Page 23 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 17 (1958-1959)

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17
The crisis occurred in the Greco-Roman period. Recent history
is always a source of controversy and acrimony. Our Rabbis, in
their wisdom, put a ceiling on the date of books that could
be admitted into the Biblical collection. Unless a book was
regarded as not later than the Achaemenian Empire (i.e., as
earlier than Alexander’s conquest around 330 B .C .E .), it could
I
not be made canonical. In this way our Bible steered clear of
contentions that divided many of the Jewish factions, even though
I- it meant excluding the books of the heroic Maccabees.
The Manual of Discipline
The most important single document among the Scrolls is
probably the Manual of Discipline, outlining the ideals and
I government of the community at Oumran. The exacting life of
xhe Qumranites required loyalty to the Torah of Moses and to
the teachings of the Prophets, obedience to the priestly and lay
governments of the community, hard work, personal poverty,
devotion to studv and much more. For them the great event
toward which all history moved was the eschatological battle,
when thev would tight for God's forces of Ligfit agahfst the
Enemy’s forces of Darkness, and the mighty Roman Empire
would capitulate to the Kingdom of Heaven.
The other hitherto unknown documents include commentaries
on Biblical books. These are not like modern commentaries that
seek to exnound the original meaning of an ancient book. In-
(
stead, a Oumran commentary endeavors to extract and solve
the mystery from Scripture in order to explain the recent past,
the actual present and especially the impending future.
Another document is the Genesis Apocryphon (in Aramaic),
giving lush additions to the tales of the Patriarchs. In describing
the physical beauty of our Mother Sarah, the Apocryphon goes
into intimate details that smack of Hollywood glamor hardlv
befitting so hallowed a name. Yet it is a mistake to regard such
material solely as late accretion. To the contrary, it often goes
back to ancient tradition that has been expunged from our more
sedate Biblical text.
^ The Scrolls show that Aramaic had not displaced Hebrew, as
many thought it had, as the ordinary language of writing among
the Tews in Roman Palestine. Most of the Qumran Scrolls are
in Hebrew, not Aramaic. Moreover, the documents from Murab-
/' baat during Bar Kochba’s rebellion show that Hebrew was still
Vused officially even in the second century C.E.
The wide repertoire of sacred books circulating in Qumran
reminds us that there was no closed canon in Jewish circles.
The Septuagint indicates that the Jews in Ptolemaic Alexandria
cherished not only what is now the Bible, but also other books