Chickens and Dogs in the Temple Scroll (11QTc)

Elisha Qimron[*]

Among the small fragments from cave 11 at Qumran a small but important passage was discovered. Its transcription is presented here:

11QTc (11Q21) 3 I, 1-5

1 […]h[…]
2 to enter my city […]
3 a chicken you may not rai[se…]
4 in all the Temple […]
5 the Temp[le…]
לבוא אל עירי[…]ש
תרנגול לא תגד[לו…]‏
בכל המקדש […]ש


The passage was mistakenly included among the manuscript fragments of the Book of Jubilees because of the similarity of the script. But is has been recognized that the person who was responsible for collating these fragments erroneously attached passages from another work, evidently the Temple Scroll, to the Book of Jubilees.[1] It is probable that our passage also belonged to the Temple Scroll, as the word עירי (“my city”; the first person pronominal suffix indicating God as the speaker),[2] and the phrase “all the Temple,” suggest.[3] But what do chickens have to do with the Temple Scroll? The answer to this question depends on the interpretation of our fragment.

A Rabbinic Parallel to Our Fragment

It is well known that the word תַּרְנְגוֹל (tarnegōl, “chicken”) does not appear in the Jewish Scriptures, and even the verb גִּדֵּל (gidēl, “to raise,” “to breed”) in the pi‘el stem does not occur in the Hebrew Bible with reference to raising animals. In the Mishnah, however, these terms are not only current, they even appear in the same context:

אֵין מְגַדְּלִים תַּרְנָגְלִים בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם מִפְּנֵי הַקָּדָשִׁים

They do not raise chickens in Jerusalem because of the holy things. (m. Bab. Kam. 7:7)[4]

On account of their similar vocabulary and their common subject matter, this mishnah can aid us with the interpretation and reconstruction of our Qumran fragment. The rest of the words of the fragment may imply that in its original context other animals were also mentioned that were forbidden entry to Jerusalem.[5]

Although a prohibition against raising chickens in Jerusalem is not found anywhere else in the Dead Sea Scrolls, we can say that the subject in general was of interest to the sectarians. In the halakhic letter known as 4QMMT, we learn that the members of the Qumran sect disagreed with their opponents (to whom the letter was addressed) over whether it was permitted to bring dogs into Jerusalem.[6] The inclusion of the prohibition against bringing dogs into Jerusalem in 4QMMT teaches us about the importance the sectarians attached to it, since this halakhic letter enumerates the points of controversy that distinguished the sect from the rest of Israel. The letter gives a reason for the prohibition, which is the fear that the dogs might eat the flesh that was left on the bones of the Temple sacrifices. This reason illuminates the obscure justification given in the Mishnah against raising chickens in Jerusalem “because of the holy things” (m. Bab. Kam. 7:7).[7]

The connection between the ordinances concerning dogs and chickens in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the halakhah in m. Bab. Kam. 7:7 is clear. What is of interest to us is to identify the common origin of these ordinances, which have no basis in the Torah. In connection with this goal, we hope to ascertain whether the ordinance included chickens and dogs (and perhaps other animals as well) from the outset. 4QMMT only mentions dogs because there was a dispute concerning them; the Temple Scroll also includes, in a general way, the prohibition against raising dogs. But it seems strange to me that the rabbinic sages were lenient in the case of dogs (although they are impure animals), yet stringent in the case of chickens (which are pure birds).[8] Were the sages seeking to remove “false opinions” from the hearts of the Sadducees?

A Greek Parallel to Our Fragment

To these testimonies from Hebrew sources, it is necessary to compare the edict of Antiochus III, which he issued following his conquest of the land of Israel.[9] The edict forbade anyone to bring the flesh or skins of impure animals into Jerusalem, or, indeed, to raise impure animals in the holy city:

μηδενὶ ἐξεῖναι ἀλλοφύλῳ εἰς τὸν περίβολον εἰσιέναι τοῦ ἱεροῦ τὸν ἀπηγορευμένον τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις, εἰ μὴ οἷς ἁγνισθεῖσίν ἐστιν ἔθιμον κατὰ τὸν πάτριον νόμον. μηδ᾿ εἰς τὴν πόλιν εἰσφερέσθω ἵππεια κρέα μηδὲ ἡμιόνεια μηδὲ ἀγρίων ὄνων καὶ ἡμέρων παρδάλεών τε καὶ ἀλωπέκων καὶ λαγῶν καὶ καθόλου δὲ πάντων τῶν ἀπηγορευμένων ζῴων τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις· μηδὲ τὰς δορὰς εἰσφέρειν ἐξεῖναι, ἀλλὰ μηδὲ τρέφειν τι τούτων ἐν τῇ πόλει· μόνοις δὲ τοῖς προγονικοῖς θύμασιν, ἀφ᾿ ὧν καὶ τῷ θεῷ δεῖ καλλιερεῖν ἐπιτετράφθαι χρῆσθαι. ὁ δέ τι τούτων παραβὰς ἀποτινύτω τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν ἀργυρίου δραχμὰς τρισχιλίας.

It is unlawful for any foreigner to enter the enclosure of the temple which is forbidden to the Jews, except to those of them who are accustomed to enter after purifying themselves in accordance with the law of the country. Nor shall anyone bring into the city the flesh of horses or of mules or of wild or tame asses, or of leopards, foxes or hares or, in general, of any animals forbidden to the Jews. Nor is it lawful to bring in their skins or even to breed any of these animals in the city. But only the sacrificial animals known to their ancestors and necessary for the propitiation of God shall they be permitted to use. And the person who violates any of these statutes shall pay to the priests a fine of thee thousand drachmas of silver. (Jos., Ant. 12:145-146; Loeb)

The edict goes beyond the ordinances in the Hebrew sources by including three items related to impure animals: it forbade raising such animals, it forbade bringing their flesh into Jerusalem, and it forbade bringing their skins into Jerusalem.

A parallel to the third prohibition has now been found in the Temple Scroll (11QTa [11Q19] XLVII), which stipulates that one is not to bring the skins of animals that were not slaughtered in the Temple into Jerusalem. The scroll formulates the principle that the purity of the skins is the same as the purity of the flesh. The purity spoken of here concerns the offerings and the sacrifices that are eaten in Jerusalem. A discussion concerning the impurity of the skins of carrion or of impure animals is not included in the scroll, since according to the sectarian’s system these subjects are not peculiar to Jerusalem.[10] Ordinances pertaining to skins are preserved in 4QMMT.[11] Despite this widening of the scope of the prohibition in the Hebrew sources as compared to the Greek edict, in that the Hebrew sources prohibit the bringing into Jerusalem even of pure skins and forbid the bringing in of chickens (which are pure birds), the stipulations in the Greek edict are in harmony with the ancient halakhah, although there is, of course, no hint of the stricter halakhah of the Temple Scroll pertaining to pure skins. It is even possible that from the outset the edict did not agree with the ancient halakhah, since it was directed at Gentiles—or at Hellenized Jews who did not follow the halakhah—and it is also possible that it has not reached us in its original form. Certainly it comes from an historical source that was written for non-Jewish readers, for whom it was, in any case, difficult to understand why it was not permissible to bring pure skins and pure birds into Jerusalem.[12] It will be necessary for scholars of Jewish history to reevaluate the edict of Antiochus III in light of the Judean Desert discoveries.


Despite their differences, the connection between the Hebrew sources and the Greek edict have been recognized above. Because of this, the Greek edict has assisted us in identifying the correct placement of our fragment within the Temple Scroll. It is reasonable to suppose that the Temple Scroll included the subject of the purity of the skins of animals in Jerusalem together with raising animals there, and we should, therefore, place our fragment at the top of column 48, following the discussion of skins. As we stated above, the words that were preserved in the fragment hint that other animals that were forbidden entry to Jerusalem were also enumerated. The new fragment, therefore, enables us to complete and to reconstruct the lacuna in the Temple Scroll. In so doing, we have gained an important contribution to our understanding of the development of the ancient Jewish halakhah and of the history and historiography of the Second Temple Period.

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[*] This article originally appeared as:

אלישע קימרון, התרנגול והכלב ומגילת המקדש‏

—11QTc (עמ′ XLVIII), תרביץ 54 (1995) :476-473.

[1] See Ben Zion Wacholder, “The Fragmentary Remaings of 11QTORAH (Temple Scroll),” Hebrew Union College Annual (1991): 3-4. Nor was I convinced by Martínez’ response, which I read in manuscript. See F. G. Martínez, Journal for the Study of Judaism 23 (1992): 318-320.

[2] See 11QTa [11Q19] XLVII, 15, 18; LII, 19.

[3] See 11QTa XLV, 8, and, likewise, “to all the city of the Temple,” 11QT XLV, 11-12.

[4] The Mishnah preserves the ordinance, whose subject is the purity of Jerusalem, but it is introduce in rulings on damages and not in the tractates on holy things or purity. It appears in conjunction with the prohibition against raising goats in the land of Israel, which is introduced at the opening of m. Bab. Kam. 7:7. In the Bavli the ordinance is introduced in a baraita that lists ten items unique to Jerusalem, one of which is the prohibition against raising chickens (b. Bab. Kam. 82b). A similar tradition is found in the Tosefta, but there it lacks the prohibition against raising chickens (t. Neg. 6:1-2), but this requires further study.

[5] The prohibition against raising certain animals in Jerusalem is also mentioned in Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, §35 (ed. Schecter, 104) and Version B, §39 (ed. Schechter, 107). On the question of the reliability of these testimonies, see Menahem Kister, אבות דר′ נתן—עיונים בבעיות נוסח, עריכה, ופרשנות, written in fulfillment of the requirements for the doctorate of philosophy degree at the Hebrew University (Jerusalem, 1994), 195 n. 401.

[6] See E. Qimron and J. Strugnell, Miqṣat Ma‘asé Ha-Torah DJD, vol. 10 (Oxford, 1994), 162-164. See also, E. Urbach, הלכה, מקורותיה והתפתחותה (Jerusalem, 1984), 24.

[7] See below, note 12.

[8] Even though according all opinions the raising of chickens in Jerusalem was forbidden, a rooster that was stoned in Jerusalem because it had killed a human being (an infant) is mentioned in m. Edu. 6:1. See Urbach (above, n. 6), 61-62.

[9] See Y. Yadin, מגלת המקדש (vol. 1; Jerusalem, 1977), 240, and the studies he mentions there in n. 37. See also, L. H. Schiffman, “The Skin of Animals in the Temple Scroll and in Miqṣat Ma‘ase Ha-Torah,” Proceedings of the Tenth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Division A, 191-198. On p. 193 Schiffman compares the ordinances in the Temple Scroll and in 4QMMT to the edict of Antiochus III. He determines that there is not a prohibition against bringing impure animals into Jerusalem in the Temple Scroll or in 4QMMT. But how can he have overlooked the prohibition against bringing dogs into Jerusalem, when he had the composite text of 4QMMT right before him?

[10] Observing the repetitions that are in the versions of ordinances in our passage (11QTa XLVII), Yadin opined that the repetitions are the result of the polemical style of the ordinances. See also Schifmann (above, n. 9). In my view there are no superfluous repetitions; rather two classifications are dealt with: in lines 7-14 the subject is the purity of Israelites in Jerusalem, as the third person possessive pronouns (e.g., “their purity,” “their oil”), while in lines 14-18 the subject is the purity of the Temple (cf. line 17), namely the purity of the holy things of the Temple. On the distinction between the concepts of “purity,” and “Temple purity,” see Qimron and Strugnell (above n. 6), 138. I hold the view that in line 15 בשרי (“my flesh”) and not בשרו (“his flesh”) is required by the syntax and the subject matter. Note that the pronominal suffix of the word תזבחוהו (“you will sacrifice it”) does not agree in number with the word עורות (“skins”). According to my system it depends on the form בשרי (“my flesh”), indicating that the statement is spoken by God, and refers to the holy things that belong to him (which is to say, the passage deals with the purity of the Temple). In order to clarify my opinion I have set out below the text (according to my reading) in two columns where the parallels are shown opposite one another:


lines 14-18 lines 7-14

כול עור בהמה טהורה אשר יזבחו

בתוך עריהמה לוא יביאו לה

ולוא תטהרו עור מתוך עריכמה לעירי

כי כטהרת בשרי כן יטהרו העורות אם

במקדשי תזבחוהו יטהר למקדשי ואם בעריכמה תזבחוהו וטהר


כי בעריהמה יהיו עושים

בהמה מלאכתמה לכול צורכיהמה ואל עיר מקדשי לוא יביאו

 כי כבשרמה תהיה טהרתמה

ולוא תטמאו את העיר אשר

אנוכי משכן את שמי ומקדשי בתוכה

וכול טהרת המקדש בעורות המקדש תביאו

כי בעורות אשר יזבחו

במקדש בהמה יהיו מביאים את יינמה ואת שמנמה וכול

אוכלמה לעיר מקדשי

ולוא תטמאו

את מקדשי ועירי בעורות פגוליכמה

ולוא יגאלו את מקדשי בעורות זבחי


שר אנוכי שוכן בתוכה אשר יזבחו בתוך ארצמה
lines 7-14 lines 14-18
7 Every skin of a pure animal that they will slaughter

8 in their cities they shall not bring it [into Jerusalem—JNT]

And you shall deem a skin

15 in your cities as pure for my city

for in their cities they will make

9 tools with them for all their needs, but into the city of my Temple they will not bring it,

10 for as is their flesh so will their purity be.

for according to the purity of my flesh, so will be the purity of the skins. If

16 you slaughter it in my Temple it will be pure for my Temple, but if you slaughter it in your cities it will be pure

17 for your cities.

And you will not render impure the city that

11 I cause my name and my Temple to dwell therein.

But concerning skins that they sacrifice

12 in the Temple, with them they will bring their wine and their oil and all

13 their food to the city of my Temple.

And all the purity of the Temple you shall bring with the skins of the Temple
And they shall not defile my Temple with the skins

14 of their profanely slaughtered animals which they slaughter in the cities of their land.

and you shall not render impure my Temple or my city within which I dwell with your profane skins.

[11] See Qimron and Strugnell (above n. 6), 154-156.

[12] It is important to point out that the rabbinic sages and the interpreters of the Mishnah who followed them did not know the original rationale for the prohibition against bringing chickens into Jerusalem. They offered the explanation that chickens, which are pure birds, do not themselves cause the holy things to be profaned, rather the impure creeping things that the chickens had eaten might profane the holy things. See Rashi’s interpretation of b. Bab. Kam. 28b. On the original rationale, which is explained in 4QMMT, see the body of this essay.

Would you like to offer a correction or suggest an improved translation? You may do so below: