Loci of Authority at Qumran
1QSerek haYaḥad 8:1-16 and Beyond
The authority of a text to author a way of life, to distinguish truth from falsehood, and to serve as a light unto one’s path cannot be divorced from the authority granted to other texts, acknowledged teaching authorities past and present, and the ongoing process of interpretation among the faithful. A passage from a constitutional document of the Qumran sect serves as a point of departure for a discussion of loci of authority in the sect.
Text and Translation
בעצת היחד שנים עשר איש וכוהנים שלושה תמימים בכול הנגלה מכול התורה לעשות אמת וצדקה ומשפט ואהבת חסד והצנע לכת איש אם רעהו לשמור אמונה בארץ ביצר סמוך ורוח נשברה ולרצת עוון בעושי משפט וצרת מצרף ולהתהלך עם כול במדת האמת ובתכון העת.
In the assembly of the community, twelve laymen and three priests, perfect in all that has been revealed of the Torah, are to practice truth, justice, judgment, the kindness of love, and unassuming behavior each with his fellow; keep faith in the land with self-control and a contrite spirit; atone for sin as doers of justice, suffer tribulation, and comport themselves with all by the standard of the truth and in accordance with the time.
בהיות אלה בישראל נכונה העצת היחד באמת למטעת עולם בית קודש לישראל וסוד קודש קודשים לאהרון עדי אמת למשפט ובחירי רצון לכפר בעד הארץ ולהשב לרשעים גמולם. 〚 〛
When such exist in Israel, the assembly of the community is truly established, an eternal planting, a temple for Israel, the sodality of the Holy of Holies of Aaron, true advocates of justice, the accepted chosen who will atone for the land and mete out deserts to the wicked.
היאה חומת הבחן פנת יקר בל יזדעזעו יסודותיהו ובל יחישו ממקומם〚 〛
Said (assembly) is a tested rampart, a precious cornerstone, whose foundations shall not shake or depart from their place.
מעון קודש קודשים לאהרון בדעת כולם לברית משפט ולקריב ריח ניחוח ובית תמים ואמת בישראל להקם ברית לחוקות עולם.
A fortress, a Holy of Holies for Aaron, in which all acknowledge the just covenant and offer a sweet savor; a blameless and true house in Israel, whose purpose is to establish the covenant by perpetual enactments.
בהכין אלה ביסוד היחד שנתים ימים בתמים דרך יבדלו קודש בתוך עצת אנשי היחד. וכול דבר הנסתר מישראל ונמצאו לאיש הדורש אל יסתרהו מאלה מיראת רוח נסוגה.
When these are established in the sodality of the community for two full years in perfect behavior, they shall be set apart as holy in the midst of the assembly of the men of the community. Let no charge which is hidden from Israel but revealed to the Interpreter be concealed from them for fear of the spirit of apostasy.
ובהיות אלה ליחד בישראל בתכונים האלה יבדלו מתוך מושב הנשי העול ללכת למדבר לפנות שם את דרכ הואהא כאשר כתוב במדבר פנו דרך יייי ישרו בערבה מסלה לאלוהינו.
When such exist in Israel, they shall separate themselves from the abode of perverse men in order to go the wilderness to prepare there the way of the Lord, as it is written, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
היאה מדרש התורה א֯שר֯ צוה ביד מושה לעשות ככול הנגלה עת בעת וכאשר גלו הנביאים ברוח קודשו.
Said (way) is the study of the Torah which he enjoined through the agency of Moses, so as to act according to all that is revealed of the times ahead, and according to what the Prophets revealed through his holy spirit.
A secondary and interlinear gloss in 8:10 is omitted in translation.
Lines of authority are clear in this passage. The Torah and the Prophets are the means by which God reveals precept and vision. The Interpreter or Exegete is the one who efficaciously inquires of the Torah. The results of said inquiry comprise the community’s halacha and eschatology, but are not to become common knowledge. After two years of service as part of the number that govern a community (of which there were many scattered throughout the land), community members were permitted to go to the wilderness to inquire of the Torah and the Prophets. This is portrayed as the highest imaginable calling. It should not be assumed that “the Torah [God] enjoined through the agency of Moses” refers sic et simpliciter to the Pentateuch. It probably encompasses Jubilees, which also presents itself as vision and precept transmitted to Moses. Cf. CD A 16:1-3, where the “Book of Time Divisions by Jubilees and Weeks” (=Jubilees) is understood as the community’s road map of the days that awaited them. In CD B 20:1, the “Beloved Teacher,” the one referred to as “The Interpreter” here, is spoken of as the founder of the congregation of the men of perfect holiness.
In the Qumran sect, the hermeneutical process was carefully controlled, and stood at the very heart of the community’s self-understanding. It is probable that the pesharim, and perhaps a part of the so-called parabiblical literature - much of it actually predates the sect, are products of this self-understanding.
As was noted in the body of this essay, thematic pesharim among the Dead Sea Scrolls comment on passages from the following writings; each, in other words, was understood as canonical in the functional sense: Deut, 2 Sam, Exod, Amos, Pss, Ezek, Dan, and Isa (4Q174); Deut, Num, and Josh (4Q175); Isa and Zech (4Q176); Pss, Isa, Mic, Zech, Ezek, and Hos (4Q177); Jer (4Q182). Continuous pesharim are attested for the following writings: Isa, Hos, Mic, Nah, Hab, Zeph, and Pss. The focus of these texts is on actualization in contemporary figures and events.
The scope of parabiblical literature attested among the Dead Sea scrolls is determined by an interest in and elaboration on the following figures: Enosh (4Q Prayer of Enosh); Enoch, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; and Abraham (1QapGen); Enoch (Book of Watchers; Book of Giants; Enastr; Book of Dreams; Letter of Enoch); Noah (4Q Birth of Noah ar); Jacob (4QTJacob? ar); Judah (Testament of Judah; 4Q538); Joseph (4QTJoesph ar); Naphtali (4QNaph); Levi (1QTLevi ar; 4QLevi ar); Kohath (Levi’s son; 4QTQohath ar); Amram (Kohath’s son; 4QVisions of Amram); Moses (4Q174; Jubilees; Apocryphon of Moses); Joshua (Apocryphon of Joshua); Samuel (4QVisSam); and Ezekiel (4QpsEzek). Ben Sira 49:14-16, with its idealization of the figures of Enoch, Joseph, Shem, Seth, Enosh, and Adam (in that order), is an independent witness to the importance of parabiblical alongside of biblical literature in Second Temple period Judaism.
In the broadest of terms, textual authority at Qumran may be described as follows. The Law, the Prophets (including Daniel), and the Psalms ruled faith and practice, but not in isolation from a broad range of other texts. Commentary, parabiblical, and other literature functioned as “preservative additions” to the aforementioned group of texts. Jubilees in particular enjoyed authoritative status. 4Q228 Frg. 1 i 9, explicitly quotes from it. Damascus Document [Cairo Geniza A] 16:1-3 promotes its authority. Calendar and eschatology as understood in Jubilees became foundational to the sect’s own understanding of the same topics.
Hebrew text from Abegg, Martin G. Jr., Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts. Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, 2003 (adapted). The translation is my own.
 For the Hebrew text, other translations, and bibliography, see Florentino García Martínez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, eds., The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition. Volume 1 (1Q1-4Q273) (Leiden: Brill, 1997) 68-99; 89-90; Elisha Qimron and James H. Charlesworth, “Rule of the Community (1QS),” in The Dead Sea Scrolls. Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Texts with English Translations. Volume 1. Rule of the Community and Related Documents (ed. James H. Charlesworth; The Princeton Theological Seminary Dead Sea Scrolls Project; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994) 1-51; 35-36.