Lighting the Altar in Vain

The ‘Visionaries’, the Dead Sea Sect, and Judeo-Christianity


  • Kenneth L. Hanson University of Central Florida, United States


The Dead Sea Scroll known as the Damascus Rule (CD 6:11-13) prominently cites a verse from the prophet Malachi (1:10) in a passage also attested by 4Q266 f3ii:18: “None who have been brought into the covenant shall enter into the sanctuary to light up His altar in vain; they shall ‘lock the door’, for God said, ‘Would that one of you would lock My door so that you should not light up my altar in vain.’” I will argue that the Malachi verse served as inspiration for the Qumran sect’s attitude (as it developed in the centuries to follow) toward the Temple, the Covenant, and the rest of Israelite society. It also provides a link between Qumranic literature and a diffuse and ill-defined class of disenfranchised priests, known to some contemporary scholars as the “visionaries”. Perhaps best understood as an “anti-establishment” movement that may be traced back to the Babylonian captivity and before, they found themselves in deep conflict with their fellow priests who ruled the rebuilt Temple – “hierocrats” in league with the Persians. The bitter critique of the prophet Malachi in turn helped to bring forth a wide range of sectarian currents that came to characterize the entirety of Jewish culture in late antiquity, including the Essenes/Dead Sea sect, the Enochians and perhaps most intriguingly, the Judeo-Christians.



How to Cite

Hanson, K. L. (2014). Lighting the Altar in Vain: The ‘Visionaries’, the Dead Sea Sect, and Judeo-Christianity. Tydskrif Vir Christelike Wetenskap | Journal for Christian Scholarship, 50(4), 53-59. Retrieved from



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