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MishC & Dating the Deposit of the dss (LONG)
I would like to propose a hypothesis for the dating (64/3 bce) of the
depositing of the Dead Sea scrolls near Qumran, inviting criticism from
Although the establishment at Qumran seems to have been occupied perhaps
three times from its Hasmonean origin up to the fall of Jerusalem, the texts
themselves speak of no events after the appearance of AEmilius Scaurus. Thus
there is no reason to link the texts with the last occupation of the site at
Qumran, as none of the dramatic post-Scaurus events are recorded in the scrolls.
Given the analysis of the numerous scribal hands involved in the writing of
the texts (highest indication being 800), it seems extremely unlikely that
these texts were written at Qumran, and if not, they had to have been
transported to Qumran at some time before the fall of Israel to Titus. The
only likely place for them to have come from is Jerusalem.
A good brief analysis of some of the problems relating to the dating of the
scrolls was given to the Orion list by Greg Doudna (28 Nov 1996 15:23:56. It
deserves to be reread). He mentions difficulties 1) relating material finds
in caves 7 through 10 to the documents found in the other caves and 2)
dating the so-called "scroll jars". He adheres to the notion that the
documents did not arise in Qumran and suggests that most likely dates for
their depositation were either during the struggle between Antigonus and
Herod (40/37 bce) or in the aftermath of Herod's death. Neither date is
particularly inspiring though the method of analysis is.
In analysing the Mishmarot as published by Eisenman and Wise ("Dead Sea
Scrolls Uncovered", Element 1992), one finds several series of rosters
showing the changes of temple service amongst the various priestly families
(see 1Chron24:7-18) on a weekly basis covering a progression over a six year
period after which the cycle starts over again with the same family starting
on the same day. As the Mishmarot are dealing with temple procedure, they
are obviously mainstream documents relating to the government of the temple.
(I don't think any successful alternative explanation has been attempted.)
One interesting point to note regarding the Mishmarot is that they are not
schedules, ie they are not set down before the actual periods referred to,
but are written after the fact as a record. This can be seen by analysing
MishC (4Q323-4), which strays from its purpose at least twice in recording
current events, once on account of Shelamzion and her son Hyrcanus, and once
due to AEmilius Scaurus, then the writer gets back to the purpose of the
text: to record the changes in temple service. MishB, which records two
consecutive 6-year cycles, is further evidence.
So, we have in the Mishmarot a record of priestly service that dates back a
good thirty years from the time of MishC; this means we have a fairly good
indication of continuous unbroken temple worship and control dating back
perhaps to the time of John Hyrcanus I.
In passing there is another document which shows a similar, though more
indirect, reaction to events: 4Q318, the "Brontologion", which merrily goes
along mapping the position of the moon with regard to the zodiac
constellations for several years and then suddenly breaks out with
forebodings about destruction, Arabs, "Nations will plunder one another",
and "fear and distress caused by foreigners", all together adding up to the
civil war in which Hyrcanus, supported by Aretus's Nabataean Arabs, sieged
Aristobulus in Jerusalem, followed by AEmilius Scaurus's intervention. Note
the "fear and distress caused by foreigners": nothing devastating as yet
from those foreigners.
MishC tells us about events contemporary to its writing, of Shelamzion,
Hyrcanus, Arabs, prisoners, and AEmilius Scaurus. These are in fact the last
dateable indications from within the Dead Sea Scrolls. No other hard
evidence points to anything later.
Current thought dates the reference to AEmilius Scaurus which was in the
sixth year of MishC to 62 bce when he was governor of Syria. However,
looking at the dating from MishC, this would place the problems alluded to
regarding Shelamzion and Hyrcanus (from year two of MishC) to 66 bce, but we
know that Shelamzion died the previous year.
Josephus records a prior intervention on the scene while Pompey was off
dealing with Tigranes of Armenia (AJ XIV.II.3). It was in fact Scaurus who
broke the siege led by Hyrcanus, Antipater and Aretus against Aristobulus
who was holed up in Jerusalem. It was probably this involvement by Scaurus
that gave the writer of MishC the idea that "AEmilius killed". This however
would pale in comparison to what Pompey was to come to do in Jerusalem with
his siege of the temple. Thus, it seems overlikely that the reference to
"AEmilius killed" is in fact prior to Pompey (who incidentally is never
mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls).
In order to appreciate the significance of Pompey's assault of the temple in
63 bce, we need to look at the writings of the opposition to the temple
regime at the time. The following comes from the later Pharisaic document,
the Psalms of Solomon, of which three refer to Pompey.
When the sinner became proud he cast down
fortified walls with a battering-ram,
And thou didst not restrain (him).
Foreign nations went up to thine altar,
In pride they trampled (it) with their sandals.
[God] brought (the man) that is from the end of the earth,
(the man) whose lash is ruthless:...
The rulers of the land went to meet him with joy...
He took possession of her [Jerusalem's] fortified towers...
He put to death their rulers, and every man wise in the council...
Pompey spared the city which gave in immediately, but noone in the temple,
which continued resistence for three months, bringing an end to the bulk of
the Sadducees, who the Pharisean writer(s) of these psalms attack in emnity.
(And from this time on the Sadducees were a spent force.)
So, comparing the information from MishC with our history we must realign
the dating of the events: "AEmilius kills" tells us about his vanguard
activities in 64 bce, which makes the problems in year 2 more plausably
happen in 68 bce during the reign of Shelamzion who, favouring the
Pharisees, gave in to their desire for revenge on the Sadducees for the
crucifixions under Alexander Jannaeus. It seems that only extremely drastic
events made their way into MishC -- none into the earlier registers.
After having seen the implications of Pompey's harbinger, AEmilius Scaurus,
the temple hierarchy sensed the grave danger and desired to save their cache
of treasured texts. Given that Aristobulus had control of various
strongholds around the country , a plan was developed to send the texts to
some of these strongholds in order to save them (other caves findings have
been noted in history). One such stronghold was Qumran. Documents were
hurriedly sent there in order to be wrapped and stored in jars, being first
placed in storage caves like #4 so that they could be systematically dealt with.
However, before the process could be completed, Aristobulus was forced to
consign all the strongholds to Pompey. This was soon followed by the
catastrophe in Jerusalem in which all the priests in the temple along with
the supporters of Aristobulus were killed and Pompey entered the Holy of Holies.
There were no temple priests left to write anything about these events.
Besides, the documents were already hidden in the caves in which they were
found this century.
The hypothesis presented here is in stark contrast to the earlier Essene
hypothesis which states that the Qumran texts were the library of a small
Essene group that lived in isolation at Qumran (though Josephus tells us the
Essenes lived in cities); it states that the non-biblical/non-para-biblical
texts were sectarian in nature, that the texts were at least partially
produced at Qumran and often referred to life in Qumran.
The Essene hypothesis in no way deals with the perhaps 800 scribal hands
involved in the writing of the texts, a number so high that it makes a small
community effort look totally unrealistic. It doesn't tell us why the
historical information in the texts stops with AEmilius Scaurus, though
supposedly the library was in use up to 68 ce. It doesn't tell us why some
of the texts are contrary to the views we have about the Essenes (eg,
regarding celibacy and use of arms).
The hypothesis proposed here deals with all those questions covered by the
Essene hypothesis, deals with the problems the Essene hypothesis poses and
produces none to cause it difficulties.
Implications of the present hypothesis are that the Sadducees as a
religious-political force died with the fall of the temple (explaining why
Josephus knew next to nothing about them); that the fall of the Sadducees
marked the permanent rise of the Pharisees; that no more "sectarian" texts
were written after MishC; that the temple used the solar calendar (as seen
in the Mishmarot) up until Pompey killed everyone inside -- the lunar
calendar being Pharisaic; that the Qumran site (period I) was abandoned in
63 bce; and that many, if not all, of the so-called sectarian documents are
actually mainstream documents (note the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifices at
Masada & CD in the Cairo Genizah), once deposited in the archives of the
temple over a period of at least 120 years, if not longer, down to 64/63 bce.
Removing the scrolls from straight-jacketing in sectarian molds should clear
the way for a better understanding of them and should provide a real
opportunity to reclaim them.
January 7, 1997