Fragments of a Zadokite Work


Who are the ‘Sons of Zadok’?

What do the Zadokite’s Believe?

Did this community pave the way for John the Baptist?

What was the New covenant of repentance?

Who are the ‘Sons of Light’?

The fragments found in Cairo 1896 that are titled “Fragments of a Zadokite work” were later to be matched with the original text found in the Qumran Caves discovery in 1947 of the Dead Sea Scrolls fragment known as the Damascus Document.

Why was the Damascus Document copied and sent out to Egypt?


We have included the first part of the intro below, if you want to continue reading here is a PDF download to the whole document


History Section of The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament Vol 2.
Pages: 785 – 834
By: R. H. Charles D.Litt., D.D.
Oxford 1913
<CC0 1.0 Universal (Public Domain Dedication)>


I. Short Account of the Zadokite Party and incidentally of the Book.

Written towards the close of the first century B.C. in good Hebrew, [*** There are some Aramaisms and Rabbinic expressions in the text, but the Hebrew is good on the whole] our book represents the beliefs and expectations of a body of reformers who sprang up in the second century B.C. within the priesthood, as the Pharisees had within the laity, and called themselves, at all events in the first century, ‘the Sons of Zadok’ [*** The Party, though originating apparently with the priests and Levites, came to embrace a strong lay element just as the Pharisaic party, though in the main a lay movement, came ultimately to embrace a section of the priests.] The Reformation, in which they were the chief movers, was the result of a slow but steady religious revival, which took place between the years 196 and 176 B.C. or thereabouts, and which culminated at the close of this period in the formation of a Party within the priesthood. This Party—’the penitents of Israel’—appears to have attempted the reform of irregularities connected with the Temple, but having failed in the attempt they left Jerusalem and the cities of Israel, either voluntarily or under compulsion, and withdrew to Damascus under the leadership of ‘the Star’, otherwise designated as ‘the Lawgiver’ where they established the ‘New Covenant’—’the Covenant of Repentance’. Thus the first breach of the Party was with their brethren the Sadducean priesthood. After the institution of the New Covenant, the Party appears to have returned from Damascus and made the cities of Israel the sphere of their missionary efforts. For an unspecified period of years till the coming of the Teacher of Righteousness, they were to obey faithfully the interpretation of the Law laid down by the Lawgiver above referred to. It was probably during this period that they first came into open antagonism with the Pharisees—an antagonism which grew in bitterness with the growing years. The most virulent attacks in our book are directed against the Pharisees. The ground for these attacks can be best understood from the knowledge of the origin of the Party. The movement that gave them birth was of an intensely ethical and religious character, and naturally tended to lead them to recognize the Prophets as of great worth, even if not of equal worth with the Law, and therein to differentiate themselves from both Pharisee and Sadducee. This was one cause of the breach with the Pharisees. Another arose from the fact that whereas the Pharisees were upholding and developing a vast body of oral tradition, the reformed Sadducees absolutely opposed its acceptance except in a few particulars. They clung fast to the written Law and would have none of the oral. While the Pharisees called their school or college ‘the House of Midrash’, our Party designated theirs as ‘the House of the Law’. Furthermore, since they claimed to represent the true Israel, especially on the priestly side, to them belonged the covenants and the priestly functions, and the rights of teaching and judging Israel—which latter functions had been usurped by the Pharisees; to them also belonged the Temple at Jerusalem as their Sanctuary to them belonged Jerusalem, ‘the holy city’.

The precepts of the Law as expounded by the Lawgiver were to be obeyed till the coming of the Teacher of Righteousness. This Teacher was to come ‘in the end of the days’. It was probably during this time that the Party assumed the name ‘the Sons of Zadok’.

After the death of the ‘Teacher of Righteousness’, whose teaching and activities are not recounted—a fact which points to the defectiveness of our MSS.—a considerable period elapses, much more than forty years. We have now arrived at the date of our author. He is living ‘in the end of the days’, and the advent of the Messiah ‘from Aaron and Israel’ is momentarily looked for. If I am right in my interpretation of this phrase, the Messiah was to be a son of Mariamne and Herod (i.e. from Aaron and Israel), and the book was therefore written between 18 and 8 B.C. Herod put his two sons to death in 8 B.C., since they were the popular idols of the nation, and so this hope, like so many that preceded it, failed to reach fulfillment.

The later history of the Sons of Zadok is buried in all but impenetrable gloom. It is, however, not at all improbable that many of their members joined the Christian Church. For their appreciation of the Prophets—unparalleled in legalistic Judaism; their insistent preaching on the need of repentance; their constant proclamation of God’s readiness to forgive the repentant; their expectation of a Messiah (and just at this period) and of a future life—all these beliefs and hopes prepared them to accept Christianity, and accordingly it is not unreasonable to conclude that they formed part of the ‘great company of the priests that became obedient to the faith’ (Acts vi. 7).

2. The Title

Our book, which in its present form is only fragmentary, was most probably called ‘The Book of Zadok’ or some such designation. We draw this inference from the statements of Kirkisani, a Karaite scholar, who wrote in the tenth century A.D. and appears to have had our book or one closely resembling it before him. In his Kitab al-Anwar (‘Book of Lights’) he states (1) that Zadok was the first to attack the Rabbinites. This is true of our author, who attacks fiercely the Pharisees of his time. Kirkisani further states (2) that Zadok absolutely forbade divorce: so our author in {7:1}; (3) that Zadok did not support by proofs the laws he laid down save in case of his forbidding a man to marry his niece—the daughter of his brother or sister—on the ground that these connexions were already prohibited in Leviticus 18:13, being analogous to the forbidden connexion of a man with his aunt on the father or mother’s side: so in our author, {7:9-10}.

It is worth observing also that in 1:1 a there is a play on the name Zadok, also that the Zadokites ascribed to a Zadok the merit of having rediscovered the Law. {7:6} Who this Zadok was can hardly be determined. In 7:7 ‘the Priests and the Levites and the sons of Zadok’ are mentioned. From the explanation of these words in 6:1-2 it is clear that the Priests and Levites represent the original priestly founders of the Party, and that the expression ‘Sons of Zadok’ designates their spiritual successors ‘at the end of the days’.

3. The MSS

The text is preserved in two manuscripts in the University Library, Cambridge, which are designated respectively as {T.-S. 10 K. 6} and {T.-S. 16. 311}. After the precedent of Schechter, who presented them to the Library and issued the editio princeps, they will hereafter be called A and B.

A, which embraces the entire work so far as it exists except 9:28-54, consists of eight leaves 8 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. The first eight pages have twenty-one lines on each page, pages 9-12 have twenty- three lines on each page. As regards 13-16 the number of lines is uncertain owing to the mutilation of the bottom of the pages, but was probably twenty-three—there were at least twenty-two lines on pages 13 and 14. This mutilation extends in a slight degree to the edges of the leaves.

This manuscript belongs according to Schechter to the tenth century, but the writing is of a decidedly careless description. Yod י and Vav ו are frequently confused, and Vav ו is occasionally so large as to resemble Nun ן‬. He ה and Chet ח are likewise confused.

B consists of a single leaf, 13 1/2 x 8 in., of the eleventh or twelfth century and is a more careful reproduction than A. There are thirty-four lines on each page. These two pages contain 8:20 – 9:3,10-54, thus preserving 9:28-54, which has been lost in A, as well as 9:11. That the manuscripts were freely dealt with will be manifest from a comparison of 9:3, where A gives a quotation from Isaiah 7:17, whereas instead of it B gives a quotation from Zechariah 13:7.


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The fragments found in Cairo 1896 that are titled “Fragments of a Zadokite work”...