Golb wrote (p183 of Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls): "The importance of Milik's observations about the idiom of the Acts of Torah resided in the necessary implication that the work was written during the early or middle first century A.D., before which no evidence could be found for the existence of such an idiom. Indeed Milik made use of passages FROM (capitals mine) the Acts of Torah to elucidate his discussion of a first-century A.D. documentary work in the same idiom - the Copper Scroll....The idiom appears in no written testimony before the turn of the era,"
Up until now I had taken the last sentence at face value, and thought that we were looking for a date post the turn of the era. Herod died in 4 B.C. So could we squeeze 4QMMT back into the end of first century B.C. just before Herod died? I don't see why we shouldn't. The two letters that form 4QMMT then begin to make sense.
HERODS KEEPING OF THE JEWISH LAW (NOT UP TO THE STANDARDS REQUIRED BY 4QMMT) - The quotes are Geza Vermes’s about Herod taken from http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/text-janfeb-11-herod-the-terrible-or-herod-the-great-geza-vermes-reappraisal:
A. "In obedience to Jewish law, he did not allow his effigy to appear on coins. Nor has any statue of his survived away from home."
B. "Herod considered himself a Jew and at home he behaved as one... He also observed Jewish dietary laws."
C. "He strictly adhered to Jewish rules governing mixed marriages and required circumcision of non-Jewish men before they were allowed to marry into his family."
E. "Some of the pools discovered in Herodian palaces served for ritual purification, according to archaeologists."
F. "The jewel in the crown of his exclusively Jewish creative activity was the reconstruction of the Second Temple."
G. "To allay religious worries, he associated the Jewish clergy with the project, and to please them he ordered sumptuous robes for 1,000 priests."
H. "His formal adherence to the Jewish religion...."
I. "His unpopularity reached boiling point when he sentenced to death two respected religious teachers and 40 of their pupils for destroying the golden eagle, symbol of Rome, attached to the new Temple."
So why would Herod attach an eagle to the outside of the temple knowing this would break the Law and offend ALL Jews. It wouldn’t have made him very popular right from the opening of the temple. Clearly, Herod did no such thing as to put up a golden eagle on the temple wall. This story about "two teachers" and their "40 pupils" "pulling the eagle down" from the temple wall is garbled in the writings attributed to Josephus. Was this a story based on something else that occurred earlier?
HEROD "A WICKED SLAVE OF THE HASMONEAN KINGS"? - In the same article Vermes wrote: “The Talmud, ignoring Herod's ancestry and attainments, downgrades him to the status of a "wicked slave of the Hasmonean kings". Why does the Talmud say that? Was it because Herod switched his allegiance from the priests to the prophets towards the end of his life? It wouldn’t have been the first occasion in Jewish history that a king switched allegiances. Strangely the writer of Josephus saw Josephus as a Hasmonean prophet, as well as a priest, who again strangely never practised as a priest. The Hasmoneans were linked to prophets who were not strict in applying the Law.
ACTS OF TORAH - Imagine if you were king Herod and you were near life’s end. You had generally kept the Jewish Law (as Vermes said above). You had not stamped your image on coins, put up no statues of yourself, observed the Laws on diet, required the circumcision of men who wanted to marry Jewish women, obeyed the Law regarding ritual purification, reconstructed the temple, associated the priests with the project, and bought 1000 of the Jewish priests sumptuous robes, to name a few things. Then two letters (4QMMT) land on your desk from some of the priests written on behalf of all of the priests (the 'we') who had resigned their responsibilities to the Temple. In effect, they told you that your Jewish ways of behaving were not up to their standards - these priests had moved the goalposts by their interpretation of Jewish Law. I think you would have been very annoyed.
THE ACTS OF TORAH - In the first letter, the priests who had resigned from the Temple, and had separated themselves from the people, wrote something like the following, based on a translation from Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, p193 – who have filled-in most of the text missing from the manuscript with their best guesses to make sense. The text is a series of Laws or rules, mostly about Temple practice, which the writers of the document thought in their opinion should apply. It was an early form of Jewish rule or Law writing (halakah) – the “idiom” referred to by Milik and Golb in relation to the copper Scroll:
“These are some of our words concerning the Law of God, that is some of the works that we reckon as justifying you. All of them have to do with holy gifts and purity issues. Now concerning the offering of grain by the Gentiles, who…and they touch it…and render it impure…One is not so to eat any Gentile grain, nor is it permissible to bring it to the Temple. Concerning the sin offering which is boiled in vessels of Gentile copper, by means of which they (the priests remaining) render impure the flesh of their offerings, and further that they boil in the courtyard of the Temple and thereby pollute it (the Temple) with the soup that they make (we disagree with these practices). Concerning sacrifices by Gentiles, we say that in reality they sacrifice to the idol that seduces them; (therefore it is illicit). Further, regarding the thank offering that accompanies peace offerings, that they put aside one day for the next, we reckon that the grain offering is to be eaten with the fat and the flesh on the day that they are offered. It is incumbent upon the priests to assure that care is taken on this matter, so that the priests will not bring sin upon the people. Also, with regard to the purity of the heifer that purifies from sin: he who slaughters it and he who burns it and he who gathers its ashes and he who sprinkles the water (of purification from) sin - all of these are to be pure from the setting of the sun, so that only the pure man will be sprinkling upon the impure. The sons of Aaron must give warning in this matter… Concerning the skins of cattle and sheep…their skins vessels…One is not to bring them to the Temple.”
This is about one quarter of the letter. I have given sufficient for you to get some idea of its content. These were important priests, no longer within the Temple fold, telling Herod that he wasn’t doing things correctly. If I had been Herod, I would have been enraged – my Kregel translation of Josephus has “distemper”, making out Herod was going crazy, when really it should be “temper”, a word that occurs just a little later. And we know that Herod’s temper boiled over (as Vermes wrote above), but it WAS NOT TO DO WITH the ridiculous tearing down of the “eagle”.
ACTS OF TORAH - The second letter is critical of king Herod, however you dress this up. The following is based on a translation by Geza Vermes taken from The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p226. Some words are Vermes’s best guesses:
“And concerning the women … violence and betrayal …For in these … on account of the violence and fornication they perished … places. And furthermore it is written in the Book of Moses that you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house (cf. Deut. 7.26) for an abominable thing is detestable. And you know that we have separated from the mass of the people … and from mingling with them in these matters and from being in contact with them in these (matters). And you know that no treachery or lie or evil is found in our hands for we give for these the … And furthermore we have written to you that you should understand the Book of Moses and the Books of the Prophets and David and all the events of every age. And in the Book is written … not for you and the days of old. And furthermore it is written you will depart from the way and that evil will befall you (cf. Deut. 31.29). And it is written: And it shall come to pass when all these things befall you in the end of days, the blessing and the curse, then you will call them to mind and return to Him with all your heart and all your soul (Deut. 30:1,2) at the end of days. And it is written in the Book of Moses and in the Books of the Prophets that there shall come …and the blessings came in the days of Solomon the son of David. And the curses came in the days of Jeroboam the son of Nebat until Jerusalem and Zedekiah king of Judah were exiled that He will bring them to … And we recognize that some of the blessings and curses which are written in the Book of Moses have come. And this is the end of days when they will come back to Israel for ever … and shall not turn backwards. And the wicked shall act wickedly and … Remember the kings of Israel and understand their works that each of them who feared the Torah was saved from troubles, and to those who were seekers of the Law, their iniquities were pardoned. Remember David, that he was a man of piety, and that he was also saved from many troubles and pardoned. We have also written to you concerning some of the observances of the Law which we think are beneficial to you and your people. For we have noticed that prudence and knowledge of the Law are with you. Understand all these (matters) and ask him to straighten your counsel and put you far away of evil and the counsel of Belial. Consequently, you will rejoice at the end of time when you discover that some of our sayings are true. And it will be reckoned for you as righteousness when you perform what is right and good before Him, for your own good and for that of Israel.”
A SLAP IN THE FACE FOR HEROD - The second letter of The Acts of Torah was a real slap in the face for Herod. The references to women, violence, betrayal, fornication, and perished are all words that SEEM to have resonances with Herod’s family life: his many wives and their jealousies, the SUPPOSED murder of Mariamne, the SUPPOSED betrayals by his sons, and the SUPPOSED putting to death of two of his sons Alexander and Antipater are a few examples. The writers (priests), were telling Herod that his acts were abominable and detestable to God, and that he should not come into his house (the Temple). They vainly declared that they had kept themselves separate from all these goings-on. They had separated themselves from the people, and thus from Herod and his family. They had washed their hands of the whole business, and their hands were clean.
THE PRIESTS WERE PLAYING MIND GAMES WITH HEROD. They were taking advantage of his weakness in old age. They believed that only they fully understood what was in the Book of Moses (the Pentateuch), and the Books of the Prophets and David, implying that Herod’s knowledge of them was inferior. Furthermore, they believed that the Book of Moses described Herod as one of those kings who would fall from the “way” (the Law) and that there would be consequences of that disobedience. There was an allusion to Herod being at the end his days, when he would recognize that some of the blessings written about king Solomon, and some of the curses written about king Jeroboam and king Zedekiah, had been repeated during his reign. They knew he was getting weaker and thought he couldn't retaliate. There was a direct comparison of Herod with previous kings, showing that a king was being addressed. And they expected that king Herod would know all about these earlier kings, and about the Law. The writer says: “Remember the kings of Israel and understand their works that each of them who feared the Torah was saved from troubles, and to those who were seekers of the Law, their iniquities were pardoned”. The priests implied that king Herod had not sought to obey the Law and that he needed to repent. Yet they recognized that Herod had observed the Law to a certain extent, but not to the standards that they set. They wrote, condescendingly: “Understand all these (matters) and ask him to straighten your counsel and put you far away of evil and the counsel of Belial. Consequently, you will rejoice at the end of time when you discover that some of our sayings are true. And it will be reckoned for you as righteousness when you perform what is right and good before Him, for your own good and for that of Israel.” I think when Herod read this, he had had enough of these priests.
Theory 2 - Was about an earlier time (a right theory)
The above argument means that Herod could not have been the addressee of 4QMMT. What we have is a vast amount of propaganda about Herod that amounts to total lies. The Talmud, ignoring Herod's ancestry and attainments, downgrades him to the status of a "wicked slave of the Hasmonean kings". The Talmud is of the same mind as the Scrolls.
This story about "two teachers" and their "40 pupils" "pulling the eagle down" from the temple wall is false and based on an earlier account. The 'pupils' were prophets, and the 'two teachers' were priests turned prophets, Judas Maccabeus and his father Mattathias.