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Religious Life at Qumran. Dr. Daniel K. Falk University of Oregon. Qumran cemetery. Qumran from west. Qumran and Ein Feshka aerial from north. Qumran site from west. Religion. Mythology (What’s the story?) Ritual (What do I do?) Ethical (How do I relate?) Experiential (What do I feel?).

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religious life at qumran
Religious Life at Qumran

Dr. Daniel K. Falk

University of Oregon

Daniel K. Falk


Qumran cemetery

Daniel K. Falk


Qumran from west

Daniel K. Falk

Daniel K. Falk

Qumran and Ein Feshka aerial from north


Qumran site from west

Daniel K. Falk

  • Mythology (What’s the story?)
  • Ritual (What do I do?)
  • Ethical (How do I relate?)
  • Experiential (What do I feel?)

Daniel K. Falk

yahad ostracon
Yahad Ostracon

In year two of … in Jericho,

Honi son of … gave to Eleazar son of Nahmani …

Hisdai from Holon …

from this day to perpetuity …

and the boundaries of the house … the fig trees, the olive trees … when he fulfills his oath to the Community (Yahad) ...

Daniel K. Falk

  • If God is good and powerful, why is there evil?
  • Why do bad things happen?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why do good people do bad things?

Daniel K. Falk

  • Exile and return (6th c. BCE)
  • Hellenism
  • Desecration of Temple and Persecution
    • Antiochus Epiphanes IV (175-164 BCE)
  • Maccabean Revolt (168-165 BCE)
  • Hasmonean rule (152-37 BCE)

Daniel K. Falk

4qmmt halakhic letter
4QMMT: Halakhic Letter
  • And you know that we have separated from the mass of the people …
  • We have also written to you concerning some of the observances of the Law, which we think are beneficial to you and your people …
  • … and it will be reckoned for you as righteousness when you perform what is right and good before Him ...

Daniel K. Falk

what s the story
What’s the Story?

Daniel K. Falk

  • By Your wisdom [You have establish]ed the successive [generations] and before You created them You knew all their works for ever and ever. . . .
  • in the wisdom of Your knowledge Youdetermined their destiny before they came into existence and according [to Your will] everything come[s to pass], and nothing happens apart from You.

(Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QH 9; M. Abegg)

Daniel K. Falk



Angels of Light


Sons of Light

Angels of Darkness


Sons of Darkness

Daniel K. Falk

light and darkness
Light and Darkness

He created the spirits of light and darkness, and upon them he founded every work … (1QS 3:25)

But God, in his mysterious understanding and his glorious wisdom, has set an end for the existence of deceit. At the appointed time of visitation he will destroy it forever. (1QS 4:18-2)

Daniel K. Falk

two spirits
Two Spirits

He created humans for the dominion of the world, and he appointed for him two spirits in which to walk until the appointed time of his visitation, namely the spirits of truth and deceit… In the hand of the Prince of Lights is the dominion of all the Sons of Righteousness—they walk in the ways of light. In the hand of the Angel of Darkness is all the dominion of the Sons of Deceit—they walk in the ways of darkness. (1QS 3:17-25)

Daniel K. Falk

two spirits 1qs 3 4
Two Spirits (1QS 3-4)

And by the Angel of Darkness comes the straying of all the Sons of Righteousness

(1QS 3:21-25)

Daniel K. Falk


Those whom he curses will be exterminated: These are the cruel [Jews, the w]icked of Israel who will be exterminated and destroyed forever(Psalms Pesher)

there shall be a battle and horrible carnage before the God of Israel, for it is a day appointed by Him from ancient times as a battle of annihilation for the Sons of Darkness. (War Scroll)

The Sons of Light and the forces of Darkness shall fight together to show the strength of God with the roar of a great multitude and the shout of gods and men: a day of disaster.

(War Scroll)


Kingdom of Darkness

Kingdom of Light

Daniel K. Falk


Its interpretation concerns the Teacher of Righteousness, to whom God has made known all the mysteries of the words of his servants, the prophets.

(Habakkuk Commentary 1QpHab 7)

Now this is the Last Days, when those of Israel shall return to the Law of Moses with all their heart and will never turn away again. But the wicked will increase in wickedness ...(MMT)

Habakkuk Pesher

Daniel K. Falk


Isaiah 40:3: A voice crying: in the wilderness prepare a way for the Lord

Rule of the Community 8:14-15 And when these become members of the Community in Israel according to all these rules, they shall separate from the habitation of unjust men and shall go into the wilderness to prepare there the way of Him; as it is written, Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a path for our God. This (path) is the study of the Law which He commanded by the hand of Moses . . . And as the Prophets have revealed by His Holy Spirit.

Daniel K. Falk

isaiah scroll a
Isaiah Scroll a

Daniel K. Falk

what do i do
What do I do?

Daniel K. Falk

joining the yahad
Joining the Yahad

Every initiant into the society of the Yahad is to enter the Covenant in full view of all the volunteers. He shall take upon himself a binding oath to return to the Law of Moses ... to all that has been revealed from it to the Sons of Zadok—priests and preservers of the covenant…

(1QS 5:7-9; M. Wise)

Daniel K. Falk

sacred time
Sacred Time

Daniel K. Falk

purity biblical background
Purity: Biblical background
  • Contact with God/holy
  • Sources of impurity:
    • Corpse
    • bodily fluids
    • “unnatural“ animals
  • Ritual purification:
    • washing clothes
    • waiting a prescribed period
    • ritual bath (Miqveh)

Daniel K. Falk

qumran mikveh
Qumran Mikveh

Daniel K. Falk

purification ritual
Purification Ritual

… and when he has completed the seven days of his purification ... then he shall wash his clothes in water and bathe his body ... and he shall cover his nakedness with his clothes and kneel upon his knees ...

...and he shall bless and recite,

“Blessed are You, O God of Israel, who has delivered me from all my transgressions, cleansed me from filthy shame and atoned for me that I might enter …”

(Purification Ritual 4Q512)

Daniel K. Falk


Qumran dining room

Daniel K. Falk

purity and sin
Purity and Sin

“None of the perverse men is to enter purifying waters used by the Men of Holiness and contact their purity. (Indeed, it is impossible to be purified without first repenting of evil, in as much as impurity adheres to all who transgress His word).”

(Community Rule, 1QS 5:13-14)

Daniel K. Falk

  • 1st year probation:
    • Instruction
    • No contact with pure food or drink
    • Property recorded but kept separate
    • Examination
  • Postulant: examination
  • 2nd year probation:
    • Instruction in esoteric teaching
    • Can eat pure food but not pure drink
    • examination
  • Full Admission

Daniel K. Falk


Covenant Ceremony (1QS)

1 • Priests and Levites praise God

• People respond “Amen, Amen”

2 • Priests recount God’s righteous acts

•Levites recount sins of Israel

• People confess sins and God’s justice

3 • Priests bless the “men of God’s lot“

• Levites curse the “men of Belial’s lot“

•People respond “Amen, Amen”

4 • Priests and Levites curse the apostate

• People respond “Amen, Amen”

Daniel K. Falk


“Anyone who refuses to enter the society of God … cannot be sanctified by baptism in oceans and rivers, nor purified by mere ritual bathing.

. . . Through an upright and humble attitude his sin may be covered, and by humbling himself before all God’s laws his flesh can be made clean. Only thus can he really receive the purifying waters and be purged by the cleansing flow.

Let him order his steps to walk faultless in all the ways of God . . . Then indeed will he be accepted by God ...”(Rule of the Community, 1QS 3:4-12 )

Daniel K. Falk

songs of the sabbath sacrifice
Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice

For theMaskil. Song of the whole offering of the seventh sabbath, on the sixteenth of the month:

(4Q403 1 i 30)

Daniel K. Falk

repent and seek
“Repent and Seek”
  • Exile as punishment for sin
  • Reparation: (Deut 4:29-30; 30:1-10)
    • “Repent” > penitential prayer
    • “Seek” > study of Torah
  • Lev 26:40:“But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors”

Daniel K. Falk

communal ritual
Communal Ritual

They shall eat, pray, and deliberate communally.

In any place where is gathered the ten-man quorum, someone must always be engaged in study of the Law, day and night, continually, each one taking his turn. The general membership will be diligent together for the first third of every night of the year, reading aloud from the Book, interpreting Scripture, and praying together. …

(Rule of the Community, 1QS 6)

Daniel K. Falk

temple scroll
Temple Scroll
  • God’s Law written in first person
  • Study of laws on
    • Sabbath and Festivals
    • Temple and sacrifice

Daniel K. Falk

prayer at fixed times
Prayer at Fixed Times
  • With the offering of lips he will bless Him during the times which He prescribed (1QS 9:26—10:1a)
  • Daily: Sunrise and sunset
  • Sabbath
  • Festivals
  • Grace at meals

Daniel K. Falk


Daniel K. Falk

daily blessings
Daily Blessings

And when the sun rises upon the earth, they shall bless and recite:

“Blessed are You, god, who renews our happiness with light …

Peace be upon you, Israel”

(4Q503 Daily Prayers)

Daniel K. Falk

daily supplications prayer for friday
Daily Supplications: Prayer for Friday

Remember, Lord …

You have poured out your Holy Spirit on us …

You removed from us all our transgressions …

Now, today, when our heart is humbled, we have atoned for our iniquity and the iniquity of our fathers …

Now we beseech You, Lord, as you have done miracles of old, turn your anger and wrath from us …

Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered us from all distress. Amen, Amen.

(4Q504 Words of the Luminaries)

Daniel K. Falk

qumran and jewish prayer
Qumran and Jewish Prayer




  • Shema + Decalogue
  • Blessings
  • Confession/ petitions
  • Hymns
  • Priestly service
  • Priestly service
  • Temple prostrations
  • Temple Singers
  • Shema (+Decalogue)
  • Blessings
  • Amidah (Petitions)
  • Psalms

Daniel K. Falk

prayer motifs
Prayer Motifs
  • Salvation
    • Physical help
    • Spiritual help:
      • Knowledge, forgiveness, protection from sin
  • Priestly
    • God as creator
    • God’s holiness
    • Communion with angels

Daniel K. Falk

prayer and sacrifice
Prayer and Sacrifice

They shall atone for the guilty rebellion and sins of unfaithfulness, that they may obtain favor for the land without the flesh of burnt offerings and the fat of sacrifice.

And prayer rightly offered shall be as an acceptable fragrance of righteousness.

(Rule of the Community, 1QS 9:3-5)

Daniel K. Falk

how do i relate
How do I relate?

Daniel K. Falk

with all your heart
With all your heart …
  • All who volunteer for His truth are to bring all their knowledge, their strength, and their property into the Communityof God. (Rule of the Community, 1QS 1:12)
  • Deut 6:5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

Daniel K. Falk


And whoever joins his congregation, let (the Examiner) examine him with regard to his works and his intelligence, his strength and might, and his wealth. Let them inscribe him in his place according to his inheritance in the lot of lig[ht]

(Damascus Document, CD 13:11; Baumgarten)

Daniel K. Falk

  • For the Master: to instruct and teach all the Sons of Light concerning the nature of all the sons of man, with respect to the kinds of their spirits with their distinguishing marks, with respect to their works in all their generations, and with respect to the visitations of their afflictions together with their times of peace.

(Rule of the Community, 1QS 3:13-14)

Daniel K. Falk

horoscope 4q186
Horoscope 4Q186

… and his thighs are long and slender, and his toes are thin and long. He is of the second column. His spirit has six parts in the House of Light and three in the House of Darkness. And this is the sign in which he was born: in the foot of the Bull. He will be humble. And this is his animal: the bull.

Daniel K. Falk


They are to separate from the congregation of perverse men. (1QS 5)

He is to teach them both to love all the Children of Light--each commensurate with his rightful place in the council of God--and to hate all the Children of Darkness, each commensurate with his guilt stand the vengeance due him from God. (1QS 1:9–11)

Daniel K. Falk

internal matters
Internal Matters
  • Love and charity
    • Equality
    • Community of goods
  • Hierarchy and Authority
  • Rules and Discipline

Daniel K. Falk

4q477 rebukes reported by the overseer
4Q477 Rebukes Reported by the Overseer

… to] record their offences …

Johanan son of … [because] he was short-tempered … and also a boastful spirit was with [him …]

And Hananiah Notos they rebuked because he [… to trou]ble the spirit of the commun[ity …]

… and also he loves his near kin …

And Hananiah son of Sim[eon they rebuked …

Daniel K. Falk

how do i feel
How do I feel?

Daniel K. Falk

thanksgiving hymns
Thanksgiving Hymns

Daniel K. Falk

thanksgiving hymns1
Thanksgiving Hymns

What is the spirit of flesh … that it should understand … Your wisdom?

He is but a creature of dust … sinful from the beginning …

By Your grace alone is man made righteous

(Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QH)

Daniel K. Falk

thanksgiving hymns2
Thanksgiving Hymns

And I know that man is not righteous except through You, and therefore I implore You by the spirit which You have given me to perfect Your kindness to Your servant forever, purifying me by Your Holy Spirit, and drawing me near to You by Your grace, according to the abundance of Your mercies

(Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QH)

Daniel K. Falk

thanksgiving hymns3
Thanksgiving Hymns

… I give thanks to You, O Lord, for you have redeemed my soul from the pit. … The perverse spirit You have cleansed from great transgression, that he might take his stand with the host of the holy ones, and enter together with the congregation of the sons of heaven. And for man, You have allotted an eternal destiny with the spirits of knowledge, to praise Your name together with shouts of joy, and to recount Your wonders before all Your creatures.

(Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QH 11; M. Abegg)

Daniel K. Falk

thanksgiving hymns4
Thanksgiving Hymns

These things I know through Your understanding, for You have opened my ears to wonderful mysteries even though I am a vessel of clay … and a structure of sin …

What can I say that is not known and declare that is not told? Everything is engraved before You with the ink of remembrance for all the times of eternity, for the numbered seasons of eternal years in all their appointed times. Nothing is hidden, nor does anything exist apart from Your presence. …

(Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QH 9; M. Abegg)

Daniel K. Falk

qumran and christianity
Qumran and Christianity
  • Story:
    • Last days
    • John and the Wilderness
    • Jesus as teacher
    • Possibility of change
    • Volunteer
    • Universal
    • Means of transformation

Daniel K. Falk

qumran and christianity1
Qumran and Christianity
  • Ritual:
    • Baptism
    • Prayer
    • Meal
    • Sabbath controversy
    • Purity controversy

Daniel K. Falk

qumran and christianity2
Qumran and Christianity
  • Ethics:
    • Community of Goods
    • Family of faith
    • Discipline
    • Sinners, outcasts, disabled
    • Love of enemy

Daniel K. Falk

qumran and christianity3
Qumran and Christianity
  • Experiential:
    • Salvation by grace
    • Sin as power; spirit vs flesh
    • Union with Christ
    • Prophetic interpretation

Daniel K. Falk

qumran cave 4
Qumran Cave 4

Daniel K. Falk