WICKED PRIEST

WICKED PRIEST (Heb. כֹּהֵן הָרֶשַׁע, Kohen ha-Resha), character mentioned in the dead sea scrolls as the inveterate enemy of the teacher of righteousness . He was a man of whom better things were once expected: "He was called by the name of truth when first he arose, but when he ruled in Israel his heart was exalted and he forsook God, and dealt treacherously with the ordinances for the sake of wealth. He looted and amassed the wealth of the men of (v)iolence who rebelled against God; and he took the wealth of nations, adding to himself iniquity and guilt, and acted in ab(om)inable ways with every defiling impurity" (1QpHab. 8:8–13). He is described as "the priest who rebelled (and transgressed) the ordinances of (God)" (1QpHab. 8:16ff.), "the priest whose shame was mightier than his glory, for he did not circumcise the foreskin of his heart but walked in the ways of drunkenness to quench his thirst" (1QpHab. 11:12ff.). He "wrought abominable works and defiled the sanctuary of God" and in the cities of Judah he "plundered the wealth of the poor" (1QpHab. 12:8–10). He is chiefly reprobated for his attack on the Teacher of Righteousness: he laid hands on him in an attempt to kill   him. But God, according to the commentary (from Cave 4. on Psalm 37, delivered the Teacher from him and reserved a fearful judgment for the Wicked Priest, "delivering him into the hands of the violent of the gentiles to execute(vengeance)on him" (on Ps. 37:32ff.). There was one special occasion when he manifested his enmity toward the Teacher: that was when he "pursued after the Teacher of Righteousness to swallow him up in his hot fury, even to his place of exile, and on the occasion of the sacred season of rest, the Day of Atonement, he appeared among them to swallow them up and make them stumble on the fast-day, their sabbath of rest" (1QpHab. 11:4–8). This suggests that the Teacher and his company observed a different calendar from the Wicked Priest, so that what was the Day of Atonement for the former was a secular day for the latter. But condign judgment awaited the Wicked Priest. "Because of the (evil) done to the Teacher of Righteousness and the men of his council, God gave him into the h(ands of)his(en)emies, to afflict him with a stroke, to make him waste away in bitterness of soul, because he acted wickedly toward His elect" (1QpHab. 9:9–12). Because of his rebellion against the ordinances of God, "they smote him with the judgments of wickedness, and wrought horrors of sore diseases on him and deeds of vengeance on his body of flesh" (1QpHab. 8:17–9:2). Because of his shameful drunkenness, "the cup of(Go)d's fury will overwhelm him, to add to his(shame and)ignominy" (1QpHab. 11:15ff.). Because of his plundering "the poor" (by whom perhaps the members of the Qumran community are specially intended), "God will condemn him to destruction even as he plotted to destroy the poor" (1QpHab. 12:5ff.). Since the Qumran community apparently maintained the exclusive right of the house of Zadok to the high priesthood, a high priest of any other line would be to them a wicked (i.e., illegitimate) priest ex hypothesi. But the references quoted above point to one Wicked Priest par excellence. Many suggestions about his identity have been made, ranging in date from the apostate Menelaus, appointed by Antiochus IV in 171 B.C.E. (so H.H. Rowley) to Eleazar b. Ananias, captain of the Temple at the outbreak of the war against Rome in the autumn of 66 C.E. (so C. Roth, G.R. Driver). He has even been identified with Paul of Tarsus (so J.L. Teicher). But the majority verdict favors one of the Hasmonean priest-rulers, though there is no unanimity as to which of them should be preferred. The principal choices are Jonathan (so G. Vermes, J.T. Milik, E.F. Sutcliffe); Simeon (so F.M. Cross); Alexander Yannai (J.M. Allegro, W.H. Brownlee, J. van der Ploeg) and Hyrcanus II (A. Dupont-Sommer). In some cases these identifications (e.g., those with Menelaus and Eleazar) are closely tied in with identifications of the Teacher of Righteousness, and since the description of the Wicked Priest is generally applicable to so many figures known to the history of the period, only an agreed conclusion (which is not yet in sight) on the time when the teacher arose and his community was organized will carry with it a definitive solution to the problem of identifying the Wicked Priest. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: H.H. Rowley, Zadokite Fragments and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1952), 67ff., passim; J.M. Allegro, Dead Sea Scrolls (1956), 95ff.; J.T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judaea (1959), 65ff., 84ff.; E.F. Sutcliffe, Monks of Qumran (1960), 42ff.; F.M. Cross, Ancient Library of Qumran (1958), 107ff.; A. Dupont-Sommer, Essene Writings from Qumran (1961), 351ff.; C. Roth, Historical Background of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1958), 10ff., passim; G.R. Driver, Judaean Scrolls (1965), 267ff. (Frederick Fyvie Bruce)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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