The Community Rule

            The Community Rule is the most fully developed collection of rules and regulations found at Qumran. Copies of this work have turned up in Qumran Caves 1 and 4. These finds have altered the way in which scholars view law at Qumran. Not only are there significant differences between the Community Rule and the other sectarian “rulebook,” the Damascus Document (CD, 4Q265-73, 5Q12, 6Q15), but there are also important variations among the different manuscript versions (recensions ) of each work.
Though a preliminary reading of the Community Rule suggests that it was a rulebook, many scholars believe it served more as a digest of oral traditions. This would account for the differences between the multiple versions, and would also reflect what the text itself says about how rulings were made. The text refers in some places to decisions by the Rabbim (Many = Community), and in others, to decisions made by the Sons of Aaron (a special subgroup; see 1QS 9:7), with no reference to a written basis for any of these decisions.

            The various versions of the Community Rule include discussions of different types of community leaders, include the Moreh ha-Sedeq (The Teacher of Righteousness), the Kohanim (Priests), the Zeqenim (Elders), the Mebaqqer (Examiner), the Paqid (Overseer), and the Maskil (Master). See Community Leaders. The Community Rule also discusses rules for property and commerce, conduct, punishments, and judicial procedures. Additional texts containing rules and regulations include the Rule of the Congregation (1QSa), Blessings (1QSb, 4Q286-290) , Ordinances (4Q159, 4Q513, 4Q514), Decrees (= Rebukes Reported by the Overseer, 4Q477), Harvesting (4Q284a), 4Q265 (formerly “Serekh Damascus”), Communal Ceremony (4Q275), and Four Lots (4Q279.)

  • Further Reading:
    Charlesworth, James H. “Community Organization in the Rule of the Community.” Pp. 133-36 in Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Vol. I. Eds. Lawrence H. Schiffman and James C. Vanderkam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Lawrence H. Schiffman, Sectarian Law in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Courts, Testimony, and the Penal Code (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1983).
  • Charlotte Hempel. “Community Structures in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Admission, Organization, Disciplinary Procedures.” In The Dead Sea Scrolls after Fifty Years: A Comprehensive Assessment, ed. Peter W. Flint and James C. VanderKam, 2:67-92. Leiden: Brill, 1998-1999.