1 - The Community
The sect of the Scrolls, the followers of the still unidentified Teacher of Righteousness, flourished in Palestine about two thousand years ago. Its communities were distributed throughout the towns and Villages of the land as well as in desert places such as Qumran, but their precise location is as yet unknown.
These religious schismatics withdrew from the Judaism of their time, which they considered wicked and corrupt, and vowed themselves to absolute obedience to the particular interpretation of the Law of Moses taught within the sect and to the search for perfection. In their own eyes they constituted the one true Israel, the Church of God's elect.
The revelation of all truth had been granted to their Teacher, finally and definitively, and they themselves were ' the minority chosen by God to inherit the Covenant, the Promise, and ultimate Salvation. They were not only the faithful 'remnant', but also the last in the great line of God's chosen ones, for they believed that they would, during their lifetime, participate in the great battles of Light against Darkness, and that they would see and share with the triumphant Messiah the fruits of his Victory.
The common life of those who retired to the desert settlements, 'the assemblies of the camps' as they are called in the Damascus Rule, appears to have been highly organized and self-sufficient. Archaeologists working at Qumran have discovered the remains of a scriptorium where manuscripts were copied, a pottery with its kiln, a kitchen and pantry, various water installations, and at a short distance from the site, a farm, as well as community halls proper, such as a large meeting hall which served also as a refectory, and a council chamber. But the sectaries did not actually live in these buildings; some of them occupied neighbouring caves and others doubtless lived in huts or tents in the Vicinity.
The 'assemblies of the towns' (DR), i.e. those members who lived an urban life, were subject to other rules and were separated somewhat less rigorously from their fellow Jews, but their hopes and ideals were identical with those of their desert brethren. With them, they were convinced that their beliefs and way of life conformed fully to the will of God and qualified them to claim the honour of being the only true Israel.
This concept was reflected in the way the sect modelled its organization on that of the historical Israel. Its members were distinguished as belonging either to the House of Aaron or to the House of Israel. They were divided, that is to say, into clergy and laity; the Priests and Levites had specific rights and duties which I will discuss presently, and the rest were elders and simple Israelites. The Damascus Rule (xiv) (*) mentions a third group of strangers or proselytes, but this reference is purely incidental. We are told, nothing about them, but in biblical and post-biblical Judaism a 'stranger', was a person of non-Jewish descent who adopted some of the Jewish religious laws and customs.
[*] Except for the Hymns, texts from the Dead Sea literature are indicated in the following pages by the title of the Scroll in which each passage appears, together with its column number: e.g. Community Rule VI, Commentary on Habakkuk VII, etc. The Hymns are counted differently. Hymn t o, for instance, is the tenth of a collection of twenty-five poems.
Readers may be puzzled to find that many of the scriptural quotations given in this volume do not agree with the texts with which they are familiar. The discrepancy is partly due to variants in the Scrolls themselves, but mainly to my attempt to render the Bible in accordance with the sense ascribed to it by the Qumran writers. Had I not done this, it might often have been impossible to perceive any coherence between a text and its interpretation.
The sect was further divided symbolically into twelve tribes and into the smaller Israelite units of Thousands, Hundreds, Fifties, and Tens. As in the New Testament, where the twelve apostles are the new tribal chiefs and the Letter of James is addressed to the 'twelve tribes of the dispersion', so among the Community the tribal system corresponded to an ideal. Thus the supreme Council in the pre-Messianic age appears to have been formed by twelve laymen and three Priests, the latter no doubt representative of the three clans of the tribe of Levi.
Again, some of the documents apply the title 'House of Judah' to the sect (symbolizing the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and, of course, the faithful Levites), whereas Jews remaining outside are called the 'House of Joseph' (symbolizing the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh and the north in general which abandoned Jerusalem and the Temple after the death of Solomon). As regards the lesser units (Thousands, Hundreds, etc.), they all play a part in the tactics of the great battles described in the War Rule, but otherwise only the Tens seem to have been of effective importance, this being the quorum of an autonomous congregation. Here, the sect followed the general Jewish custom with regard to public worship.
Authority And Administration
Final authority lay in the hands of the Priests. The phrase 'according to the decision of the multitude of the men of their Covenant' occurs wherever there is reference in the Scrolls to the acceptance of new members or to the expulsion and punishment of offenders; but it is always coupled with, and preceded by, the obviously more important decision of the 'sons of Zadok'. In the fields of doctrine, justice, and common ownership, it was they who held the reins; newcomers were to 'unite, with respect to the Law and possessions, under the authority of the sons of Zadok' (CR V) and, with even more emphasis, 'The sons of Aaron alone' were to 'command in matters of justice and property, and every rule concerning the men of the Community' was to be 'determined according to their word' (CR IX).
There is no indication that the Levites were to be distinguished from the Priests, so it is reasonable to suppose that both clerical classes are envisaged in these general statements. But to see how such principles were put into practice it may be useful to examine first of all the part played by authority in the smaller groups, and then turn to the direction of the sect as a whole.
As has been said, the Community Rule (VI) and the Damascus Rule (XIII) give the quorum of a group - a 'camp' according to the latter document - as ten men. In each of these autonomous communities both Rules appear to require the presence of two superiors, one of them a Priest. He was to be 'learned in the Book of Meditation' (the Bible) and all his brethren were to be 'ruled by him' (DR XIII). He was to fulfil all the priestly duties within the Community such as pronouncing the blessing over the meal (CR VI), preside over the assemblies, and perform those legal functions specifically reserved to the priesthood (DR XIII). Nothing more than this appears in any of the manuscripts about the part he was expected to play. In particular, no teaching duties are assigned to him, or anything to do with the administration of the communities.
These tasks were the responsibility of a person called the Mebakker or Pakid) in the same two Rules and described in the Community Rule (VI) (as I hope to show later) as the Doresh ha- Torah, one who was to "study the Law continually, day and night, concerning the right conduct of a man with his companion'. In my translation of the text I have rendered Mebakker as 'Guardian'. Literally, it means 'overseer, someone who looks after the welfare and spiritual direction of the people in his care. The Greek synonym is episkops, and its English equivalent, 'bishop'; but 'bishop' of a, Jewish sect seems inapt, and 'overseer' smacks more of a gang of labourers than of a religious community. Hence 'Guardian'.
The chief duty assigned to the Guardian by the Community Rule and the Damascus Rule lies in the field of instruction. He was to interview all who sought admission to the sect and teach the Rule of the Community to the people he judged worthy to enter. But he was not only to be a sort of novice-master; for the 'professed' also he was to act as final arbiter in all matters concerned with orthodoxy and right conduct. In the words of the Damascus Rule (XIII), he was to 'instruct the congregation in the works of God'.
He was to 'love them as a father loves his children and carry them in all their distress like a shepherd his sheep'. He was to 'examine every man entering his congregation with regard to his deeds, understanding, strength, ability, and possessions, and inscribe him in his place according to his rank'; no member of the camp was allowed to admit anyone to the congregation 'against the decision of the Guardian of the camp'.
Between them, therefore, the Priest and the Guardian held control in all matters concerned with ritual and instruction; but of course there were other necessary tasks to be performed in the communities. Since they were self-supporting, there had to be someone to cope with the practical administration of their activities and revenue, to take charge of the finances of the Community and provide for its material interests and needs. This person was the Mebakker 'al melekheth ha-rabbim: literally, 'overseer of the work of the congregation'. In the text I have named him (a little freely) 'Bursar of the Congregation'.
Passing now to the organization of the sect as a whole, we find a situation exactly parallel to that existing in the smaller groups. In a passage dealing with the 'assembly of all the camps', the Damascus Rule (XIV) describes the superior as 'the Priest who enrolls the Congregation', a man aged 'from thirty to sixty years, learned in the Book of Meditation and in all the judgements of the Law'. As for the 'Guardian of all the camps', he must be 'from thirty to fifty years old, one who has mastered all the secrets of men and the languages of all their clans. Whoever enters the Congregation shall do so according to his word, each in his rank. And whoever has anything to say with regard to any suit or judgement, let him say it to the Guardian.'
It is difficult to assess the limits and extent of the personal authority wielded by these two figures, but in the administration of justice and in the admission and expulsion of members they enjoyed the collaboration of various bodies such as the college of ten judges appointed to the city communities, and the Community Council. These tribunals were required to ratify by a show of hands the decisions made by the 'sons of Zadok', but whether it was in their power to refuse to confirm the judgements of their superiors we do not know.
It might seem from this brief summary of the roles of Priest, Guardian, and Bursar that there can be little room for obscurity in such an, apparently simple administrative structure. But this is not so. To begin with, it is not clear whether the Bursar was distinct from the Guardian, or whether one man dealt with both tasks. For example, the Damascus Rule (XIII) states that it was for the Guardian to decide whether members of his congregation could enter into a business association.
It also mentions him (together with the judges) in connection with the charitable funds distributed to the poor (XIV). On the other hand, in the Community Rule (VI) the offices seem to be separate. Those who prefer to identify the one with the other point out that in the primitive Church the bishop was entrusted with both the material and the spiritual well-being of his flock. For myself, I would suggest that in the smaller communities one man could very well have performed both functions, but the larger ones may have needed two men for these different duties.
The next problem concerns the Priest and the Guardian. Were these two individuals? Scholars are divided in their Views. Those who use the Community Rule as a basis for their argument incline to identify the two roles, and it is true that this Scroll tends to blur the distinction between them. But the Damascus Rule differentiates quite clearly between the Priest and the Guardian of the camp, going so far as to describe their offices in two separate sections. Similarly, there is no ambiguity at all in the case of 'all the camps'. The Priest-Superior and the Guardian of all the camps are separate individuals and, as we have seen, do not even belong to the same age-group.
On the strength of the same straightforward statements in the Damascus Rule it is possible at the same time to place the Doresh ha-Torah, the Interpreter of the Law, described in the Community Rule (VI) as officiating in the small communities in conjunction with the Priest. Since, in this particular passage of the Community Rule, there is no mention whatever of the Guardian, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the Guardian and the Interpreter of the Law were one and the same person.
Finally, we arrive at a difficulty unmentioned as yet: what are the implications of Maskil, a word recurring throughout the Scrolls? Once more, it has not been easy to find the correct equivalent in English. Literally, it could mean 'man of understanding', 'man of insight', or 'instructor'. In this translation, however, I have rendered it as a title, 'Master', because I believe that the evidence goes to show that it corresponds to a particular office in the Community.
This office is defined in a long passage under the heading 'These are the precepts in which the Master shall walk in his commerce with all the living...', where the Community Rule (ix) observes that he was to select, instruct, and guide the members of his community. 'He shall separate and weigh the sons of righteousness according to their spirit ... He shall admit (each man) in accordance with the cleanness of his hands and advance him in accordance with his understanding ... He shall impart true knowledge and righteous judgement to those who have chosen the Way. He shall guide them...'
But these were the duties of the Guardian, as we have seen. Furthermore, turning to the Damascus Rule (XIII) a philological link makes its appearance. It is said of the Guardian that 'he shall instruct', yaskil, 'the Congregation': now yaskil and maskil derive from the same Hebrew root.
Despite the fact that this word maskil plays such an important part in the Scrolls - many of the documents are addressed to him - insufficient attention has been paid to its significance. Most writers are content to leave it vague. Some believe that the phrase 'For the maskil' is a sign that the document or section is intended for initiates only. Others think that the term applies to the wise and intelligent man in general. In these pages I would suggest another interpretation.
In the Bible, (*) and in the Book of Daniel in particular, a maskil is one who is both endowed with the gift of insight into divine wisdom and a teacher of that wisdom. 'The maskilim (plural of maskil) of the people shall give understanding to the multitude' (Dan. 11:33). 'The maskilim shall be as bright as the brightness oft a firmament, and those who bring righteousness to the multitude, like the stars for ever and ever' (12:3).
[*] A note on the Bible translation used in this book is given on page 17.
The verb haskil and its derivatives (to understand, to teach) also occurs several times in the work of the Chronicler (Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah). For example, we read in Ezra (8:18): 'And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us ish sekhel, a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi.' In Nehemiah (8:7-8) we find: 'The Levites helped the people to understand the Law ... And they read from the Book, from the Law of God, clearly; som sekhel, they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading'; and in 2 Chronicles (30:32): 'And Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites ha-maskilim, who taught sekhel tob, the good knowledge, of the Lord.'
The important point to notice in these quotations is the association of haskil, sekhel, and maskil with the Levites, an association which receives unexpected confirmation in the Psalms, where maskil appears in twelve titles, and in the text of Psalm 47, 7. Although the exact meaning of maskil in the Psalms has never been established, there is little doubt that it describes a certain type of poem. But the remarkable feature is that eight of the thirteen psalms in which it figures are ascribed to Levitical authors: the sons of Korah (42,44,45,47,88), Asaph (74,78), Heman (joint-author with the sons of Korah of Ps. 88), and Ethan (89).
The reader may be wondering, justifiably, where all this is leading to. The answer is that as a first step it leads to a correct understanding of the role of the Levites in postexilic Judaism. According to the Chronicler (I Chron. VI, 4g), the priestly duties consisted in the offering of sacrifice, the care of the most holy things, and atonement. All the other religious services were assigned to the Levites (VI, 48), in particular, choir duties and everything connected with liturgical music (VI, 3I), and the instruction of the people (2 Chron. VII, 7-9).
This latter fact emerges clearly from the account given in the Book of Nehemiah (VIII, I-8) of the promulgation of the Law of Moses. The ceremony opens with a blessing pronounced by the Priest Ezra; but then the Levites take over. 'The Levites gave the meaning of the Law to the people .... They read aloud clearly from the Book, the Law of God; they gave the sense and the people understood the reading' (Neh. VIII, 7-8). Whereas Ezra, the president of the Congregation, merely performs his priestly task of offering blessings to God, the Levites act as the teachers of the people; in fact, in the following verse they are specifically described as such, as the 'instructors of the people'.
Returning once more to the Scrolls and to the significance there of maskil, is there any evidence linking the bearers of this title with the Levites? Study will show that the latter are mentioned many times in conjunction with the Priests, but it is noteworthy that no definite tasks are openly allotted to them except in two passages, one from the Messianic Rule and the other from the Damascus Rule.
According to the first, the Levites were to be attached to the various groups of Israelites 'to cause all the congregation to go and come, each man in his rank, under the direction of the heads of family of the Congregation' (MR I). The second passage (DR XIII) ordains that every camp containing at least ten men must be presided over by a Priest 'learned in the Book of Meditation', and then continues: 'should he not be experienced in these matters (the Law), whereas one of the Levites is experienced in them, then it shall be determined that all the members of the camp shall go and come according to the latter's word. But should there be a case of applying the law of leprosy to a man, then the Priest shall come and shall stand in the camp, and the Guardian shall instruct him in the exact interpretation of the Law.'
This causing the people 'to go and come' obviously alludes to the spiritual guidance of the members of the Community. Furthermore, on reading this passage from the Damascus Rule it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Levite and the Guardian were one and the same person. Since the sect expressly intended to model its organization as a microcosmic Israel it followed that, as in Judaism generally, the prime religious duties of worship and instruction were divided between Priest and Levite.
The solution to this highly involved problem is therefore, I think, the following. (I) At the head of the whole sect, and at the head of each dependent community, stood two distinct figures, the Priest and the Guardian. (2) The Guardian was a Levite. (3) As the teacher of his congregation, this Guardian-Guardian was also known by the title Maskil, Master.
Covenant And Council
Despite much research and reflection, there is still a great deal of uncertainty concerning the exact nature and significance of the various phases through which the sectaries passed in their community life.
The first step towards full initiation was entry into the Covenant, the New Covenant. Candidates for admission to the sect were required to be native Israelites and were obliged to undergo a preliminary scrutiny by the Guardian so that he might assess their mental and moral capacities. If they passed muster, they were then permitted to enter the Covenant of God in the presence of the whole Community, freely pledging themselves 'by a binding oath' to return with all their heart and soul 'to every commandment of the Law of Moses in accordance with all that has been revealed to the sons of Zadok, the Keepers of the Covenant and Seekers of His will' (CR I, V, VI; DR XV, XVI; MR I).
Many writers imagine that this adherence to the Covenant constituted a temporary phase, a probationary period during which 'postulants' were put to the test; they think that if they failed to reach the necessary standard of moral discipline during this time they were not allowed to continue but ceased altogether to belong to the Community. In my View, there is little justification for this theory. With his 'binding oath' a man took on himself, once and for all, the sacred obligation to accept the teachings of the sons of Zadok and to abide by their Rule. Having done this, he then submitted himself to the Guardian for further instruction so that he might be 'converted to the truth and depart from all falsehood'.
Advancement in the Community was quite another matter. Although every member was party to the Covenant and remained so for the rest of his life, he could either move up the sect's hierarchical ladder, with more training and a fresh initiation, or else, for want of ambition or talent, he could remain a simple 'man of the Covenant'. Those who were able to follow the first course eventually moved on to the stricter discipline of the Council of the Community.
There is also a measure of disagreement concerning this Council of the Community. Some experts consider it to be just another of the sect's titles, though they are obliged to admit from the evidence of the texts that within this Council there must have existed another smaller body, also called 'council'. The confusion is dispelled, I think, once it is accepted that the Council of the Community was formed by a group of sectaries who had undergone the training and initiation necessary to qualify them for the highest ranks in the sect's hierarchy.
Once more, initiation demanded a preliminary examination to ascertain the candidate's worthiness and ability, and if the Council found them adequate he had to take instruction for another two years, submitting himself to further public scrutiny at the end of each one. During the first year he took no part in the more sacred activities of the Council, such as its solemn Meals and its to horah, 'purity', by which I understand its daily meals prepared in accordance with special ritual purity.
He also retained his money and belongings. In the second year, provided he had satisfied his examiners, he handed over all his possessions to the Bursar who put them aside until his training was complete. He was admitted to the refectory, but was still not allowed to participate in the Meals reserved to the fully initiated. He was probably able to attend those study meetings at which no secret matters were discussed, but without taking any active share in them. If, at the end of all this, he was judged worthy by the Council, he was then solemnly admitted to full membership.
'He shall be inscribed among his brethren in the order of his rank', we read in the Community Rule (VI), and 'his property shall be mingled and he shall offer his counsel and judgement to the Community'. From this time on he was 'set apart as holy' and was entitled to share in all the sect's secret doctrine. It was his duty and privilege to separate himself 'from the habitation of ungodly men' and to 'prepare the way' of the Lord through study and contemplation of the Scriptures (CR VIII).
No 'man of the Covenant' who had committed any deliberate sin against the commandments was allowed to join this Council of Holiness. Furthermore, if any member of the Council transgressed the Law of Moses, either deliberately or through negligence, he was expelled forthwith and none of his former brethren were permitted to have any contact with him. 'He shall be expelled from the Council of the Community and shall return no more: no man of holiness shall be associated with his property or counsel in any matter at all' (CR VIII).
Minor offences against the Community Rule were punished with a penance lasting from ten days to two years (CR VI-VII), and even sins of inadvertence against the Law of Moses entailed two years of probation during which the culprit was cut off from participation in the common life. But if a member of the Council lost courage, going so far as to leave it of his own accord, he was regarded as having committed a most serious offence.
Junior members of less than ten years' standing were treated with some consideration in that if they repented they could be re-admitted on condition that they underwent their two years' training all over again, but the senior members of ten years' standing and more were sentenced to irrevocable expulsion. 'He shall return no more to the Council of the Community. Moreover, if any member of the Community share with him his food or property ... his sentence shall be the same; he shall be expelled' (CR VII).
It would appear that status within the Community was invested with particular importance. We meet constantly in the Scrolls the phrase, 'each man according to his rank', as well as the injunction that every member of lesser rank should show deference and obedience towards his senior. But as far as the actual superiors are concerned, we are unfortunately told nothing of how they obtained their office. On the other hand, it is made clear that Priests, Guardians, and judges etc. were obliged to relinquish their posts at the age of sixty. We read in the Damascus Rule (quoting Jubilees 33:2):
'No man over the age of sixty shall hold office as judge of the Congregation, for "because man sinned his days have been shortened, and in the heat of His anger against the inhabitants of the earth God has ordained that their understanding should depart even before their days are completed"' (DR X).
By imposing an obligatory retiring age on its dignitaries the sect saved the machinery of its government from an encumbrance of aged men and allowed for healthy renewal. In fact, despite the rigidity of its framework, there was in no sense stasis within the Community, but periodic movement both up and down the hierarchical ladder.
Property And Marriage
From the point of View of the Community's hierarchical structure it has been established that the 'men of the Covenant' were distinct from the men of the 'Council of the Community'.
The 'men of the Covenant' appear to have lived not very differently from their fellow Jews, except that they were bound by the stricter religious duties peculiar to the sect. They settled in towns and Villages, and also in 'camps'; but even here, although their separation from the rest of Jewry was more complete than in the towns, they were still not subject to the rule of common ownership of property. Each member retained his private money and belongings, but they were to be used in a holy manner and not to be mixed with the 'wealth of wickedness'.
The Damascus Rule (XIII; cf. CR V) lays it down that 'no member of the Covenant of God shall give or receive anything from the sons of the Pit except for payment'. That is to say, all transactions between the sectaries and the outside world had to be on a commercial footing, with none of the amicable give and take which might prevail in any ordinary society. Within limits, they were even able to trade with the Gentiles (see DR XII).
This freedom to provide for themselves did not, however, absolve them from the responsibility of supporting their own poor. They had to hand over to the Guardians and the judges the revenue of two days out of every month, and from this fund aid was given to the widows and orphans, the sick and aged, etc., in their midst.
By contrast, the property and income of the members of the Council was communally owned; everything was placed in the hands of the Bursar and it was his duty to administer this common property for the benefit of his companions. An economic system such as this distinguished them markedly from their Jewish contemporaries, among whom religious 'communism' was unknown, but it bears a close resemblance to the custom adopted by the primitive Church of Jerusalem, where the faithful were encouraged to convey all their possessions to the apostles (cf. Acts 2:44-5; 4:32-5, 2). It may be remembered too that 'in the Fourth Gospel It is said explicitly that the community formed by Jesus and the apostles lived out of a common purse entrusted to the care of Judas (John 12:6; 13:29).
There has been much speculation as to whether the sectaries were married or celibate. On the face of it, it would seem that marriage was the general custom since the Damascus Rule, the Messianic Rule, and the War Rule make open reference to married members and none of the Qumran writings allude to celibacy as such. In addition, archaeologists working in the large cemetery at Qumran (about twelve hundred tombs) have uncovered on the fringes of the graveyard a few female and child skeletons.
The difficulty arises from the fact that most scholars have now come to accept that this religious body belonged to the Essene sect, and that on the evidence of Josephus, Philo, and Pliny the Elder, the Essenes were noted throughout the ancient world for their practice of celibacy, a state most unusual in Judaism. But Josephus adds that some Essenes married and produced children, and this, I think, describes the true situation.
Most of the sectaries - the 'men of the Covenant' - married, but the few who devoted themselves to the search for, higher perfection and ritual purity found celibacy more appropriate to their ends. Although argument e silentio demands delicate handling, the fact that in the Community Rule there is no mention at all of women and marriage suggests that the seekers of perfect holiness, like the followers of Jesus, found it more fitting to be without family ties, without 'wife or brothers or parents or children' (Luke 14:26; 18:29).
Whether or not its members were linked by bonds of kinship, for the Community to function as a group it was necessary that there should be some kind of social apparatus to hold it together. This took the form of periodic assemblies.
It is not as yet possible to define in detail how often the members of the Covenant were convened among themselves, but it appears from the Community Rule (II) and the Damascus Rule (XV) that the whole sect was required to attend a general assembly at least once a year, on the Feast of the Renewal of the Covenant, celebrated, as I will show later, on the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Pentecost.
This was the occasion when new arrivals demanding entry into the sect solemnly pledged themselves by the oath of the Covenant, and it was also the time when the status of all the members was re-assessed. The ritual for the festival is described. at t e beginning of the Community Rule, but since its importance resides chiefly in the context of the sect's religious teaching, I will at this point do no more than quote the concluding paragraph:
"Thus shall they do, year by year, for as long as the dominion of Satan endures. The Priests shall enter first, ranked one after another according to the perfection of their spirit; then the Levites; and thirdly, all the people one after another ... that every Israelite may know his place in the Community of God according to the everlasting design" (CR II; cf. DR XIV).
We are better informed about the meetings of the Council of the Community. The Community Rule (VI) orders its members to assemble nightly under the supervision of the Priest for the purpose of Bible reading, study, and prayer. They were to sit before him in the order of their rank, taking care to speak only where questioned, and were never .to interrupt each other. Non-members attended these meetings also, but were forbidden to play any active part unless they had first obtained the consent of the Guardian and of the members of the Council.
Some of the assemblies, and perhaps all of them, were followed by a solemn Meal. The Community Rule (VI) writes of it as follows: 'When the table has been prepared for eating, and the new wine for drinking, the Priest shall be the first to stretch out his hand to bless the first-fruits of the bread and new wine.' Mention of the first-fruits of bread and wine seems to indicate that the Meal was originally a Pentecostal supper reserved to Priests and Levites (Exod.23:16; Deut. 16:2; 18:4.) where the first-fruits were holy offerings set aside for the clergy.
But in the Community they were eaten by the 'men of holiness', by the sons of Zadok and the members of their Council. In short, they lost their exclusive connection with the Feast of Pentecost in exactly the same way that the Christian Eucharist has lost its exclusive connection with Easter.
The remaining type of Council meeting, and one that played a Vital part in the control and direction of the sect, was the 'Community midrash', which I have called the 'Community Court of Inquiry'. One of the functions of this body was to examine the conduct of candidates and decide whether or not they should be promoted. The other duty was to try and pass sentence on members reported for offending against the Rule or the Law of Moses. Again, we are not told what circumstances governed the summoning of the Court of Inquiry, but the Community Rule (VI-VII) dwells at some length on how it should proceed, and gives a list of offences with their corresponding sentences.
These vary according to the gravity of the fault. A slight transgression, such as the interruption of a companion in his speech, entails a penance of ten days, but a deliberate sin against the Law of Moses results in unequivocal expulsion from the Community. The Damascus Rule makes no mention of the Court of Inquiry but refers to a group of ten judges, four of them Priests and Levites, and six of them Israelites, a judicial assembly no doubt concerned with the men of the Covenant' (X). The same Rule (IX-X) also defines the part to be played by witnesses and its list of sentences includes even the death penalty.
This inquiry into the hierarchical, economic, and social structure of the sect has so far done no more than piece together the skeleton of the Community of the sons of Zadok. To give it substance and life we need to understand the spiritual ideals and convictions which animated them and which induced them to seek truth and holiness apart from the mainstream of Judaism.