We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

The Rules of Religious Associations

1. Community Rule (1QS), 6:24–7:12: The Penal Code of the Qumran Community

(6:24) These are the laws by which they shall judge at a community court in accordance with the facts.

If anyone is found among them who has lied (25) deliberately in matters of property, he shall be excluded from the pure meal of the Congregation for one year and shall be fined a quarter of his food.

Whoever answers (26) a fellow-member obstinately, or speaks to him short-temperedly, rebelling against the authority of his colleague by disobeying the order of a fellow-member ranked before him, (27) has taken the law into his own hands. He shall be fined [and excluded from the pure meal] for one year.

If any man swears an oath by the [Most] Venerable Name [he shall be put to death]. (7:1) But if he has blasphemed, either because he has been overcome by distress, or for any other such reason, or while he is reading a scroll or reciting a benediction, he shall be excluded (2) and shall return to the Council of the community no more.

If he has spoken in anger against one of the priests inscribed in the scroll, he shall be fined for one year (3) and shall be excluded for his own good from the pure meal of the Congregation. But if he spoke unwittingly, he shall be fined for six months.

Whoever lies knowingly, (4) shall be fined for six months.

Whoever deliberately insults a fellow-member without good cause shall be fined for one year (5) and shall be excluded.

Whoever deliberately deceives a fellow-member or acts deceitfully towards him shall be fined for six months.

If (6) he acts without due care towards a fellow-member, he shall be fined for three months. If he acts negligently towards community property and damages it, he shall replace it (7) in full. (8) And if he is unable to replace it, he shall be fined for sixty days.

Whoever bears malice against a fellow-member without good cause shall be fined for six months/one year, (9) and likewise, whoever takes revenge in any matter whatsoever.

Whoever speaks foolishly: three months.

Whoever interrupts a fellow-member while he is speaking: (10) ten days.

Whoever lies down and sleeps during a session of the Congregation: thirty days. And likewise, for whoever goes out during a session of the Congregation (11) without permission. And he who dozes off up to three times at a single session shall be fined for ten days. And if they stand up (12) and he (then) goes out, he shall be fined for thirty days.

Comment: This is the beginning of the Penal Code of the Qumran community, as found in the Cave 1 version of the Community Rule. Four forms of punishment are indicated: (1) death, if the restoration of the lacuna is correct; (2) permanent expulsion from the community; (3) exclusion from the ‘pure meal of the Congregation’, i.e. the communal meal; and (4) fining, which seems to involve being put on short commons and deprived of a quarter of one's food allowance. The rules listed here are not rules of Torah: they are specific rules of the Qumran community, breaches of its communal order (serekh), and they are tried in the community's own lawcourt. On the Community Rule see MAJ GEN F.2.

2. The Damascus Rule (CD), 13:7–14 + 14:12–16: The Rule for the Guardian and the Rule for Charity

(13:7) This is the Rule for the Guardian of the Camp.

He shall instruct the congregation in the works of (8) God. He shall impart to them understanding of his marvellous miracles, and shall recount to them all the events that are about to take place, together with their interpretations. (9) He shall love them as a father loves his children, and shall watch over them in all their distress like a shepherd his sheep. (10) He shall loosen all the fetters that bind them, so that there may be none that are oppressed or broken in his community.

(11) He shall examine whoever joins his community with regard to his deeds, understanding, ability, strength, and possessions, (12) and shall inscribe him in his proper place according to his portion in the lot of li[ght].

No member of the camp shall have the authority (13) to admit anyone into the community without the permission of the Guardian of the Camp.

(14) None of those who have entered into God's covenant shall give or receive anything from the Sons of the Dawn (15) other than from hand to hand.

No man shall form any association for buying and selling without informing (16) the Guardian of the Camp.…

(14:12) This is the Rule for the Congregation by which they shall provide for all their needs.

The earnings of at least (13) two days out of every month shall be placed in the hands of the Guardian and the Judges, (14) and from it they shall give to the [fathe]rless, and from it they shall support the poor and the needy, the elder who (15) is [feeb]le, the afflicted, the captive taken by a foreign people, the virgin (16) who has no next of kin, and the you[th for] whom no one cares—all the communal services.

Note: At 13:14 read ‘Sons of the Dawn’ (bĕnê haššaḥar) rather than ‘Sons of the Pit’ (bĕnê haššaḥat). The Sons of the Dawn, who are addressed with words of exhortation by the Maśkîl in 4Q298, cannot be total outsiders, but rather a group linked in some way to the Damascus Covenanters and the Qumran community. They might be people sympathetic to the movement or in process of joining it but not yet full members, or it is possible that the title designates the Damascus Covenanters themselves and that ‘those who have entered into the God's Covenant’ here denotes the Qumran community.

Comment: The Guardian (Heb. mĕbaqqer) has a role in teaching, in assessing the suitability of new members, and in controlling the relationships between the Congregation and the outside world. His office is not unlike that of a bishop in the later Christian church. Unlike the community in the Community Rule (ANTH F.1) the members of the Congregation here retain their earnings for their own use. However, they are required to pay a portion of them into a communal fund to help those unable to support themselves. From a social point of view, the mutual support provided by the religious associations must have been one of their most attractive features. See further MAJ GEN B.10, F.3.

3. Philo, De Vita Contemplativa, 21–25 + 30–31: The Contemplative Order of the Therapeutae

(21) These kind of people (who withdraw from ordinary life) exist in many places in the inhabited world, for it is fitting that Greece and the non-Greek lands should alike share in perfect goodness, but they are numerous in Egypt in each of the so-called nomes and especially around Alexandria. (22) The best of them travel from all quarters to a certain most suitable spot as if they are going to their fatherland. It lies beyond the Mareotic Lake on a rather low-lying hill, well situated both because of its security and its temperate climate. (23) The security is provided by the farms and the villages round about, and the pleasantness of the air by the continuous breezes given off from the lake, which flows into the sea, and from the nearby ocean, the sea breezes being light and the lake breezes heavy, the two combining to produce a most healthy climate.

(24) The houses of this community are very basic and provide protection only against the two most immediate dangers, the heat of the sun and the cold of the air. They are neither close together like houses in towns, since living at close quarters would be troublesome and unpleasant to people earnestly seeking solitude, nor are they placed far apart, because they welcome fellowship, and so that they can come to each other's aid if they are attacked by robbers.

(25) In each house there is a sacred room which is called a sanctuary or solitude (Gk. monastērion), and closeted alone in this they perform the mysteries of the sanctified life. They take nothing into it, neither drink nor food nor any thing else necessary for the needs of the body, but only laws and oracles delivered by prophets, and hymns and any other writings by which knowledge and piety are increased and brought to perfection….

(30) For six days each of them seeks wisdom by himself, sitting alone in the solitudes mentioned earlier, never passing through the outer door of the house or even looking at it from afar. But every seventh day they come together as for a general assembly and sit in order according to their age with becoming gravity, keeping their hands inside their robes, the right hand between the breast and the chin and the left stretched out along their sides. (31) Then the eldest of them, and the most versed in their doctrines, comes forward and with steadfast look and steady voice delivers a well-reasoned and prudent discourse.

Comment: There is curiously little in Philo's description of the Therapeutae to identify them as a distinctively Jewish group, and in fact he notes that they conform to a pattern of withdrawal from the world that was practised by both Greeks and non-Greeks. In terms of later Christian monasticism the Therapeutae combine features of both the eremitical and the cenobitical way of life. During the week they live as hermits, scattered in their isolated cells, but on sabbath they come together in a central communal building, to eat, to listen to improving discourses, and to sing hymns and psalms. See further MAJ GEN A.3, F.4.

4. Mishnah Demai, 2:2–3 + Tosefta Demai, 2:2, 11, 12: The Duties of an Associate (ḥaber)

(m. Dem. 2:2) He who undertakes to be reliable (ne᾽ĕman) must give tithe from what he eats and from what he sells and buys, and he may not be a guest of an outsider (῾am hā-᾽āreṣ). Rabbi Judah says: Even he who is the guest of an outsider may still be deemed reliable. They said to him: If he is not reliable in what concerns himself, how can he be reliable in what concerns others?

(m. Dem. 2:3) He who undertakes to be an Associate (ḥaber) may not sell to an outsider (foodstuffs that are) wet or dry, or buy from him (foodstuffs that are) wet; and he may not be the guest of an outsider, nor may he receive him as a guest in his own clothes.

(t. Dem. 2:2) He who takes upon himself four obligations is accepted as an Associate: not to give heave-offering or tithes to an outsider; not to prepare his pure food in the house of an outsider; and to eat even ordinary food in purity…

(t. Dem. 2:11) He is accepted first with regard to ‘wings’ (cleanness of hands) and after that with regard to pure food. If he takes upon himself only the obligation concerning ‘wings’ he is accepted; but if he takes upon himself only the obligation concerning pure food, but not concerning ‘wings’, he is not considered reliable even concerning pure food.

(t. Dem. 2:12) How long is it before a man is accepted? The School of Shammai say: For liquids, thirty days; for clothing, twelve months. The School of Hillel say: For either, thirty days.

Comment: The concern here for fully tithing produce and for preserving all foodstuffs in a condition of ritual purity is obvious. It is also clear that there were degrees of affiliation to the association, though what these were, and the stages of acceptance into full membership, are now hard to untangle. The social implications of submitting to this regime were profound. The fully committed ḥaber would have found it impossible to eat with non-members (who were called ῾ammê hā᾽ āreṣ, lit. peoples of the land). He would also have found it difficult to be in physical contact with a non-member (who could convey ritual impurity to his clothes, from which it could be transferred to food), or to trade with him. The ῾ammêi hā᾽āreṣ were not Gentiles but fellow Jews. The intensification of religious norms within these associations, and the other religious fellowships of late Second-Temple Judaism, must have been deeply divisive. See further MAJ GEN B.11, F.5.

5. ᾽ Abot de Rabbi Nathan, A.6: Eliezer Goes to the School of Yoḥanan ben Zakkai

What were the beginnings of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus? He was 22 years old and had still not studied Torah. Once he said: ‘I am going to study Torah with Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai.’ His father Hyrcanus said to him: ‘You shall not taste a bite of food till you have ploughed an entire furrow.’ He rose early in the morning, ploughed an entire furrow and went off. (Some say: That day was sabbath eve and he dined at his father-in-law's.) But others say: He tasted nothing for six hours before sabbath started till six hours after it ended. As he walked along the road he saw a stone; he picked it up and put it in his mouth. (Some say: It was cattle dung.) He went and spent the night in a hostel. Then he went and sat before Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai in Jerusalem—until his bad breath became noticeable. Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai asked him: ‘Eliezer, my son, have you eaten anything today?’ Silence. Again he asked him, and again silence. Rabban Yoḥanan sent for the proprietors of the hostel and asked them: ‘Did Eliezer have anything to eat at your place?’ They replied: ‘Master, we thought that he was eating with you.’ He said to them: ‘And I thought that he was eating with you! You and I, between us, left Rabbi Eliezer to perish!’ Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai said to Rabbi Eliezer: ‘Just as the bad breath came forth from your mouth, so shall your fame in Torah spread abroad.’

When Hyrcanus, Rabbi Eliezer's father, heard that he was studying Torah with Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, he declared: ‘I shall go and ban my son from all my possessions.’ They said: That day Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai sat expounding in Jerusalem with all the important men of Israel sitting before him. When he heard that Hyrcanus was coming he set guards and told them: ‘If Hyrcanus comes, don't let him sit down.’ Hyrcanus arrived and they would not let him sit down, but he pushed his way up to the front until he found himself beside Ṣiṣit ben ha-Keset, Naqdimon ben Gorion, and Ben Kalba Shabna. He sat among them trembling. They say: On that day Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai fixed his gaze on Rabbi Eliezer and said to him: ‘Deliver the exposition!’ ‘I cannot,’ Rabbi Eliezer replied. Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai pressed him to do it, and the other students pressed him as well. So he rose and delivered a discourse on things such as the ear had never heard before. As each word came from his mouth Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai rose to his feet and kissed him on the head and exclaimed: ‘Rabbi Eliezer, my master, you have taught me the truth!’ Before the session had ended, Hyrcanus, the father, rose to his feet and declared: ‘My masters, I came here only in order to ban my son Eliezer from my possessions. Now all my possessions shall be given to Eliezer my son. All his brothers are disinherited and shall have none of them.’

Comment: Though doubtless embellished and obviously self-promoting, the story reflects accurately social and historical realities. The loss of the labour of a full-grown son who wanted to go off to study at yeshivah could well have created tensions within poorer families. And the picture of the school in session is convincing. Immediately in front of the teacher sits a row of local grandees. They are not students, but wealthy supporters of the school, on whose contributions its existence probably depended, since the school is unlikely to have charged fees. Behind the grandees sit the rows of students. Not only the teacher lectures: students could be called upon to expound as well. Though the story comes from a fourth-century source, it purports to speak about the school of Yoḥanan ben Zakkai in Jerusalem before 70 CE. Yoḥanan was a leading Pharisee, who after the destruction of the temple founded the school at Yavneh. His school in Jerusalem was probably bigger than most and had its own dedicated premises. The hostel mentioned may well have been attached to the school and intended specifically to house its students. On the ᾽ Abot de Rabbi Nathan see MAJ GEN F.6–7.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2020. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice