RelSt 525, Parabiblical Literature (Spring 2006) Reports

Calendars at Qumran as test case for "Parabiblical" literature.

by Virginia Wayland (07fe2006)


We have defined "parabiblical" literature as " writings that are similar to what became "Bible" for mainstream Judaism and Christianity, but were not included in that collection (e.g. Enochic writings, Jubilees, Testaments of the Patriarchs, War Scroll, TempleScroll, Sibylline Oracles)."\1/ In this terminology, "para" meaning alongside of, refers to materials that develop in parallel (coincident with; sometimes reflecting older traditions, and/or extending beyond), with "biblical" as the anachronistic\2/ point of departure for our terminology. One of the characteristics of "parabiblical" texts is that they are in some sense "authoritative" for some communities. Using Vanderkam's book Calendars at Qumran, I tried to examine the concepts of "parabiblical" and "authoritative" with specific reference to the determination of the days and times for the celebration of various festivals at Qumran.


\1/ Kraft Webpage for Jewish Parabiblical Texts.

\2/ In current popular usage, "biblical" refers to a specific collection of books contained within a single volume, often in a particular order. The works which are defined as "biblical" and the order in which they are arranged vary from one religious tradition to another. This is "anachronistic" with respect to Second Temple Period in the sense that the collection of the books within a single volume (scroll) was not technologically feasible, so that the collection of books was not yet fixed; and in that the text of some of the books now contained in the "Bible" was not yet fixed. (See: Kraft, R. "The Codex and Canon Consciousness; Sanders, James A. "Text and Canon: Concepts and Method" JBL 98 (1979) 5-29)

The Calendar of the community at Qumran provides a limited case study for the testing of our definitions. The literature found at Qumran is extensive and includes "sectarian" documents which outline rules, procedures and practices for the community itself; both "Biblical" and "parabiblical" texts known from other sources; and also new documents which may or may not have had a wider circulation outside the community itself. This range of literature affords the opportunity to look at both documents which reflect the practice of the calendar in use within the community, and also the source documents which may have contributed to the development of the calendar used within the community. There is an opportunity to look at the ways in which various texts were "authoritative" with respect to a specific issue.


Some of the first texts examined at Qumran seemed to reflect a dispute between the community at Qumran and others within the Jewish community of Palestine over the observance of special days and festivals. Pesher Habakkuk refers to "the Wicked Priest who pursued the Teacher of Righteousness to consume him with the heat of his anger in the place of his banishment. In festival time, during the rest of the day of Atonement, he appeared to them, to consume them and make them fall on the day of fasting, the sabbath of their rest." (1QpHab 11.4-8 commenting on Hab. 2:15.) The Rule of the Community indicates that those who join the community "shall not stray from any one of all God's orders concerning their appointed times; they shall not advance their appointed times nor shall they retard any one of their feasts," (1QS 1.13-15) and "May he, then, steady his steps in order to walk with perfection on all the paths of God, as he has decreed concerning the appointed times of his assemblies and not turn aside, either right or left, nor infringe even one of all his words." (1QS 3.9-11)


It was suggested that the community at Qumran was following the 364 day solar calendar previously known from the text of Jubilees.\3/ Jubilees 2:9 states "And the LORD set the sun as a great sign upon the earth for days, sabbaths, months, feast (days), years, sabbaths of years, jubilees, and for all the appointed times of the years..." Jubilees 6:29-38 defines the year in terms of 52 weeks (364 days), and says, "And there will be those who will examine the moon diligently because it will corrupt the (appointed) times and it will advance from year to year ten days. Therefore, the years will come to them corrupt and make a day of testimony a reproach and a profane day a festival, and they will mix up everything, a holy day (as) profaned and a profane (one) as a holy day, because they will set awry the months and sabbaths and feasts and jubilees." (36-37) A detailed calendar based on this was worked out by Jaubert.\4/


\3/ Talmon, S. "Yom Hakkippurim in the Habakkuk Scroll" Biblica 32 (1951) 549-63

\4/Jaubert was primarily concerned with the calendar as reflected in the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion of Jesus. Nevertheless, the study works out that a 364 day calendar puts the major festivals on the same day of the week every year, and also examines the Biblical accounts, beginning with the flood in Genesis in light of the assumption that none of the events described occurs on a Sabbath. It indicates that the year for such a calendar would begin on the fourth day of the week. (The Date of the Last Supper trans. I. Rafferty (Staten Island, NY: Alba, 1965)) =20


As the many texts from Qumran have been (slowly) pieced together and transcribed, translated, and identified, the identification of calendrical documents has led to a much more complex picture of the calendar used at Qumran and its sources.\5/ The following sections of 4Q320 (4QCalendrical Document A or Mishmarot A) will serve to illustrate:


"To become visible from the East [and] shine [in] the centre of the sky, at the base of [the vaul]t, from evening to morning, on the 4th of the week of [the sons of Ga]mul, in the first month of the [fir]st year. [The 5th of (the week of) Jedai]ah (corresponds) to the 29th (day of a lunar month, and falls) on the 30th of the 1st (month according to the solar calendar). [The sabbath of Ha]kkoz, (corresponds) to the 30th, on the 30th of the second. [The 1st of Elia]shib, the 29th on the 29th of the third. [The 3rd of Bil]gah to the 30th, on the 28th of the fourth. [The 4th of Petha]hiah, to the 29th, on the 27th of the fifth...." Frag.1, col.1, 1-10


"The first year. Its festivals: The 3rd, on the sabbath of the sons of Maaziah: the Passover. The 1st [of] Jeda[iah]: the waving of the [sheaf]. The 5th of Seorim, the [second] Passover. The 1st of Jeshua: the feast of weeks. The 4th of Maaziah: the day of remembrance. The 4th of Jedaiah: the feast of huts." - Frag. 4 col.3 1-9


The first section of text appears to be relating the appearance of the new moon to the twenty four priestly courses identified in 1Chron 24:7-18 (Gamul: 22nd; Jedaiah: 2nd; Hakkoz: 7th; Eliashib: 11th; Pethahiah: 19th). The second section of the text gives the festivals, again identified with the priestly courses. Since each of the 24 priestly families was to serve in the Temple for one week, in rotation, it appears that the dominant unit of time was the week, and that the weeks were identified according the name of the priestly family that would be serving in the Temple at that time. The content, if not the text of 1Chron 24:7-19, was an important dimension of the understanding of time at Qumran.

In addition, the careful delineation of the times of the moon pointed to a greater interest in the lunar year than would be expected based on Jubilees alone, perhaps reflecting a mixed solar/lunar calendar similar to that found in the astronomical section of 1Enoch 72-82.\5/


\5/ The astronomical section of 1Enoch gives information about the courses of the sun and the moon, and different lengths of the year. In contrast, it is unclear whether the rejection of the moon in Jubilees refers to a purely lunar calendar or to any reference to the moon. The final indications for the 364 day year were obtained by Sanders from the Psalm Scroll (11QPs\a/). The initial calendar references were worked out by Talmon. ("The Calendar Reckoning of the Sect from the Judaean Desert" in C. Rabin and Y. Yadin (eds.) Aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Scripta Hierosolymitana 4 (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1958).


The final major influence on the calendar was identified from 4Q327 (4Q Calendrical Document E\b/).


"...of it (the sixth month) a sabbath. On the twenty-second of it the festival of oil, (on the day) af[ter the sa]bbath. Af[ter it] the offe[ring of the wood]" Frag. 1. col. 2 1-9


The festival of oil is known from the Temple Scroll (11Q19 col.11.12; col.21.13-16; col.43.9-10). This document is known only from the texts found at Qumran.


In conclusion, the calendar in use at Qumran, which is assumed to reflect the practice of the community appears to draw on many textual sources. The 364 day year, divided into 52 weeks is also present in Jubilees and in 1Enoch. The synchronization of the lunar and solar calendars is found in the Astronomical Section of 1Enoch. Although both of these texts were known prior to the discovery of the Qumran texts from manuscripts preserved by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, both are represented among the texts at Qumran as well. In fact, the text describing the course of the moon from 1Enoch (4Q 209 4Q Enastr\b/) appears to be somewhat longer than that in the Ethiopic version. In addition, the names of the families of the priests serving in the Temple during each week, which are known to us from 1Chron. 24:7-19, seemed to identify the weeks of the year. Finally, at least one text seems to identify the date for a festival (of new oil) which is known to us only from the Temple Scroll, another text known only from Qumran, whose relationship to Temple worship during the Second Temple Period has yet to be determined. The actual practice, as inferred from the calendrical texts, reflects influence from at least four sources that might be considered "authoritative" at Qumran for (a) producing the concept of an "appointed time" for various festivals that must be kept; and (b) determining when that time is in order to keep it. Some of the textual sources (Jubilees, 1Enoch, Temple Scroll), we consider to be "parabiblical". One of the sources (1Chron 24:7-19), we consider "Biblical." There still remains work to be done in this area to examine the various ways in which the "Biblical" texts identifying the times for festivals may have interacted with the "parabiblical" texts to result in the mixed solar/lunar calendar. There also remains a great deal of work to be done with regard to the Temple worship of the Second Temple Period as reflected in both Chronicles and the Temple Scroll, and with regard to the history of both documents before any definitive picture of the Qumran calendar in relationship to the calendar(s) of the other communities of Palestine emerges.


Quotations of the Dead Sea Texts from:


Garcia-Martinez, F. and Tigchelar, E.J.C The Dead Sea Scrolls Study =
Edition (2 vol) (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997)=20


Quotations of Jubilees from:

Charlesworth, J.H.(ed.) The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Vol. 2) (New =
York: Doubleday, 1985)