- Baumgarten 1996. DJD 18: 115-121.
Following the discovery of two manuscripts of this text in 1896 in the Cairo Genizah, a few scholars hypothesized that the composition originated in the Second Temple period. This hypothesis was confirmed fifty years later, when fragments of ten manuscripts of the work were discovered in the Qumran caves. How this text ended up in the Cairo Genizah remains a mystery. The Damascus Document appears to be one of the foundational documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls community. It begins with an overview of the history of the group, according to which its members are the truly chosen “Sons of Light”. All other Jews are sinners and have been duly punished repeatedly throughout history. The community members have been elected by God, as they alone followed the instructions of the “Teacher of Righteousness”, who was sent by God to warn the people of Israel of the imminent Day of Judgment. The text mentions a covenant between the community and God, which was established in “Damascus”. This is probably not a literal reference to the Syrian city, but rather an allegorical reference to biblical verses, indicating that the covenant took place in exile. This exposition is followed by a detailed legal code stipulating the proper behavior expected of community members. It covers many aspects of daily life, family law, and the community’s internal organization and leadership. Many of these regulations are similar, and at times identical, to those in the Community Rule, the most famous legal code found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Both texts are meant to regulate the life of a close-knit group. However, each of these texts describes a very different community: the community described in the Damascus Document included women, and its members married and had children; the one portrayed in the Community Rule is an ascetic group, and there is no mention of women or families. There is a heated debate among scholars over how to explain the connection between these two communities. One school of thought identifies these groups with the two classes of Essenes mentioned by the first-century CE Jewish historian, Josephus in book 2 of The Jewish War. According to his account, one group of Essenes was celibate whereas the other group included families. Other scholars point out that while the Community Rule does not mention women, it does not advocate celibacy either.