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The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

[Frag T-S8J18.5]Zadokite Fragment (T-S 10K6) (110KB)

[Part of Frag T-S8J18.5]Section of Zadokite Fragment (T-S 10K6) on Sabbath laws (290KB)

It is greatly to his credit that Schechter recognized the importance of the two Genizah manuscripts of the Zadokite Document when little was known about its literary and historical background. On the basis of a close examination of the history, constitution, law, theology and calendar of the sect who wrote it, and some ten years' consideration and discussion of the issues, he was able to offer, in his introduction to Fragments of a Zadokite Work (pp. xxv-xxvi), an interesting summary of its significance:

We may, then, formulate our hypothesis that our text is constituted of fragments forming extracts from a Zadokite book, known to us chiefly from the writings of [the tenth-century Karaite] Kirkisani. The Sect which it represented, did not however pass for any length of time under the name of Zadokites, but was soon in some way amalgamated with and perhaps also absorbed by the Dosithean Sect, and made more proselytes among the Samaritans than among the Jews, with which former sect it had many points of similarity.

Other students of Jewish history and literature preferred to identify the work as Christian, Karaite or Pharisaic and Schechter's colleague in New York, Louis Ginzberg, opted for a purer and earlier form of Pharisaism than that later familiar to the Rabbis. No scholar was able to place it in its precise historical and theological context until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls exactly fifty years after the arrival of the Genizah pieces in Cambridge. Once fragments of the same work had been identified among the Qumran treasures, it became possible to trace the origin of CD and its use by a sect identified by many as Essene. And now more material has come to the fore from among the Qumran manuscripts that show the Genizah version to be a reliable copy of the earliest texts; a little less than half of an original tract that constituted an admonition and corpus of Torah interpretation and sectarian rulings; and a composite work belonging to a Qumran legal corpus, at times also related to Sadducean and proto-rabbinic traditions. The scholarly wheel has come full circle and Schechter's theories have to an extent stood the test of time.

Adapted from: Stefan C. Reif, A Jewish Archive from Old Cairo (Curzon Press, Richmond, Surrey, 2000), pp. 113-115, 119.

Schechter published the Zadokite or Damascus Document (CD) in the first volume of his Documents of Jewish Sectaries under the sub-title Fragments of a Zadokite Work (Cambridge, 1910). The literature relating to CD is helpfully summarised in the excellent bibliography provided by F. García Martínez in Magen Broshi's The Damascus Document Reconsidered (Jerusalem, 1992) and the issue of the relationship between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Genizah texts is summarised in S. C. Reif's entry ``Cairo Genizah" in The Encyclopaedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by L. H. Schiffman and J. C. VanderKam (Oxford and New York, 1998). The discovery and early study of CD is addressed in an article by S. C. Reif in The Book of Ben Sira in Modern Research, edited by Pancratius C. Beentjes (Berlin and New York, 1997), pp. 1-22.

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