The Zadokite Fragment


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On the basis of a close examination of the history, constitution, law, theology and calendar of the sect who wrote it, and some ten years' consideration and discussion of the issues, he was able to offer, in his introduction to Fragments of a Zadokite Work pp. We may, then, formulate our hypothesis that our text is constituted of fragments forming extracts from a Zadokite book, known to us chiefly from the writings of [the tenth-century Karaite] Kirkisani.

The Sect which it represented, did not however pass for any length of time under the name of Zadokites, but was soon in some way amalgamated with and perhaps also absorbed by the Dosithean Sect, and made more proselytes among the Samaritans than among the Jews, with which former sect it had many points of similarity. Other students of Jewish history and literature preferred to identify the work as Christian, Karaite or Pharisaic and Schechter's colleague in New York, Louis Ginzberg, opted for a purer and earlier form of Pharisaism than that later familiar to the Rabbis.

No scholar was able to place it in its precise historical and theological context until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls exactly fifty years after the arrival of the Genizah pieces in Cambridge. Once fragments of the same work had been identified among the Qumran treasures, it became possible to trace the origin of CD and its use by a sect identified by many as Essene.

And now more material has come to the fore from among the Qumran manuscripts that show the Genizah version to be a reliable copy of the earliest texts; a little less than half of an original tract that constituted an admonition and corpus of Torah interpretation and sectarian rulings; and a composite work belonging to a Qumran legal corpus, at times also related to Sadducean and proto-rabbinic traditions. The larger population, the sons of Noah and others are described as reprobate and fallen.

The true knowledge of the Torah is the possession of those who are faithful to the covenant. In this the sect appears secretive and almost gnostic in its references to this restricted truth. The admonition contains an elaborate theory of history drawn from the OT but modified to fit the circumstances of the times. This will culminate in the final triumph of the righteous and a state of perfection in the Torah. The style is so crowded with multiple allusions to Biblical books, Apoc. It seems that the ultimate purity was the stringent keeping of the laws of the Levitical code and the attention to certain interpretations of the code peculiar to the sect.


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This would accord well with the Talmudic and sectarian usage known from other sources. The descriptions of the final state appear to be both sabbatic and eschatological.

Book Review: The Zadokite Fragments and the Dead Sea Scrolls - D. Winton Thomas,

The most interesting feature of the epochs described is their similarity to certain passages in 2 Peter and Jude; e. The assumption of the fragments is that a body of sacred law was passed down from Noah through Abraham and the patriarchs and that in each age there were masses of the people of Israel who were untrue to it, did not obey it and were by that iniquity insuring and displaying their non-predestination to the covenant. This notion is also present in the NT documents. There is no reason to assume that only one personage was in view.

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The notion that the true remnant will be led by the true law and their teacher into exile in Damascus is a central theme of the admonition. The historic situation behind this assertion is not yet clear. The similarity between the expectations of the fragments and those of the War Scroll 1 Q M is quite striking. The organization and mission of the sect is to be the same as the Israelites in their sojourn in the desert after the Exodus but prior to the conquest. Joshua plays an equal if not greater part than Moses in the quotations from the OT. The conclusion that the world of thought of the fragments was the last cent.

The admonition or exhortation is free from purely mythological material and although heavily interspersed with allusions to the Apoc.

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In the manner and form of its Biblical material the text source is much closer to that represented by the DSS than the MT. Undoubtedly the original was a round script VS brought from Pal. The question as to what meaning such unique documents had for the Jews of the Diaspora may only be speculated. It is clear that after the collapse of the Second Commonwealth and the final destruction of the Jerusalem rite the somber views of the sectaries must have gained popularity only to be subsequently lost in the ages after the fixation of the MT and the formation of the Talmud.

The rules of obedience to the Torah are strict, but without the long additions and midrashic interpretations familiar from the Talmud. The results are not greatly variant from the way of life taught by the Pharisaic party. It is a mistake, however, to assume that the rule of the sect was identical to the later halachah way of life of the medieval rabbis. If for no other reason, the sect was strongly and centrally eschatological and this was the purpose for which the Torah was strictly observed.

The quotations from the Torah are mixed and without any underlying schematization. The Fragments continually refer to the period of wickedness in which they were written and against which they warned. The attitude toward the Torah is set over against the particular evils and iniquities widespread in their times. Of special interest is the position regarding the sacrifices of the Temple. Since the Temple service was not true to the OT instruction and the priests and Levites were not those legitimately appointed, the sect was to shun the Temple in Jerusalem.

The key rearrangement was necessitated by the fact that the Temple was no longer fit for sacrifice, while no other location would fulfill the demands of the Torah. The sect thus proposes a spiritual-figurative interpretation of the Torah requirements demanding sacrifices. The prayers and possibly other spiritual exercises of the sectaries were to be equivalent to the required sacrifices. This statement is based on Proverbs Yadin proposes that the sect held their communal meal in a sacrificial sense. The sins proscribed in the Rules of Conduct are mostly concerned with the Temple service and the keeping of the Sabbath.

There are included a long list of regulations regarding individual purity and ceremonial cleanliness. Although concerned with the moral aspects of the Jewish religion the ordo salutis of the Fragments is both legalistic and autosoteristic, and so varies widely from the discourses of Jesus Christ and the writings of the NT. There is every reason to suspect that the Fragments represent the latter portion of the first section of the original. Some introductory material undoubtedly preceded the present text while a much longer catalogue of rules must have followed the rules contained therein. The problems arising from the Fragments are even larger than the questions answered.

It may be hoped that parallel texts from Egypt and Israel may supply more exact data as to locality and time of the originals. Some attempts have been made to divide the text into sources and to try to identify the unknown author or authors with one of the sources defined by the documentary or fragmentary hypotheses, e. The text does present the views of the anti-establishment minority in the late Hel. It may have been not merely the religious interpretation of the sectarians alone, but may also have been widely held by the common people of the southern and Galilean areas of Pal. The unanimity of opinion between the fragments, the DSS and certain of the Talmudic sources lends credence to the argument that the messianism, eschatology and pietism of the fragments was not limited to an esoteric sect.


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The mass of Jews was prob. The paganism and immorality of the Rom. The expectation was for a supernatural activity of God which would bring forth one or more political messiahs who would reestablish the house and sovereignty of David.

Damascus Document

The fragments are in the standard folio or book form while the originals were undoubtedly in the scroll or roll form of all ancient Heb. The state of corruption in which both texts are extant is prob. In transliterating the round to square script and the obscure references of the scroll to the later era, such difficulties were certain to arise.

Dead Sea Scripture Study #4: Prayer of Nabonidus

But why should they have been preserved that long if only to be ultimately cast into the de facto censorship of the genizah? The answer is that for many centuries after the collapse of the second commonwealth and the rise of Christianity the popular notions of the sectaries were kept alive by small E European sects such as the Karaites. Sectarian Jewish scholars like Abraham Firkowich, following this line of descent in the 19th cent.

The Old Synagogue in Cairo like those in Bukhara and the Crimea had been centers of sectarian Judaism for nearly a millennium before the fragments were found. Solomon Zeitlin of the Dropsie College has demonstrated that themes and phrases from this lit.

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