Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Priests Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls

Last night I read again Chapter 10 - The Deepening Scrolls Controversy of Golb's book:
Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.  It is a Chapter which highlights the struggles that numerous scholars have had to identify the writers of the Scrolls.  It seems that the scholar's struggles are continuing today. Tigchelaar in his latest paper In Search of the Scribe Who Wrote 1QS, speaks of text being 'Qumranic'.

Chapter 10 contains the names of many scholars involved in deciphering and interpreting the Scrolls.  These include Rengstorf, Roth, Driver, Del Medico, Sukenik, Yadin, de Vaux, Dupont-Sommer, Vermes, Gibert, Laparrousaz, Broshi, Golb, Greenfield, Fitzmyer, Davies, Baillet, Weinfeld, Delcor, Philonenko, Trever, van der Woude, Martinez, Talmon, Newsom, Tov, Cross, Strugnell and VanderKam.  So why didn't all these bright folk, along with many others, reach a common agreement?  In the 32 pages of Chapter 10, Golb mentions each of these scholars (in what looks like a Who's Who of Qumran) at least once and some a number of times.  He agrees with a few, but lucidly dismantles the arguments of many, sticking doggedly to his view of the Jerusalem origin of the scrolls despite an almost unanimous opposition from other scholars.  He is to be admired for his tenacity under what must have been enormous pressure from other scholars.  

So where did all the above scholars go wrong?  A clue is on page 279 of Chapter 10 where Laperrousaz is described as arguing against Golb's theory of the Jerusalem origin of the scrolls.  Golb quotes Laperrousaz: "Among the Scrolls...are numerous ones that express vigorous opposition to the groups in power in Jerusalem, i.e. the priests and doctors of the law.  For what reasons, by virtue of what of what masochism, would these people in Jerusalem have taken such such care to preserve texts [as at Qumran - my comment] of such a kind as they had in their possession?"  I am not going to repeat the arguments between these two scholars.  These are on Page 279 of Golb's book.  Both scholars refer to Josephus for their basis.  

I dare say that both scholars accept Laperrousaz's view that the priests and doctors of the law were the ones in power, at least religiously.  Do all scholars think the same?  I think they do.  Josephus would be delighted.  Working for his Roman masters, he has re-written Jewish and Roman history.  Jewish history (an original Antiquities) was re-written so that the priests were never out of power.  Periodically Josephus has a fictitious high priest appointed, usually by a Roman, with few other details.  This was pure wishful thinking on Josephus's part. He wanted to reinstate the priests with an appearance of being homogeneous and lawful to suit his Flavian masters. This was a far cry from what the priests were before they went to war in what was initially a civil revolt against their kings and the king's prophets.     

The priests read and wrote a wide variety of scrolls representing a wide variation of opinion. They were a  a 'broad church' like the priests in the Church of England or the Catholic priests.  One thing united the priests.  They objected to their kings and the king's prophets. The priests believed that their interpretation of Jewish law was being flouted.  They were cast out of the temple and sent into exile in villages and towns.  The more violent were exiled out of Judea. Animal sacrifice was prohibited.  The altar for burnt offerings was removed in Judas's purge of the temple.  Their scrolls (including the Copper Scroll from an earlier hiding of treasure) were gathered by the kings and placed in the king's Citadel.  These multi-faceted scrolls were so loaded that only the king was allowed to read them.  From the time of Judas Maccabeus, the priests were never in control, but on a number of occasions they came close to gaining it.  During the rule of Gaius, the priests sought to erect the altar for burnt offerings again and resume the sacrifices.  Gaius, a friend of Agrippa's did not approve. Finally, the 30000 or so priests defeated Agrippa's forces, took control of Jerusalem and occupied a number of fortresses. They took their scrolls out of the Citadel and then set fire to it. They hid the scrolls in the caves near to Qumran, and then waited for the inevitable arrival of Nero.  In the meantime the prophets were barricaded in the temple. 

There never was a big war of the Romans led by Vespasian against the Jews .  That war was a creation of Josephus for his employer who had misclaimed a victory over the Jews. Misclaimed victories were also offered to De Silva and Bassus.  

In 66 CE Nero came with a large army of around 8000 troops to tackle the priests.  They were let into Jerusalem at night by the prophets.  There was no siege.  The Roman army set about the priests of Jerusalem.  They then mounted almost simultaneous attacks on the fortresses of Qumran, Machaerus and Masada which were all taken by storm.  Some priests were killed, and some, like Josephus, were were imprisoned.  Nero proclaimed the freedom of Judea and left part of the tenth legion in Jerusalem to make sure nothing untoward happened. He set off for Greece in the Autumn of 66.   He also declared freedom for the people of Greece. There were then five years of peace in Judea.  People got married, and land was bought and sold. Coins were minted to celebrate the peace and freedom.  There was no anti-Roman expression of any kind on the coins. The prophets were not interested in recovering the priest's scrolls. The temple still stood with the prophets worshipping in their usual way at the altar of incense.  Until Nero's death, no-one could have suspected what was round the corner.