“The Dynamics of Holiness in the Temple Scroll: Exclusion or Expansion?”

By: Hannah K Harrington

Studies have focused both on the exclusionary and expansionist character of holiness in the Temple Scroll.  On the one hand, it has been argued that the stringent purity restrictions in this text are due to the protection of the holiness of the sanctuary and exclusion from evil (Regev).  On the other hand, holiness is described as so powerful that it unleashes itself beyond the borders of the Temple city to permeate the entire land (Schiffman).  Thus, there is a paradox between the elitist tendency of the Scroll to protect the sanctuary by making extra-biblical exclusions from its precincts and, at the same time, bringing greater holiness to all Israel.  Is the author’s vision to protect the sanctuary by keeping people at a maximum distance or to invade the secular realm with the divine presence?

This paper seeks to solve this riddle by re-examining the exclusions of the Temple Scroll.  Who exactly is excluded and who is endorsed, and why?  An analysis of purity and holiness dynamics in the Temple Scroll reveals the extent to which the sacred element has moved beyond the Temple Mount to affect the lay population.  By raising purity standards, the author not only protects the sanctuary but expands cultic holiness into the lay sphere.  The real chasm he creates is not between holy priests and profane Israel but between Israel and gentiles who might have joined her ranks.

The task at hand is to 1) examine the exclusions and expansions of the Temple Scroll on both the temple city and the ordinary city; and 2) to examine the passages related to the supposed inclusion of the resident alien among Israel.

While the Temple Scroll is a composite of sources, we are concerned here with the final presentation.  The date of the Scroll has been variously set to around 100 BCE although the writer used earlier sources.  The temple plan and much of the purity material likely predate the rest of the Scroll.

I           Exclusion and protection of an expanded sanctuary

A         The Plan
Let us first look at the plan of the Temple Scroll and its relationship to other plans in post-first temple times.  An idealized square Temple plan is presented in the Temple Scroll. Johann Maier calculated that the Scroll dimensions of the three courts are:

Inner Court 280 cubits x 280 cubits (300 x 300 outer square); Middle Court 480 cubits x 480 cubits (500 x 500 outer square); Outer Court approximately 1600 cubits x 1600 cubits.  The following illustration is an adaptation from Yigael Yadin’s earlier work (1983) by Lawrence Schiffman (“Architecture and Law,” p. 259).

If the measurements of these three courts were imposed on the city of Jerusalem known from Second Temple times, they would cover most of the city.  Thus, it seems that the Temple City of the Temple Scroll and the city of Jerusalem in Second Century BC are approximately equivalent in size (Broshi, p. 115).   Although the plan of the inner and middle courts are not exactly according to Ezekiel’s prescriptions, their concentric layout and size are clearly influenced by his temple vision.   It seems the author of the Scroll thought that the whole city of Jerusalem ought to be set apart as Temple precincts.  God’s name rests on the whole city , not just the Temple building, and sometimes the whole city is refer to as miqdash, “sanctuary” (e.g. col. 46:9-12).

Scholars have debated if there were a residential area in the Temple Scroll’s plan but it seems likely that no permanent residents were envisioned.[1]  As Sidnie White Crawford points out, there is no cemetery for Jerusalem; there are no quarantine areas for menstruants as there are in ordinary cities, surely of lesser sanctity; no ordinary animal skins may be used for vessels, so what does one do with common, unholy food and products? (Crawford, p. 49) Also, the writer often refers to the Temple City as the city where God dwells as opposed to the ordinary cities where the tribes of Israel dwell, the implication being that the latter do not reside in God’s city.  Thus, the temple and its expanded courts functions as a cultic city, where Israel gathers to worship her God.  Like the biblical model of Mt. Sinai, the Mountain was the holiest place, but the camp below was a temporary assembly of pure Israelites who had purified themselves to receive God’s revelation (Milgrom, “First Day Ablutions,” p. 562).

B         Exclusions
Now let us look at the particular exclusions from this city.
Inner court:  only ritually pure priests and Levites allowed.
Middle Court:  only Israelite men over 20 allowed.
Outer Court:  only Israelite laity allowed + the ger in the 4th generation.

Only those who are pure are allowed in the Temple city; special places are allotted for those impure from scale disease, flows, and nocturnal emissions (11Q19 46:16b-18; 11Q20 13:1-2).  Now scale disease and abnormal flows are serious impurities which are ritually contagious but a seminal emission carries a minor impurity which, according to Leviticus 15, may be purified in a day.  However, the Temple Scroll requires three days of purification before anyone who has had sexual intercourse may enter the city (11Q19 45:11-12).  Furthermore, anyone who has touched a corpse must remain outside the city until completely clean (11Q19 45:17; 11Q20 14:9b-10a).  Based on analogy with the purifying corpse-contaminated person, probably other purifying persons would have been forbidden entry into the Temple City as well (opp. Werrett, p. 117). Even defecation must take place 3000 cubits outside the temple city.

The lack of places for menstruating women is puzzling.  This probably indicates that women would simply not have come to the temple complex at all during menstruation.  Surely menstruation is seen as oppositional to holiness since places are made in the ordinary cities to house women during this time.  But why are they not allotted for the Temple City?  Two ideas come to mind:  If a woman were menstruating, the expectation is probably that she would simply stay at home (cf. Ant. 3:261).  Alternatively, the place for those with “flows” might have included women during menstruation.  The underlying biblical passage, Num. 5:2, excludes both men and women during times of flow.[2]  Although some refer this only to abnormal flows, perhaps it included normal menstruation as well. In any case, we can see from this list of exclusions from the temple city that the temple and all of its courts are restricted to those who are pure in body.  In fact, the writer states, “And the city which I will sanctify to cause my name and my sanctu[ary to dwell within it] shall be holy and pure from every type of impurity by which they can become impure.  And everything which shall enter it shall be pure (col. 47:3-6).

One other exclusion is the “blind.” 45:12b-14 reads:  “No blind person shall enter it all their days; and they shall not defile the city in whose midst I dwell because I, YHWH, dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever and always.”  The exclusion of priests with defects from offering sacrifices is clearly stated in Lev. 21:23a, “No man among the offspring of Aaron the priest who as a defect shall be qualified to offer Yahweh’s offering by fire; having a defect, he shall not be qualified to offer the food of his God.  He may eat of the food of his God, of the most holy as well as of the holy, but he shall not enter behind the curtain or come near the altar for he has a defect.”  The blind may be representative and inclusive of all who have defects.  At first glance, it seems that the author is applying priestly purity to all of the city, but the matter is not so clear.  Women and children, who have no possibility of being priests are still allowed into the city.   Also, Leviticus 21 excludes the disabled priest from officiating but not from eating holy food.  Notice also that Jesus encountered the blind and the lame in the Temple (Matt. 21:14).   Furthermore, the Temple Scroll’s explicit concern is not the blind person’s appearance but the possibility that he will defile the city, a strong possibility for a person who cannot see, but not an issue for a hunchback or a dwarf.  This concern is also stated in a related text 4QMMT 52-63  “…the blind….do not see the impurity of the sin-offering. And also concerning the deaf who do not hear the …regulations concerning purity.

So to summarize, the Temple City exclusions are based primarily on purity concerns.  Its  holiness is defined and protected by these restrictions.  All pilgrims to the city had to be ritually pure since all of its courts were holy.  Inner:  priests and Levites; Middle:   Men aged 20 and above;  outer:  women and children.

C.        Exclusion or Expansion?
The above exclusions from the Temple City have led scholars to speak of the Scroll as “exclusive” and “elitist.”  To be sure, the author’s vision is at direct odds with Herodian Jerusalem which restricted cultic activities to a relatively small area on the Temple Mount and allowed profane commerce in Jerusalem (Maier, “The Architechtural History,” pp. 23-62).  However, the early Second Temple did extend over a much larger percentage of Jerusalem.  The Temple Scroll author is joined by other early Second Temple writers who regarded Jerusalem at a higher level of purity than other cities (Neh. 12:30; CD XII, 2; cf. Ant. 3:261-64; m. Kel. 1).

The restriction of impurity from the Temple City/Jerusalem is not an elitist attitude of priest over laity but an endorsement of all Israel as the beneficiary of holiness with the right to be the sole occupants of the sanctuary and its environs.  Indeed the author states that the people, not just the space, are to be kept from impurity (col. 51:7-10) in order to maintain this super-sized holiness. The Sanctuary is surely protected by increases in purity restrictions but the people too are enhanced by this system. No group of Israel is excluded from the sacred precincts as long as they are pure, and in most cases impurity is a temporary condition, which is easily purifiable. Thus, the Temple Scroll’s vision is expansive and maximalist rather than elitist and minimalist.

This view is corroborated by the fact that purity is increased throughout the ordinary cities of Israel even though they are not the holy city.   The diagram above shows the gates of the Temple City by which the tribes entered from their ordinary cities.  Greater sanctity is channeled into the ordinary city also by the isolation of individuals during their times of impurity.  Installations are provided for menstruants, corpse-contaminated individuals and those with scale disease.   Also heightened restrictions on the dead (carcassesses, foetus, restrictions in house of dead) apply. This standard is pertinent to the cities of all 12 tribes and provides for the permeation of holiness throughout the entire land.

Thus, Crawford is correct that “Holiness radiates outward from a central core….The aim of the TS is to protect that holiness with purity regulations that grow increasingly stringent as one progresses inward…The purity laws strive to protect the holiness of the Temple by growing increasingly stringent as one moves geographically closer to the Temple” (pp. 42-43).  However, the converse dynamic is also true.  Holiness also radiates outward from the Temple into the pure cities and bodies of Israel.  Thus Israel has not been excluded from holiness but included in it at an increased level than previously enjoyed.

So is there an exclusivist tendency in the Scroll?  Who is, in fact, excluded from holiness?   To be sure, women are excluded from eating the Passover with men (11Q19 17:8-9), but this can be inferred already from Num. 9:6 and 2 Chron 35:15, and probably came as a result of Passover becoming a sacrificial ritual at the Temple (cf. Deut 16:5-7) (Baumgarten, p. 63).  But, if we simply look spatially at each area of the Temple city, the territory of each court has been expanded, especially the area where men and women can worship together.  The idea was not to exclude Israel from its sanctuary or push the people away from it, but to endorse them and embue them with a greater level of holiness by increasing purity restrictions.  Intense purity is not only to protect the temple courts but to allow the dissemination of holiness into the lives of the people.  The tribes live in ordinary cities opposite the gates of their sections of the third court so that holiness could emanate directly from the temple through its courts into the ordinary cities of the tribes (Schiffman, Courtyards, p. 231).  So again, who is being excluded, not just due to temporary impurity but completely and irrevocably?  To my mind, this person is the ger, often translated “resident alien,” or “proselyte,” and sometimes “integrated stranger” (Berthelot).

II         Exclusion of the ger

The real barrier is not between sanctuary and people or excluding people from the sanctuary but, in my view, by creating a holy Israel living on a holy land in contradistinction to gentiles who had permeated the land in Hellenistic times.   It is this barrier that becomes all-important.  While Israelites are included and endorsed by extra purity restrictions, Gentiles and even “proselytes” are excluded.

First, the author complains of the תועבות הגויים, “the abominations of the Gentiles”; it is because of these detestable practices that God will drive the natives out of the land (LX, 16-20; cf. Ezek. 12).  And, the author lists various sins of the Gentiles, such as, idolatry, child sacrifice, soothsaying and necromancy.  Secondly, the author quotes Exod 34:15-16 to ban intermarriage with these pagans, “Be careful not to make a covenant with the residents of the land, for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to their gods and call you and you eat of the sacrifice, “you will take of their daughters wives for your sons (ve-lakaḥat mibnotayv le-banekha),  and their daughters, who prostitute themselves to their gods, will make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods.” Exod 34:15-16  (cf. 11Q19 II, 12-15)

William Loader argues that the writer of the Temple Scroll does not regard intermarriage as an issue.  He notes that although the Scroll author cites this verse from Exodus, he does not elaborate on it.  Loader claims that this citation seems to reflect peaceful marriage ties, “covenant”(Loader, p. 10).  He sees a concern with intermarriage only in the case of the king who is explicitly forbidden to marry theבנות הגויים , “the daughters of the Gentiles” (11Q19 LVII, 16).  Following the biblical restriction on the high priest to marry only within his clan, the Temple Scroll applies the same law to the king.  Loader supports his case by pointing to the acculturation of the captive war bride as evidence that intermarriage was sometimes considered legitimate in the case of the laity (Loader, p. 41).  Also, permission is granted to the ger, one who has agreed to live according to Israel’s customs and religion, to enter the women’s court.

However, the data can be interpreted differently.   The Temple Scroll’s citation of Exod 34:15-16 (11Q19 II,12-15) is a clear affirmation that taking a foreign spouse is detrimental to the Jew and leads to the worship of foreign gods.[3]  Although the Temple Scroll targets the marriage practice of the king, in particular, this is simply one application of its general stance against intermarriage.   The reason for the ban is to ensure that foreign wives do not turn the king’s heart away from God (11Q19 LVI, 18-19; cf. Deut 17:17).  Surely, that concern would apply to all Israel, not just to the king.

Let us look at the supposed “support cases” for intermarriage in the Temple Scroll: the cases of 1) the inclusion of the ger in the temple city, and 2) the captive war bride. At first glance, the Temple Scroll’s attitude toward foreigners may seem flexible since it appears even in the fragmentary text that the ger is allowed to enter the outer court of the temple after the third generation (39:5; 40:5-7).  However, is this really an invitation to foreigners to join the community?  How likely would it be for a foreigner to marry an Israelite knowing he would never be allowed, along with his descendants for three generations, to participate in the assembly at the sanctuary?  In ancient Israel, one who is excluded from the temple courts is in essence told that he is not a true member of the religious community of Israel nor an appropriate marriage partner.

What then is the point of including the ger in the outer court if, in reality, this will not apply to him or his living descendants?  To my mind, the answer is found in Deuteronomy 23.  Loader notes that the laws regarding illicit unions and foreigners of Deut 23:1-9 are noticeably absent from the Temple Scroll, while the author treats the topics immediately following:  vv 10-11 emissions, vv 12-14, toilets, and vv 21-23, vows.   However, in my view, the author does imply vv 1-9 in his comment that the ger cannot come into the outer court for 3 generations.  With this small remark, the author has expanded the three-generation constraint on Edomites and Egyptians entering the congregation (Deut 23:8) to apply to all foreigners who would seek inclusion among Israel.  By inviting the ger into the Temple complex after three generations (only into the women’s court), the Temple Scroll is in effect excluding him from Israel.[4]

Now let us look at the captive bride.  According to Loader, the author of the Temple Scroll assumes that “foreign wives (like the captive wife) are a normal part of life” (Loader, p. 37).   However, the law regarding the captive war bride, like that including the ger in the outer temple court, is another legal fiction.  The Temple Scroll cites the Deuteronomic law allowing a man to marry a foreign war captive (11Q19 LXIII, 10-15).  However, the writer adds a clause which prohibits the woman to touch her husband’s food for seven (or 14, Yadin) years.  In my view, this addition makes the marriage a farce.  To forbid a woman to eat with her spouse or even cook his food is a recipe for an impossible marriage in antiquity.  The “concession” is really a legal fiction.

According to Manfred Lehman, the food in question is holy contributions given to the priests, and thus the author is concerned only about priestly intermarriage (Lehman, p. 267).  To be sure, in light of its cultic topics, the Temple Scroll was probably addressed to priests and the marriage practices of both ordinary and high priest one of his main concerns.  However, I would hesitate to argue that the intermarriage being described here is limited to priests only.  Both of the underlying Deuteronomic texts are addressed to all Israel (Deut 21:10-14; 23:1-9).  Also, the author’s earlier quote of Exod 34:15-16, carries no such priestly restriction.

To summarize, the author of the Temple Scroll is decidedly against intermarriage between Jew and Gentile.  His almost verbatim quotation from Exod 34:15-16 leaves no doubt as to his position, yet he is careful to support biblical regulations allowing foreigners into Israel while neutralizing them with small changes in wording. Inclusion here is really exclusion.

In conclusion, the exclusion of impurities from the Temple and ordinary cities in the Temple Scroll is not just to protect the sanctuary itself but to keep Israel pure for the reception of its holiness.  Foreigners are a threat to this agenda and are barred from marriage within Israel.  Two biblical laws which include the ger are interpreted in such a way as to, in fact, exclude him from Israel.  The holiness of the Temple is intensified and protected by increase of holy area and purity limitations for the purpose of empowering all Israel against the threat of Gentile penetration.

Hannah Harrington is Chair of the Department of Biblical and Theological Studies at Patten University.  She is the author of The Purity Texts (T&T Clark, 2005).


Baumgarten, Joseph M., “Miscellaneous Rules,” in Discoveries in the Judaean Desert XXXV, Qumran Cave 4 XXV, Halakhic Texts, J. Baumgarten et al. Oxford: Clarendon, 1999: 57-78.

Berthelot, Katell. “La Notion de גר dans les Textes de Qumran,” RQ 74/19/2 (1999) 169-216.

Broshi, Magen,  “The Gigantic Dimensions of the Visionary Temple in the Temple Scroll,” in Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. H. Shanks (New York:  Random House,  1992).

Crawford, Sidnie White. The Temple Scroll and Related Texts; Companion to the Qumran  Scrolls 2 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000).

Harrington, Hannah K.  The Purity Texts, Companion to the Qumran Scrolls 5 (London; New York:  T&T Clark, 2005)

Lange, Armin. “Your Daughters Do Not Give to Their Sons and Their Daughters Do Not Take for Your sons (Ezra 9,12):  Intermarriage in Ezra 9-10 and in the Pre-Maccabean Dead Sea Scrolls,” Biblische Notizen 139 2008).

Lehman, Manfred, “The Beautiful War Bride (יפת תאר) and Other Halakhoth in the Temple Scroll,” in Temple Scroll Studies:  Papers Presented at the International Symposium on the Temple Scroll, Manchester, December 1987 (ed. George J. Brooke; JSPSup 7; Sheffield:  JSOT Press,1989).

Loader, William.  The Dead Sea Scrolls on Sexuality:  Attitudes towards Sexuality in Sectarian and Related Literature at Qumran (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 2009).

Maier, Johann, “The Architectural History of the Temple in Jerusalem in the Light of the Temple Scroll,” in Temple Scroll Studies:  Papers Presented at the International Symposium on the Temple Scroll, Manchester, December 1987 (ed. George J. Brooke; JSPSupp 7 (Sheffield:  JOST Press, 1989), 23-62.

Maier, Johann.  The Temple Scroll (Sheffield: JSOT Press [Supplement 34] 1985).

Milgrom, Jacob, “First Day Ablutions in Qumran,” in The Madrid Qumran Congress,  Proceedings of the International Congress on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Madrid 18-21 March, 1991, Volume 2, ed. J. T. Barrera and L. V. Montaner; Leiden: Brill, 1992: 561-70.

Milgrom, Jacob, “The Scriptural Foundations and Deviations in the Laws of Purity of the Temple Scroll,” in Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls, The New York University Conference in Memory of Yigael Yadin, ed. L. H. Schiffman.  Sheffield: Sheffield  Academic Press, 1990:82-99.

Regev, Eyal, Sectarianism in Qumran, A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter,  2007.

Schiffman, Lawrence, “Architecture and Law:  The Temple and Its Courtyards in the Temple Scroll, From Ancient Israel to Modern Judaism, vol. I, ed. J.Neusner, et al. (Atlanta:

Scholars Press, 1989), pp. 267-84.  [Also see revised version included in, Schiffman, Lawrence. The Courtyards of the House of the Lord: Studies on the Temple Scroll (ed. Florentino García Martínez; STDJ 75; Leiden: Brill, 2008].

Schiffman, Lawrence, “Laws Pertaining to Women in the Temple Scroll,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls:  Forty Years of Research (ed. D. Dimant and U. Rappaport; Jerusalem:  Magnes Press, 1992).

Shemesh, Aharon, “The Holiness according to the Temple Scroll,” Revue de Qumrân 19 (2000): 369-82.

Werrett, Ian C., Ritual Purity and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Leiden: Brill, 2007.

Yadin, Yigael.  The Temple Scroll, Vols. 1-3. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1983.

[1] See full discussion of the debate between Yadin/Milgrom and Levine/Schiffman in  Crawford, pp.  48-49, who makes a reconciliation between the two positions by suggesting that the residence of Israel in the Temple City was temporary for times of festivals and other cultic occasions.  Loader, p. 21, argues for a celibate city of men and women, but then we would expect areas for menstruants.

[2] Biblical models are utilized in the Temple Scroll’s system.  Yadin saw the Sinaitic revelation as a model for the Temple City because it was the camp of Israel visited by the divine presence and impurity was purified by a 3-day preparation process.  No sexual intercourse was allowed, but all Israel, including women and children were present.  However, this model does not make boundaries between priests, men, and women cordoning them into separate areas.  Schiffman sees the Wilderness Camp of Num 5 as a model for the Temple Scroll.  According to Num 5 persons with scale disease, severe genital flows or corpse impurity, both male and female, are excluded from the camp.  All of these are severely impure and most are hopelessly impure unless God heals.  Thus, the Wilderness Camp is likely a model for the Temple Scroll author.  On the other hand, the wilderness is where Israel lives, not just where they assemble for worship and sexual intercourse is not prohibited. The War Camp of Deuteronomy 23 is another model since men with bodily discharges must leave the camp until purified and no sexual relations are allowed.  However, the Temple City includes women in the outer court.  It seems that all of these models are utilized in some way, but the Temple Scroll design is distinctive.

[3] Lange, p. 83.  Like Ezra-Nehemiah, the author lists the various Canaanite nations which were forbidden, none of which survive in his time, as a way of excluding all non-holy residents of the land, i.e. Gentiles (cf. Ezra 9:1-2).  As Schiffman points out, prohibited marriages with Canaanites were later expanded to all Gentiles, “Laws Pertaining to Women in the Temple Scroll,” p. 214.

[4] So also, Ezra-Nehemiah deletes the time restrictions for acceptance of some foreigners altogether because for all practical purposes it is a moot point (Ezra 9:1-2).


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21 thoughts on ““The Dynamics of Holiness in the Temple Scroll: Exclusion or Expansion?”

  1. On page 18 of his book, the Dead Sea Scrolls Today, James VanderKam gives dates for when 11QT was written or copied. The paleographic dates are given as “late 1st century BC/early first century AD. The Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) dates are given as “97 BC - AD 1″. These dates cover the period of Herod’s reign. Given the large size of this scroll (28.5 ft or 8.75 m), one would have expected that few copies would have been made. Also given the precious nature of this scroll, one would have expected that any copies would have been produced close to the time the original was written. The 11QT manuscript could be documentary.

    In Chapter 16, The Enigma of the Temple Scroll, p257 of Reclaiming The Dead Sea Scrolls, Professor Schiffman has: “The author/redactor of this scroll called for a thoroughgoing revision of the existing Hasmonean order, advocating its replacement with a temple, sacrificial system, and government representing his own understanding of the law of the Torah.” So my questions are these. Why a replacement of the Hasmonean order? Why not a replacement for the Herodian order? Shiffman says that “we can safely date the scroll as a whole no earlier than the second half of the reign of John Hyrcanus to which the scrolls polemics apply. That would yield a date sometime after 120 BCE.” That the scroll polemics apply to John Hyrcanus are Schiffman’s assertions. They apply to Herod instead.

  2. “On the other hand, holiness is described as so powerful that it unleashes itself beyond the borders of the Temple city to permeate the entire land (Schiffman).”

    The writers of this scroll were seeking power rather than holiness. They were probably working in secret towards the time of Herod’s death. What would Herod have done to the priests if he had known what they were writing?


    The writers of the Temple Scroll had watched Herod’s temple being built. Because of what Herod had built, they realised what was possible. Herod had achieved the seemingly impossible. They dreamed of building a bigger temple which would be have no impurities. The lame, blind and deaf would be excluded. Not only that, some Jews would be excluded also.

    The temple of the Temple Scroll is on larger scale than Herod’s temple. It would have been easy for the priests to envisage such a temple. The temple of the Temple Scroll had an outer court with overall dimensions of a 730 m square. The overall dimensions of the Temple of Herod (excluding the Antonia fortress) were 450m from south to north and 300m from east to west. (See p57 of Judaism, Sanders). On p58, Sanders has: “The new wall (the outer retaining wall) ran appreciably farther both north and south than had its predecessor (the pre-Herodian temple), and the enclosed area was approximately doubled. The hill slopes down, falling away more sharply the further south one goes, and area that was to be inside the wall was filled with rubble and levelled. At its deepest point the fill was almost 40 metres deep. To resist the pressure exerted by the fill, the retaining wall was built c. 5 metres thick.” On p58, Sanders has: “According to Ben-Dov, the largest stone found thus far is 12 metres long x 3 high x 4 thick and weighs almost 400 tons.” The writer of the Temple Scroll just had to make his ideal temple bigger than Herod’s, yet still remain feasible. Although no actual place is mentioned for the location of the temple, the Temple Scroll clearly refers to ‘the city’, meaning Jerusalem . The intention was to build it on the site of Herod’s temple.

    On p260, Schiffman has: “This is an ideal Temple, built upon the beliefs of the author or authors.” On p258, Schiffman has: “To this day, we still do not know who wrote the scroll or why.” So why would someone take the trouble to laboriously write such a 28.5 ft long scroll? What was the motive for this massive effort?

    Also on p258, Schiffman wrote: “The Temple Scroll does not mount a sustained polemic against the priestly establishment in Jerusalem, with which the sect argued.” I presume Schiffman is referring to 4QMMT. And who were the members of the “priestly establishment”, and why does Schiffman call them “priestly”. Is Schiffman not telling us something? Were the “priestly” people prophets? Had the priests been kicked out of the temple by Herod?

    At the end of Herod’s reign, the high priest Matthias tentatively wrote 4QMMT to Herod, which contained corrections to the existing conduct in the Temple that Matthias thought was against the Law. Matthias also wrote that he and other priests had separated from the people and the Temple. And finally, near the time of Herod’s death, Matthias, probably thinking that Herod was dead, had given instructions to his pupils to throw down the altar that Herod had built. Remarkably, on p263 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman gives a quotation from 11QT 2:5; “Indeed you must tear down their altars”. Throwing down the altar was already in their minds. So here was a group that was completely disatisfied the Temple of Herod and its practices. The polemic in the Temple scroll was directed at Herod. Matthias and his followers were planning a new era with a new Temple. The author of 11QT was Matthias. They had not yet gone public about what their beliefs were. But that did not stop them from writing the Temple Scroll in secret. It was a sustained polemic against Herod, which no doubt the writer imparted to his fellow priests. The priests were being increasingly isolated and paranoid, leading to their visions of the future temple.

    On p260, Schiffman has: “This is an ideal Temple, built upon the beliefs of the author or authors.” On p258, Schiffman has: “To this day, we still do not know who wrote the scroll or why.” So why would someone take the trouble to laboriously write such a 28.5 ft long scroll? What was the motive for this massive effort?

    Also on p258, Schiffman wrote: “The Temple Scroll does not mount a sustained polemic against the priestly establishment in Jerusalem, with which the sect argued.” I presume Schiffman is referring to 4QMMT. And who were the members of the “priestly establishment”, and why does Schiffman call them “priestly”. Is Schiffman not telling us something? Were the “priestly” people prophets?

    At the end of Herod’s reign, the high priest Matthias tentatively wrote 4QMMT to Herod, which contained corrections to the existing conduct in the Temple that Matthias thought was against the Law. Matthias also wrote that he and other priests had separated from the people and the Temple - they had more likely been kicked out of the temple by Herod. And finally, near the time of Herod’s death, Matthias, probably thinking that Herod was dead, had given instructions to his pupils to throw down the altar that Herod had built. Remarkably, on p263 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman gives a quotation from 11QT 2:5; “Indeed you must tear down their altars”. Throwing down the altar was already in their minds. So here was a group that was completely disatisfied the Temple of Herod and its practices. The polemic in the Temple scroll was directed at Herod. Matthias and his followers were planning a new era with a new Temple. The author of 11QT was Matthias. They had not yet gone public about what their beliefs were. But that did not stop them from writing the Temple Scroll in secret. It was a sustained polemic against Herod, which no doubt the writer imparted to his fellow priests.

    The priests were being increasingly isolated and paranoid, leading to their visions of the future temple.


    Schiffman’s Chapter, The Enigma of the Temple Scroll (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls) is full of conjectural expressions such as ‘most likely’, ‘perhaps’, ‘probably’ and ‘may be’, illustrating his own uncertainty.

    On p269, Schiffman states: “The requirement that a king be appointed is ‘most likely’ intended as a critique of the early Hasmonean rulers, while serving as high priests, arrogated to themselves the temporal powers of the king. Our passage requires that the monarchy and the high priesthood be two separate offices with two distinct incumbents.” The passage quoted in Schiffman’s book was from 11QT:56:12-14 (see Vermes): “When you enter the land which I give you, take possesion of it, dwell in it, and say, ‘I will appoint a king over me as do all the nations around me!’, you may surely appoint over you the king whom I will choose.” Schiffman ended his quote at this point. But the text continues (see Vermes): “It is from among your brothers that you shall appoint a king over you. You shall not appoint over you a foreigner who is not your brother.”

    Clearly, this polemic was not aimed at Hasmonean rulers who were all true blue Jews. It was aimed at Herod who was Idumean. Nor was it to do with separation of the offices of high priest and king.


    On p269 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman quotes Temple Scroll 56:15-19: “But he may not keep for himself many horses, nor may he send the people back to Egypt for war in order in order to accumulate for himself horses, silver and gold. For I have said to you, ‘You may never go that way again.’ Nor may he have many wives lest they turn his heart from following Me, nor may he accumulate for himself silver and gold to excess.”

    Schiffman speculates that the amassing of wealth was by the Hasmonean John Hyrcanus who mounted military campaigns outside of Judea. But Herod had amassed wealth himself by military means. In particular, Herod had threatened war specifically against Cleopatra of Egypt. And he had a number wives. These are two points of the above quotation not mentioned by Schiffman in connection with the Hasmonean John Hyrcanus. The quotation describes a threat against Egypt not actually carried out.

    And notice how the writer of the quotation writes as though he is God.


    On p269 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman quotesTemple Scroll 57:5-11: “He (the king) shall choose for himself from (those he has mustered) one thousand from each tribe to be with him, twelve thousand warriors, who will not leave him alone, lest he be captured by the nations. And all those selected whom he shall choose shall be trustworthy men, who fear God, who spurn unjust gain, and mighty men of war. They shall be with him always , day and night, so that they will guard him from any sinful thing, and from a foreign nation, lest he be captured by them.”

    Schiffman states: “This description of the royal guard is in direct contrast to its Hasmonean counterpart. The author requires for the royal guard not only trustworthy Jews but also those who will keep the king from transgressing. Apparently, the author is here criticizing the Hasmonean rulers for being overly influenced by their foreign mercenaries.”

    Notice Schiffman’s use of “apparently” - he is speculating. All of his argument is immediately demolished. The writer of the scroll is criticizing the Idumean Herod for wielding power by means of his Idumean soldiery. These may have been converted to Judaism, but were not one of the twelve tribes. They were likely to reject the strict practices of the law that the priests tried to impose, and thus lead the king the same way.


    On p261 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman wrote: “Because he wanted to claim that the law had been handed down directly by God without the intermediacy of Moses, the author altered the commandments of Deuteronomy, wherein God speaks through Moses, but preserved the language of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, wherein God speaks directly….”.

    What Schiffman neglected to say was that throughout this long scroll of 11QT, despite its many references to the time of Moses, Moses does not recieve one mention at all. (Schiffman does say on p262: “In one passage the writer/redactor seems to have slipped, allowing an indirect reference”). It does mean what Schiffman said. The writers did not believe in the intermediacy of Moses. The writers of1QH (Hymn 14, p272 of The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Vermes) wrote in agreement: “For Thou wilt bring Thy glorious salvation to all the men of Thy Council, to those who share a common lot with the Angels of the Face. And among them shall be no mediator to invoke Thee, and no messenger to make reply; for … they shall reply according to Thy glorious word and shall be thy princes in the company of the Angels.”

    They would speak to God directly using the words of the law and as a prince speaks to his king. And they saw themselves as being in the company of Angels. But there was more to this than simply the idea of rejecting Moses as an intermediary. Why the fuss over Moses?


    The writers of 11QT and 1QH had no time for Moses, although he gave them most of the Law. This was because Moses not only legislated for the priests, but the prophets also. The Temple Scroll doesn’t have a good word to say about the prophets. And prophets had influence on kings.

    The first mention of prophets is a hostile warning (11QT 54:9-19, Vermes): “If a prophet or dreamer appears among you and presents you with a sign or a portent, even if the sign or the portent comes true, when he says, ‘Let us go and worship other gods whom you have not known!’, do not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer, for I test you to discover whether you love YHWH, the God of your fathers, with all your heart and soul. It is YHWH, your God, that you must follow and serve, and it is him that you must fear and his voice that you must obey, and you must hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for he has preached rebellion against YHWH, your god, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to lead you astray from the from the path I have commanded you to follow. You shall rid yourself of this evil.”

    Notice that the quotation says “your god, who brought you out of the land of Egypt”. Moses receives no mention.

    This was not about an individual prophet. This was the writer speaking to his followers against the Jewish prophets in general. The people in every village were not to have anything to do with the Jewish prophets. They were to be murdered.

    A Jewish prophet would preach his view of a Jewish God. There was thus a sharp theological difference between the priests and prophets. The writer conveyed his message as though it was his God speaking, thus: “I test you” and “I have commanded you”. But it wasn’t his God doing the testing and commanding, it was the writer himself.

    In the scrolls, the prophets are called: “teachers of lies”, “seers of falsehood”, “who exchanged the law engraved on my heart by Thee for the smooth things which they speak to Thy people”, “lying prophets deceived by error”. (1QH:4, Vermes). “They have banished me from my land”, complains the writer of 1QH. They had been barred from the temple.


    The second place where prophets are mentioned (11QT 71:1-4, Vermes) is also a hostile warning: “…to utter a word in my name which I have not commanded him to utter, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall be put to death. If you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which YHWH has not uttered?’, when the word uttered by the prophet is not fulfilled and does not come true, that is not a word that I have uttered. That prophet has spoken arrogantly; do not fear him.”

    There were a number of reasons for the priests to discredit the prophets. The first was that the prophets could easily get caught out predicting future events. The second was to do the commands or words which YHWH had uttered? For the priest, they were the words of the law of God, either written down or understood. For the prophet, they were the words actually spoken by God in his Spirit. For the priest, the way to God was by obedience of the law. For the prophet, it was by obedience of the Spirit, what the Spirit actually said on a personal level. In particular, the law and animal sacrifice had become irrelevant. A prophet had only to preach a slight deviation from the law to be accused by the priests of worshiping a false God. At the time of the Temple Scroll, the prophets were the ‘in’ people with Herod. He had kicked the priests out of the Temple.


    On p271 of Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman wrote: “The complete, edited scroll (11QT) may be seen to a large extent as a polemic against the policies of the Hasmoneans on the one hand and against the rulings of the Pharisees on the other. A similar polemic underlies the Halakhic Letter (4QMMT), confirming that Pharisaic rulings were being followed in the Temple in the early Hasmonean period.”

    I have shown that the Temple Scroll was nothing to do with Hasmoneans. The polemic in the Temple Scroll was against Herod. And 4QMMT also has nothing to do with the early Hasmonean period. It is concerned with Herod. The priests who wrote 4QMMT had been kicked out of the temple. These rulings may have been ‘Pharisaic’ according to Schiffman, but they were certainly not the rulings of Pharisees. Pharisees did not exist then, despite the fact of their appearing out of the blue in interpolated text in the writings attributed to Josephus. Pharisees are not mentioned in the Temple Scroll, or indeed any where in the vast quantity of the DSS manuscripts.

    In another paragraph on p271, Schiffman has: “It appears that the Sadducean sources included laws dating back to pre-Maccabean days, a theory confirmed by comparing this scroll (11QT) with the Halakhic Letter.” The words ‘it appears that’ show Schiffman’s uncertainty, and that he is speculating. Neither Pharisees nor Sadducees existed when the scrolls were written. Neither are mentioned anywhere in the DSS. The writers of 11QT and 4QMMT were priests (not nonexistent Sadducees).

    In Philo’s Hypoththetica, 11.1, Eusebius quotes (see P.E. 8.5.11ff) what is supposed to have been written by Philo : “But our lawgiver trained an innumerable body of his pupils to partake in those things, who are called Essenes, being as I imagine, honoured with this appellation because of their exceeding holiness. And they dwell in many cities of Judaea, and in many villages.” Eusebius, has given the game away. Philo’s original text undoubtedly had Moses as the “our lawgiver” (legislator) and ‘Essenes’ as prophets. Eusebius says he could only ‘imagine’ that they were called Essenes. He was lying. The prophets were alive when Philo wrote, so he wouldn’t have imagined what they were called. ‘Essenes’ appear out of the blue in the extant text attributed to Josephus. The prophets have been written out of history, following a general pattern of dissimulation. This has led to the idea among scholars that the prophets had faded from history a long time before.


    In Qumran and Jerusalem, 2010, on p.84 Schiffman wrote: “The text (of 4QMMT) was probably composed soon after 150 B.C.” On p.101,102 he wrote: “The Qumran sect came into being as a discrete group in the aftermath of the Maccabean revolt when the Hasmonean high priests decided to ally themselves with the Pharisees against the hellenizing high priests, many of whom had been Sadducees. A group of pious Sadducees left the temple and protested to no avail the abandonment of Sadducean priestly practice for the halakhic rulings of the Pharisees. This group, after failing to sway their colleagues and their Hasmonean leaders by means of the Halakhic letter (4QMMT), eventually relocated to Qumran, where they lived lives of piety and holiness, preparing for the end of days.”

    Where have Schiffman’s Essenes gone!!!

    This sounds like a good story, as good as the myth of Masada. . Unfortunately, it uses terms like Pharisee and Sadducee that the Scrolls through their long and varied history up to the first century, do not use. In 2010, Schiffman can’t even say ‘may be’ the scrolls were written by pious Sadducees who joined forces with the Pharisees. In 2010, he no longer speaks of things as ‘Pharisaic’ meaning Pharisee like. He is sure that the Scrolls were written by Pharisees and pious Sadducees

    Never mind that the writings attributed to Josephus have been edited to retrospectively incorporate Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes.


    On p.151 of Qumran and Jerusalem (2010) Schiffman wrote:

    “To whom is this letter addressed? The text alternates between the singular and the plural. When in the singular, the manuscript assumes that it is addressing a leader who can by virtue of his position, identify with the kings of Israel. It appears that the head of the Jerusalem establishment with such status must be the high priest during Hasmonean times.”

    Schiffman’s old uncertainty is back - ‘it appears’. And the manuscript doesn’t ‘assume’ anything what Schiffman says. It does refer to a king, not kings, as Schiffman implies. Schiffman has assumed that his kings must have been high priests from Hasmonean times. Schiffman offers no proof that 4QMMT was originally written in early Maccabean times, only the circumstantial evidence of the history recorded in Josephus. He offers no proof that a Hasmonean priest-king was being addressed.

    Professor Norman Golb on the other hand has a remarkably different answer as to the time when 4QMMT was written and who was being addressed. The time of writing is highly relevant to the Temple Scroll.


    In Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1995, p.180, Golb wrote about Father Joseph Milik of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem:

    “in 1962 his interpretations of the minor ‘caves’ appeared in the extensive third volume of the Oxford series. Discussing certain linguistic features of the Copper Scroll, he compared them to analogous ones that he referred to as to as ’4QMishn’ (4QMMT), and gave several quotations from the latter showing its special idiom and content.”

    On p.183, Golb wrote:

    “The importance of Milik’s observations about the idiom of the Acts of Torah resided in the necessary implication that the work was written during the early or middle first century A.D., before which no evidence could be found for the existence of such an idiom. Indeed, Milik had made use of passages from the Acts of Torah to elucidate his discussion of a first-century A.D. documentary (an autographical) work composed in the same idiom - the Copper Scroll. The only other manuscripts written in essentially the same form of Hebrew were the early second century second century A.D. Bar Kokhba documentary texts. The idiom appears in no written testimony from before the turn of the era.”

    Thus we have the opinion of one expert, Golb, that the text was early or middle first century CE. In 1962 that appears to be the opinion of a second expert, Milik.

    On p.210, Golb wrote:

    “the opinion (Schiffman’s) that the epistle was addressed to a priestly figure is capricious: Its wording actually carries no such implication. Secondly, its evocation of the deeds of past kings … indicates that he (the author) was addressing not a sacerdotal figure, but rather a royal one who was not a priest. In addition, the epistle reveals no demonstrable connection at all with Hasmonaean (i.e. second- and first-century B.C.) figures. The language of the text indicates that it was written around the beginning of the first century A.D., and its specific wording shows that it was addressed to a royal personage of that time.”

    Eisenman and Wise write in Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, p183,

    “If placed in the first century, where we would prefer to place it because of its language - a form of ‘proto-Mishnaic Hebrew’ … then the addressee is Agrippa I … who made a pretence at Torah observation.”

    So now we have four experts in Hebrew who would place 4QMMT in the first century A.D. And two of them plumb for Agrippa I. But I think Agrippa I is just a little too late, and his grandmother was the Hasmonean Mariamne. So who was the king being addressed in 4QMMT?


    Golb wrote on p210 of Who wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls:

    “The language of the text indicates that it was written around the beginning of the first century A.D., and its specific wording shows that it was addressed to a royal personage of that time.”

    “around the beginning of the first century A.D.” could be just before the start of the first century, near to the time of Herod’s death in 4 B.C. The priests who wrote 4QMMT were getting bolder. Yet still they wrote with timidity.

    Professor Geza Vermes wrote an article on Herod in the Standpoint magazine: http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/text-janfeb-11-herod-the-terrible-or-herod-the-great-geza-vermes-reappraisal In that article Vermes describes Herod’s attempts at keeping the Jewish law:

    A. “In obedience to Jewish law, he did not allow his effigy to appear on coins. Nor has any statue of his survived away from home.”

    B. “Herod considered himself a Jew and at home he behaved as one… He also observed Jewish dietary laws.”

    C. “He strictly adhered to Jewish rules governing mixed marriages and required circumcision of non-Jewish men before they were allowed to marry into his family.”

    E. “Some of the pools discovered in Herodian palaces served for ritual purification, according to archaeologists.”

    F. “The jewel in the crown of his exclusively Jewish creative activity was the reconstruction of the Second Temple.”

    G. “To allay religious worries, he associated the Jewish clergy with the project, and to please them he ordered sumptuous robes for 1,000 priests.”

    H. “His formal adherence to the Jewish religion….”

    I. “His unpopularity reached boiling point when he sentenced to death two respected religious teachers and 40 of their pupils for destroying the golden eagle, symbol of Rome, attached to the new Temple.”

    I. is a dramatic sudden change in Herod’s dealings with the priests.

  17. Pingback: Around the Blogosphere (09.21.2012) | Near Emmaus


    Imagine if you were king Herod and you were near life’s end. You had generally kept the Jewish Law, as Vermes said. You had not stamped your image on coins, put up no statues of yourself, observed the Laws on diet, required the circumcision of men who wanted to marry Jewish women, obeyed the Law regarding ritual purification, reconstructed the temple, associated the priests with the project, and bought 1000 of the Jewish priests sumptuous robes, to name a few things. This had been an experience that had lasted most of Herod’s life.

    Yet there appears to be a deterioration in the relations between the king and the priests. Why, when things had gone on for years without a murmur from the priests. The priests had decided to leave the Temple and separate themselves, or Herod kicked them out. Then the priests sent him two letters (4QMMT) written in servile tone. In effect, they told him that his ways of behaving were not up to their standards - these priests had moved the goalposts with their special Jewish laws. The first letter was a complaint about Temple practices. The second letter was a complaint about Herod, personally. I could imagine Herod fuming into his beard. Real trouble was brewing.


    The priests (all 30,000 of them) have given up temple service and have nothing to do with the people in their villages from whom they have separated themselves (or anything to do with a few priests who have gone into mixed marriages). That leaves those who the priests disparagingly describe as ‘they’ to manage the temple. ‘They’ is a nondescript expression somewhat like the expressions: ‘seekers of smooth things’, ‘the congregations of scoffers’, ‘who despise the law’. One thing is for sure: ‘they’ are not the ‘priests’ in 4QMMT.

    The things the ‘they’ were permitting seem akin to the things that are considered acceptable in the New Testament.

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