When and Why was the Second Temple Rebuilt?

In his current article, Dr. Ralph W. Klein responds to Diana Edelman’s proposal (The Origins of the ‘Second’ Temple: Persian Imperial Policy and the Rebuilding of Jerusalem, Equinox Publishing, 2006) that the Second Temple was actually built during the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-425 B.C.E.) rather than Darius I (516 B.C.E.). Edelman asks the question: “What benefit would have accrued from rebuilding the temple under the reign of Darius while Jerusalem remained unoccupied and in ruins?” By answering the question, Edelman proposes a prominent hypothesis that “Artaxerxes I initiated a single project to rebuild the temple and to fortify Jerusalem at the same time” [my emphasis]. Klein summarizes Edelman’s evidences for her attempt to a late date of the Second Temple as follows:

In support of her hypothesis she discounts the eight dates in the prophets Haggai and Zechariah that link them to the reign of Darius I (Hag 1:1, 15; 2:1, 10, 20; Zech 1:1, 7; 7:1), arguing that they were calculated secondarily, based on the prophecy in Jeremiah of restoration after seventy years (Edelman, ch. 2). She also calls into question the historicity of the account of the building of the temple in Ezra 1-6, arguing that it is based only on what could be learned from a series of biblical passages (Ezekiel 40-48; Second Isaiah; Haggai and Zechariah, including their dates; and 1 Chronicles 22-2 Chronicles 7; Edelman, ch. 3). Two additional chapters investigate the size of Yehud in the fifth century (ch. 4) and the archaeological data that support her hypothesis (ch. 5). Chapter 6 contains her description of the pragmatic issues that led Artaxerxes to fortify Jerusalem and rebuild the temple at the beginning of his reign (Klein 697-98).

Klein argues that Edelman’s “late date for the Second Temple is not plausible” (Klein, 701). He explains the chronological problems with Joshua and Zerubbabel, and clearly states that Joshua, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah are not contemporaries at all. Thus, Klein’s disagreement with Edelman’s hypothesis is based on his literary analysis of the chronological account for Joshua and Zerubbabel. I also think that Edelman “must resolve the chronological problems with Joshua and Zerubbabel” (Klein 701).

But I’m interested in the social context for rebuilding of the Second Temple. It is reasonable to go back to her initial quesitons: “How would either king (Cyrus or Darius) have benefited from a pilgrimage site in a destroyed city in an underdeveloped? Why was the Second Temple rebuilt?

In chapter 5, Edelman discusses the archaelogical data for her hypothesis. She argues that “the settlement patterns within its boundaries in the Persian period at large shows that a series of administrative sites were established on S-N and W-E lines leading from the coastal plain and Beersheba Valley to Jerusalem, the new provincial seat.” In chapter 6, Edelman also discusses the pragmatic issues that the rebuilding of Jerusalem as the provincial seat should have included the rebuilding of the temple so that the local population could honor their native deity and pay their taxes in annual festivals at the site.

If the provincial seat as the Persian policy, which was taken under Artaxerxes I, is the reason why the Second Temple was rebuilt, then her proposal for a late date for the Second Temple is plausible. For the review of Edelman’s book click here

Reference List

Klein, Ralph W. “Were Joshua, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah Contemporaries? A Response to Diana Edelman’s Proposed Late Date for the Second Temple.” JBL 127/4 (2008): 691-702.

The Problem for Identifying the Qumran Community as the Essenes

One of my students sent me an email today mentioning an article of this week’s Time entitled Scholar Claims Dead Sea Scrolls ‘Authors’ Never Existed. It reports that Israeli scholar, Rachel Elior, claims that the Essenes never existed at all. Elior insists that “the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus.” Elior claims that all other ancient sources (Pliny and Philo) either borrowed from each other or retailed second-hand stories. At the end of the article, Elior proposes that the authors of the scrolls as “the renegade sons of Zadok, a priestly caste banished from the Temple of Jerusalem by intriguing Greek rulers in 2nd century B.C.” What is Elior’s evidence? She argues that some of the early Hebrew texts dating back to the 2nd century B.C. attest to a biblical priestly heritage. Elior’s main argument is that the author of the Dead Sea Scrolls is not the Essenes but “the renegade sons of Zadok.” What we know about the authors of the scrolls from the scrolls is that they were opponents of Jerusalem Zadokites. The War Scroll (1QM) gives an example of the conflict between the “sons of light” and the “sons of darkness.”  

Elior’s hypothesis is very similar to the hypothesis of Rengstorf (1960) and Norman Golb, who wrote the book, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?-The Search for the Secret of Qumran (1995). Both Rengstorf and Golb have proposed that the scrolls found in the caves were left there by people who fled from Jerusalem with their manuscripts in order to hide them from the approaching Romans around the time of the First Jewish Revolt.

I’m convinced by Elior’s proposal that the community of the scrolls may be “the renegade sons of Zadok.” But her argument that the Essenes were a fabrication by Josephus is in doubt becuase it is her own interpretation of Josephus.

Now as we know, the theory that Qumran community might be the Essenes is a hypothesis since the word Essenes does not appear in the scrolls; they refer to themselves as men of holiness or sons of light. Thus, it is important to summrize the scholarship concerning the authorship of the scrolls. I will summarize the scholarship based on James C. VanderKam’s book The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (1994, for this issue see also Dead Sea Scrolls). 

The Essenes Hypothesis

eleazar-sukenik1Eleazar Sukenik (1947) was the first scholar who proposes that the scrolls might have a connection with the Essenes described by the historian Josephus. He supposed the connection between Qumran and the Essenes when he read the Manual of Discipline, which defined the way of life for a wilderness sect. The principal argument for identifying the inhabitants of Qumran as Essenes is that the beliefs and practices of the Essenes, as reported in ancient sources (Josephus, Pliny, Philo, and others), agree remarkably well with the beliefs and practices presented and reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls. See also Who Wrote the Scrolls?
Problem with the Essenes Hypothesis
Todd Beall compared 27 parallels between Josephus and the scrolls. He concludes that among 27 parellels 21 are probable parallels, but 6 are apparent discrepancies between them. These 6 discrepancies are consider to be problematic for identifying the Qumran community as the Essenes. But the discrepancies are not certain. Let us examine the entry procedure between Josephus and the scrolls as an example of the parallels.
VanderKam points out that the procedure seems to move through the same stages. So the discrepancy here is not certain. He argues that “it is more likely that in the case of the entry process, Josephus and the Manual once again agree.”
Other Theories
There are two others discussions concerning the identification of the Qumran group: (1) The Qumran community is Sadducees; and (2) Qumran had not permanent residents and the scrolls were placed by residents of Jerusalem who concealed them for safekeeping during the first revolt against Rome.
schiffman_lgFirst, Lawrence Schiffman is responsible for the Qumran-Sadducees hypothesis. What is his eveidence? According to him, several of the legal views on purity defended in Some of the Works of the Torah (4QMMT) as those of the authors-the people of Qumran-have significant overlaps with positions that rabbinic literature attributes to the Sadducees. VanderKam comments on this evidence as follows:
If he is correct and if 4QMMT is a sectarian text that dates from near the time of Qumran beginnings, it would imply-in his opinion-that the sect at its inception was Sadducean or at least exhibited heavy Sadducean influences on its legal positions (94).
golbsmallSecond,  Norman Golb has proposed that the the scrolls have nothing to do with the Qumran residents. He states that the scrolls found in the caves were not left there by the residents of Qumran but by people who fled from Jerusalem with their precious manuscripts in order to hide them from the approaching Romans around the time of the First Jewish Revolt. What is his evidence? He argues that the remote area was a suitable storage for depositing valuables. The copies of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice were found at Qumran and at Masada. It reveals that the preservation of the scrolls is not unique in Qumran.
For a more detailed update on this issue, see Douglas Mangum’s post Challenging the Essene Hypothesis.  

The Story of Cain and Abel: Why did God Reject Cain’s Sacrifice?

Cain the elder becomes a farmer and Abel the younger becomes a shepherd (Gen 4:2). Each brings an offering: Cain brings to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground (Gen 4:3); and Abel brings the firstlings of his flock (Gen 4:4). But God accepts Abel’s offering. Accordingly, Cain is troubled (Gen 4:5-7), and kills his brother Abel (Gen 4:8). The story ends with God’s punishment of Cain (Gen 4:9-15). Why did God reject Cain’s sacrifice? Does God love a meat sarifice rather than a vegetable offering?

The text does not tell us the reason why God prefers to Abel’s offering. Thus, there have been several inferential attempts to answer the question:

  1. Both Luther and Calvin explained that Cain did not present his gift by faith. Their interpretation was based on Heb 11:4 (cf. 1 John 3:12; Matt 23:35). C. Westermann suggests that the opinion of New Testament writers is based on the Rabbinic traditions of late Judaism: “Abel is ‘the just one’ his sacrifice is offered ;out of faith” (Westermann, 319).
  2. The offering itself was insufficient, either becuase Cain was stingy or becuase he violated some implicit liturgical regulation (Skinner, 105).
  3. There is a cultural conflict between farmers and shepherds. R. de Vaux argues that Cain’s story affirms pastoralism of the patriarchs (de Vaux, 13-14).
  4. The story reflects that YHWH prefers a younger to an older sibling (Goldin, 32).

The first suggestion seems to be totally out of context since the text never metions the word “faith”; thus, this is an interpretation of the story. The second suggestion is plausible. The text says that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted becuase he offered “the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions” (Gen 4:4), while Cain brought “fruit of the ground.” Cain is being condemned for failing to bring first fruits (Deut 26:1-11). But it is also a conjecture. The third suggestion needs to be reconsidered in light of recent studies of nomadisim and its relationship to settled zones in the ancient Near East. It scarcely seems so. The fourth suggestion is restated by Joel S. Kaminsky who suggests that it is about divine favoritism and the exclusivism which repeats in the cases of Ishmael and Isacc, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his ten older brothers (Kaminsky, 23). He argues that “the Genesis narratives are well-suited as an introduction to biblical election theology.” He focuses on the divine favoritisim rather than the issue of offering:

Cain’s failure is not in relation to the offering he brought, but in his reaction to God’s mysterious favoritism of Abel. He allows his jealousy to get out of control, even after God has warned him of this danger. Rather than accept God’s choice of Abel, he tries to overcome Abel’s election by killing him (25).

But I’m convinced by F. A. Spina’s suggestion (“The Ground for Cain’s Rejection [Gen 4]: יadāmāh in the Context of Genesis 1-11″ ZAW 104/3 [1992]) that we need to consider the issue of the text in the larger context of Genesis 1-11. Cain’s offering has to do with its source: the ground which had been coursed by God (Gen 3:17-19) so that Cain’s offering is unacceptable. Indeed, the term “ground” is the key word in Genesis 1-11. Cain was a farmer who followed in the footsteps of his father Adam, the first farmer (Gen 2:5, 15). Spina further argues that human beings continued to to sin even after the flood that is the main theme of Genesis 1-11. But the cursed “ground” became the source of blessing and and a suitable offering to God (Deut 7:12-16). 

Reference List

De Vaux, R. Ancient Israel: Social Institutions I. 1965.

Goldin, J. “The Youngest Son or Where Does Genesis 38 Belong,” JBL 96/1 (1977).

Kaminsky, Joel S. Yet I Loved Jacob: Reclaiming the Biblical Concept of Election. Nashville: Abingdom Press, 2007.

Skinner, J. Genesis. ICC. 2nd. 1930.

Spina, F. A. “The Ground for Cain’s Rejection (Gen 4): יadāmāh in the Context of Genesis 1-11″ ZAW 104/3 (1992): 319-32.

Westermann, C. Genesis 1-11. Trans. John J. Sculion S. J. Minneapolis: Augusburg Publishing House, 1984.

Gustave Doré

Gustave Doré, 1866