whatever the exact meaning of this text, it certainly does not expect a celibate society.
Additional parallels with the Temple Scroll and MMT are to be noted. The prohibition on handing over the secret of the people (4Q270 9 ii 12¬-15) is paralleled in a passage from the Temple Scroll (11QT 64-6-13). The cursing of the leaders of the sect is also forbidden in the Rule Scroll (1QS 6-25-27). Slaughtering an animal and its embryo together is prohibited in MMT (B 30-33) and in the Temple Scroll (11QT 52-3-7). It appears that sexual relations with a pregnant woman is prohibited (4Q270 9 ii 16-18), most likely because it cannot result in the fulfillment of the commandment to be fruitful and multiply.

This brief survey, dependent on cursory examination of the material, indicates how much new important halakhic material will emerge in the publication of Baumgarten, in which we can be sure that many of the details will be worked through. While his edition will no doubt lead to much debate on particular laws, it is clear that much material has been added to the corpus and that it in general conforms with the character and tendencies of that which had been known before. What is particularly significant is that it is in this material, not preserved in the genizah copies for whatever reasons, that the material closely tying this document to the halakhah of MMT and the Temple Scroll is found. It is certain that these all represent the same Sadducean-type legal trend, even if they do not agree in all areas of law.


A number of smaller texts are of interest as well. Halakhaha (4Q251), also known as 4QSD (Serekh-Damascus), is an extremely significant text which should have been published earlier. In the first place, it contains a version of the penal code which must be taken into consideration along with those in the various manuscripts of the Zadokite Fragments and the Rule of the Community.

Further, this document includes a Sabbath code with parallels to that in the Zadokite Fragments but containing other material as well. The document contains laws of parturient women, a virtual quotation of the biblical law regarding the adjudication of an assault on one’s neighbor, laws of first fruits, first-born animals, and a list of prohibited marriages comparable to that in the Temple Scroll (11QT 66- 11-17; the end of the preserved scroll).

For me this text has particular significance. Immediately after Baumgarten was assigned to publish the halakhic materials from Cave 4, I wrote him regarding this text, as I was very curious as to its content. He replied that its law regarding Sabbath violation to save lives proved the theory I had enunciated in my interpretation of the difficult text in the Zadokite Fragments. I might add that the Cave 4 manuscripts of the Zadokite Fragments also supported that position. I maintained that the fragments did indeed permit the violation of the Sabbath to save a life and I emended the text accordingly. Further, I suggested that the text required that, to the greatest extent possible, objects not normally permitted for use on the Sabbath were not supposed to be employed for this purpose. That position is confirmed here in an almost verbatim parallel.

Among the interesting laws in this text, attention should be drawn to those not known previously from parallels in the Zadokite Fragments, although in some cases, as we noted, this text helps to explain rulings found there. The Aaronides are prohibited here from sprinkling waters of purification on the Sabbath. It is forbidden for some reason to go more than 30 ris from the Temple. This law needs to be compared with 11QT 52-16-19 which prohibits the slaughter of blemished animals within 30 ris of the Temple. We learn in this text of the existence of a council consisting of fifteen men, a matter which was under debate since the Rule Scroll (1QS 8- 1- 2) could be interpreted to refer to a body of twelve, three of whom had to be priests. Highly significant too is the prohibition of eating the new wheat before the first-fruits festival (Shavuot in Rabbinic parlance). This law turns this festival into an omer-like first-fruits festival of the type found in the Temple Scroll (11QT 18-10-19-14). The text apparently emphasized that it was forbidden to eat any grain before the Terumah had been given to the priest. It also explicitly prohibits marriage to one’s nieces as do the Zadokite Fragments (CD 5-7) and the Temple Scroll (11QT 66- 16-17).

The most important aspect of this text for me is that the Sabbath laws in it constitute an alternate recension of the entire corpus of the Sabbath laws found in the Zadokite Fragments. This confirms my argument that the laws on individual topics existed originally as separate literary units and that these units were incorporated into the Zadokite Fragments. This is the meaning of serekh, a collection of laws on a particular topic.

Tohorota (4Q274) is to be published and analyzed in the papers of Joseph M. Baumgarten and Jacob Milgrom in the volume of studies emerging from the year a number of us spent researching Dead Sea Scrolls at the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. That text concerns a number of purity matters and is significant for two primary reasons. First, it shows that even among the sectarians there was a view which, unlike the Temple Scroll and MMT, did not require that the sun set on the seventh day before one undergoing purification-rituals might partake of the offerings. In other words, this document supports those who accepted the Pharisaic-Rabbinic principle of tevul yom. This also confirms that there often are minor differences observable on legal matters between the various documents in the scrolls collection, even among those which were Sectarian with a capital “s”. Second, this text indicates that people with one type of impurity have to keep away from those from whom they might contract other impurities, and that before eating anything after contracting an impurity of the sort that necessitated a seven day period of purification, it was required that a first day ablution be performed. This first day ablution, not required by the Torah, is also required by the Temple Scroll as has been shown by Jacob Milgrom.

A second purity text, Tohorotb (4Q276-277), reviews the laws of the red heifer. This text clarifies the pure man of Num 19-9 with the ambiguous phrase “pure of the impurities of transgression.” The details of this text remain to be studied, but its insistence on the subsequent impurity of all those involved in the ritual is in line with Tannaitic halakhah. The passage seems to agree with 4QMMT in requiring all those involved in the ritual to be pure entirely, that is, not of the class tevul yom allowed in Tannaitic halakhah. In this respect the text takes the Sadducean position, just as we have seen in so many other legal texts in the scrolls. This text also agrees with MMT and with Tannaitic law as well in requiring that all who participate in the ritual be fully pure when performing their various functions.

A final minor text (4Q477) is an actual legal docket which comes from the records of the mevaqqer regarding sectarian reproof. It is to be published by Esti Eshel. I have argued at length that the practice of reproof at Qumran was an actual legal procedure, in which an offense could not be punished unless there had been reproof by witnesses in front of the mevaqqer for a previous offense of the same type. I also argued that written records of these forensic procedures had to be kept by the sect’s administrative officer. This document, specifically documenting the reproof administered to two sectarians, Hananiah Notos and Hananiah son of Sim[on] (or perhaps by them?), dramatically validates this claim.


For some time now scholars of the scrolls have been aware of the so called Pentateuchal Paraphrase, now renamed Pentateuch Rewritten, from Cave 4. This document, extant in a number of manuscripts, is being edited by Emanuel Tov and Sidnie A. White. There has been much debate about certain fragments in the same hand as this document, which Yadin took to be from a manuscript of the Temple Scroll from Cave 4. The editors have wisely decided to place this material separately at the end, since it seems not to belong properly in the text of the Pentateuch Rewritten for literary reasons. On the other hand, it is now clear that this cannot be taken simply as Temple Scroll material. White has assembled all these fragments in a recent study. There can be no question that while some of this material is parallel to the Temple Scroll, some must be either from a different recension or from a source of the scroll. The latter theory had been put forward by John Strugnell in a now famous letter to Benjamin Z. Wacholder. Judgment on this matter, as well as on the ambiguous issue posed by frag. 23 of the main text, will have to await investigation of the entire paraphrase, but these texts will radically change the debate on the history of the Temple Scroll. I personally would greatly welcome the notion that these constitute remnants of a source of the Temple Scroll as it would conform to my view that there are Sadducean sources behind this document. On the other hand, we cannot be certain at this stage that these materials do not constitute simply an alternate recension of the scroll. Indeed, we have learned from Cave 4 that many of the texts previously known to us, like the penal code of the Zadokite Fragments, the War Scroll, parts of the Rule of the Community, and other texts, were extant in varying recensions in the Qumran collection. Whatever the case, these fragments will also contribute to our understanding of the halakhah of the Qumran collection.


The new fragments have confirmed that the Sadducean substratum observed in MMT and the Temple Scroll is also present in the Zadokite Fragments. Further, the various smaller halakhic texts conform in general, although not always, to this basic model. For me this had meant a change in positions. Whereas I still stand with the many observations I made regarding the ways in which the Temple Scroll differs from the rest of sectarian literature, I no longer claim that this text is unrelated to the sect. It is now clear that the style and irenic tone of this work is traceable to the fact that the scroll stems from early in the sect’s history and that it is a compilation of earlier sources themselves predating the sect and based on the Sadducean halakhic heritage. This is true of the Sadducean laws in MMT. Even after the sect developed its unique and indeed extremist characteristics, it still retained its general adherence to the halakhic traditions of its Sadducean forebears, continuing to polemicize loudly, in the Zadokite Fragments and in Pesher Nahum, against the view of the dorešey halaqot—the Pharisees—who were their halakhic opponents.

There can be no question that it is a blessing to have access to the full corpus of Qumran halakhic materials. The texts require close and careful analysis, and then historical interpretation. We must close then with a caution. In our zeal to partake of the banquet which recent events have set before us, let us not forget that research is built on details, and that the only sound generalizations are those which emerge from the precise study of such details. In that spirit, let us hope that the new texts and the studies that emerge from them will help us to reach a new and balanced view of the history of Judaism in the Second Temple period. May I be permitted to close with the beautiful and stirring words of the conclusion of MMT-

Investigate all these things, and beseech (God) that he should give you correct counsel; and that He keep you far from evil thought and the counsel of Belial; in order that you should rejoice in the final age when you find that some of our words are true. And may it be considered for you as righteousness when you do that which is upright and good before Him, so that it should be good for you and for Israel.

Pages 21-33

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