Its origin is generally not seen as Divine, but as human. It is the wisdom of sages, acquired by their own life experience or by learning from others. It does not command its readers, but rather instructs and advises them, mostly directly, by maxims of wisdom, or by lessons how to deduce good conclusions from human philosophy or national traditions.
It is generally not religious in the sense of being concerned with those aspects of cult concerned with the relation between deities and human beings, but deals rather with everyday human relationships concerning mostly secular areas such as economy, family, friendship, relations with authorities, etc.
In these areas of life its instruction are mostly of an ethical nature. In those cases in which certain instructions relate to cultic customs, or to ethics as a religious field, their purpose is nevertheless the welfare of human beings.
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In terms of genres and style, biblical and post-biblical wisdom literature are similar to those of other ancient nations, such as the Egyptians and the Babylonians. As wisdom compositions were written at different times, their authors developed traditional subjects in variegated directions so as to express the outlook of societies of their own times for the education of their readers. Thus, the author of Qohelet criticized certain approaches of the authors of the traditional wisdom of Proverbs.
The authors of the wisdom literature from Qumran expressed their own philosophical and social outlook concerning the education of the members of their circles.
In order to investigate the roles and directions of education by means of the wisdom literature of Qumran in relation to the traditional educational background, we shall survey some means of education in ancient Jewish and other national societies. Education in Ancient Jewish and other National Societies.
Generally speaking, the art of education may be divided into the education of children and youth, and that of adults. Ps These roles of the father could be realized so long as the children lived with their parents or under their authority. However, in the sapiential books of Proverbs, Sirach, Ahikar, and some texts from Qumran, the style of appealing to son or sons became so habitual that even the sages appealed to their readers by this title, even though they might have been adult persons.
The art of reading and writing was the basic subject of official education—mostly for purposes of training professional scribes, but also for daily needs, for reading Holy Scriptures and compositions regarding the knowledge of human beings. Inscriptions from antiquity demonstrate different levels of this knowledge: from receipts, weights, names, and calendar, to developed administrative and literary writings. The ancient Egyptian schools were established to qualify scribes for administrative duties.
The art of the scribe was regarded as an exclusive profession, which assured high social status. In a satire written by Kheti son of Duauf as a letter of a father to his son, who is sent to study in such a school, there is a comparison of the profession of scribing vis-a-vis other professions in order to encourage the son to be a scribe. At the conclusion of the satire he wrote:.
Hence if you know writing. When he reaches the gate. No scribe is short of food. Ben-Sira wrote a similar composition, in which the scribal art is compared to other professions Before describing the art of a scribe he concludes his comparison between the high status of a scribe and that of other professions, as follows:. All these rely on their hands,. Without them no city can be inhabited,.
Yet they are not sought out for the council of the people,. They cannot expound discipline or judgment,. According to documents discovered in the archives of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Ugarit, Hatti and Canaan, the administrative writings of the scribes included contracts and official letters, codes of laws, chronicles of kings, lists concerning the wealth and cult of temples, receipts and weights, etc.
Biblical evidences of administrative writings are, e. The Bible also contains information regarding the writings of the scribes of the kings, the scribe of a prophet, and other literary writings. Thus, we may suggest that the art of the scribes was studied in specific schools in Judaea, even though we have no definite evidence of such schools, but only of other types of schools. The existence of schools in Israel during the Second Temple period is evidenced in a number of Rabbinic texts.
Thus, for example, b. That teachers of school-children be placed in every city-state and in every town and that [children] be brought there at the age of six or seven. The purpose of this law was to correct an earlier situation, in which only those children whose fathers could send them to Jerusalem studied. This was a social reform to extend the education of children to the entire society, rather than confining professional education to the children of the rich.
Thanks to this reform, the instruction of children pervaded Judaea. Shabbat 12a, the sages of the School of Shammai objected to teaching children on the Sabbath day, whereas the Hillelites allowed it. However, their schools or Batei Midrash might have been for adult students. The study of wisdom or Scripture by adults is mentioned in an apocryphal psalm appearing in the Psalms Scroll from Qumran:. From the gates of the righteous is heard her voice,. When they eat with satiety she is cried,.
Their meditation is on the Law of the Most High,. Although study by adults was common in the Qumran community as we shall see later , this psalm seems to describe a common reality of Second Temple Jewish society generally. Such a social reality might have occurred among the upper classes of the towns, but not among farmers in villages, or tradesman who were busy with their work or lived far from the central city. Education and Study in Qumran. This statement indicates a specific education given to children and youth of the Yahad.
Education in the Wisdom Literature from Qumran
As these youth were educated within the community, one might infer that they should not undertake a former oath in front of the Overseer of the community like those who enter the community from the public of Israel. How were children and youth educated? Were there schools in the community, or a specific program for educating its children?
The statutes written in this composition are said to be observed by the congregation of Israel in the final days, when all Israel is gathered to undertake the statutes of the Yahad. From his y[outh] [they shall edu]cate him in the Book of Hagy,. At the age of twenty y[ears, he will transfer.
This program divides the education of children into two parts, each lasting for ten years. During the first ten years a child is too young to study the precepts of the covenant. This study is to be undertaken during the period of youth, namely, from the age of ten to twenty. What is the Book of Hagy, defined here as the means of education?
Ps , referring to the Book of the Law. This statement, reflecting the deterministic-dualistic philosophical approach held by members of the apocalyptic circle and by the people of Qumran, makes it clear that only the chosen people, who were inspired by the intellectual virtue of understanding knowledge of the difference between good and evil, inherited the aforementioned book.
In my opinion, this scholarly position should be reconsidered in light of the main message of the book Musar Le-Mevin. The meditation upon history is the main issue of the Book of Mysteries from Qumran 1Q27; 4Q ,  that does not deal with the advantage of the meditation upon the raz nihyeh for individuals, but for all nations.
This predetermined approach toward sapiential instructions for individuals is not found in another sapiential text from Qumran, 4QInstruction-like Composition B 4Q ,  nor in Proverbs and Sirach, the traditional books of instructions to individuals. And by the raz. This instruction to the needy who wishes to improve his economic inheritance warns him against stumbling through deeds of injustice, similar to the instructions in Prov ; ; Sirach , By contrast, the instruction of Musar Le-Mevin refers to the economic inheritance of a man and his ways of behavior according to the preordained destiny allotted for him by God, of which he should study by the wisdom of the raz nihyeh.
Both traditional wisdom instruction and that of Musar Le-Mevin are concerned with the existential life of their readers. However, the latter instructs the needy understanding one to take into consideration the End of Days so as to prevent him from augmenting his misery. The meditation upon the raz nihyeh is concerned with comprehension of the birth times of salvation 4Q 2 i It is thereby helpful in preventing the needy from engaging in activities that are not correctly appropriate in time, and which may therefore increase his toil in the present.
Knowledge of the eschatological upheaval, that will cause those who now mourn to rejoice, is propitious for the feeling and activities of the needy ibid. Therefore a man cannot pass over this precept under any circumstance, including that of poverty. Some texts can be assigned to several categories, depending on the subjective reading of the interpreter, which is why no system works very well. The great variety manifest in DSS texts has led some scholars to question whether a single sect at Qumran would have created or maintained such an apparently eclectic collection.
While the resources archived here at The Gnosis Archive are permanent and have been stable resources for over 15 years, many other internet sites do suddenly disappear. We apologize for any links below to defunct resources at other internet locations -- this is beyond our control; a Google search might find them in a new location. Visit the Bookstore for a complete listing of current editions of the complete Dead Sea Scrolls in tranlation. This is a varied collection of short texts, representative of several types of DSS literature. One will note several unique mythical motifs developed in the DSS manuscripts, as well as imaginative or visionary reworking of traditional themes.
Study of the DSS has given new understanding of how dynamic and heterodox Judaism was in the intertestamental period. The Dead Sea Scroll Exhibit at the Library of Congress included translations and high-quality photographs of selected sections of several scrolls - portions of the exhibit are archived here in our collection, below. Each scroll text is accompanied by a short commentary, a complete physical description of the scroll or fragment, and a list of references.