Syndics of Cambridge Univ. Library/TS-16.311

“The first Dead Sea Scroll.” This well-preserved tenth-century C.E. manuscript was discovered in a Cairo synagogue storeroom in 1896. Rabbinic scholar Solomon Schechter suggested that it and a second copy of the same text were medieval copies of a much earlier work written before the Roman destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. He named the text the Zadokite Work after the biblical priest Zadok, whose sons are mentioned in it. Schechter’s intuition was proved right a half century later with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls; among those documents were several fragmentary copies of the same text dating to the early first century B.C.E., leading some to call the Zadokite Work the first Dead Sea Scroll.

Two enigmatic figures appear prominently in the Zadokite Work and in numerous other Dead Sea Scrolls: the much-revered Teacher of Righteousness and a vilified Evil Priest. Though their identities are not known, both figures are often assumed to have been people who lived at some yet-undetermined point in history. That common view now comes under critique by author Ben Zion Wacholder, who argues in the accompanying article that scholars should not look to the past to locate either the Teacher or his nemesis, but to the future messianic age.