Were the Dead Sea Scrolls Written by Zadokites?

Were the Dead Sea Scrolls Written by Zadokites?
James Scott Trimm

In a previous blog I made the case very clearly that the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls were Essenes. In this blog, I want to address a theory circulating in some sectors of the Hebrew Roots Movement that the Dead Sea Scrolls were not written by Essenes at all, but by “The True Zadokite Priests” having been exiled from the Temple.

Zadok was the High Priest at the time of King David. By this time the decedents of Aaron had become so numerous, that the High Priesthood was limited to the descendants of Zadok.

In identifying the Qumran Community as the true Temple priesthood and “Zadokites” in exile from the Temple, these theorists exalt the Qumran Community from being merely a representation of one of three sects of Judaism in the First Century, to being the true faith in exile. This exalted status is then used to exalt the so-called Qumran Solar Calendar as YHWH’s true calendar being kept in exile by the true priesthood in exile.

It is interesting that that these Zadokite theorists cherry pick which Dead Sea Scroll practices to exalt as “YHWH’s truth in exile, preserved by the true Zadokite Priests” while glossing over many others. For example, these theorists don’t propose restoring the Dead Sea Scroll practice of allowing a man to die rather than using a tool to save him on the Sabbath (Damascus Document Col. 11, line 16) because this does not fit with their predetermined narrative the Qumran community were the true Zadokite Temple Priesthood in exile, preserving YHWH’s truth in exile.

But was the Qumran Community the literal descendants of Zadok, David’s High Priest, living in exile? One of the key documents found among the Dead Sea Scrolls is the Damascus Document. A copy of this document had been found in the 19th Century among the documents discovered in the Cairo Geniza . At that time the document had no context, but seemed to refer to the community it described as “Sons of Zadok” and was thus assigned names like “The Zadokite Document”.

But what does this document actually mean when it refer to its community as “son’s of Zadok”? The relevant passage is as follows:

God promised them by Ezekiel them by Ezekiel the prophet, saying “The priests and the Levites and the sons of Zadok who have kept the courses of My sanctuary when the children of Israel strayed from Me, they shall bring Me fat and blood” (Ezekiel 44:15). “The priests”: they are the captives of Israel, who go out of the land of Judah and the Levites are those accompanying them; “and the sons of Zadok:: these are the chosen of “Israel, the ones called by name, who are to appear in the Last Days.”
(Damascus Document Column 3 line 21 thru Column 4 line 2)

Ezekiel 44 is part of a portion of Ezekiel that describes the Millennial Temple and its functioning. This portion of the Damascus Document gives highly allegorical interpretations of various passages of the Tanak, applying them to their community. The Dead Sea Scrolls famously engage in a form of highly metaphorical interpretation known as “Pesher” In this case the author of the Damascus Document is not claiming that the Qumran Community are literal sons of Zadok, but allegorical sons of Zadok, just as his highly allegorical interpretation of “Priests” in the same passage, refers not to literal priests but to “the captives of Israel, who go out of the land of Judah“.

In fact, if one examines this section of the Damascus Document in overall context, one sees the document go on to interpret these “the captives of Israel, who go out of the land of Judah” from this same verse, as the “diggers” that “dug” “the well” “with as rod” in Numbers 21:18 (Col. 6 Lines 1 thru 11) and interprets the “rod” as their Teacher of Righteousness and the “well” as “knowledge”.

Anyone that seriously examines this text can see that the text is no more identifying the Qumran Community as the literal sons of Zadok, than it is identifying the “the captives of Israel, who go out of the land of Judah” as literal priests and the literal “diggers” of the well of Numbers 21:18, or identifying that well as literal knowledge or the rod with which it is dug as a literal rod.

The authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls were not the true Zadokite Temple Priesthood living in exile, they only identified themselves as allegorical Zadokites, not literal Zadokites. They were simply a community of one of three major sects of Judaism in the first century, Essenes. And any Solar Calendar they may have used, or experimented with, was no more significant than their doctrine of letting a man die rather than using a tool to rescue him on the Sabbath. There is no reason to believe that this calendar was a “true calendar” preserved by the literal sons of Zadok as the true Temple Priesthood living in exile.

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