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Give an Account of the Main Beliefs and Practices of the Qumran Community.

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Introduction

LAH 7th October 1999 HWK Carol Mooney 13HH Give an Account of the Main Beliefs and Practices of the Qumran Community. Qumran, in the wilderness of Judea, had been the place of exile of the Essenes since at least the second century BCE. They were the old aristocrats who longed for a return to the great days of Israel, when a David was on the throne and a Zakodite high priest was in the Temple. While they waited and prayed for such a restoration, their priests performed all the services in a courtyard on a barren plateau, acting as if it were a temple. The Qumran covenants had isolated themselves from other Jews (who they considered to be doomed) in order to carry out the requirements of the law more faithfully than they believed was possible in 'corrupt' and 'impure' Jerusalem. An essential and principal argument for identifying the people of Qumran as Essenes is that the beliefs and practices of the Essenes agree well with those depicted and reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Joesephus and other ancient writers noted Essene beliefs on several topics, many of which occur in the scrolls. One point on which descriptions of the Essenes and the contents of the Manual of Discipline and other Qumran texts shows striking harmony is the doctrine of fate or pre-determinism. ...read more.

Middle

Sun and Moon operated according to strict, schematic laws that the covenanters understood but others, who followed the ways of the Gentiles did not. The revealed calendar called for a solar year of 364 days and a lunar on 354 days. Qumranites accepted only a solar calendar of 364 days and rejected the lunar reckoning that the authorities in Jerusalem followed. The importance of the Qumran calendars is that they differed from whatever one was used in the Temple in the second century BCE and after. One result was that the residents of Qumran and some of their spiritual ancestors observed a unique festival cycle. That is, they did not celebrate on the same days those holidays they shared with other Jews. Moreover, they marked as festivals several occasions that other Jews seem not to have celebrated. There is no evidence that Jesus or the Early Church movement used the Qumran solar calendar. The Qumran community believed at the end of history the Almighty Lord will intervene. He will then send the great leaders of the future - a prophet and the Davidic and priestly messiahs- who along with the hosts of the sons of light and, will take part in the ultimate divine victory over evil. The Manual of Discipline gave the first unambiguous evidence that the people of Qumran expected not one messiah, but two. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Rule of the Congregation also depicts a meal, one that characterised the last days. At that meal too, all must sit in their appropriate rank, and the priest blesses the bread and wine before anyone eats. Josephus also relates the toilet habits of the Qumran Community. He states they are stricter than the Jews in abstaining from work on the seventh day in that they do not venture to remove any vessel or even to go to stool. And though this discharge of excrements is a natural function, they make it a rule to wash themselves after it, as if defiled. Finally, both Josephus and the Manual of Discipline mention a small detail. The historian writes: "They are careful not to spit into the midst of the company, or to the right" (Jewish Manual). The Manual stipulates "Whoever has spat in an Assembly of the Congregation shall do penance for thirty days". Why both mention this minor rule is not known, although it must have been sufficiently unusual to call attention to itself. In conclusion, the Qumranites can be called an eschatological community in the sense that they were convinced the end was near and ordered their beliefs and community practices accordingly. They had many beliefs and practices which were particular to them, and others they had adapted from Jewish customs. The Qumran Community would appear to be thorough and organised, with an established set of rules and regulations. ...read more.

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