I HAVEN’T READ the book Evolution of a Taboo, reviewed by Aren M. Maeir (Book Review, Spring 2022), but I will add that from my reading, the reason early Jews shunned pigs was because they were sacred to pagans, just like they removed the Baal component from their personal names. There are many historical instances across the ancient world of pigs being sacred or involved in religious rituals, and this pagan connection certainly seems like a good explanation for the Jewish taboo.
Asheville, North Carolina
Ezra in the Dead Sea Scrolls?
IN HER INTERESTING ARTICLE “Ezra and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Charlotte Hempel wonders why Ezra is not found anywhere in the scrolls (Summer 2022). I suspect he may be there, as the enigmatic “Interpreter of the Law.” There is no scholarly consensus about who he is, but his title (doresh ha-torah) may well be derived from Ezra 7:10, where the phrase describes Ezra himself. Like Ezra, the Interpreter is a reforming figure from the past, but he is also a figure who in the future will accompany the royal messiah. In these eschatological passages, the Interpreter bears a striking resemblance to Ezra in 4 Ezra, who, after being taken up like Enoch and Elijah, now lives with the “son” (the messiah) and will appear with him when he is manifested in Zion. Because he accompanies the Davidic messiah, many scholars suspect that the Interpreter of the Law is the Qumranic priestly messiah. Ezra, of course, was a priest!
Daniel C. Olson
CHARLOTTE HEMPEL REPLIES: The enigmatic ciphers given for individuals referenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls are open to a variety of interpretations, so your suggestion is not impossible. In fact, this suggestion was previously made by scholar Isaac Rabinowitz, while T.H. Gaster identified the Teacher of Righteousness with Ezra. On the other hand, the movement behind the Dead Sea Scrolls attests a large number of legal scholars.
MIGHT I SUGGEST an alternate reason for Ezra’s absence from the Dead Sea Scrolls? Ezra was from the line of Aaron, and there were many who held that the high priest could only come from the line of Zadok. Although Zadok was also descended from Aaron, it was only his descendants who were thought to be suitable for the high priesthood. Ezra’s exclusion would have been justified by some who rejected all descendants of Aaron who were not also descendants of Zadok.
Fort Myers, Florida
CHARLOTTE HEMPEL RESPONDS: In Chapter 13 of my book The Qumran Rule Texts in Context (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013), I have examined all the references to the sons of Aaron and the sons of Zadok in the non-biblical Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran. Although your question rightly notes the prominent position advocated for the sons of Zadok in a small number of texts, references to the sons of Aaron far outnumber those to the sons of Zadok in the full textual corpus now published from Qumran, including the laws of the Damascus Document,4QMMT, and the Temple Scroll.
The small number of references to the sons of Zakok have, however, been extremely effective in convincing us of the superiority of this group by representing them as the pinnacle of the historical development of the movement (see CD 3:20b–4:5a) or the ultimate authority in the community (see the Community Rule from Cave 1—1QS 5). The latter crucial references are, significantly, absent from two parallel manuscripts for the same document from Cave 4.
In short, the elevated claims made on behalf of the sons of Zadok have successfully obscured the localized profile of references to this group that are outnumbered by a much larger number of references to the sons of Aaron largely getting on with the priestly day job of performing cultic duties.
PROFESSOR HEMPEL’S THESIS is certainly plausible. However, if I were in a position of leadership in the Judean community in Second Temple times and an outsider came and usurped the communal leadership with the power of enforcement by death penalty, I would be very angry. Then if this new leader told me to expel my wives and children, my anger would likely turn to outright hostility. The disenfranchised leadership is not likely to want to remember Ezra and judge him kindly in their written works. I believe—but certainly cannot prove—that the omission of Ezra from contemporary literature is more likely because of political reasons.
Professor Hempel quotes from 2 Esdras 14. She then writes that “Ezra is taken up to heaven like Enoch and Elijah before him.” My copy of Charlesworth’s The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha implies this but does not mention Enoch and Elijah. Should I be looking elsewhere or is it implied in the text?
Forest Hills, New York
For Ezra’s assumption to heaven, you may refer to 2 Esdras 8:19, which says: “The beginning of the words of Ezra’s prayer, before he was taken up.” The biblical passage that is interpreted as Enoch’s assumption is Genesis 5:24, where we read: “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.” It is also mentioned in the apocryphal Book of Sirach (44:16 and 49:14). Finally, Elijah is famously portrayed as ascending into heaven in 2 Kings 2:11: “As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.” Admittedly, not all theologians (including some early patristic authors) agree on this interpretation.—ed.
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Regarding the article “Calculating Christmas,” surely this is not a serious suggestion and yes, the old song is true. A basic truth for all Messianic Jews and Christians should be the knowledge that the biblical feasts align with the life and purpose of Yeshua Ha Mashiach/Jesus. It felt and read like a desperate attempt to justify Christmas – a pagan feast and holiday that has never and will never appear in biblical text. The Festival of Lights (Hannukkah) is mentioned in the New Testament however. There are literally mountains of evidence for Christmas being and originating as a pagan holiday. The whisps of suggestion in the article that attempt to create a fact out of shreds, and the writings on an idol of Hippolytus, make the writer sound exactly like an archeologist that invents a written novel behind one single artifact. Let’s not do this, but use only fact and evidence. Unless we all want to start celebrating our conceptions instead of our birthdays. I mean, really?
I wanted to add this thought: I’m not saying there was a concious effort to not put spacing between words. Instead, it wouldn’t have occurred to the ancient scribes to add spaces that would serve no purpose other than to lengthen the text and waste writing material.
I found the article “In the beginning was there a word” very interesting. Concerning the point that ancient writing had no spaces, could the simple reason have been to conserve writing material? Gaps between words would have required much more papyrus or clay for the same text, an unnecessary waste especially if the writing would be rarely seen, or not at all in the case of archived tablets on clay or a heiroglyphic scroll stashed in a coffin. Perhaps the incentive was to reduce the physical space clay tablets would occupy in a royal archive, or the cost of the papyrus the scroll was made of.