Eruv and Sectarianism in Ancient Judaism: The Book of Jubilees


Samaritans, c. 1900

So far we have seen that the prohibition on carrying from domain to domain is widespread in the Dead Sea Scrolls literature. But we have argued above that this is part of a wider trend in Jewish law. To convince you that this is correct, and that in general the priestly trend, that is, the Zadokite-Sadducee approach, takes this view, we will now look at parallels from the book of Jubilees. This is a text that was composed somewhere between 180 B.C.E. and the Maccabean revolt (168-164 B.C.E.) of which a number of fragmentary manuscripts are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Unfortunately, the passages we will discuss here are not preserved in Second Temple period manuscripts but derive from the ancient Ethiopic translation probably via Greek.

The prohibition of carrying appears in Jubilees in two separate collections of Sabbath laws. Jubilees 2:29-30 states:

(29) …(That it is not lawful to) draw water, or bring in or take out thereon (i.e., on the Sabbath) through their gates any burden, which they had not prepared for themselves on the sixth day in their dwellings. (30) And they shall not bring in or take out from house to house on that day; for that day is more holy and blessed than any Jubilee day of the Jubilees.

While it is likely that there is some confusion in the text that mixes the prohibition on carrying with the requirement that things handled on the Sabbath be prepared beforehand, verse 30 makes clear that based on the Jeremiah passage this text contains the prohibition on carrying from the private domain to the public domain and vice versa, and even from one private domain to another on the Sabbath. (Check notes).

A parallel prohibition is found in Jubilees 50:8 where water drawing, mentioned as we noted in the Zadokite Fragments, is prohibited along with carrying from domain to domain:

And the man that does any work on it shall die:… And whoever draws water thereon (i.e., on the Sabbath) that he had not prepared for himself on the sixth day, and whoever takes up any burden to carry it out of his tent or out of his house shall die.

Clearly, this text sees carrying on the Sabbath from domain to domain, whether out of a tent or a house, as a capital offense. Punishments are not mentioned in the Zadokite Fragments, but we can be certain that this trend of Jewish law saw all violations of Sabbath law as Torah violations, hence incurring death penalties. While it is not our topic today, we should note that the subtle distinctions of the rabbis regarding what is a rabbinic or a Torah prohibition, and, hence, what kinds of real or theoretical punishments would have been involved, is absent in the literature of the Dead Sea Scrolls sect and related groups. It is interesting to note here that drawing of water and carrying from domain to domain, so closely related in the Zadokite Fragments, are again related in this way in Jubilees. This is because these two texts belong to the same priestly, Zadokite-Sadducee trend of Jewish law.

We do not know exactly how traditions of the sectarians in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Jubilees were transmitted to them, but it is common to find that the Samaritans, Karaites and the Falashas also saw carrying on the Sabbath as prohibited.  Like our ancient Qumran and Jubilees texts, these later groups also did not have the institution of the eruv. This solution was limited to the Talmudic rabbis.  In general, these later sect preserve the remnants of priestly, Zadokite-Sadducee legal tradition.

Sadducees according to Rabbinic Sources

Mishnah Eruvin 6:1 reads as follows:

“If someone lives with a non-Jew in a courtyard, or with someone who does not accept (the validity of the institution of) the eruv, then that one (the eruv-denier) imposes a prohibition [of transferring any object from his (the Jew’s) house into the courtyard on the Sabbath on him],“ the words of Rabbi Meir. [But] Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob says: “Indeed, he (the eruv-denier) does not impose a prohibition unless two (ordinary) Israelites impose a prohibition on one another.

This Mishnah clearly refers to somebody who does not accept the institution of eruv. However it does not in any way tell us who this is. This information is filled in by M. 6:2:

Rabban Gamliel said: “There is a story about a certain Sadducee who used to live with us in an alleyway in Jerusalem….

He then continues to describe his father’s opinion on how to avoid this Sadducee’s making impossible the holding of the courtyard as common property for the purpose of having an eruv.
While I am aware that several colleagues have sought to focus this passage on different issues, I would suggest that the classic way of looking at it as identifying the Sadducee as one who does not accept the validity of the eruv is in fact the correct interpretation. What, however, has been under debate for some time is the meaning of not accepting the validity of the eruv. In modern times, it is customary to deal with those who because of legal stringency, whether real or imagined, do not make use of an eruv but do not carry on the Sabbath. I would submit that this was the position of the Sadducees, who denied the entire notion since it is totally dependent on the oral law and not rooted in the written law. I will admit that in my earlier volume I understood the Sadducees differently; I thought that their position was that they did not accept the existence of a prohibition on carrying from domain to domain since it is not explicitly stated in the Torah, only in the Prophets. However, in those years, previous to the publication of the MMT text from Qumran, we did not properly understand the nature of the two competing trends in Jewish law that existed in ancient times. With a fuller perspective, I would support totally the view that the Sadducees did not accept the institution of eruv but did accept the prohibition on carrying from domain to domain, such as is found in the Qumran and Jubilees texts.

4 Responses to Eruv and Sectarianism in Ancient Judaism: The Book of Jubilees

  • John Stuart says:

    Dear sir/Madam

    Can you please rule out Jesus Ben Sirach for dating process to be 180 BcE to the Jubilees document was found in Leviticus Chapter 25: 8-13 even if Jubilee was observed in 2nd Temple period?

    Who wrote the Book of Leviticus in Dead Sea Scrolls?

    John Stuart

  • Jim says:

    ‘Sir/ madam’? Really?

  • In case it’s of interest here is my review of J. E. Taylor, Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea (Oxford UP, 2012)
    Joan Taylor in this book strengthens the (already-strong) case that some Essenes lived at Qumran and elsewhere for parts of the first centuries BCE and CE. The book covers much ground, and has strengths and weaknesses.
    Taylor provides detailed analysis of the earliest sources on Essenes. Of course these have been studied often before, but one of the best sections of the book, in my view, is her discussion of Dio Chrysostom on Essenes. Among her conclusions: “Dio Chrysostom, a contemporary of Joseph and Pliny, is an independent source on Essenes.” (p. 165) If this is true, and I think Joan is right about this, and Dio was not quoting Pliny (or his source, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in my opinion), then Dio adds additional early attestation of Essenes by the Dead Sea, and for several reasons, the northwest part of it, which includes Qumran, where scrolls were found. She gives many other good reasons that link Essenes, Qumran, and many of the scrolls.
    She goes on at length about healing–a subject admittedly of interest to most religious (or even non-religious) groups–but has little to show that healing was a remarkably characteristic feature of Essenes, beyond a few passing words–not specific to the Dead Sea–in Josephus. Previously, the announced title of the book listed on her online CV was The Dead Sea Essenes and Ancient Healing. I think it was a wise choice to change the title to de-emphasize healing. But that leaves the discussion as rather an orphan. She cites a YouTube video by John Allegro (who did say Essenes were healers, but on other days said other unreliable things) averring that Essenes grew healing herbs at Ain Feshkha (p. 306). She writes of “4QTherapeia”–4Q431, 4QM130 (M for a text assigned to J.T.Milik, but traded to Allegro) that J. Naveh and J. Greenfield et al. consider a writing exercise–in a most curious manner, leaving unexplained whether she regards it as evidence for Essene healing (pages 306 & 329–inaccurate in the index). 306: “…Allegro noted texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls that seemed to have associations with healing, particularly a text once known as 4QTherapeia.” 329: “Specific medical or pharmacological terms have been suggested in only one text, originally called 4QTherapeia (4Q341). Allegro was particularly interested in this, reading it as designating a variety of medications. However, because of the difficulty in comprehending this, the identification of it as a writing exercise is currently assumed.” Given Taylor’s claims about healing, leaning on so little, a reader might expect to hear if she considers Therapeia an appropriate name, and why. She cites J.H. Charlesworth (though not J. Greenfield), in a publication of small distribution, without informing readers that he retracted his support for the “Therapeia” reading. She speculates that some empty glass vessels from some (late?) period at Qumran may possibly have once contained medicine. Well, maybe, maybe not. Diagnosis: a weak case. Further, though her survey of the Dead Sea area and its botany may be of interest to some readers unconcerned with the scrolls, her own survey (with S. Gibson) showed that Qumran had no good roads or dock installations, and they concluded that Qumran was not a major trade or commerce center, but was, relatively, isolated. Of course Essenes lived elsewhere, too.
    Similarly weak is any suggestion that the name Essenes came into Greek and Latin (in various spellings) from the Aramaic for healers. And that outsiders named them is mere asserted speculation. I call Joan Joan, but I did not name her Joan. The etymology of Essenes is probably from Hebrew ‘osey hatorah (observers of torah), as is self-attested in Qumran Essene texts. Her dismissal of the evidence is meager. She cites J.B. Lightfoot (1875!), who chose another etymology (one she does not accept anyway). Lightfoot raised no philological objection to the now increasingly recognized etymology, but dismissed it on now-invalid historical grounds. If Lightfoot had lived to see the in effect pre-1948 predictions for ‘osey hatorah appear in the Qumran texts, I suggest he might have changed his mind. She ventures into the realm of multiple meanings for Pharisees/Perushim but without citing A. Baumgarten JBL 1983 on specifiers and separatists. Consider rabbinic texts that list types of separatists including those who boast “what is my duty that I may do it?” (E.g., Sota 22b)
    The book makes a doubtful assertion that Herodians in the New Testament (Mark and Matthew) were Essenes called by another name. The publisher apparently advertises this book as the solution to “the mystery” (“a solution to the mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls”)–as if there were one and only one mystery obtaining here. She credits Constantin Daniel (RQ 1967) with the proposal, not listing his other, sometimes bizarre, hidden-naming New Testament proposals. The proposal had already been made by Ernest von Bunsen in The Angel-Messiah of Buddhists, Essenes, and Christians (1880) p.264. She does not cite the directly-relevant text by Y. Yadin, The Temple Scroll: The Hidden Law… (1985) 80-83 (much less my Biblical Archaeologist 1985 p. 127 review of it, already raising doubts). Herodians are included in her section of sources on Essenes, distorting her composite reconstruction of them. It might have been fairer to analyze recognized sources on Essenes first, then turn to the Herodian conjecture. She claims Herod’s descendants continued to honor Essenes; she asserts (p.120) “The Herodians simply cannot be Herod’s officials in Mark.”
    The book sometimes reads as an academic “corrective,” starting with an exaggerated wrong view that Essenes were small and disconnected, then delivering a vision of Essenes as the opposite: large and intensively connected. (I do agree that Essenes were more numerous than Sadducees.) If Pharisees turned to Herodians (healers?) for political help (there was no penalty for disagreeing with just Pharisees), those Pharisees (and those Pharisees were no friends of Essenes!), then oppose Jesus’ healing–and this imagines Essenes (healers?) plotting against Jesus? Rather, among the minority of Jewish followers of Jesus were some Essenes, and Paul, said to be a former Pharisee (and no Sadducees). Faith and works arguments pre-dated Jesus. Her analysis of Philo (who used a source, maybe Posidonius or Strabo) suggests–against centuries of readers–that Philo did not present Essenes as peaceful. In her reading she says that peacefulness “evaporates.” (p. 33) But, e.g., Josephus called Essenes “ministers of peace.” (War 2.135) She rightly dismisses the misreading of Josephus of a rebel leader “John the Essene.” She cites S. Mason that this was rather John of Essa (a place)–in effect according again with peacefulness. Actually an earlier scholar (A. Schalit) saw that, in a volume of the Josephus Concordance edited by K. Rengstorf who asked, in the late 1950s, where was the name Essenes in the scrolls, which is answered above. Yes, the War Scroll raises questions, of a war that never happened, a war like one in the worldview of Daniel and John’s Apocalypse in which the evil empire will be destroyed, but largely predestined through God and angels.
    She does not cite J. Zias (and others) on the great probability that the east-west oriented burials containing women and children were later bedouin (not Essene) burials. She speculates that the tombs excavated might not be a representative sample, and women (of what time period?) might be present in greater proportion. Maybe, maybe not. About pre-1948 scholarship, she briefly notes debates about faith versus works, but slights the great debates pro and con on monasticism (Philo has the earliest known Greek uses of “monasterion”) in which much discussion of Essenes occurred (including guesses that Hebrew was little-used then so Aramaic might be the name-source).
    She uses the word “importantly” a lot–which is fine, but, importantly, she does not feature the great importance to this history of the scrolls’ Wicked Priest and Teacher of Righteousness–identified, in my view, online in my “Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene.”
    Was Azariah de Rossi’s Me’or Enayim published in 1567 (p. 5) or 1576? Does the Adam and Burchard collection of ancient texts include German translations of all of them (p.21)?–not my copy. Did S. Pfann suggest cave 3 and 11 deposits were made by second century zealots (p.288 n68) or first century ones? (Pfann, BAIAS 2007 p.167: “…caves 11Q and 3Q derive from priestly and lay Zealot parties at the end of the First Revolt.”) Taylor somehow proposes a later (than most think), post-70 possible end-date for deposits. I do agree with her against the view once expressed online, not by her, that all eleven-cave scroll deposits was “ONE EVENT.”
    The book’s weaknesses on etymology and Essenes-as-healers and Herodians should not keep readers away from the book’s many strengths on Essenes, Scrolls and the Dead Sea, all three. It includes much of interest and should be obtained by all major university libraries.

  • John Stuart says:

    Dear Stephan Goranson

    Do you know that Simon III was contemporary to Onias III in Second Temple Period?

    Many thanks

    John Stuart

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