The document titled the Damascus Document (CD) was actually discovered by Solomon Schechter in the genizah215 of a synagogue in Old Cairo in 1896-7. He published it in 1910 with an English translation, introduction, and notes.216 It was not until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the period 194752, when fragments of this document were discovered in the caves, that it was realized it actually originated with the Dead Sea Scroll sect. Some previously unknown verses of the document were discovered in the caves as well.
The document is composed of two major sections — the exhortation217 and the ordinance218 sections. Although the New Covenant actually came into existence at the turn of the first century AD, it claimed to have originated as far back as the second century BC. The exhortation section alludes to significant periods of their professed history from the beginning right up to the time when the scribe is composing the document. It also predicts events that were to come in the near future. The ordinance section is a compendium of the sect's rules for the present time and for the future. Our main focus in this chapter will be on the exhortation section.
CD was composed in AD 65-6, when a mass exodus of the sect was taking place from Judea to the land of Damascus. The "land of Damascus"219 was probably the large land area extending northeastwards starting from
215. This word is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for "storage room."
216. Solomon Schechter, Documents of Jewish Sectaries, Vol. 1. Fragments of a Zadokite Work, edited from Hebrew Manuscripts in the Cairo Geniza Collection now in possession of the University Library, Cambridge, and provided with an English translation, introduction, and notes (Cambridge, 1910).
218. CD 15:1-16:20, 9:1-14:22 and several cave 4 fragments.
northeastern Galilee to just below the city of Damascus in Syria and southwards on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River to just above the city of Pella in the Decapolis. It would have included northeastern Galilee, Gaulanitis, Syria (the region southwest of the city of Damascus), Trachonitis, Batanaea, Auranitis, and the Decapolis (the region northeast of the city of Pella).220 Josephus mentions this exodus. He states that, because of the unbearable conditions during the governorship of Gessius Florus (AD 64-6), many Jews "were one and all forced to abandon their own country and flee, for they thought that it would be better to settle among gentiles, no matter where."221
The writer expected this exodus to be completed before a terrible "visitation" of God took place. This one would be as disastrous (if not more so) as the visitation of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. Those remaining in Judea would be "delivered up to the sword." Some of those in the land of Damascus would return and be destroyed justifying the scribe's quoting of Malachi 3:18: "And they shall distinguish again between the just and the wicked, between whoever serves God and whoever does not serve him."222 Everyone outside the sect had up to the last moment to make his decision: Be baptized (i.e., enter the "House of Judah") and join the sect in the land of Damascus or face destruction by remaining in Judea. Once the terrible visitation had arrived his fate was sealed. This is explained in the following passage:
And at the completion of the period [i.e., the end of the "period of wrath"],223
according to the number of those years, there will no longer be any joining with the House of Judah, but each man shall stand on his fortification:
the wall is built, the boundary carried far.224
219. CD 6:5, 19, 7:15 ("to Damascus" in the biblical quotation of Amos 5:26-7), 19 ("to Damascus"), 8:21, 19:34, 20:12, cf. 7:14, the "land of the north."
220. This idea comes from Schonfield, but I have extended the area to include Trachonitis. Also, in his map he has incorrectly reversed the locations of Batanaea and Auranitis. See Hugh J. Schon-field, The Jesus Party (New York: Macmillan Pub. Co., 1974), 8 (map of the area), 276-93. The land of Damascus is also called the "desert of the peoples" (1QM 1:3). According to Dupont-Sommer, "the expression 'desert of the peoples' appears in Ezek. xx. 35, where it seems to apply to the Syrian desert between Babylonia and Palestine; here [commenting on 1QM 1:3], it may refer to a desert region in the vicinity of Damascus, since we know that it was in the 'land of Damascus' that the sect sought refuge." See A. Dupont-Sommer, The Essene Writings from Qumran, trans. G. Vermes (Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1973), 169, note 2.
224. CD 4:10-2, near quote of Mic. 7:11 ("The wall is built, the boundary carried far").
The only two places in the entire document that allude to the original visitation of Nebuchadnezzar are CD 3:10 and CD 5:20-6:2.225 In the latter lines, Moses and "His [God's] Messiah, the Holy One" (i.e., Aaron) are referred to as the revealers of God's commandments. Unfortunately, Israel strayed away from them necessitating the visitation of Nebuchadnezzar. CD 5:15-9 also mentions Moses and Aaron during the exodus (i.e., the "first deliverance of Israel").
The evil person who would bring on this new visitation would be the Roman emperor who was reigning at that time. He was probably thought to be Emperor Nero, who was emperor from AD 54-68. The Roman emperor is actually symbolically called "Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon" in CD 1:6.226 He is also called the "Chief of the kings of Yawan" (i.e., Greece).
And in the period of wrath, three hundred and ninety years to His delivering them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, He [God] visited them, and caused a root of planting to spring from Israel and Aaron to possess His land and to grow fat on the good things of His earth. And they recognized their sin, and became conscious of having been guilty. And (that) they had been like the blind, groping for the way for twenty years.227
A "period of wrath" lasting "390 years to228 His delivering them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar" (i.e., the Roman emperor) is mentioned229 and this is the primary period of time that the CD exhortation is concerned with. Based on this statement alone, the beginning and ending dates of this period of wrath cannot be determined. Fortunately, CD 20:13-5, which will be discussed in a later chapter, will allow us to determine these dates.
225. Note the phrase "the period of the desolation of the land" (CD 5:20).
226.B. Thiering, Redating the Teacher of Righteousness (Sydney: Theological Explorations, 1979), 55.
228. Not after, as it is usually translated. See I. Rabinowitz, "A Reconsideration of 'Damascus' and '390 Years' in the 'Damascus' ('Zadokite') Fragments," JBL 73 (1954), 11-35, note 8b, p. 14.
The "root of planting"230 alludes to Mattathias,231 the founder of the high-priestly and kingly dynasty of the Hasmonaeans, who appeared in 167 BC. The "20 years" of "groping"232 will then take us back to 187 BC.233 In 187 BC, the "first ones" came into being.234 They were Jews who realized their error and returned to the true practice of their faith. The phrase "He [God] visited them" alludes to the attack by the Syrian (Greek) king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, in 169 BC.
But when God visits the earth, all those who despise (the commandments)
shall draw down on themselves the reward of the wicked;
when the word shall come that is written in the words of the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz, who said, There shall come upon thee and thy people, and upon thy father's house, days such as have (not) come since the day when Ephraim departedfrom Judah235 When the two houses of Israel were separated, Ephraim ruled overJudah,
AND ALL those WHO FELL BACK WERE DELIVERED UP TO THE SWORD, whereas those who held firm escaped to the land of the north [the land of Damascus];
AS He SAID, I WILL DEPORT THE SlKKUT OF YOUR KING AND THE KIYYUN OF YOUR IMAGES AWAY FROM MY TENT TO DAMASCUS.236
The books of the Torah are the "hut [sukkat] 237of the king;"
AS He SAID, I WILL LIFT UP THE FALLEN HUT OF DAVID.238
The "king" is the assembly;239
And the "Kiyyun of the images" is the books of the prophets whose words Israel despised. ...
231. Robert Eisler, "The Sadoqite Book of the New Covenant: Its Date and Origin," Occident and Orient (Gaster Anniversary Volume), ed. B. Schindler (London: Taylor's Foreign Press, 1936), 122.
233. Eisler, "The Sadoqite Book of the New Covenant: Its Date and Origin," 122-3: "The twenty years of the apostate Hellenised high-priests, from the accession of Seleucos IV in 187 BC to the Maccabean revolution in 167 BC."
236. Amos 5:26-7. The quotation does not agree to the Masoretic Text.
237. "Sukkat" means "hut." "Sikkut" in Amos 5:26 is an Akkadian name for the planet Saturn ("Kiyyun" is as well). Because of the similiarity of sukkat and sikkut, the scribe is able to make a play on words.
239. Based on the statement "the 'king' is the assembly," the first ones seem to have had no single leader in the period before the first visitation. Robert Eisler notes that it is "a remarkably 'democratic' interpretation given by these New Covenanters, the very reverse of Louis XIV 'l'état c'est moi'!" (Eisler, "The Sadoqite Book of the New Covenant: Its Date and Origin," 133, note 153).
They escaped at the period of the first visitation [Antiochus],
BUT THOSE WHO FELL BACK WERE DELIVERED UP TO THE SWORD. And such shall be the lot of all who enter His Covenant but do not hold firm to these (precepts) when He visits them for destruction by the hand of Belial.240
The first italicized section of the passage is a quotation of Is.7:17241 except that the very end of the actual biblical text adds "the king of Assyria." The prophet Isaiah made this prediction to Ahaz, the king of the southern kingdom of Judah. In 734-733 BC, Ahaz made an alliance with Tiglath-pileser, the king of Assyria, against the alliance of Rezin, the king of Syria, and Pekah, the king of the northern kingdom of Israel. Rezin and Pekah were waging war against Judah.242 The prophet was saying that there were terrible times coming for the kingdom of Judah, because of Ahaz' alliance with the king of Assyria. These times would be as terrible as "when Ephraim (i.e., the northern kingdom of Israel) departed from Judah." This occurred when the northern kingdom seceded from Judah after the death of King Solomon in 922 BC.243
The "small caps" section in the passage above244 refers to the withdrawal of "Judah" (i.e., the first ones) to the land of Damascus, which occurred in the period from after 187 BC to the "first visitation."245 The sect understood this as the attack by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 169 BC. "Ephraim" was the priestly establishment of the time and its supporters, who apostatized from Judaism and began practicing the Greek way of life. At some point before this first visitation, "when the two houses of Israel246 were separated," Judah "escaped to the land of the north" (i.e., the land of Damascus). The statement that "Ephraim ruled over Judah" means that the former were the political leaders of the country at the time of Judah's escape. Along with Ephraim, "those who fell back" from the land of Damascus were "delivered up to the sword" 247 in the visitation of Antiochus.
The statement in the biblical passage (Is 7:17) that "Ephraim departed from Judah" was reinterpreted as referring to Ephraim's abandonment of the true faith
246. The designation "two houses of Israel" refers to Ephraim and Judah. They were both considered to be a part of Israel before the time of John the Baptist.
preserved by Judah. Unlike the secession of 922 BC, it was Judah that was withdrawing in the physical sense not Ephraim.
In CD 3:21-4:4, the "priests," the "levites," and the "sons of Zadok" are symbolic designations for certain groups that appeared at different periods during the sect's professed history.248 I quote the passage below:
The priests and the levites and the sons of Zadok who kept the charge of my sanctuary while the children of Israel went astray from me;
they shall offer me the fat and the blood.249
The priests are the returnees of Israel250
who went out from the land of Judah;
and (the levites are) those who joined them.
And the sons of Zadok are the chosen of Israel,
The (men) named with a name who shall stand in the end of days.
The first ones who escaped to the land of Damascus were "the priests .who went out from the land of Judah." For an explanation of the "levites," see below. The "sons of Zadok ... in the end of days" will be all the members of the sect at the time of the coming visitation.
In 169 BC, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BC) marched into Jerusalem, massacred many people, and looted the Temple. However, this was not to be the end of his evil for his goal was to destroy the Jewish religion. In 167 BC, he sent Apollonius to Judea as the chief tax collector. He began a campaign of massacre, pillage, and destruction in Jerusalem itself. Then, orders arrived from Antiochus that the practice of the Jewish faith was to be prohibited on pain of death and pagan cults were to be substituted in its place. Apollonius used all means available to him to carry out the orders. Finally, he erected a heathen altar in the Temple (this is the "abomination of desolation" mentioned in Dan. 11:31, 12:11), which was the worst outrage imaginable. It was because of the heroism of Jewish rebels under the leadership of Mattathias and then Judas Maccabeus that the Temple was rededicated in 164 BC. From this event, the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple (Hannukkah) originated.251
248. Hugh J. Schonfield, Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls (London: Jewish Chronicle Publications, 1956), 29, 55-7. It should be noted that my identifications of the "priests" and "levites" differ from Schonfield's.
249. Ezek. 44:15 (significantly different from the Masoretic Text).
250. I.e., they returned to the true practice of the faith.
251. 1 Macc. 1:20-4:61; 2 Macc. 5:11-10:9; Ant. XII, 233-360; War I, 27-43.
But because of those who clung to the commandments of God
(and) survived them as a remnant,
God established His Covenant with Israel forever, revealing to them the hidden things in which all Israel had strayed ...
But they defiled themselves by the sin of man and by the ways of defilement, and they said, "This is ours!"
And God in His marvelous mysteries forgave their iniquity and blotted out their sin;
and He built for them a sure House in Israel such as did not exist from former times until now.252
The "remnant" of the above passage were the first ones from the land of Damascus who returned to join Mattathias (i.e., the "root of planting") in 167 BC. The "sure House in Israel" is an allusion to the Temple rededicated by Judas Maccabeus in 164 BC.
The passage contains an interesting line: "He (i.e., God) built for them a sure House in Israel such as did not exist from former times until now." "Now" refers to the sect in the land of Damascus in AD 65-6. At that time, it would appear that the sect had its own Sanctuary, i.e., a portable Tabernacle and an altar on which sacrifices were offered. This idea is the best explanation for certain passages found in CD.253 Doubtless, it would have been constructed in accordance with the description found in Ex. 26 and 27 and, in order to keep its location a secret, it would probably have been moved on a regular basis. This line is implying that a proper Sanctuary only existed two times in history! One time was the rededicated Temple in 164 BC (i.e., the sure House in Israel), although it eventually became polluted too. The other was the Tabernacle in the land of Damascus.
The sect's escape in AD 65-6 from coming disaster in Judea was seen as being a repetition of the Exodus from oppression in Egypt during Old Testament times. Thus, it was perfectly legitimate that, as ancient Israel had a Tabernacle in the Sinai desert where its God could dwell, the new Israel had one in the "desert of the peoples"254 (i.e., the land of Damascus) as well. Seeing that the polluted
253. CD 4:18, 5:6, 6:16, 16:13-4, 11:17-23. CD 1:3 refers to the capture of Jerusalem by the Roman general Pompey in 63 BC (see below). CD 12:1-2 is in the "rule of the settlement of the cities of Israel," not in the "camps" rule. CD 6:11-4 is not saying that the sect did not offer sacrifices, but that sacrifices were useless if they were not offered properly.
Temple in Jerusalem was due to be destroyed by a new Nebuchadnezzar and its rededication would not happen as was the case with the Temple in 164 BC, a new dwelling place for Israel's God was certainly needed. For the time being, this was a portable Tabernacle as described above.
There were precedents for the building of a Sanctuary outside of Jerusalem. When Egypt was under Persian rule (525-401 BC), a Temple was built by a Jewish community on the island of Elephantine in the Nile in Egypt. It was destroyed by the Egyptians in 410 BC. Later it was rebuilt, but sacrifices were not permitted.255 When the Jews, who returned from the Babylonian Exile, would not allow the Samaritans to participate in the rebuilding of the Temple, they built their own Temple on Mt. Gerizim in ca. 330 BC. It was destroyed by John Hyrcanus I in ca. 130 BC.256 Finally, when Alexander IV Epiphanes became king in 175 BC, the high priest Onias III fled to Egypt and had a Temple built at Leontopolis in the Nile Delta.257
In 161 BC, the pro-Greek party with the high priest Alcimus at its head corresponded with the Syrian king, Demetrius I Soter (162-150 BC) asking him for help against Judas Maccabeus and his party. Demetrius I sent his general, Bacchides, to force the people to accept Alcimus as the high priest. When he believed his mission was a success, Bacchides returned to Syria.258 However, Alcimus again asked for help from Demetrius I. The king sent another general named Nicanor with a large army to Judea. After an unsuccessful battle with Judas at Capharsalama, Nicanor marched to Jerusalem and threatened to burn down the Temple if Judas and his army were not surrendered to him. However, Judas was eventually able to defeat Nicanor in a decisive battle northwest of Jerusalem. Nicanor was killed in the conflict. Thereafter, the battle was celebrated annually as Nicanor's Day on 13thAdar (i.e., March.).259 Shortly after Nicanor's defeat, Demetrius I sent Bacchides again with another army that did defeat and kill Judas Maccabeus (161 BC).260
255. John J. Rousseau and Rami Arav, Jesus and His World (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995),
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