Department of Religion


Martha Himmelfarb                                                                                           Fall 2009         

Room 246, Seventy-Nine Hall

x4486;  home: 924-9173 (before 10 PM)


Religion 340: Ancient Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls


This course studies the development of Judaism in Palestine from the conquest of Alexander to the destruction of the Second Temple; during the second semester I offer a course on Jews in the diaspora, particularly Egypt, in the same historical period.  During this period, in part as a result of the contact with Greek culture, biblical religion was transformed into ancient Judaism, the ancestor of both rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity.  I have chosen to omit early Christian texts from the syllabus, with two brief exceptions, not because they are irrelevant—they are extremely relevant—but out of practical considerations: there is a great deal of material to study, and the Religion Department offers several courses on early Christianity. 


Because the course concentrates on the close reading of primary texts, it will be conducted as a seminar as much as possible.  Thus your participation is essential to its success.  We will be reading and discussing primary texts at each meeting; please bring the assigned texts with you.  To prepare for our meetings, I urge you to read the primary texts carefully and to jot down notes, questions, and comments to refer to during class.  I have assigned secondary reading to provide historical background and to help you make sense of the primary texts, and I will also spend some time in class placing the primary texts in context.


Requirements for the course are active participation in class (10%); a take-home mid-term exercise (date to be announced) (25%); a research paper on a primary text or texts that requires the use of secondary literature as well (10-12 pages), the topic to chosen in consultation with the instructor (due Tues., Jan 12) (35%); and a take-home final exercise (due Mon., Jan. 18) (30%).  I will provide more information about the paper and a schedule for getting topics approved later in the semester.


The following books are available for purchase at Labyrinth.  I have marked those containing primary texts with an asterisk.  If you wish to limit your purchases, they and the Bible and Apocrypha are the most important ones to own. 

           * F. García Martínez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated

              F. García Martínez and J. Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls

             G. W. E. Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah

          * G. W. E. Nickelsburg and J. VanderKam, 1 Enoch: A New Translation             

For this course you must own a Bible and Apocrypha.  The Oxford edition of the Apocrypha is available as a separate volume, and I have ordered it for those of you who already own a Bible.  If you do not have a Bible readily available, I suggest buying an edition that includes the Apocrypha, available many places in Princeton.     


The packet for the course is available from Pequod.  It is also essential that you own it since it includes several primary texts that you will need to have with you in class as well as a wonderful introductory work that is now out of print, E. Bickerman, From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees, and other secondary literature.



1 Introduction  A brief overview of biblical history to take us up to the Persian period and a glance at some of the major issues we will discuss.


2-3 The Persian Period and the Coming of Alexander Ezra 7-10, Nehemiah 1-2, 5-6, 8, 13 (Bible).  Start reading Bickerman, 3-90 (packet, 3-48); try to complete this reading in the next two weeks.


4-5 Enoch and the Third Century

A Enoch and the Calendar: Genesis 5:1-6:4 (Bible). The Astronomical Book (=1 Enoch 72-82).   Nickelsburg, 43-46.

B The Book of the Watchers (=1 Enoch 1-36).  Ezekiel 1, 40-48 (Bible).  Nickelsburg, 46-53. 


6-8 The Early Second Century 

A  The Tobiads:  Josephus, Antiquities 12.154-236 (packet, 98-118).  

B  Joshua ben Sira:  Sirach (=Wisdom of ben Sira, Ecclesiasticus) 1-4, 24 (compare Proverbs 8 [Bible]), 38:24-39:35, 42:15-51:30 (Apocrypha).  Nickelsburg, 53-63.  Bickerman, 54-71 (packet, 30-38). 


9-11 The Hellenistic Reform and the Maccabean Revolt   

A The Reform and Persecution:  2 Maccabees 3:1-6:17; 1 Maccabees 1-2 (Apocrypha).    Bickerman, 92-111 (packet, 49-58). 

B 2 Maccabees 2:19-end.  Nickelsburg, 106-10.

C 1 Maccabees 3-16.   Bickerman, 112-86 (packet, 59-96).  Nickelsburg, 102-6.


12-13 The Emergence of Historical Apocalypses

A Daniel (skim 1-6, prepare 7-12) (Bible).  Collins, “Jewish Apocalyptic Against Its Hellenistic Environment” (packet, 119-28).  Nickelsburg, 17-22, 77-83.      

B The Apocalypse of Weeks (=1 Enoch 91, 93).  Nickelsburg, 110-14.

C 11QMelchizedek (Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 139-40). Leviticus 25 (Bible). 


14-15 The Calendar Contested  Jubilees 1-6, 30-33 (compare Jubilees 30 to Genesis 34), 48-50 (packet, 136-46, 177-83, 197-200).  Nicklesburg, 69-74.


16-18 Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, Qumran Community     

A  Josephus, Jewish War 2.117-66 (packet, 202-12), Antiquities 18.11-25 (packet, 214-21).   

B  The Communities of the Scrolls  García Martínez and Trebolle Barrera, 1-29. 

1 The Damascus Document (Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 33-44, skim 47-71 to see contents of fragments from Cave 4 without parallels in the Genizah manuscripts).  García Martínez and Trebolle Barrera, 77-96.

2 The Yahad: The Rule of the Community (Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 3-19, 27-29 [jubilees and signs]).  War Scroll (Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 95-115).  García Martínez and Trebolle Barrera, 31-76.


19-20 Pharisees, Sadducees

A  Matt 22:15- 23:36 (New Testament).

B  4QMMT(=Halakhic Letter) (Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 77-79).  L. Schiffman, “Origins and Early History,” Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, 83-89 (packet, 223-31).  D. Schwartz, “MMT, Josephus and the Pharisees” (packet, 234-41).

C  A controversy over the tevul yom?  Numbers 19 (Bible).  Mishnah Parah chaps. 1-3 (packet, 244-46).  Dead Sea Scrolls: Temple Scroll col. 45, lines 7-10 (Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 167); 4QD (4Q266) frag. 6, col. 2 lines 1-4 (packet, 249); 4QMMT 64-72 (Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 82); 4QMMT 16-19 (Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 80 [end of frag. 1 col. 1 and beginning of frag. 1 col. 2]).  

D  J. Lightstone,“Sadducees Versus Pharisees: The Tannaitic Sources” (packet, 252-57). 


21 Prophets, Messiahs, and Rome  Nickelsburg, 231-38.  Josephus, Jewish War 2.225-65, 6.271-315, 7.26-36 (packet, 260-80), Antiquities 17.271-85, 18.85-87, 20.97-98 (packet, 283-92).  Mark 11 (New Testament). 


22-23 The Destruction and Its Aftermath  4 Ezra (=2 Esdras 3-14) (Apocrypha).  Nickelsburg, 263-65 (brief historical account), 270-77.


24 Looking Back   Judaism in Greco-Roman Palestine from the vantage point of the destruction of the temple and the emergence of rabbinic Judaism.