Greco-Roman Period
In addition to Bible and other religious literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls include documents authored by the sectarians themselves. One of these, the Rule of the Community, outlines the goals of the sect to seek communion with God through purity, communal rituals, and interpretation of the law according to the sectarian understanding. This scroll of regulations also explains how a person who wishes to enter the sectarian covenant and follow the sectarian way of life may come into full membership and take his place among the ranks of the order.

I 1 For [the Instructor… the book of the Rul]e of the Community- in order to 2 seek God
[with all (one’s) heart and with all (one’s) soul; in order] to do what is good and just in
his presence, as 3 commanded through Moses and his servants the Prophets; in order to
love everything 4 which he has chosen and to hate everything that he has rejected; in
order to keep oneself at a distance from all evil, 5 and to become attached to all good
works; to bring about truth, justice and uprightness 6 on earth and not to walk in the
stubbornness of a guilty heart and of lecherous eyes 7 performing every evil; in order to
welcome into the covenant of kindness all those who freely volunteer to carry out God’s
decrees, 8 so as to be united in the counsel of God and walk before him in perfection in
his sight, complying with all 9 revealed things concerning the regulated times of their
stipulations; in order to love all the sons of light, each one 10 according to his lot in
God’s plan, and to detest all the sons of darkness, each one in accordance with his blame
11 in God’s vindication.

All those who submit freely to his truth will convey all their knowledge, their energies,
12 and their riches to the Community of God in order to refine their knowledge in the
truth of God’s decrees and marshal their energies 13 in accordance with his perfect paths
and all their riches in accordance with his just counsel. They shall not stray from anyone
14 of all God’s orders concerning their appointed times; they shall not advance their
appointed times nor shall they retard 15 anyone of their feasts. They shall not veer from
his reliable precepts in order to go either to the right or to the left. 16 And all those who
enter in the Rule of the Community shall establish a covenant before God in order to
carry out 17 all that he commands and in order not to stray from following him for any
fear, dread or grief 18 that might occur during the dominion of Belial. 118 When they enter
the covenant, the priests 19 and the Levites shall bless the God of salvation and all the
works of his faithfulness, and all 20 those who enter the covenant shall repeat after them-
“Amen, Amen.” 21 The priests shall recite the just deeds of God in his mighty works, 22
and they shall proclaim all his merciful favors towards Israel. And the Levites shall recite
23 the sins of the children of Israel, all their blameworthy transgressions and their sins
during the dominion of 24 Belial.

[And all] those who enter the covenant shall confess after them and they shall say-

“We have acted sinfully,

25 [we have transgressed,

we have si]nned, we have acted irreverently,

we and our fathers before us,

inasmuch as we walk

26 [in the opposite direction to the precepts] of truth and justice

[. . . ] his judgment upon us and upon our fathers;

II 1 but he has showered on us his merciful favour

for ever and ever.”

And the priests shall bless all 2 the men of God’s lot who walk unblemished in all his

paths and they shall say-

“May he bless you with everything good,

3 and may he protect you from everything bad

May he illuminate your heart with the discernment of life

and grace you with eternal knowledge.

4 May he lift upon you the countenance of his favour

for eternal peace.”

And the Levites shall curse all the men 5 of the lot of Belial. They shall begin to speak

and shall say-

“Accursed are you for all your wicked, blameworthy deeds.

May he (God) hand you over to dread

6 into the hands of all those carrying out acts of vengeance.

7 Accursed, without mercy,

for the darkness of your deeds,

and sentenced

8 to the gloom of everlasting fire.

May God not be merciful when you entreat him,

nor pardon you when you do penance for your faults.

9 May he lift the countenance of his anger to avenge himself on you,

and may there be no peace for you

in the mouth of those who intercede.”

10 And all those who enter the covenant shall say, after those who pronounce blessings

and those who pronounce curses- ‘‘Amen, Amen.”

11 And the priests and the Levites shall continue, saying-

“Cursed by the idols which his heart reveres be

12 whoever enters this covenant

leaving the obstacle of his transgression in front of himself so as to fall over it.

13 When he hears the words of this covenant,

he will congratulate himself in his heart, saying-

‘I will have peace,

14 in spite of my walking in the stubbornness of my heart.’

However, his spirit will be obliterated,

the dry with the moist, with no forgiveness.

15 May God’s anger and the wrath of his verdicts

consume him for everlasting destruction.

16 May all the curses of this covenant

stick fast to him.

May God segregate him for evil,

and may he be cut off from the midst of all the sons of light

because of his straying from following God

17 on account of his idols and his blameworthy obstacle.

May he assign his lot with the cursed ones for ever.”

18 And all those who enter the covenant shall begin speaking and shall say after them-

‘‘Amen, Amen.”

19 They shall act in this way year after year, all the days of Belial’s dominion. The
priests shall pass 20 muster first, one behind the other, according to their spirits. And the
Levites shall enter after them. 21 In third place all the people shall pass muster, one after
another, in thousands, hundreds, 22 fifties and tens, so that all the children of Israel may
know their standing in God’s Community 23 in conformity with the eternal plan. And no
one shall move down from his rank nor move up from the place of his lot. 24 For all shall
be in a single Community of truth, of proper humility, of compassionate love and upright
purpose, 25 towards each other in the holy council, associates of an everlasting society.
And anyone who declines to enter the covenant of God in order to walk in the
stubbornness of his heart shall not [enter the Com]munity of his truth, since III 1 his soul
loathes the restraints ofknowledge of just judgment. He has not remained constant in the
transformation of his life and shall not be counted with the upright. 2 His knowledge, his
energy and his wealth shall not enter the council of the Community because he ploughs in
the slime ofirreverence and there are stains 3 on his conversion….

13 For the wise man, that he may inform and teach all the sons of light about the history
of all the sons of man, 14 concerning all the ranks of their spirits, in accordance with their
signs, concerning their deeds and their generations, and concerning the visitation of their
punishment and 15 the moment of their reward. From the God of knowledge stems all
there is and all there shall be. Before they existed he made all their plans, 119 16 and when
they come into being they will execute all their works in compliance with his
instructions, according to his glorious design, without altering anything. In his hand are
17 the laws of all things and he supports them in all their needs. He created man to rule
18 the world and placed within him two spirits so that he would walk with them until the
moment of his visitation- 19 they are the spirits of truth and of deceit.

20 In the hand of the Prince of Lights is dominion over all the sons of justice; they walk
in paths of light. And in the hand of the Angel 21 of Darkness is total dominion over the
sons of deceit; they walk in paths of darkness. 120 Due to the Angel of Darkness 22 all the
sons of justice stray, and all their sins, their iniquities, their failings and their mutinous
deeds are under his dominion 23 in compliance with the mysteries of God, until his
moment; and all their punishments and their periods of grief are caused by the dominion
of his enmity; 24 and all the spirits of their lot cause the sons of light to fall. However,
the God of Israel and the angel of his truth assist all 25 the sons of light. He created the
spirits of light and of darkness and on them established all his deeds 26 [on their p]aths.

V 7 These are the regulations of behavior concerning all these decrees when they are
enrolled in the Community. Whoever enters the council of the Community 8 enters the
covenant of God in the presence of allwho freely volunteer. He shall swear with a
binding oath to revert to the Law of Moses with all that it decrees, with whole 9 heart and
whole soul, in compliance with all that has been revealed concerning it to the sons of
Zadok, the priests who keep the covenant and interpret his will, and to the multitude of
the men of their covenant 10 who freely volunteer together for this truth and to walk
according to his will. He should swear by the covenant to be segregated from all the men
of sin who walk 11 along paths of irreverence. For they are not included in his covenant
since they have neither sought nor examined his decrees in order to learn the hidden
matters in which they err 12 by their own fault, and because they treated revealed matters
with disrespect; this is why wrath will rise up for judgment in order to effect revenge by
the curses of the covenant, in order to administer fierce 13 punishments for everlasting
annihilation without there being any remnant…. 17 … For 18 all those not numbered in
his covenant will be segregated, they and all that belongs to them. No holy man should
support himself on any deed of 19 futility, for futile are all those who do not know the
covenant. And all those who scorn his word he shall cause to vanish from the world; all
his deeds are uncleanness 20 before him and there is uncleanness in all his possessions.

VI 2 They shall eat together, 3 together they shall bless and together they shall take
counsel. In every place where there are ten men of the Community council, there should
not be a priest missing amongst them. 4 And when they prepare the table to dine or the
new wine 5 for drinking, the priest shall stretch out his hand as the first to bless the first
fruits of the bread 6 and of the new wine. And in the place in which the Ten assemble
there should not be missing a man to interpret the law day and night, 7 always, each man
relieving his fellow. And the Many shall be on watch together for a third of each night of
the year in order to read the book, explain the regulation, 8 and bless together.

This is the Rule for the session of the Many. Each one by his rank- the priests will sit
down first, the elders next and the remainder of 9 all the people will sit down in order of
rank. And following the same system they shall be questioned with regard to the
judgment, the counsel and any matter referred to the Many, so that each can impart his
wisdom 10 to the council of the Community. No one should talk during the speech of his
fellow before his brother has finished speaking. And neither should he speak before one
whose rank is listed 11 before his own. Whoever is questioned should speak in his turn.
And in the session of the Many no one should utter anything without the consent of the
Many. And if the 12 Examiner of the Many prevents someone having something to say to
the Many but he is not in the position of one who is asking questions to the Community
council, 13 that man should stand up and say- “I have something to say to the Many.” If
they tell him to, he should speak.

And 95 to any in Israel who freely volunteers 14 to enroll in the council of the
Community, the Instructor who is at the head of the Many shall test him with regard to
his insight and his deeds. If he suits the discipline, he shall introduce him 15 into the
covenant so that he can revert to the truth and shun all sin, and he shall teach him all the
precepts of the Community. And then, when he comes in to stand in front of the Many,
they shall be questioned, 16 all of them, concerning his affairs. And depending on the
outcome of the lot in the council of the Many he shall be included or excluded. If he is
included in the Community council, he must not touch the pure food of 17 the Many
while they test him about his spirit and about his deeds until he has completed a full year;
neither should he share in the possessions of the Many. 18 When he has completed a year
within the Community, the Many will be questioned about his affairs, concerning his
insight and his deeds in connection with the law. And if the lot results in his 19 joining
the foundations of the Community according to the priests and the majority of the men of
the covenant, his wealth and his belongings will also be included at the hands of the 20
Inspector of the belongings of the Many. And they shall be entered into the ledger in his
hand, but they shall not use them for the Many. He must not touch the drink of the Many
until 21 he completes a second year among the men of the Community. And when this
second year is complete, he will be examined by command of the Many. And if 22 the lot
results in his joining the Community, they shall enter him in the Rule according to his
rank among his brothers for the law, for the judgment, for purity and for the placing of
his possessions in common. And his advice will be 23 for the Community as will his

24 And these are the regulations by which they shall judge him in the scrutiny of the
Community depending on the case. If one is found among them who has lied 25
knowingly concerning goods, he shall be excluded from the pure food of the Many for a
year and shall be sentenced to a quarter of his bread. 121 And whoever retorts to 26 his
fellow with stubbornness and speaks with brusqueness, ignoring the discipline of his
fellow, defying the authority of his fellow who is enrolled ahead of him, 27 he has taken
the law into his own hands; he will be punished for a year…. Whoever enunciates the
Name (which is) honored above all[…] VII 1 whether blaspheming, or overwhelmed by
misfortune or for any other reason,… or reading a book, or blessing, will be excluded 2
and shall not go back to the Community council. And if he has spoken angrily against
one of the priests enrolled in the book, he will be punished 3 for a year and shall be
excluded from the pure food of the Many. However, if he had spoken unintentionally, he
will be punished for six months. And whoever lies knowingly 4 shall be punished for six
months. Whoever knowingly and for no reason insults his fellow will be punished for a
year 5 and will be excluded. And whoever speaks to his fellow with deception or
knowingly deceives him, will be punished for six months. And if 6 he is negligent to his
fellow, he will be punished for three months. However, if he is negligent with the
possessions of the Community achieving a loss, he shall replace them… 7 in full…. 10
And if he does not manage to replace them, he will be punished for sixty days. And
whoever feels animosity towards his fellow for no cause will be punished for [six
months] a year. 122 11 And likewise for anyone retaliating for any reason. Whoever utters
with his mouth futile words, three months; and for talking in the middle of the words of
his fellow, 12 ten days. And whoever lies down and goes to sleep in the session of the
Many, thirty days. And the same applies to whoever leaves the session of the Many 13
without cause, or falls asleep up to three times during a session shall be punished ten
days; however, if… 14 and he withdraws, he shall be punished for thirty days. And
whoever walks about naked in front of his fellow, without needing to, shall be punished
for three months. 15 And the person who spits in the course of a meeting of the Many
shall be punished thirty days. And whoever takes out his hand from under his clothes, or
if these are rags 16 which allow his nakedness to be seen, he will be punished thirty days.
And whoever giggles inanely causing his voice to be heard shall be sentenced to thirty 17
days. And whoever takes out his left hand to gesticulate with it shall be punished ten
days. And whoever goes around defaming his fellow 18 shall be excluded for one year
from the pure food of the Many and shall be punished; however, whoever goes around
defaming the Many shall be expelled from their midst 19 and will never return. And
whoever complains against the foundation of the Community they shall expel and he will
never return; however, if he complains against his fellow 20 without cause, he will be
punished six months.

117. F. Garcia Martinez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated (New York; Leiden- E. J. Brill,
1994), pp. 3-11.

118. Belial is a term used in sectarian literature to denote the leader of the forces of evil
in the ongoing cosmic struggle.

119. The Dead Sea sect believed in predestination, meaning that God had predetermined
the course of the history of the world as well as the lot, good or evil, to which each
person was assigned.

120. The scroll sect understood light and darkness as symbolic of the duality of both
heavenly and earthly beings, which they saw as divided into camps of good and evil.
Until the final eschatological battle, these groups would compete with one another for

121. His rations are reduced by one-fourth.

122. The text originally read “six months” but was then revised to read “a year.”