Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version

September 2001


Published in Dead Sea Discoveries 8:3 (2001), pp. 242-254. © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2001. Also available online –

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A minor point of contention in the interpretation of the Temple Scroll has been the meaning of the phrase ציר המקרש [city of the sanctuary] found in the laws concerning the purity of the ideal sanctuary envisioned by the Temple Scroll. This phrase is not a biblical phrase; therefore we cannot fall back on a biblical meaning to help us determine its meaning. The problem is compounded by the fact that the Temple Scroll uses avariety of terms to refer to the Temple building itself, the various buildings and courts which surround it, and the wider area around it; these terms overlap and a clear distinction in terminology is not discernible. These terms include [ ... ] and the phrase presently under consideration.

On internal grounds alone, it seems reasonable to conclude that the Temple Scroll envisages the city in which its ideal Temple is located not as an ordinary residential city, but as a city of particular special status, for which special rules of purity apply. Thus the ritually impure would be barred from the city, and special measures would be taken to safeguard the city's purity. This would have the effect of making Jerusalem indeed the "city of the sanctuary" for it would be only the sanctuary and its activities that would be the purpose of Jerusalem's existence. It would, in effect, become a pilgrimage city. This concept of the Temple city, like other concepts concerning the architecture and practice of the Temple in the Temple Scroll, is unlike that found elsewhere in second temple Judaism, and further confirms the unique nature of the collection of documents found in the Qumran scrolls.

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