The Reasons for Sectarianism According to the Tannaim
and Josephus’s Allegation of the Impurity of Oil
for the Essenes
The aim of this paper is to present rabbinic sources to aid the understanding of one of the comments made by Josephus (J. W. II,viii,3) in regard to the avoidance of oil by the Essenes.
Josephus was aware of the Essenes’ avoidance of oil, but it will be argued that his explanation of this was incorrect.
Rabbinic sources furnish explanation and background for the Essenes’ practice. According to the rabbis, not all oil was always considered pure; in the season of oil production, everyone was considered pure, so the oil was pure too. However, during the rest of the year, the oil was considered impure. In a special halakha concerning the purity of oil, the rabbis claim that their own ruling is necessary to prevent people becoming sect members. It will be shown that the practice reflected in Josephus’ description accords with the rabbinic concept of sectarianism.
Key Words: Sectarianism; Tannaim; Josephus; Oil; impurity; Essenes; Temple Scroll; halakha.
The Reasons for Sectarianism According to the Tannaim
and Josephus’s Allegation of the Impurity of Oil
for the Essenes
The following discussion aims to study the halakhic opposition to sectarianism. Based on a close reading of talmudic texts and rulings, an interpretation grounded in actual everyday practice will be suggested to elucidate the rabbis' objection to one of the customs practiced by the Essenes, as described by Josephus.
I. Intercalation of the Jewish Calendar
It is well known that the tannaim did not all belong to the same halakhic camp; dissenting opinions were mostly regarded with tolerance, as the following shows:
Notwithstanding that these forbid what the others
permit, and these declare ineligible whom the others declare eligible, yet the
men of the
However, in some areas of halakha, the normative approach brooked no deviation: one of these was the rabbinic insistence on the uniformity of the Jewish calendar. The following Mishnah shows how zealous and unbending, perhaps even exceptionally so, the sages were in upholding this area of halakha: "Rabban Gamliel sent to him saying, I charge thee that thou come to me with thy staff and thy money on the Day of Atonement as it falls according to thy reckoning." (m. Rosh Hashana 2:9, Danby, p. 190).
The same stringent approach can be seen in a famous incident reported in the Talmud:
When Hananiah the son of R.
Joshua's brother went down to the Diaspora, he began to intercalate the years
and fix new moons outside
Why all this to do? Because it says: "For out of
The sages sought to prevent a
split between the Jews of Babylonia, who would observe one calendar, and of
The sayings of the sages show how anxious they were about the danger of
sectarianism and heretical schisms resulting in the use of a different calendar
and the building of another temple than the one in
The above tradition appears in the Babylonian Talmud, but the Palestinian Talmud has a slightly different version of the story:
Hananiah, nephew of R. Joshua, intercalated the year abroad.
Rabbi sent him three letters with R. Iasac and R.
Nathan. In one he wrote, "to his holiness, Hananiah." And in one he wrote, "The lambs that
you have left behind have become rams."
And in one he wrote, "If you do not accept our authority, go out to
the thorny wilderness, and there you be the slaughterer [of the sacrifice],
with Nehunyon, the sprinkler [of blood upon the
altar]. (y. Sanhedrin 1:2, 19a = Nedarim 6, 40a, The
Talmud of the Land of Israel, vol. 311, trsl. J. Neusner, [
The most significant point of divergence between the two versions concerns the identity of the sages sent to confront Hananya, the nephew of R. Joshua, and the exact date of the event. For our purposes it is immaterial: the important point is that Palestinian sages, in the second or early third century, exercised their authority over the Babylonian sages and warned them against independent intercalation of the calendar. In both versions, the emissaries allude explicitly to previous rebels: in the PT Abimelech is evoked by mention of the thornbush in Jotham's parable (Judg. ).
As to the names of the sages who would be likely to build an altar, Ahiya, Hannanya and Nehonyon (the latter two are really one and the same), two possible readings must be taken into account: a) the names might be neutral, random names with no specific referent, along the lines of the name Joseph b. Simeon that recurs dozens of times in the Babylonian Talmud; b) the name might refer to a well-known figure, either Hananya, the nephew of R. Joshua, the errant rabbi visited by the emissaries in one of the traditions, or perhaps the false messiah Hananya b. Azor (Jer. 28:1-17), or some other rebel who built his own altar, such as Onias (i.e., Nehonyon), builder of a temple in Alexandria. The reference might also be to someone else with a similar name, unknown perhaps to scholars but familiar to his contemporaries.
The sages clearly had substantial grounds for worry. Subsequent
disagreement over the structure of the Jewish calendar was in later centuries
the source of the split between rabbinic authorities and the Karaites; even between Saadia Gaon and Ben Meir. Prior to these schisms, and without
taking into account any influence of the splits in the Greek Orthodox Church at
the time – also centering on the structure of the calendar – the rabbis
attentively followed the independent practices among the various Jewish communities
at that time. They were aware, too, of the different calendar observed by the
sects, for instance, the one known to us today from the apocrypha and
To sum up: the second century rabbinical texts attest to a concerted effort on the part of the rabbis to prevent a schism stemming from the observance of different calendars. The rabbis believed that a divergence beginning with independent intercalation could eventually lead to building altars and making sacrifices, ultimately resulting in heresy that would bring about the excommunication of part of the Jewish people.
II. Ritual Purity
The tannaitic precepts on ritual purity deal with the question as to who has the authority to declare food or any other object pure in the degree of qodesh required for burnt offerings eaten by the priests, and who has the authority to declare food, an object or a person pure in the higher degree of hatat, that is, having undergone purification with water prepared from the ashes of a red heifer. We see that issues of purity in everyday life occupied a central place in halakhic debate; one of its focal points was the issue of authority to declare a certain dish permissible (for consumption) for an individual's degree of personal purity.
t. Hagigah reads:
Said R. Nehemiah: "On what account are all believed in matters having to do with the preparation of purification-water, and in matters having to do with Holy Things, while all are not believed in matters having to do with heave-offering?" So that each person should not feel free to say, 'Lo, I'm going to build an altar for myself, lo, I'm going to burn a red heifer for myself,' as it is said, "And you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and anyone else who comes near shall be put to death" (Num. 18:7). Or might one interpret the matter to mean, For every purpose solely having to do with the altar? Is it possible that this applies also to heave-offering, heave-offering of tithe, and dough offering? Scripture says, "That is within the veil."
Just as that which is within the veil is exceptional,
in that it is not subject to the knowledge and consent of the Israelites so are
excluded heave-offering, heave-offering of tithe, and dough offering, so are
excluded heave-offering, heave-offering of tithe, and dough-offering, which are
subject to the knowledge and consent of the Israelites. (The Tosefta, trsl. J. Neusner [
The tanna supports his point of view with
biblical exegesis, but he has additional backing from the principle mentioned
above: a ruling may be based on ostensibly external, practical considerations. R. Nehemia claimed that everyone could testify as to hatat and qodesh, since
otherwise people would proceed to build their own altar and offer sacrifices or
burn a red heifer for hatat, all according to their
own interpretation of the degrees of purity. R. Nehemia
apparently realized that if
the halakha failed to state that
everyone was a reliable witness, it would be interpreted to mean that certain
people were excluded from testifying. Since the issue here is the
Tannaitic literature comprises over fifty halakhot phrased in the identical format of "all + present tense verb (+ gerund),” without any parallel in the writings of any of the sects or among the Karaites. Some examples of these are: "All are fit to see the sores of leprosy”; "All are fit to purify the leper"; "All are fit to sanctify the water (with the ashes of the red heifer)”; "All are fit to sprinkle (the water)” and the like. These halakhot, in their fixed format, were the sages' means of declaring that priests enjoyed no advantage in deciding matters of purity and impurity even in areas that would seem prima facie to fall into their special jurisdiction; the rabbis ruled that anyone's testimony was admissible in these matters. It is likely that the priests would disagree with this lenient, even secularizing, approach since by "everyone," the sages included all socio-economic strata. Therefore, the halakha about admissible testimony for hatat and qodesh should be viewed in light of the dozens of other halakhot in the same format which all bear the same halakhic-social implication: priests do not have superior status in deciding halakhic matters (not necessarily those of purity and impurity). This series of halakhot can be viewed as part of a process of the democratization of halakha and a key to the historical-halakhic social activity of the rabbis.
According then to R. Nehemia's interpretation, the tannaitic ruling that anyone’s testimony was admissible for hatat and qodesh was anti-schismatic in intent. The tannaim, then, believed that the testimony of anyone from any social strata (or: socio-economic class) was equally admissible for all matters of halakha, including the purity of qodesh and hatat, basically priestly matters. If, however, this is not agreed upon, and it is posited that priests alone have the authority to rule on these matters, sectarianism would inevitably ensue, with one group disqualifying the other's testimony; people would form sects to build their own altar or burn a red heifer on their own. In MMT we read that only priests should administer the red heifer rituals, contradicting the tannaitic halakha as in t. Parah 4:11: “All the deeds (concerning the red heifer) are done by priests except gathering the ashes, filling and sanctifying.”
Although the Tosefta reads: "The burning
of the cow and its sprinklings are done by the high priest, and all
of the other aspects of the rite are done by an ordinary priest (t. Parah 4:6), it is clear that the attitude of the rabbis
made it possible even for non-priests to handle matters originally belonging to
priestly authority, such as leprosy, for example. In any event, the sect's
Historically, we know that the priests serving in the Temple, where matters of purity of qodesh and hatat were decided, did rely solely on other priests, the only ones who could rule on the highest degree of purity chiefly for the Temple community, as they alone, and not the Israelites living elsewhere in the land, were required to observe it. The Midrash attests:
You find 364 different gardens surrounding
The priests, then, in their capacity of
Even before the destruction of the
It is difficult to know to what extent the interpretation in the halakha reported in the name of R. Nehemia
reflects historical reality: is the claim "I build my own altar, I burn
the heifer on my own" factual -- did schismatics
challenge tannaitic authority and build their own
temples and altars, or burn a red heifer on their own? We know that the sages
were familiar with the
However, even without establishing the veracity of the halakhic explanation as historical reality, we have seen up to this point that in tannaitic halakha, the testimony of "all" is admissible for determining the degrees of purity of hatat and qodesh, a ruling designed - at least in the opinion of one of the tannaim - to oppose sectarian schismatics.
III The Purity of Unconsecrated Produce (hullin): Wine and Oil
The preservation of a personal state of purity and the consumption of foods prepared in a state of purity were weighty matters in the daily life of the tannaim and the sects; this is evident from the sheer length of Seder Tohorot, making it about a fifth of the entire Mishnah. It is clear that the tannaim and the members of the sects took care to eat hullin in a state of purity, although the details of these halakhot have yet to be fully understood.
The issue of admissible testimony for the purity of terumah, qodesh and hatat, discussed above as relating to food eaten as part of Temple ritual, will now be considered as pertaining to hullin-dishes prepared with wine and oil, important staples in the Eretz Israel diet in antiquity.
The following baraita appears in b. Hagigah 22a:
For it is taught: R. Jose said: wherefore are all
trusted throughout the year in regard to the cleanness of the wine and oil
[they bring for
This halakha resembles the one discussed above: "all are reliable for the purity of hatat and qodesh," or, more precisely, it presents the same interpretation by R. Jose to a different halakha, though both belong to the “all + present tense pl. verb + obj. (+ adjunct of time)” formula. This and all other halakhot phrased in the above formula state that everyone, not necessarily of priestly descent, can testify to the status of purity of wine and oil, so that hullin may be eaten in a state of purity based upon anyone’s reliable testimony. According to R. Jose, who is in agreement with R. Nehemiah, this halakha is designed to prevent sectarianism; it thereby resembles the two halakhot discussed above: about the calendar and about the admissibility of testimony on the purity of hatat and qodesh, both of which are described by the tannaim as anti-sectarianism in intent. However, the addition regarding the applicability of this halakha "all year round" is absent from the other, similarly worded halakhot. In order to clarify the intention of the tanna in this case, we must turn to the supplementary halakha in m. Hagigah 3:4:
Greater stringency may apply to heave-offering, for in Judea they are deemed trustworthy throughout the year in what concerns the cleanness of wine and oil, but in what concerns heave-offering [they are deemed trustworthy] only at the seasons of wine-presses and olive-vats. If the season of the wine-presses and olive-vats was passed, and they brought to the priest a jar of heave-offering wine, he may not accept it; but the owner may leave it until the next season. But if he had said to him, 'I have set apart a quarter-log as a hallowed thing,' he is deemed trustworthy. They may be trustworthy concerning jars of wine and jars of oil that are mixed with heave-offering during the season of wine-presses and oilve-vats and seventy days beore the season of wine-presses. (Danby, p. 215).
Obviously the tanna is aware that different
rulings pertain to different seasons as well as to the provenance of the food:
All the above relates to terumah, but anyone
could testify to the purity of hullin all year round,
and not only in
These halakhot have been discussed at length in order to elucidate the practice of the Essenes which will be address immediately.
IV. The Practice of the Essenes
Josephus, in his famous description of the customs of the Essenes, writes:
Oil they consider defiling, and anyone who accidentally comes in contact with it scours his person; for they make a point of keeping a dry skin and of always being dressed in white. (J.W. II 123 [Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, Mass. 1970] 371).
This statement contains a twofold difficulty: 1) the idea that oil
causes impurity is unknown from any other source; it therefore comes as no
surprise that scholars, comparing Josephus' statement with the writings of the
sect found in Qumran, found this to be one of the few cases for which no
parallel existed; some proposed an alternate
explanation, namely, that oil is rendered impure through contact with an impure
Josephus' allegation that the Essenes refrained from using oil contradicts the
From this day you shall count off seven times seven weeks. There will be forty-nine days from the seven full weeks up to the day after the seven sabbath. You shall count off fifty days and you shall offer new oil from the villages [of the clans of the sons of Is]rael: each one of the clans: a half hin; refined new oil, [they will bring near] virgin oil over the altar the first-fruits before YHWH.
The text continues (col. XXII lines 13-16):
And they shall eat it throughout this day in the outer
courtyard in front of YHWH. Eternal precepts for their
generations, year after year. Afterwards they shall eat and they shall
anoint themselves with the new oil and with the new oil and with the olives,
because on this day they shall stone [for all the] virgin [o]il of the land in front of YHWH,
once a year. And they shall rejoice [all the children of
The creed of the sect, insofar as it is reflected in the
A possible solution to the contradiction in the sources lies in a renewed examination of Josephus as well as of the tannaitic halakha. As for Josephus, we must distinguish between two elements in his statement: a) historical testimony – the Essenes do not use oil; 2) the reason why they do not use oil: "for they make a point of keeping a dry skin". The historical testimony can be accepted and understood in light of the tannaitic halakha which will be presently explained. However, the interpretation of the custom of the Essenes is to be attributed to Josephus’s private conjecture, his attempt to explain to his Greek readers (or to himself) the reason for the custom practiced by the Essenes without, however, being properly informed.
As we have seen, the sages ruled that the testimony of "all"
was admissible for determining the purity of oil and wine for hullin; for terumah, however,
although accepting here too the testimony of "all," they limited it
to "the time of pressing." It is this halakha
which seems to be at the root of the Essenes' custom at
It is important to note that the Temple Scroll stresses that oil used for consumption is "new" oil, an equivalent to the rabbinical term of oil from "the time of pressing," This is oil considered pure for Temple ritual and can be used only in the very short period in which the purity of its manufacture can be supervised: in these few short weeks, everybody engaged in oil production was careful not to become impure. New oil, then, was considered pure by the Essenes, but during the rest of the year they observed the custom described by Josephus and refrained from using oil, as the testimony of "all" regarding its purity was inadmissible. For the Essenes, hullin oil had the same status as terumah oil did for the rabbis – its purity could be ascertained only in the time of pressing.
The tannaitic halakha and interpretations reveal the rabbis' just fear of sectarianism, for they held that any disagreement about the Jewish calendar, the testimony for the purity of qodesh, hatat and hullin (oil and wine) was tantamount to an individual building an altar or burning the red heifer.
The Essenes at
 H. Danby, translator, The Mishnah (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933, London, 1972) 219.
 Compare the similar tone in the incident of Akhnai's oven, though that case resulted in
excommunication: see G. Leibzon, “For What Reason one
should be Excommunicated,” Annual of Jewish Law 3 (1975), 297-342 (Hebrew); Yitzhak D. Gilat, Studies in the Development of the Halakha (Ramat-Gan:
 Scholars have addressed different aspects of this matter, see Hugo Mental, Studies in the History of the Sanhedrin (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1969) 207 (Hebrew).
 The following changes are based on Paris MS 0671: 1)
the name of the first emissary is R. Elazar Haqapar (not R. Jose b. Kiffar,
see below); 2) the addition of a double chiastic phrase: 'he began to declare
pure what they declared impure, and declare impure what they declared pure, and
declare forbidden what they declared permitted, and declare permitted what they
declare forbidden." (whereas it is always the errant sage who is the
strict one in the accepted version, the more literary version has the two
opponents alternating, at times one is stricter, at times the other); 3) the
addition "and their fathers were impure in the High Priesthood" (as
in Munich MS.).
 It must be recalled that going up the mountain constituted a breach of divine law as early as the revelation at Sinai: "Beware of going up the mountain" (Ex. ).
 Had there been any truth in the talk of building the temple, the tanna would have added that the project required the consent of the ruler (Persia or Rome); it would seem that the comments arise from academic controversy, not actual fact.
 The variations in the two sources are of minor significance. In y. Nedarim (and in Leiden MS., Sanhedrin) the name is Nehonyon.
 See E. Qimron, “On the List of False Prophets,” Tarbiz 62 (1994) 273-75 (Hebrew). The list may be based on a parallel drawn by the sect between the biblical false prophets and the opponents of the sect, such as the tannaim, who would then have followed their example.
 M. Menahot 13:10; b. Menahot 109a-b; y. Yoma 6,4 43d, etc .See R. Yankelevitz, “Nehonyon Ahiyya: on Identity in the Story of Hananya the Nephew of R. Joshua,” MILET 2 (1984) 137-41 (Hebrew); ibid, “The Temple of Onias - Law and Reality,” in: A. Oppenheimer, I. Gafni and M. Stern, (eds.), Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple, Mishna and Talmud Period (Jerusalem, 1993) 107-15 (Hebrew).
 An ostrakon bearing the name Onias was recently discovered at Qumran, with an inscription saying that he gave all his possessions to the yahad: we have no way of verifying whether it is the same Onias.
 See 1 Enoch 72:32 ;
74:11-13; 75:2; Jub. ; S. Talmon, "The
Intercalation of the Judean Desert Sect," Y. Yadin
and H. Rabin (eds.), Mehqarim baMegilot haGenuzot (
 The hierarchy of degrees of purity unconsecrated produce (hullin); second tithe (ma'aser); heave-offering (terumah); hallowed things (qodesh); sin-offering, i.e., red heifer ashes (hatat) is listed in m. Hagigah 2:6-7 (see below). On the practical implications see for instance m. Parah 10:6; b. Hagigah 18b, etc.
 The following famous example appears in m. Hagigah 2:7: “For Pharisees the clothes of an am-haaretz count as suffering midras-uncleanness, for them that eat heave-offering the clothes of Pharisees count as suffering midras-uncleanness; for them that eat of hallowed things the clothes of them that eat heave-offering count as suffering midras-uncleanness; for them that occupy themselves with the sin-offering water the clothes of them that eat of hallowed things count as suffering midras-uncleanness. Joseph b. Joezer was the most pious of the priesthood, yet for them that ate of hallowed things his apron counted as suffering midras-uncleanness. Johanan b. Gudgada always ate the common food in accordance with the rules governing the cleanness of hallowed things, yet for them that occupied themselves with the sin-offering water his apron counted as suffering midras-uncleanness” (Danby, p. 216). We see, then, that the common people always ate in a state of impurity; the Pharisees in the degree of hulin, priests ate in the degree of terumah even if the food itself was not an offering; others ate in a state of qodesh, and yet others in hatat.
 S. Lieberman, The Tosefta, according to Codex
 Cf. the dozens of examples in which the rabbis inquired-interpreted: "Why did they rule that..." (for example, Tosefta Bekhorot 1:8: "Why did they rule that the honey of bees is permitted?"; each individual case must be studied to determine which came first: the exegesis or the anti-sectarianism bias.
 This halakha appears in m. Ohalot 5:5 as well: “…all remain clean (for all are accounted trustworthy in what concerns the Sin-offering), since vessels that are not susceptible to uncleanness” (Danby, p. 656).
 Cf. the Mishnah: "Once
Tobiah the Physician saw the new moon in
 See M.
 M. Negaim 3:1; t. Negaim 8:1 (The Tosefta, p. 164); m. Parah 12:10; m. Parah 5:4. Cf. m. Bekhorot 5:5: "A priest may be believed if he says, 'I have caused this Firstling to be inspected, and it has a blemish'. All are accounted trustworthy in what concerns blemishes in tithe [of cattle]" (Danby, p. 636). The priests had a clear interest in matters concerning priests' dues.
 Cf. t. Shabbat 2, 10: "Rabban Simeon b. Gamliel says: The laws of [consecration of objects as] Holy Things, sin-offerings, and tithes truly are the essentials of the Torah. They lie within [the testimony of ] ordinary folk" (The Tosefta, Moed, p. 7).
 Sifri Zuta, ed. Horawitz. p. 305, on the ashes of a red heifer: "how was it [the ashes] preserved: it was given to a trustworthy man to preserve, but then it was said that all are trustworthy in matters of holy things and sin-offering. The tanna posits "a trustworthy man" opposite "everyone's testimony"; however, we know that all matters pertaining to red heifers were decided by the priests (see below). The opposite number of "all" would be the priests and not the trustworthy witness, as there is no way of knowing the latter's descent and authority.
 MMT (above, note 10, p. 48) reads 'ëé ìáðé àäøåï øàåàé [ìäéåú î…]'. The pre-official publisher: R. H. Eisenman and M. Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered (Shaftesbury, Dorset: Element, 1992) 190, added 'øàåàé ìäéåú î[æäøéí…]' but it should read rather 'øàåàé ìäéåú î[æéí…]'. This would mean that only priests may sprinkle the purifying waters, in contradiction to the tannaitic approach. These halakhot support the description in the Polemics (above, n. 17) written before the publication of MMT about the anti-sectarian tendency of the laws of the red heifer, which do not, in tannaitic opinion, require priestly authority except for the actual slaughter.
 On the
question whether the High Priest burned the red heifer, see M.
 See the Polemics, p. 132. The sages and the Qumran sect were at odds regarding the burning of the heifer, collecting the ashes, sprinkling the purifying waters, etc., (tevol-yom which need not be discussed here) and admissible testimony for determining purity in the degree of hatat (mentioned above).
 Y. H. Wertheimer, ed., Midrash Song of Songs (
 See S. Klein, Eretz
 See Polemics (above, note 17), pp. 5-29.
 Joseph M. Baumgarten,
"Sacrifice and Worship Among the Jewish Sectarians of the
 J. Bauman, “Did the
 B. Sharvit, “The Priest in
the Judean Desert Sect,” Beit Mikra 22 (1977) 313-320 (Hebrew); ibid. “The Leadership
of the Judean Desert Sect,” Beit Mikra 24 (1979) 295-304 (Hebrew). See also Daniel R. Shwartz, “On Two Aspects of a Priestly View of Descent at
 See G. Alon, Studies in the History of Israel, vol. 1 (Tel Aviv, 1967) 158-76 (Hebrew); Y. Licht, Megillat ha-Serachim (Jerusalem 1965) 294-303 (Hebrew); Y. Tabori, Pessah Dorot: Studies in the history of the Seder (Tel Aviv, 1996) 192-209 (Hebrew, esp. p. 197 n. 21); Hannah K. Harrington, The Impurity Systems of Qumran and the Rabbis: Biblical Foundations (Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1993).
 The textual variants are of minor significance here.
Munich MS 95 does not mention the red heifer, and the concluding words in Goettingen MS 3 and
 Different explanations have been offered for this
unusual halakhic discrepancy between the
 However, compare m. Teharot 9:4 were the oil should be brought “under the eyes of a priest”.
 Josephus Flavius, War Against the Jews, 2,8,3 (123).
 See Y.M. Grintz, Studies on the Second Temple Period (Jerusalem, 1969) 109 (Hebrew); Todd S. Beall, Josephus' Description of the Essenes Illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls (Ph.D. thesis, The Catholic University of America, University Microfilms International, Washington D.C. 1984) 78-9.
 J. Baumgarten, "The Essene
Avoidance of Oil and the Laws of Purity," RevQ
6/22 (1967) 183-92 (=idem, Studies in Qumran Law [
 Y. Yadin,
 The translation is according: Florentino G. Martinez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated (Lieden - New York - Cologne: E.J. Brill, 1994) 159 [with slight modification and addition according to the new readings by Qimron (below)].
 Corrected following E. Qimron, “Biblical Dictionary in Light of the Scrolls," Tarbiz 58 (1979) 297-315 (Hebrew, esp. 315); idem, The Temple Scroll: A Critical Edition with Extensive Reconstructions (Beer Sheva - Jerusalem: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press - Israel Exploration Society, 1996) 35-6.
 B.A. Levine, "The Temple Scroll: Aspects of the Historical Provenance and Qumran," Philip R. Davies and Richard T. White (eds.), A Tribute to Geza Vermes (Sheffield: JOST Press, 1990) 37-50; Philip R. Davies, "Halakha as Literary Character," BASOR 232 (1978) 3-24.
 However, the
discussion below supports the view that the
 The explanation that the Essenes prefer rough skin to
smooth seems to me a calculated effort to describe the Essenes as an ascetic
sect, like the white garments expressing purity, modesty and simple habits,
unlike other people who wear colored garments which are more beautiful and more
expensive. See further Beall, above, no. 36. It may
be noted that the tannaim were apparently aware of
the sectarian implication of wearing white garments, as is attested in m. Megilla 4:8: “If a man said, ‘I will not go before the Ark
in colored raiment’, he may not even go before it in white raiment... this is
the way of heresy.. .this is the way of the sectaries”
(Danby p. 207); see H. Albeck, Mishnah,
Mo'ed, p. 504. See also M.
 Herein lies the shortcoming of this interpretation:
why did the Essenes have one law for wine, which they considered pure, and
another for oil, which they considered impure. The answer is to be sought in
the historical circumstances: oil was brought to
 The matter of purification through scraping the flesh requires further elucidation; after preparatory scrubbing, the impure individual had to undergo ritual immersion; in similar fashion, a house could be cleansed of the impurity of the dead, cf. Temple Scroll col. 49, 11-12: “The day on which they remove the dead person from the house, they shall cleanse it of every stain of oil, wine, dampness from water; they shall rub its floor” etc. (Martinez, p. 169). There is also a biblical source for this concept of purifying a house from impurity contracted by the presence of a leper: "The house shall be scraped inside all around" (Lev. ).
 That is, the Essenes followed the same laws of purity and impurity as did the tannaim, but at a higher, stricter level of observance.
 This issue is linked to other disagreements about purity and impurity, such as: 1) the description in m. Ohalot 18:1-6 of a vineyard or olive grove where there had been a grave, and after the field was plowed over, the grave's location is unknown; 2) the disagreement between Hillel and Shammai regarding the question when does fruit receive impurity (b. Shabbat 17a): "When one vintages grapes for the vat (i.e. to manufacture wine), Shammai maintains: it is made fit [to become unclean], while Hillel ruled, it is not made fit. Said Hillel to Shammai: why must one vintage grapes in purity, yet not gather olives in purity? If you provoke me, he replied, I will decree uncleanness in the case of olive gathering too (The Talmud, Soncino ed.). A distinction was made between removing the impurity of oil and that of wine (Rashi ad. loc. might be superfluous).