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Religious Life at Qumran


In the hand of the Prince of Lights is the dominion of all the Sons of ... With the arrival of day and night, I will enter into the covenant of God. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Religious Life at Qumran

Religious Life at Qumran
  • Dr. Daniel K. Falk
  • University of Oregon

Qumran cemetery
Qumran from west
Qumran and Ein Feshka aerial from north
Qumran site from west
  • Mythology (Whats the story?)
  • Ritual (What do I do?)
  • Ethical (How do I relate?)
  • Experiential (What do I feel?)

Yahad Ostracon
In year two of … in Jericho, Honi son of … gave
to Eleazar son of Nahmani … Hisdai from Holon …
from this day to perpetuity … and the
boundaries of the house … the fig trees, the
olive trees … when he fulfills his oath to the
Community (Yahad) ...
  • If God is good and powerful, why is there evil?
  • Why do bad things happen?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why do good people do bad things?

  • Exile and return (6th c. BCE)
  • Hellenism
  • Desecration of Temple and Persecution
  • Antiochus Epiphanes IV (175-164 BCE)
  • Maccabean Revolt (168-165 BCE)
  • Hasmonean rule (152-37 BCE)

4QMMT Halakhic Letter
  • And you know that we have separated from the mass
    of the people …
  • We have also written to you concerning some of
    the observances of the Law, which we think are
    beneficial to you and your people …
  • … and it will be reckoned for you as
    righteousness when you perform what is right and
    good before Him ...

Whats the Story?
  • By Your wisdom You have established the
    successive generations and before You created
    them You knew all their works for ever and ever.
    . . .
  • in the wisdom of Your knowledge You determined
    their destiny before they came into existence and
    according to Your will everything comes to
    pass, and nothing happens apart from You.
  • (Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QH 9 M. Abegg)

  • God

Angels of Light Michael Sons of Light
Angels of Darkness Belial Sons of Darkness
Light and Darkness
  • He created the spirits of light and darkness, and
    upon them he founded every work … (1QS 325)
  • But God, in his mysterious understanding and his
    glorious wisdom, has set an end for the existence
    of deceit. At the appointed time of visitation he
    will destroy it forever. (1QS 418-2)

Two Spirits
He created humans for the dominion of the world,
and he appointed for him two spirits in which to
walk until the appointed time of his visitation,
namely the spirits of truth and deceit… In the
hand of the Prince of Lights is the dominion of
all the Sons of Righteousnessthey walk in the
ways of light. In the hand of the Angel of
Darkness is all the dominion of the Sons of
Deceitthey walk in the ways of darkness. (1QS
Two Spirits (1QS 3-4)
And by the Angel of Darkness comes the straying
of all the Sons of Righteousness (1QS 321-25)
Those whom he curses will be exterminated These
are the cruel Jews, the wicked of Israel who
will be exterminated and destroyed forever
(Psalms Pesher)
there shall be a battle and horrible carnage
before the God of Israel, for it is a day
appointed by Him from ancient times as a battle
of annihilation for the Sons of Darkness. (War
The Sons of Light and the forces of Darkness
shall fight together to show the strength of God
with the roar of a great multitude and the shout
of gods and men a day of disaster. (War Scroll)
  • God

Kingdom of Darkness
Kingdom of Light
Its interpretation concerns the Teacher of
Righteousness, to whom God has made known all the
mysteries of the words of his servants, the
prophets. (Habakkuk Commentary 1QpHab 7)
Now this is the Last Days, when those of Israel
shall return to the Law of Moses with all their
heart and will never turn away again. But the
wicked will increase in wickedness ... (MMT)
Habakkuk Pesher
Isaiah 403 A voice crying in the wilderness
prepare a way for the Lord Rule of the Community
814-15 And when these become members of the
Community in Israel according to all these rules,
they shall separate from the habitation of unjust
men and shall go into the wilderness to prepare
there the way of Him as it is written, Prepare
in the wilderness the way of the Lord, make
straight in the desert a path for our God. This
(path) is the study of the Law which He commanded
by the hand of Moses . . . And as the Prophets
have revealed by His Holy Spirit.
Isaiah Scroll a
What do I do?
Joining the Yahad
Every initiant into the society of the Yahad is
to enter the Covenant in full view of all the
volunteers. He shall take upon himself a binding
oath to return to the Law of Moses ... to all
that has been revealed from it to the Sons of
Zadokpriests and preservers of the covenant…
(1QS 57-9 M. Wise)
Sacred Time
Purity Biblical background
  • Contact with God/holy
  • Sources of impurity
  • Corpse
  • bodily fluids
  • unnatural animals
  • Ritual purification
  • washing clothes
  • waiting a prescribed period
  • ritual bath (Miqveh)

Qumran Mikveh
Purification Ritual
… and when he has completed the seven days of his
purification ... then he shall wash his clothes
in water and bathe his body ... and he shall
cover his nakedness with his clothes and kneel
upon his knees ... ...and he shall bless and
recite, Blessed are You, O God of Israel, who
has delivered me from all my transgressions,
cleansed me from filthy shame and atoned for me
that I might enter … (Purification Ritual 4Q512)
Qumran dining room
Purity and Sin
None of the perverse men is to enter purifying
waters used by the Men of Holiness and contact
their purity. (Indeed, it is impossible to be
purified without first repenting of evil, in as
much as impurity adheres to all who transgress
His word). (Community Rule, 1QS 513-14)
  • Postulant examination
  • 1st year probation
  • Instruction
  • No contact with pure food or drink
  • Property recorded but kept separate
  • Examination
  • 2nd year probation
  • Instruction in esoteric teaching
  • Can eat pure food but not pure drink
  • examination
  • Full Admission

Covenant Ceremony (1QS)
1 Priests and Levites praise God People
respond Amen, Amen
2 Priests recount Gods righteous acts
Levites recount sins of Israel People confess
sins and Gods justice
3 Priests bless the men of Gods lot
Levites curse the men of Belials lot People
respond Amen, Amen
4 Priests and Levites curse the apostate
People respond Amen, Amen
Anyone who refuses to enter the society of God …
cannot be sanctified by baptism in oceans and
rivers, nor purified by mere ritual bathing. . .
. Through an upright and humble attitude his sin
may be covered, and by humbling himself before
all Gods laws his flesh can be made clean. Only
thus can he really receive the purifying waters
and be purged by the cleansing flow. Let him
order his steps to walk faultless in all the ways
of God . . . Then indeed will he be accepted by
God ... (Rule of the Community, 1QS 34-12 )
Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice
For the Maskil. Song of the whole offering of the
seventh sabbath, on the sixteenth of the month
(4Q403 1 i 30)
Repent and Seek
  • Exile as punishment for sin
  • Reparation (Deut 429-30 301-10)
  • Repent gt penitential prayer
  • Seek gt study of Torah
  • Lev 2640 But if they confess their iniquity
    and the iniquity of their ancestors

Communal Ritual
  • They shall eat, pray, and deliberate communally.
  • In any place where is gathered the ten-man
    quorum, someone must always be engaged in study
    of the Law, day and night, continually, each one
    taking his turn. The general membership will be
    diligent together for the first third of every
    night of the year, reading aloud from the Book,
    interpreting Scripture, and praying together. …
  • (Rule of the Community, 1QS 6)

Temple Scroll
  • Gods Law written in first person
  • Study of laws on
  • Sabbath and Festivals
  • Temple and sacrifice

Prayer at Fixed Times
  • With the offering of lips he will bless Him
    during the times which He prescribed (1QS
  • Daily Sunrise and sunset
  • Sabbath
  • Festivals
  • Grace at meals


Daily Prayer (1QS 1010-14)
Daily Blessings
  • And when the sun rises upon the earth, they
    shall bless and recite
  • Blessed are You, god, who renews our happiness
    with light …
  • Peace be upon you, Israel
  • (4Q503 Daily Prayers)

Daily Supplications Prayer for Friday
  • Remember, Lord …
  • You have poured out your Holy Spirit on us …
  • You removed from us all our transgressions …
  • Now, today, when our heart is humbled, we have
    atoned for our iniquity and the iniquity of our
    fathers …
  • Now we beseech You, Lord, as you have done
    miracles of old, turn your anger and wrath from
    us …
  • Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered us from
    all distress. Amen, Amen.
  • (4Q504 Words of the Luminaries)

Qumran and Jewish Prayer
  • Shema Decalogue
  • Blessings
  • Confession/ petitions
  • Hymns
  • Shema (Decalogue)
  • Blessings
  • Amidah (Petitions)
  • Psalms
  • Priestly service
  • Priestly service
  • Temple prostrations
  • Temple Singers

Prayer Motifs
  • Salvation
  • Physical help
  • Spiritual help
  • Knowledge, forgiveness, protection from sin
  • Priestly
  • God as creator
  • Gods holiness
  • Communion with angels

Prayer and Sacrifice
  • They shall atone for the guilty rebellion and
    sins of unfaithfulness, that they may obtain
    favor for the land without the flesh of burnt
    offerings and the fat of sacrifice.
  • And prayer rightly offered shall be as an
    acceptable fragrance of righteousness.
  • (Rule of the Community, 1QS 93-5)

How do I relate?
With all your heart …
  • All who volunteer for His truth are to bring all
    their knowledge, their strength, and their
    property into the Community of God. (Rule of the
    Community, 1QS 112)
  • Deut 65 You shall love the LORD your God with
    all your heart, and with all your soul, and with
    all your might.

  • And whoever joins his congregation, let (the
    Examiner) examine him with regard to his works
    and his intelligence, his strength and might, and
    his wealth. Let them inscribe him in his place
    according to his inheritance in the lot of
  • (Damascus Document, CD 1311 Baumgarten)

  • For the Master to instruct and teach all the
    Sons of Light concerning the nature of all the
    sons of man, with respect to the kinds of their
    spirits with their distinguishing marks, with
    respect to their works in all their generations,
    and with respect to the visitations of their
    afflictions together with their times of peace.
  • (Rule of the Community, 1QS 313-14)

Horoscope 4Q186
  • … and his thighs are long and slender, and his
    toes are thin and long. He is of the second
    column. His spirit has six parts in the House of
    Light and three in the House of Darkness. And
    this is the sign in which he was born in the
    foot of the Bull. He will be humble. And this is
    his animal the bull.

  • They are to separate from the congregation of
    perverse men. (1QS 5)
  • He is to teach them both to love all the
    Children of Light--each commensurate with his
    rightful place in the council of God--and to hate
    all the Children of Darkness, each commensurate
    with his guilt stand the vengeance due him from
    God. (1QS 1911)

Internal Matters
  • Love and charity
  • Equality
  • Community of goods
  • Hierarchy and Authority
  • Rules and Discipline

4Q477 Rebukes Reported by the Overseer
… to record their offences … Johanan son of …
because he was short-tempered … and also a
boastful spirit was with him … And Hananiah
Notos they rebuked because he … to trouble the
spirit of the community … … and also he loves
his near kin … And Hananiah son of Simeon they
rebuked …
How do I feel?
Thanksgiving Hymns
Thanksgiving Hymns
  • What is the spirit of flesh … that it should
    understand … Your wisdom?
  • He is but a creature of dust … sinful from the
    beginning …
  • By Your grace alone is man made righteous
  • (Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QH)

Thanksgiving Hymns
  • And I know that man is not righteous except
    through You, and therefore I implore You by the
    spirit which You have given me to perfect Your
    kindness to Your servant forever, purifying me by
    Your Holy Spirit, and drawing me near to You by
    Your grace, according to the abundance of Your
  • (Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QH)

Thanksgiving Hymns
  • … I give thanks to You, O Lord, for you have
    redeemed my soul from the pit. … The perverse
    spirit You have cleansed from great
    transgression, that he might take his stand with
    the host of the holy ones, and enter together
    with the congregation of the sons of heaven. And
    for man, You have allotted an eternal destiny
    with the spirits of knowledge, to praise Your
    name together with shouts of joy, and to recount
    Your wonders before all Your creatures.
  • (Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QH 11 M. Abegg)

Thanksgiving Hymns
  • These things I know through Your understanding,
    for You have opened my ears to wonderful
    mysteries even though I am a vessel of clay …
    and a structure of sin …
  • What can I say that is not known and declare that
    is not told? Everything is engraved before You
    with the ink of remembrance for all the times of
    eternity, for the numbered seasons of eternal
    years in all their appointed times. Nothing is
    hidden, nor does anything exist apart from Your
    presence. …
  • (Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QH 9 M. Abegg)

Qumran and Christianity
  • Story
  • Last days
  • John and the Wilderness
  • Jesus as teacher
  • Possibility of change
  • Volunteer
  • Universal
  • Means of transformation

Qumran and Christianity
  • Ritual
  • Baptism
  • Prayer
  • Meal
  • Sabbath controversy
  • Purity controversy

Qumran and Christianity
  • Ethics
  • Community of Goods
  • Family of faith
  • Discipline
  • Sinners, outcasts, disabled
  • Love of enemy

Qumran and Christianity
  • Experiential
  • Salvation by grace
  • Sin as power spirit vs flesh
  • Union with Christ
  • Prophetic interpretation

Qumran Cave 4