The original document must have
been written sometime prior to 170 BCE because in it there are
references to the High Priest as the "Son of Zadoc", Onias III, the
last of the Zadoc line, was murdered CA 170 BCE.
whose translation of the scrolls I am using ("The Dead Sea Scrolls in
English", Penguin Books, Fourth Edition, 1995) separates part of the Scroll
from the original and calls it "The
Messianic Rule". The rules included in the "Community Rule"
Scroll applied to all Essene congregations, both inside and outside
The rules set out in what Vermes calls, "The
Messianic Rule" are additional ones restricted to "the congregations
of Israel in the last days".
The "final age" or "last
days" began with God's promise of a coming Messiah and would end
when His promise was fulfilled.
The prophets had been
predicting the imminent arrival of the Messiah until God told
Habakkuk (CA 630BCE) (according to the writer of the Commentary on
Habakkuk Scroll) that "the final age would be prolonged and would
exceed all that the prophets had said". The rules in the so called
Messianic Rule were therefore to be followed until the coming of the
As both "The Community Rule" and "The
Messianic Rule" were originally on the same scroll and both contain
rules to be followed by the Essenes in Israel, I have treated them
as a single entity called "The Community Rule".
Membership in the Community of God (aka Israel)
The Head of the Family was
responsible for insuring that "everyman born in Israel was
instructed in the Book of Meditation and taught the precepts of the
Covenant" beginning at age 10.
At age 20, if sound in
mind and body, and approved by the Master, he entered the
Community (i.e. became a 'saint').
He then became eligible to "witness
judgement and assist at the hearing of judgements".
2. At age 30 or older
a member might be called to:
lawsuits and judgments
and officers of their tribe
"chiefs of the 1000's, 100's, 50's, and 10's; that is, an
officer in the army
Be selected to be a member of the
Every Israeli male age 20 years or over
was a member of the Community of God , an Essene.
Organization of the Community of God (aka
The High Priest
Exercised his authority
through 4 branches of government:
This branch was headed
by the Sons of Zadoc (chief priests)...
Who supervised the
Sons of Aaron (priests)...
Who had authority of the congregation
minimum size of congregations was 10 members. In the larger ones a
Levite would be responsible to the priest for the administrative duties
of the house of worship (synagogue).
The sons of Aaron's (priests) responsibility was to teach the precepts
of the Covenant to their congregations.
This branch was headed by the National Court (the
Sanhedrin) made up of Chief Priests and scribes with members appointed
by the High Priest.
It was the court of last
resort and "every decision concerning doctrine, property, and justice
was determined by it". If a charge against a priest was brought
only the priests heard the case. If the charge was
against a member of the Council of the Community (i.e. a Scribe or a
Rabbi) only the scribes heard the case.
less complicated or important were heard in the tribal courts with
tribal leaders appointing the judges.
If it was a relatively minor
case then it was heard by a congregational court made up of 10 judges
appointed by the priest consisting of 10 judges - 4 of which had to be
priests or Levites and 6 elders (lay members).
If there were differences within the family, the matter was settled by
the Head of the Family.
The Executive Branch
Secretariat consisted of leading citizens, Sons
of Aaron (Priests), and members of the Council of the Community
It was responsible for implementing
the orders of the High Priest.
It in turn passed on
to tribal officers, appointed by the tribal chief, instructions and
orders for implementation, which were then passed down to the 1000's,
100's, 50's and
10's tribal officials.
Headed by a Commander appointed by the High Priest.
Under him he had captains of the 1000's, 100's, 50's, and 10's.
When it came to raising men for an
army, the Commander gave each of the tribal leaders a quota of manpower
to provide. The tribal leaders in turn passed quotas down to
their clans who passed down quotas to the Heads of Families.
The National Assembly
The assembly was
called by the High Priest "and when the whole assembly was summoned for
judgement, or for a counsel of the Community, or for war" and
consisted of "the wise
men of the congregation, the learned and intelligent (the Council of the
Community), men whose way is perfect (The Community in Israel) and men
of ability, together with the tribal
chiefs and all the judges and officers and chiefs of the 1000's, 100's,
50's, and 10's, and the Levites".
It would be called to hear trials before the Sanhedrin to propose
raising an army for war and other matters of national importance.
Sect of the
Community of God
The authority over the teachers, priests, was exercised ultimately by
the High Priest but the responsibility for what was taught rested
ultimately with the Master.
How the Master was selected is not known for certain, probably selected by his peers in the Community of Israel
He was responsible for
non-members prior to entry into the Community.
He alone could approve entry as an adherent, the Council of the Community
(Scribes), the Council of Holiness, and the Community of Israel
had ultimate authority over what was taught to the members and
determining questions of doctrine and behaviour not covered under
2. The Council of the Community
Only Israeli-born, male members, unmarried and age 25 or older, who
"wished to work in the service of its members" could apply for admission
to the Council.
If his application was accepted, he
joined the Council on a probationary basis. After a year's service, he surrendered all his wealth to the Council,
where it was kept it separate
from the general funds.
If the candidate was accepted
after another year of probation he became a full member of the Council
and his wealth was
merged with its general funds.
Members lived in small communal groups in the cities and towns
under the supervision of "the Guardian", (a Priest). "Here
they studied the Law continually, day and night"
and "watched in common for a third of every night of the year, to read the Book and
study law and bless together".
They served the congregations "by answering any questions concerning any
counsel or matter coming before it" and "providing counsel in all things
to the priest".
These were the Scribes in the Sect of the Essenes.
opted for a monastic life living in communes.
A member might be called upon to serve
in The National Court, the Sanhedrin, and automatically, became a member of
After a year's experience, he might be selected to join a special group
consisting of 12 Scribes and three Priests for two years of instruction
If found suitable at the end of the 2 years, he became a member of the Council of Holiness and
went to live in the special house that the men of the Community had
3. The Council of Holiness
"The men of the Community set apart a House of Holiness containing the 70 Holy
books that God had instructed Ezra to show "only to the wise"
so the members would be near
"the most Holy things". Here, under authority of the custodian of
the books (The Interpreter),
with the Master himself as instructor, they studied the books.
Scroll does not say how long "this preparation of the way into the
wilderness" lasts but at the end of it the member "separated himself
from the habitation of unjust men
and went into the wilderness" to join
the members of the Community in Israel.
The Community in Israel
The men of the Community of god had built a special house in the
wilderness (Qumran) where they lived.
They atoned for guilty rebellion
and for sins of unfaithfulness that they may obtain, loving kindness for
the land without the flesh of holocausts and the fat of sacrifice.
their prayers rightly offered were as "an acceptable fragrance of
righteousness and perfection of way as a delectable free will offering".
They "studied the Law He commanded by Moses that they would do all that
had been revealed by His holy spirit."
Based on those studies they made predictions for the future of which the
Commentaries and the Damascus Document furnish examples. Josephus
says of these "they undertook
to foretell things to come by reading the Holy Books".
of this group were, what we would call, the Rabbis of the Essenes and it
was they who are responsible for the production of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
There were two classes of priests: the Sons of
Zadoc, the senior branch, and the Sons of Aaron, who seem to have been
the ones in direct contact with the people in the
synagogues and in supervisory positions.
Josephus says they had the same
beliefs as the other two groups of the Sect "but differ from them on the
point of marriage".
Only those of priestly lineage could be priests so, unlike the others of
the sect, they were expected to marry and have children so that the
priestly line would continue.
Like the priests, they too had the same beliefs as the other
sect members and they too were encouraged to marry and have children to
maintain the Levitical line.
were mainly administrative and record keeping in connection with the
synagogue they served.
The Sect of the Essenes consisted of the scribes, the
rabbis, the priests, Levites, and the Master.
I believe "the place in the wilderness"
the men of the Community in Israel (Rabbis) went to live was Qumran.
It is located in that part of Israel
formerly known as "the Wilderness of Judah" and did not have an altar
because the members were so holy that they did not have to make
sacrifices. Their prayers alone were sufficient to obtain God's
forgiveness of the people.
As the Scroll was written about 175 BCE
or earlier, and the present Qumran was built CA143 BCE the place in the
wilderness it refers to was on the same site on which the present
structure was built when Israel regained its independence with the
appointment of Simon as High Priest and Ethnarch.