Sectarian Officials and Jewish Leadership, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1994.


Nicolas Poussin - The Destruction and Sack of the Temple of Jerusalem

Nicolas Poussin – The Destruction and Sack of the Temple of Jerusalem

The various types of sectarian leaders and the roles they played tell us much about the basic transitions Judaism was undergoing at that time. Initially, the sect was led by Zadokite priests who started the breakaway group in protest over the Hasmonaean takeover of the high priesthood sometime after 152 B.C.E. But their leadership seems to have been augmented soon after by the Teacher of Righteousness as well as an examiner and by a priestly official known as the paqid. These other officials played an administrative role in the sect, which allowed legislative and judicial functions to pass into the hands of the entire community, called “the priests, the Sons of Zadok, and the men of their covenant.” The last group consisted of the Levites and Israelites who made up the majority of the sect. Thus, just as the council of elders in Jerusalem, which served as the Hasmonaean council of state, included both priestly and lay elements, so lay leaders at Qumran shared authority with the sectarian priests.

In addition to giving us insight into the ways that lay officials and other Israelites entered into decision-making roles, the maskil closely resembles the lay Pharisaic sages who eventually became the teachers of the Mishnah. The maskilim, like the early Pharisaic lay sages, were experts in the law and its interpretation and, in some cases, involved themselves in its dissemination. Clearly, lay influence on communal and legal decision-making in Jewish life was already making inroads in Second Temple times, not only among the Pharisees but among other groups as well, even among so priestly a group as the Qumran sect.

When the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., the Jews of Palestine found themselves facing a vacuum of communal authority. As with so many other developments of that period, the nonpriestly rabbinic leadership that rose to fill that vacuum already had its antecedents not only among the Pharisees, but also among the wider Jewish community in the Land of Israel.

The texts we have discussed so far might leave the false impression that women had nothing to do with the life of the sect and were ignored in the documents collected at Qumran. Nothing could be further from the truth, as we will see in the next chapter.

Pages 125-126

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