The Judaism of the Dead Sea Scrolls

March 8 2017

From roughly 100 BCE to 68 CE, there was a Jewish settlement at Qumran, near the Dead Sea, that seems to have been populated by members of a particular sect. Most experts believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls—all found close by—include documents pertaining to the beliefs and practices of the Qumran sectarians. Jutta Jokiranta explains:

Part of the Qumran collection consists of sectarian documents that reveal a distinct socio-religious movement with unique features within this larger matrix of diversity. The members of this “Qumran movement” formed an association that kept property in common and had regulations concerning meals and consumption of food, marriages and sexual practices, purity practices, Temple rituals, Sabbath observance, the festival calendar, and education. Determinism and expectations of the end-time characterized the belief system of the movement.

We do not presently know if the archaeological site at Qumran, close to the caves where the scrolls were found, served the whole movement or only this particular community. It is very likely that the movement was not restricted to this desert location. Most probably the movement was the same as or similar to the one later known as the Essenes.

Some of this movement’s regulations opposed what we know of other Jewish teachings and practices from the period. For example, . . . according to the Qumran community’s regulations on the Sabbath, it was forbidden to help anyone out of a well with the aid of an instrument, whereas the rabbis allowed saving a human life. Such Qumran rules may represent the common norms and ideals of their time, whereas the rabbinic rules may reflect an evolution toward leniency.

But the Qumran collection testifies to other groups and authors who are not so easy to identify. Some of the texts may represent widespread Jewish customs or Temple practices (such as daily prayers); others may have their origins in groups similar to the Qumran movement interested in legal interpretations, the study of the Torah, the teaching of wisdom, and in revealing the course of history and divine plan for the elect.

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More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, History & Ideas, Judaism

 

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary]. approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat