Temple Scroll

Temple Scroll

The Temple Scroll is one of the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Among the discoveries at Qumran it is designated: 11QTemple Scrolla(11Q19 [11QTa] ).1 It describes a Jewish temple which has never been built along with extensive detailed regulations about sacrifices and temple practices. The document is written in the form of a revelation from God to Moses, thereby with the intended meaning that this is the more appropriate temple which was revealed to Moses, and that Moses' instructions were either forgotten or ignored when Solomon built the First Temple (Temple in Jerusalem). In other words, in the mind of the Scroll writer, "Solomon should actually have built the First Temple as it is described here in the Temple Scroll".2

The scroll comprises 65 columns (19 pieces of leather) and is 9 metres in length.3 The outer part of the scroll sustained considerable damage over the many centuries with the consequence that Columns 2 - 14 have many missing words and phrases.3 However from Column 15 onwards the inner part of the scroll is better preserved.

An idealized Temple

An idealized "four square" Temple plan is presented in the The Temple Scroll. Johann Maier calculated that the Scroll dimensions of the three "inner" courts4 are:

Inner Court 280 cubits x 280 cubits (300 x 300 outer square)

Middle Court 480 cubits x 480 cubits (500 x 500 outer square)

Outer Court approximately 1600 cubits x 1600 cubits 4

[Contra Yadin whose scheme of "outer court" measurements are: 294 x 294, 480 x 480, 1590 x 1590 (or 1600 x 1600)] 5

The sacrificial regulations of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy are blended and united into one cohesive unit for the ideal Temple. The dimensions of the Temple are much larger than the Solomonic First Temple, probably reflecting the significantly larger population whose needs must be met. This clearly means that the Scroll pre-dates the dramatic expansions of the Second Temple (sometimes referred to as Herod's Temple) which Herod the Great instituted to meet those same needs which had been generated by significant population growth.

The four equal sides to the proposed Temple find an earlier model in Ezekiel's temple (Ezekiel chapters 40-47).

The Temple Scroll describes a Temple, beginning at the centre with the Kadosh Hakadashim, also known as the Holy of Holies. The first court is (1) the area for the priests, the second court is (2) "the area for cultically qualified men"6 and the third court is (3) "the area for ritually pure Israelites"6. The Scroll begins with the holiest place before working outwards into areas of less and less holiness. There is a strong distinction between the areas.

The theme of purity (holiness) in the Temple Scroll

Purity prior to 200 BCE

The above mentioned outline of the three courts, beginning with the holiest place and working outward into less and less pure areas highlights the theme of purity in the Scroll, though the writer makes it abundantly clear that an extremely high level of purity is required even to enter the city at all, as can be seen further along on this page.

The call to purity has been a part of Israel's existence from early times, as evidenced in the Pentateuch/Torah and in many of the biblical prophets, both major and minor. This call was voiced very powerfully in Jeremiah and Ezekiel in the years just prior to the destruction of the First Temple (also known as Solomon's Temple) in 586 BCE, and by Ezekiel and others in the years shortly afterward. The return of some Jewish people to Jerusalem (circa 535 BCE) following their exile in Babylonia resulted in tensions over the issue of purity, as they sought to keep themselves distinct from the local people they found living in Judah. Many other Jewish people remained in Babylonia where they also faced the challenge of keeping themselves and their culture distinct and alive (see Jewish Diaspora).

The loss of purity: The "abomination of desolation", 6th December 167 BCE

A vast crisis regarding purity occurred in the days of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Antiochus was in the lineage of rulers descended from Seleucus (Seleucus originally had gained power from one of Alexander the Great's generals, see Seleucid Empire).

Antiochus IV Epiphanes set out to convert all races in his Seleucid Empire to Greek culture. First of all he established a gymnasium in Jerusalem in the Greek style. In such sports the athletes customarily were nude (according to ancient Greek practice) and therefore some Jewish men began to take steps to hide or alter their circumcision marks to fit in with the emerging culture (see I Maccabees 1:14,15). Next he had many of the gold articles removed from the Second Temple. Then he sent a chief tribute collector to Jerusalem, and he plundered the city, stealing much and killing many people. Temple offerings, observation of Jewish Festivals and circumcision were all banned with the threat of the death penalty. Lastly came the worst abomination, "they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering" (I Maccabees 1:597, also see Daniel 9:27 (see Book of Daniel). So, what was the "abomination of desolation", this abominable construction upon the altar, they "erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering" (I Maccabees 1:54, NRSV Bible)?

There is also a widely held understanding that the "sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering" was a pig. This view is found prominently in Josephus in a chapter where Josephus appears to simply be repeating the largely unaltered text of I Maccabees (Josephus is writing at least 180 years after I Maccabees was composed). The actual (English translation) phrase from Josephus reads:

"And when the king built an idol altar upon God's Altar, he slew swine upon it, and so offered a sacrifice neither according to the law, nor the Jewish religious worship in that country. He also compelled them to forsake the worship which they paid their own God, and to adore those whom he took to be gods; and made them build temples, and raise idol altars, in every city and village, and offer swine upon them every day."8

Josephus bases his understanding on I and II Maccabees. In I Maccabees 1:44-48a we read:

And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. (I Maccabees 1:44-48a NRSV).

II Maccabees is generally regarded as supplementary and secondary to I Maccabees, perhaps rather more distant from the events in terms of being an account. II Maccabees contains two rather graphic references to Jewish people being forced to eat pork: II Maccabees 6:18 and 7:1. Along with the above quote (from I Maccabees chapter 1) these later accounts will undoubtedly have fixed Josephus' mind on the swine as being the chief abomination in the Second Temple.

Jonathan A. Goldstein (commentator on I Maccabees)9 is of the opinion that the construction referred to in I Maccabees 1:54 was very possibly meteorites attached to the altar10 (such use of meteorites is widely attested in Phoenician and ancient Syrian religious cults). In the New Revised Standard Version the stones in I Maccabees 4:43 are referred to as "defiled stones". However Goldstein states very pointedly that this is a mistranslation and that they should be known as "stones of loathsomeness" or "the stones of the loathsome structure".11 He feels these particular stones are crucial to understanding the "loathsome structure" which was erected upon an altar in the Second Temple.

Jonathan A. Goldstein says that more than likely there were three meteorites or stones on the altar:

Single or multiple stones or pillars, standing on an altar or a throne, are known as objects of worship among the Canaanites before the time of Alexander. Such stones and pillars are well attested in Phoenician and especially in Punic remains and on Phoenician coins. Quite common are such stones and pillars in groups of three or multiples of three. (Jonathan A. Goldstein, "I Maccabees" (Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1976) Anchor Bible Series, p.149.)

One more crucial major quote from Jonathan A. Goldstein:

It is clear from the sources on the persecution that the cult-stones were plural, and from the pagan parallels we learn that each meteorite could represent a different god. At least three gods, Zeus, Athene, and Dionysus, are mentioned in the sources [notably I Maccabees] . There is good reason to believe that these are all the gods of the imposed "Jewish" cult. There was a strong tendency among the Phoenicians to worship gods in families of three, consisting of a father god, a mother goddess, and their son; in groups of three....In the Syrian and Phoenician triads, the father god was always a god of the rainstorm. (Jonathan A. Goldstein, "I Maccabees" (Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1976) Anchor Bible Series, p.151, 152.)

In II Maccabees 6:4 (NRSV) we read, "For the temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallied with prostitutes and had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts, and besides brought in things for sacrifice which were unfit". The temple prostitutes clearly imply Athene, the "Queen of Heaven" (Daniel 11:37) (Athene may also be linked the Phoenician goddess 'Anath). Temple prostitutes are almost always connected with female deities.

"The pig was a favoured sacrificial animal of Dionysus"12 which may explain both the pig on the altar and the possible presence of a meteorite for Dionysus. Additionally, the date of the abomination very nearly coincides with a primary festival of Dionysus.

This has been the briefest of outlines of the view that at the centre of the abomination was a specially constructed apparatus to function as an altar, to which three meteorites were attached. Goldstein's commentary on I Maccabees (details are above in the quotations and below in the footnotes) is truly essential reading on this topic.

In summary, there is a clear understanding that a deep sense of uncleanness had settled upon Judah through the actions of the emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and this uncleanness went right to the heart of the temple where there is the definite understanding of swine being sacrificed upon an altar, and the distinct possibility of a specially construction with three meteorites introduced into the Second Temple. Some would question whether the existing temple could ever be cleansed after such an horrendous abomination (pork being so absolutely unclean in Jewish practice, and the meteorites so obviously foreign to the worship of God as Judeans understood the worship). Nevertheless the successful Maccabean revolt saw the cleansing of the Temple.

The Antiochene era saw the rapid development of the Pharisees and Pharisaic thought. There is also very good reason to believe that the Samaritan schism occurred in the 2nd century BCE.There were many developments in Jewish thought brought forward dramatically due to the crisis over uncleanness in the Temple and the Seleucid attempt to impose its own version of Greek culture onto the empire. Florentino Garcia Matinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera are firmly of the opinion that this is the very era in which the Temple Scroll was written, as Jewish people grappled with a Temple which they felt (quite rightly) had been abused. The Temple Scroll obviously prefers the vision of a totally new Temple rather than the one which had been made unclean by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

"Purity in the Temple Scroll"

As mentioned above the Temple Scroll demands an extraordinary level of purity in all who even set foot in the city where the Temple stands, as per example, Column 45 (XLV), verses 11 and 12:

Anyone who lies with his wife and has an ejaculation, for three days shall not enter anywhere in the city of the temple in which I shall install my name.13

Such statements go beyond the requirements of Torah, Mishnah and Talmud in stating that sexual intercourse is not to be permitted at all in the city (obviously Jerusalem) where the new Temple will stand. An almost identical statement is found in the Damascus Document (also found at Qumran) Dead Sea Scrolls Document Ref. No. CD-A] :

...it is holy. No man should sleep with his wife in the city of the temple, defiling the city of the temple with their impurity. ("Damascus Document CD-A", Column 12 (XII) verses 1 & 2)14
The holiness extends out from the inner court of the Temple to encompass not only the other two temple courts, but takes in the entire city. These two latter passages also reveal a strong connection between the Temple Scroll and the Damascus Document.

Festivals in the Temple Scroll

The Temple Scroll provides a list of the festivals that should be celebrated throughout the year. Many of the festivals are mentioned in the Bible, but some festivals are unique to this text. For example:
*First day of the First Month Festival (1 Nissan).
*Feast of the First Fruits of Wine (3 Av)
*Feast of the New Oil (22 Elul)
*Feast of the Wood Offering (23 Elul)

Familiarity with Torah and Second Temple sacrificial regulations and practices

The Temple Scroll reveals a rather detailed awareness of temple sacrifices right down to precise details about animals and the sacrificial practice. An example of this precision is Column 15, beginning at verse 5:

[You shall offer to YHWH the right leg,] holocaust of the ram, and [the fat which covers the entrails,] the two kidneys and the fat which is on them, [the fat which is on] the loins and the [whole] tail, cut off at the coccyx, and the lobe of the liver, and its offering and its libation, according to the regulation. You shall take up a cake of unleavened bread from the] basket and a cake of oiled bread and a wafer, [and you shall place it all on top of the fat] with the leg of the wave-offering, the right leg.15

The Temple Scroll has many similar passages. This particular passage is about the annual consecration of temple priests and is derived from Leviticus 8:16 and Exodus 29:1-18.16 To the western mind these statements may perhaps seem rather grisly (Leviticus may evoke similar gruesome feelings for many people), but to the ancient mind they generated few qualms. In passage after passage the writer of the Scroll reveals a familiarity with countless aspects of temple sacrificial offerings, leading one to the conclusion that he had either actually been present (and perhaps an active participant in) sacrifices in the Second Temple, or at the very least had a very thorough awareness of both written (Pentateuch/Torah) and oral sources of information regarding Jewish sacrificial practice. Johann Maier seems to favour the latter when he states:

...since Biblical passages (dealing with festivals and sacrifices) have been woven together, they should not be treated first and foremost as textual witnesses but rather as modified and adapted Biblical material.17
Meier also claims that "a distinct closeness to the Greek translation (the Septuagint) can at times be detected."18 A strong priestly influence is obvious in the Scroll, whether it originated in Qumran itself or in Jerusalem.


1 Florentino Garcia Martinez, "The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English", Wilfred G. E. Watson, Translator; (Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1994 English Edition), p.154.

2 Johann Maier, "The Temple Scroll" (Sheffield: JSOT Press [Supplement 34] 1985), p. 59.

3 Johann Maier, "The Temple Scroll" (Sheffield: JSOT Press [Supplement 34] 1985), p. 1.

4 Johann Maier, "The Temple Scroll" (Sheffield: JSOT Press [Supplement 34] 1985), p. 63.

5 Johann Maier, "The Temple Scroll" (Sheffield: JSOT Press [Supplement 34] 1985), p. 62; Yigael Yadin, "The Temple Scroll", 3 volumes, English Translation, Jerusalem: 1984 [the 3 vols. originally published in Hebrew, Jerusalem: 1978] . * [http://www.yadinproductions.com/yadin_archeology.html Photographs of Temple Scroll by Yigael Yadin]

6 Johann Maier, "The Temple Scroll" (Sheffield: JSOT Press [Supplement 34] 1985), p. 58.

7 Text of I Maccabees chapter 1, verse 59 as found in New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (known as NRSV) (Oxford U. Press, 1989 hardback), p. 159.

8 Flavius Josephus, "The Antiquities of the Jews" as published in the larger work "The Works of Josephus, Complete and Unabridged" New Updated Edition (Translated by William Whiston, A.M.) (Peabody Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1987 [Fifth Printing: Jan.1991] : "The Antiquities of the Jews" Book 12, Chapter 5, verse 253 (p. 324)."The Antiquities of the Jews" was written circa 90 A.D.(C.E.), and so is thus at least 180 years after I Maccabees which could not have been published later than 90 BCE (see Footnote 9 below re: I Maccabees).

9 Goldstein is quite definitive in his opinion that I Maccabees was written between 110 BCE and 90 BCE, see Jonathan A. Goldstein, "I MACCABEES: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary", [Anchor Bible Volume 41] (Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1976), pp. 62, 63.

10 Jonathan A. Goldstein, "I MACCABEES: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary", [Anchor Bible Volume 41] (Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1976), pp. 147-148, 224;for a thorough investigation of the meteorite claims read pp. 143-157 of this same volume.

11 Jonathan A. Goldstein, "I MACCABEES: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary", [Anchor Bible Volume 41] (Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1976), p. 144.

12 Jonathan A. Goldstein, "I MACCABEES: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary", [Anchor Bible Volume 41] (Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1976), p. 158.

13 Florentino Garcia Martinez, "The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English", Wilfred G. E. Watson, Translator; (Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1994 English Edition), p.167.

14 Florentino Garcia Martinez, "The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English", Wilfred G. E. Watson, Translator; (Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1994 English Edition), p.42;Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, "The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls" (Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1995 English Edition), p.143.

15 Florentino Garcia Martinez, "The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English", Wilfred G. E. Watson, Translator; (Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1994 English Edition), p.156.

16 Johann Maier, "The Temple Scroll" (Sheffield: JSOT Press [Supplement 34] 1985), p. 78.

17 Johann Maier, "The Temple Scroll" (Sheffield: JSOT Press [Supplement 34] 1985), p. 3.

18 Johann Maier, "The Temple Scroll" (Sheffield: JSOT Press [Supplement 34] 1985), p. 78.

External Links

* [http://www.imj.org.il/shrine_center/Temple_Scrolling/index.html The Temple Scroll Online at the Israel Museum]
* [http://cojs.org/cojswiki/Ideology COJS Dead Sea Scrolls: Ideology]

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