Re-Writing the Torah : Canon, The Temple Scroll, and the Book of Jubilees

There is a Jewish Tradition of re-writing Biblical Revelation ; even in the First Person Divine Narrative point of view

Ideological and political re-shaping of historical tradition brings into doubt the authenticity of Rabbinic descriptions of 1st century Christian~Jewish history

Similarly, the status of the Torah as the sole literary expression of the revelation of God to Moses was still subject to challenge as late as the second century BCE. Some Jews believed that they still had the option of reformulating the narratives and laws attributed to Moses. These Jews wrote the Temple Scroll and the book of Jubilees. The former, discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls, is either a very early work of the Qumran Jews, perhaps of their founder (mid-second century BCE?), or is a work inherited by them from some earlier group or school (perhaps third century BCE). The Temple Scroll rewrites the laws of the Torah, rearranges them, reformulates them, expands on them, and even adds new laws not found in the original. But the Temple Scroll is no mere paraphrase of the Torah. It presents itself as the Torah. In the Torah now in our Bibles, some anonymous narrator tells us that God spoke to Moses, but in the Temple Scroll God speaks to Moses directly. Laws that refer to God in the third person in the Torah are cast as referring to God in the first person in the Temple Scroll. The ostensible author of the work is God.

The book of Jubilees, written in the 160s BCE, rewrites the narrative portion of the Torah, from Genesis through Exodus 12 (precisely the point at which the Temple Scroll begins). The work greatly expands on the Torah and tries to prove the authenticity of the solar calendar and the pre-Sinaitic origin of the commandments. The alleged author of the work is an angel who reveals to Moses the content of various heavenly tablets.

Do the Temple Scroll and Jubilees accept the canonicity of the Torah that we know? I shall argue below that, in paradoxical fashion, the canonization of Scripture allowed the Jews both more and less freedom than they had enjoyed previously in treating their sacred tradition. The fantastic retellings of Scripture, especially of the Torah, that became popular in the second century BCE in both Israel and the Diaspora testify to the newly gained freedom. But the Temple Scroll and Jubilees, especially the former, seem not to have been written from this perspective. Their goal is not to supplement Scripture but to supplant it. If this interpretation is correct, the Torah did not enjoy unchallenged authority in the land of Israel even in the middle of the second century BCE.

S. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah

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