4QMMT (or MMT), also known as the Halakhic Letter, is one of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were discovered at Qumran in Judean Samaria. The manuscript is mainly concerned with the issue of the purity of liquid streams, a matter of great debate between the Pharisees and the Sadducees in later rabbinic texts.
Originally provisionally designated as 4QMishn (Mishnah), it was later renamed as 4QMMT (Miqsat Ma’ase ha-Torah or Some Precepts of the Law) by Elisha Qimron who, with John Strugnell, were the manuscript's editors. Strugnell and Qimron have dated the script (or writing) on the fragments as late Hasmonean to Middle Herodian, which places them between the early 1st century BCE and the early 1st century CE. The editors believe that at that time the fragments now comprising 4QMMT were copied from six individual manuscripts into one.
4QMMT was found in Cave 4 at Qumran on six fragmented manuscripts (4Q394, 4Q395, 4Q396, 4Q397, 4Q398, 4Q399). These manuscripts were found between the years 1953-1959 and today they are held at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. From 1959, 4QMMT was worked on alone by John Strugnell. In 1979 he co-opted Hebrew scholar Elisha Qimron on to the team to assist him in completing it.
In 1984 at the Biblical archaeology Conference in Jerusalem, Qimron stated that 4QMMT represented copies of a letter written by Qumran's 'Teacher of Righteousness' and his colleagues to his rival, the 'Wicked Priest' and his supporters. The purpose of the letter was to spell out the differences between the two parties and to summon their opponents to an amendment of life.
4QMMT commences with a detailed, year-long calendar, a 364 day solar calendar. In the sequel the author presents twenty-two points of law on which the two groups differ. These points oppose rabbinic or Pharisaic views and coincide with Essene, and in some cases, Sadducean positions. This led some scholars[who?] to the conclusion that the community at Qumran had withdrawn from Jerusalem in around 150 BC following major disagreements between themselves and the Jewish authorities concerning Biblical interpretation and religious practices.
While part of 4QMMT seems to be addressed to priests at the Temple in Jerusalem, the third section is addressed to a respected individual, whose honesty and integrity are acknowledged by the author, and who encourages him to study carefully 'the book of Moses and the books of the Prophets and David.' He also refers to the blessings and curses on the Israelite kings and asks the recipient to remember their actions, giving the impression that the recipient may himself be a Judaean monarch. Almost certainly a Hasmonean ruler is being addressed. There is no formal breach between the two, only disagreement, giving rise to the supposition that 4QMMT was written at a time of dispute between the Scrolls community and the Judaean political and religious establishment in Jerusalem, possibly concerning laws covering purity. Some scholars believe that this section is a letter from the Teacher of Righteousness to the Wicked Priest, believed by many to be Jonathan Maccabaeus or his brother Simon.
Since its publication in 1994, there has been much debate as to whether 4QMMT really is a letter, and if so written by who to whom; whether it is actually a Sadducean manuscript, or even if the document has been properly reconstructed, a charge laid by Strugnell against Qimron.
The text was also at the centre of a legal dispute in the early 1990s when Qimron successfully sued Hershel Shanks of the Biblical Archaeology Society and others for publishing his researches into 4QMMT without his permission.
According to Hanne von Weissenberg’s book, 4QMMT: Reevaluating the text, the function, and the meaning of the epilogue, it maintains that Qimron and Strugnell define the genre of 4QMMT as a letter, yet they want to clarify that this is perhaps more than just a letter, but perhaps a public letter or treaty with another community. According to Strugnell, the Halakhic Letter is neither a letter nor a treatise (11). He argues that the introduction to the letter does not resemble a letter at all, but suggests the introduction is a possible collection of laws, sent to a particular person. According to John Kampen and Moshe Bernstein, they support the idea of 4QMMT being a letter in their analysis of the document in their introduction of Reading 4QMMT. They maintain that Strugnell’s argument that the document is a collection of laws is false, due to the argumentative tone it gives off. Instead they believe 4QMMT to be a text which deals with legal disputes among two parties. Furthermore, they advocate the idea that the document’s epilogue and final sections blur the interpretations of the classification of 4QMMT’s genre.