Wicked Priest (Hebrew: הכהן הרשע; Romanized Hebrew: ha-kōhēn hā-rāš'ā) is a sobriquet used in the Dead Sea scrolls pesharim, four times in the Habakkuk Commentary (1QpHab) and once in the Commentary on Psalm 37 (4QpPsa), to refer to an opponent of the "Teacher of Righteousness." The phrase is generally regarded as a pun on "High Priest" (הכהן הראש; ha-kōhēn hā-rōš) and identified with a Hasmonean (Maccabean) High Priest or Priests. However, his exact identification remains controversial, and has been called "one of the knottiest problems connected with the Dead Sea Scrolls."
The most commonly argued-for single candidate is Jonathan Maccabaeus, followed by Simon Maccabaeus; the widespread acceptance of this view, despite its acknowledged weaknesses, has been dubbed the "Jonathan consensus." More recently, some scholars have argued that the sobriquet does not refer to only one individual. Most notably the "Groningen Hypothesis" advanced by García Martinez and van der Woude, argues for a series of six Wicked Priests.
The Habakkuk Commentary (1QpHab) was one of the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 and published in 1951. The thirteen-column scroll is a pesher, or "interpretation", of the Book of Habakkuk. The Commentary on Psalm 37 is one of the three pesharim on the Book of Psalms and the only other Dead Sea scroll to use the sobriquet. Psalm 37 has been said to have "the strongest literary and thematic links" with the Book of Habakkuk, compared to the other Psalms, and the language of Psalm 37 is borrowed by the Habakkuk pesherist in the commentary on Hab. 2:17. The similar language and themes of the Commentaries on Habakkuk and Psalm 37 have been suggested as evidence of common authorship, or at least similar interpretive methods.
Radiocarbon dating tests conducted on 1QpHab and 4QpPsa at the Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility gave a one standard deviation confidence interval of 104-43 BCE and a two sigma confidence interval of 120-5 BCE (97%); for 4QpPsa (4Q171) the one standard deviation confidence interval was 22-78 CE and the two sigma confidence interval was 5-111 CE. Earlier paleographic dating of 1QpHab indicated a date range of 30-1 BCE.
The prediction of column 7 of 1QpHab that "the final age shall be prolonged" is sometimes interpreted to mean that the Habakkuk Commentary was written approximately 40 years after the death of the Teacher of Righteousness—the time when the final age should have ended, according to the Damascus Document.
|“||Moreover, the arrogant man seizes wealth without halting. He widens his gullet like Hell and like Death he has never enough. All the nations are gathered to him and all the people are assembled to him. Will they not all of them taunt him and jeer at him saying, 'Woe to him who amasses that which is not his! How long will he load himself up with pledges?
Interpreted, this concerns the Wicked Priest who was called by the name of truth when he first arose. But when he ruled over Israel his heart became proud, and he forsook God and betrayed the precepts for the sake of riches. He robbed and amassed the riches of men of violence who rebelled against God, and he took the wealth of the peoples, heaping sinful iniquity upon himself. And he lived in the ways of abominations amidst every unclean defilement.
—1QpHab, col. 8, lines 4-11, translated by Vermes (2004)
|“||Because of the blood of men and the violence done to the land, to the city, and all its inhabitants.
Interpreted, this concerns the Wicked Priest whom God delivered into the hands of his enemies because of the iniquity committed against the Teacher of Righteousness and the men of his Council, that he might be humbled by means of a destroying scourge, in bitterness of soul, because he had done wickedly to His elect.
—1QpHab, col. 9, lines 8-12, translated by Vermes (2004)
|“||Woe to him who causes his neighbours to drink; who pours out his venom to make them drunk that he may gaze upon their feasts.
Interpreted, this concerns the Wicked Priest who pursued the Teacher of Righteousness to the house of his exile that he might confuse him with his venomous fury. And at the time appointed for rest, for the Day of Atonement, he appeared before them to confuse them, and to cause them to stumble on the Day of Fasting, their Sabbath of repose.
—1QpHab, col. 11, lines 3-8, translated by Vermes (2004)
|“||You have filled yourself with ignomity more than with glory. Drink also, and stagger! The cup of the Lord's right hand shall come round to you and shame shall come on your glory.
Interpreted, this concerns the Priest whose ignomity was greater than his glory. For he did not circumcise the foreskin of his heart, and he walked in the ways of drunkenness that he might quench his thirst. But the cup of wrath of God shall confuse him, multiplying his [...] and the pain of [...]
—1QpHab, col. 11, lines 8-16, translated by Vermes (2004)
The references to the Wicked Priest have been divided into three overlapping themes: violence against the Teacher of Righteousness and his followers, cultic transgressions and non-observance, and divine punishment against the Wicked Priest for these acts.
Role in the history of the Qumran community 
Many scholars have gleaned from this passage that the Wicked Priest and the Teacher of Righteousness followed different liturgical calendars, thus enabling the Wicked Priest to travel on Yom Kippur; some have even suggested that the Teacher of Righteousness was a schismatic High Priest during the pre-Jonathan intersacerdotium.
"Illegitimate Priest" 
Several scholars have interpreted the sobriquest of "Wicked Priest" as meaning "Illegitimate Priest," i.e. not of Zadokite lineage. Some interpret 1QpHab 8.9-10—that the Wicked Priest was "called by the name of truth when he first arose"—as the initial acceptance of the Wicked Priest by the Qumran community, before Jonathan combined the diarchy of the Kingship and the Priesthood. The "Groningen Hypothesis" also follows this interpretation, based not on evidence from the pesharim but rather from external sources, namely 1 and 2 Maccabees and Josephus
Other scholars, however, argue that hereditary illegitimacy is not listed among the indiscretions of the Wicked Priest, and that this interpretation has been foisted upon the text by decades of questionable interpretation. Collins argues further that there is no evidence in the Community Rule or the Damascus Document to support the view that the Qumran community was concerned with the legitimacy of a non-Zadokite High Priest.
Other possible references 
Suggested equivalents of the Wicked Priest are scattered throughout the pesharim. 4QTestimonia (4Q175) mentions "an accursed man, one of Belial" who—with his sons as accomplices—spilt blood "on the breastwork of Lady Zion." Some scholars consider 4QTestimonia a reference to the Wicked Priest, arguing that it fits Simon, who was murdered with his two sons: Judas and Mattathias.
The Nahum Commentary (4Q169) contains numerous explicit references to historical figures, including Alexander Jannaeus, the "furious young lion" who takes revenge on the "seekers of smooth things" for inviting "Demetrius" to conquer Jerusalem. Vermes regards the Nahum Commentary as describing "an age following that of the Teacher of Righteousness and the Wicked Priest," but interprets the "furious young lion" of 4QpHos 2:2-3 as "the last Priest." The liturgical calendar of 4Q322, 324a-b also drops some names associated with various proposed Wicked Priests. The "scoffers" in Jerusalem from 4QpIsab have also been suggested as followers of the Wicked Priest.
The Liar 
Some scholars do not differentiate between the Wicked Priest and the Liar ("Man of the Lie"), another sobriquet used in 1QpHab. For example, the description of the liar building "his city of vanity with blood" (1QpHab 10.10) has been marshaled another clue to the identity of the Wicked Priest.
The best evidence for distinguishing between the two figures is that the Liar is always associated with "false doctrine and the act of misleading" whereas the Wicked Priest is associated with "cultic transgressions and non-observance." Indeed, such a separation has been suggested even without recourse to sources outside the Commentary on Habakkuk.
Proposed identifications 
Since the time of de Vaux, the default assumption has been that the Wicked Priest is a single individual, if only because of the appealing parallelism to the Teacher of Righteousness. The consensus time period for the founding of Qumran (150-140 BCE) includes five High Priests: three Hellenized and two Maccabean: Jason, Menelaus, Alcimus, Jonathan, and Simon, and also the various figures potentially associated with the intersacerdotium.
Various early theories situated the Wicked Priest within time periods running the full gamut from the pre-Hasmonaean period, to that of early Christianity, to that of the Crusades. However, that the Wicked Priest "ruled over Israel" (1QpHab 8.10) and was able to partake in "plundering" (9.7) has persuaded most scholars to exclude from consideration the predecessors of the Hasmonean High Priests, who did not share their ability to attack other nations militarily, having been militarily subjugated to Egypt or Syria, and their successors, who were dominated by the Romans. To a lesser extent, that the Wicked Priest was once called "by the name of the truth" (8.8-9) is used to disqualify the pre-Maccabean, Hellenized High Priests, who were not held in high regard by their coreligionists.
Similarly, post-Hasmonean High Priests have not received much serious attention because the "Kittim" (identifiable as the Romans due to the distinct practice of "sacrifice to their standards" attested to in 1QpHab 6.6) are referred to in the imperfect and none of the characters associated with the beginning of the Qumran community would have come into contact with the Romans
|Passage||Proposed identification(s)||Relevant external sources||Proposed excluded identification(s)||"Groningen" High Priest|
|"called by the name of truth when he first arose"
|Jonathan||c.f. "King Jonathan Fragment" [4Q448]||Hellenized, pre-Hasmonean High Priests||Judas|
|Simon||1 Macc. 13: 1-9, 34-40|
|John Hyrcanus I||JA 13: 10.5-6|
|"ruled over Israel"
|Any Hasmonean||1 and 2 Macc.||Non-Hasmoneans|
|"robbed […] the men […] of violence who rebelled against God, and […] the peoples"
|John Hyrcanus I||JA 43: 10.2|
|"rebelled and violated the precepts [of God]"
|c.f. 1QpHab 11.5-8||Alcimus|
|"disease and took vengeance upon his body of flesh"
|Aristobulus I||JA 13: 11.3||John Hyrcanus I
John Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II
|Alexander Jannaeus||JA 13: 15.5|
|Alcimus||1 Macc. 9.54
JA 12: 10.6
|"last Priests of Jerusalem […] delivered into the hands of the army of the Kittim"
|John Hyrcanus II and
|JA 14: 2.3, 3.1, 14: 4.5, 7.1||Post-Hasmoneans||[last Hasmonean Priests]|
|"delivered into the hands of his enemies"
|Jonathan||1 Macc. 13||Simon (1 Mac. 16:14-16)
Jason (2 Mac. 5.7-9)
Alcimus (1 Mac. 9.54-56)
|Alexander Jannaeus||JA 13:13.5|
|"stones might be laid in oppression and the beam of its woodwork in robbery"
|Alexander Jannaeus||JA 13: 13.5, 15.1||Simon|
|John Hyrcanus I||JA 18: 4.3|
|"pursued the Teacher of Righteousness to his house of exile […]for the Day of Atonement"
|Alexander Jannaeus||JA 13: 13.5
c.f. 4Q171 4.7-10
|John Hyrcanus I|
|"walked in the ways of drunkenness"
|Alexander Jannaeus||JA 13: 15.5||Alexander Jannaeus|
|Simon||1 Macc. 16: 11-17|
|"defiled the Temple of God […] robbed the Poor"
|Alexander Jannaeus||JA 13: 13.5, 14.1-2|
|"that he might put him to death [because of the ordinance] and the law which he sent him"
|Alexander Jannaeus||c.f. 1QpHab 11.5-8|
|"delivering him into the hand of the violent of the nations"
|Jonathan||c.f. 1QpHab 9.8-9||All but John Hyrcanus I, Aristobulus I, and Alexander Jannaeus|
Jonathan is the most commonly identified single candidate for the identity of the Wicked Priest. The most popularly accepted piece of evidence for the identification of Jonathan is his "death at the hands of the Gentiles," a characteristic shared only by Menelaus (172-162 BCE), who is generally chronologically excluded. 1 Maccabees 13 recounts the capture and execution of Jonathan at Bascama (in modern Jordan) by Diodotus Tryphon, the general of Seleucid King Alexander Balas, which some have attempted to fit with this incident. However, there is no compelling textual basis that the "enemies" who "took vengeance on this body of flesh" (1QpHab 9.2) need be Gentiles. Nor can Jonathan be accurately said to have died of "disease."
The so-called "King Jonathan Fragment" (4Q448) has been used both to argue against his identification or for it by connecting it to the Wicked Priest to having been originally "called by the name of truth."
Alexander Jannaeus 
Alexander Jannaeus died, according to Josephus, of quartan fever and alcoholism, which has been compared to the references to "disease" and "drunkenness" of the Wicked Priest. Jannaeus also may lay claim to the "delivered into the hands of his enemies" passage because, according to Jewish Antiquities (13:13.5), he succumbed to an ambush by "Obedas, the King of the Arabs" before escaping to Jerusalem. The same passage has also been suggested as a pun on Jannaeus’s verbose moniker (as attested to by contemporary coins, pictured) —Yehonathan ("Yahweh gave"), often shorted as Yannai—a pun which allegedly also occurs in 1QpHab 10.3-5.
Jannaeus’s "fortification, or beautification" of Jerusalem has been compared to the Wicked Priest's illicit building activities. The Wicked Priests pursuit of the Teacher of Righteousness to the "house of his exile" (1QpHab 11.6) on the "Day of Atonement" (11.7-8) has also been compared to Jannaeus’s known attack on the Pharisees on the Feast of Tabernacles.
Multiple Wicked Priests 
Several scholars argue that there is no one High Priest who is the strongest candidate for identification with each of the Wicked Priest passages. The different demises of the Wicked Priest and the tenses associated with them are often cited as evidence of the impossibility of a single Wicked Priest.
Biblical examples of a title applied to a series of successors include Daniel 11, where "King of the North" and "King of the South" can apply to multiple Seleucid and Ptolemaic kings, respectively; other potential sobriquets and titles in the pesharim that can refer to a multiplicity of people include: the "Teacher of Righteousness" (both the founder and future eschatological teacher of the Qumran community), the "Searcher of the Law" (both the Teacher of Righteousness and another eschatological figure), and "Anointed" (both past prophets and future priests or kings).
Groningen hypothesis 
The "Groningen hypothesis" advanced by Florentino García Martinez, later together with A.S. van der Woude, interprets columns 8 to 12 of 1QpHab as describing six Wicked Priests in chronological (but not absolute, sequential order as Aristobulus I is excluded). The six "Groningen" High Priests are: Judas Maccabeus (8.8-13), Alcimus (8.16-9.2), Jonathan (9.9-12), Simon (9.16-10.5), John Hyrcanus I (11.4-8), and Alexander Jannaeus (11.12-12.10). The pontificate of Alexander Jannaeus was to overlap with the writing of the Habakkuk Commentary but not the life of the Teacher of Righteousness.
The "Groningen hypothesis" argues that relative clauses and the perfect are used to describe (and disambiguate) the first five Wicked Priests, while an absolute clause and the imperfect are used to describe the sixth Wicked Priest. However, Lim contends that this requires the granting of "a number of debatable changes to the text," and argues that the relative pronoun is used in the final columns in relation to the "sixth" Wicked Priest. Furthermore, the "second" and "fourth" Wicked Priests are not explicitly referred to as such in the Habakkuk Commentary but rather "the priest who rebelled" (8.16) and "the [Priest] who…" (9.16), respectively.
The positing of Judas as the "first" Wicked Priest is attested to in Josephus (JA 12:4.14, 19, 34), but later contradicted (20: 10.3), and precluded by 1 Maccabees 9, which states that Judas died before Alcimus. Van der Woude reverts to 1 Maccabees 9 for the order of the High Priests. John Hyrcanus I is assigned the role of the "fifth" Wicked Priest—the one who pursues the Teacher of Righteousness to his house of exile—merely because it fits the preconceived sequence and in the absence of any documentary evidence. John Hyrcanus I is chosen over Aristobulus I only because of the shortness of the latter’s reign.
^ α: 1QpHab 1.13 is sometimes reconstructed as (fifth) use of the sobriquet. The reconstruction is made by analogy to 4QpPsa frags. 1-10, col. 4.7-10, but has been challenged, thus pushing the first reference to the Wicked Priest to col. 8, with the interpretation of the first of a series of woes. 1QpHab 5.8-12 interprets "wicked one" as the Liar, rather than the Wicked Priest
^ β: Some scholars question whether the Wicked Priest was a High Priest or even a priest at all, and still others whether a historical identification is possible or appropriate.
^ γ: Daniel 11 was extant in the Qumran corpus: 4QDanc: 11.1-2, 13-17, 25-29; 4QDana: 11:13-16; pap6QDan: 11:33-36, 38. The relevance phrase is extant in the first two scrolls.
- Brownlee, 1952, p. 10.
- van der Water, 2003, p. 397.
- van der Water, 2003, 398.
- Brooke, 1994, p. 350. c.f. 1QpHab 12.2-8.
- van der Water, 2003, p. 398.
- Jull et al., 1996.
- Lim, 2002, 21; Vermes, 2004, 509.
- van der Woude, 1982, p. 358.
- Callaway, 1988, pp. 152-153.
- See: 1QpHab [1.13f], 9.9-12, 11.4-8, 12.2-10, and 4QpPs 37 4.8-10.
- See: 1QpHab 8.8-12, 8.16-9.2, 11.12-16, 12.7-9.
- See: 1QpHab 8.16-9.2, 9.9-12, 10.3-5, 10.12-16, 12.2-10 and 4QpPs 39 4.8-10.
- Buchanan, 1969.
- Murphy-O’Connor, 1977; Vermes, 1977, p. 151; Vermes, 1999, p. 140.
- e.g. Vermes, 2004, pp. 54-55; Murphy-O’Connor, 1974.
- Lim, 1992, pp. 463-465.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 3; van der Water, 2003, p. 395.
- Collins, 1989.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 11.
- Thiering, 1978, p. 192.
- Vermes, 1977, p. 144.
- Vermes, 1977, p. 152; Vermes, 1999, p. 140.
- Vermes, 1999, p. 134.
- Lim, 2002, p. 28.
- Vermes, 1977; Thiering, 1978.
- Vermes, 1999, p. 139.
- Callaway, 1988, p. 153.
- Rabin, 1957, pp. 54-55.
- Brownlee, 1952, p. 11; Brownlee, 1982, p. 3.
- Vermes, 1999, p. 140.
- Rabinowitz, 1952, p. 29
- Teicher, 1951
- Weis, 1950, p. 125.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 1.
- Vermes, 1977, p. 151; Brownlee, 1982, p. 1.
- Segal, 1951, p. 133-7.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 2.
- Cross, 1961, pp. 42-43; Cross, 1980.
- Milik, 1959, pp. 65-66.
- Vermes, 1977; Vermes 1987.
- Lim, 1992, p. 455.
- Vermes, 2004, pp. 54-55; Murphy-O’Connor, 1974.
- Cross, 1961, p. 142.
- Brownlee, 1952, p. 12.
- Brownlee, 1952, p. 13; Brownlee, 1982, p. 20.
- van der Water, 2003, p. 408.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 4.
- Callaway, 1988, p. 155.
- Brownlee, 1952, p. 4.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 5.
- Brownlee, 1952, pp. 15-16.
- Segal, 1951, pp. 133-7; Brownlee, 1982, p. 2.
- Thiering, 1978, p. 191.
- Brownlee, 1952, p. 14; Brownlee, 1982, pp. 35-36; Segal, 1951, p. 138.
- Brownlee, 1952, p. 14.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 7.
- Brownlee, 1952, p. 15.
- Brownlee, 1952, p. 15; Brownlee, 1982, p. 5.
- Cross, 1958, p. 152.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 35.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 8.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 34.
- van der Water, 2003, p. 395.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 4; Thiering, 1978, p. 192.
- Callaway, 1988, p. 157.
- Brownlee, 1982, p. 4-5, 27.
- van der Water, 2003, p. 396.
- Vermes, 1993; Vermes, 2004, p. 340.
- Brownle, 1952, p. 14.
- Davies, 1985, p. 48; Thiering, 1978; Brownlee, 1982, p. 4.
- Brownlee, 1952, p. 11.
- Brownlee, 1952, p. 11; Brownlee, 1982, p. 9; van der Woude, 1982, p. 359.
- Van der Woude, 1982, pp. 349-350.
- García Martinez, 1988.
- García Martinez and van der Woude, 1990.
- Lim, 1992, p. 462.
- van der Woude, 1982.
- Lim, 1992, p. 464.
- Lim, 1992, p. 465.
- Lim, 1993, p. 416.
- Lim, 1993, p. 421.
- Lim, 1993, p. 419.
- Lim, 1992, p. 466.
- Lim, 1993, p. 418.
- Vermes, 1999, pp. 16-17.
- Lim, 2000, pp. 47-50; Bernstein, 2000, p. 650.
- Lim, 2002, p. 36.
- Lim, 2002, pp. 35-36.
- Thiering, 1978, p. 205.
- Callaway, 1988.
- Davies, 1987, p. 90-91.
- Abbegg et al., 1999, p. 499.
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- "Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene," by Stephen Goranson. Evidence that Jannaeus was the Wicked Priest