the Israelites should not establish worship places all over the land, but only הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר ה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶם, “at the site that YHWH your God will choose” (Deut 12:5). Variations of this phrase are repeated more than twenty times in Deuteronomy, one more time in the book of Joshua (9:27), and nowhere else in the Bible. What is the place which YHWH will choose, and why is it so enigmatic?
In 1805, one of the fathers of biblical criticism, Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette (1780–1849) suggested that “the Torah” found by King Josiah according to the story in 2 Kings 22–23 was Deuteronomy. His argument is based in part on Josiah’s subsequent campaign to destroy worship places outside the Jerusalem Temple, something commanded only in Deuteronomy. De Wette thus argued that some form of the book of Deuteronomy was composed or was at least finalized in Judah around the time of Josiah’s reign, and that it, therefore, must have had Jerusalem in mind.
That work did not refer to Jerusalem because its author knew that such a reference would be out of place chronologically, before Jerusalem was chosen by David and Solomon. To a traditional scholar, this answer was impossible, and thus Shadal (Samuel David Luzzatto, 1800–1865) attacks De Wette regarding Deut 12:5:
The Place(s) that YHWH will Choose: Ebal, Shiloh, and Jerusalem, Zvi Koenigsberg thetorah.com
The Samaritans interpret the phrase as a reference to Mount Gerizim whose status as a cultic site in the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP) is fundamental… the phrase “the place YHWH will choose/chose” first appears in the opening section of the Deuteronomic law collection. The verses immediately preceding this code, perhaps even opening it, read as follows: Deut 11:29 When YHWH your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and possess, you shall pronounce the blessing at Mount Gerizim and the curse at Mount Ebal.
Thus, at least on grounds of literary context in the text’s current form, it can be argued that “the place” introduced in chapter 12 refers back to one of the places mentioned just a few verses earlier (Gerizim and Ebal). In Samaritan tradition, this place (Gerizim, the mountain of blessing) was chosen once and cannot be altered.
The Deuteronomistic History is clearly working with the Deuteronomic concept of centralized worship, and yet, it allows for positive accounts of worship centers in Ebal, Shiloh, Kiryath-jearim, and others, in addition to Jerusalem. How can this be?
New Jerusalem - Qumran
In the non-sectarian documents of Qumran, we find consolation after the temple's destruction (4QTanhumin), with links to Isaiah 40–51 which writes that the temple will be rebuilt and Zion will be restored to its former glory.
According to the sectarian compositions, Jerusalem is ungodly, as we see in the Persherim text. Illegitimate and wicked priesthood occupy it so it is no surprise that the Qumranites abandoned it. At Qumran, they believed themselves to be establishing the true temple since the other had been corrupted. Furthermore, the community itself metaphorically believed that they were the New Jerusalem and the new temple.
They also believed that they were commanded to build a temple during the end times as one can read about in the Temple Scroll.
Texts suggest that this Jerusalem has no place at the end of days, such as 1QSa II 4–12. However, others suggest the opposite, that Jerusalem plays an important role in the eschatological sense, such as 4Q177 and 1QM XII 10–16.
The Temple and Sectarianism
Jewish sectarianism in antiquity, unlike Christian, defined itself in matters of law (halakha) and legal authority. ... The sects debated many different laws, but the specific halakhot which always stood at the heart of Jewish sectarianism were the laws related to the temple: purity, cult, and priestly offerings. The sects advanced different theories of self-legitimation but the authority figures against whom they always defined themselves were the priests of the temple. Hence a common feature of Jewish sectarianism is the polemic against the temple of Jerusalem: its precincts are impure, its cult profane, and its priests illegitimate. And just as the Jerusalem temple claimed to be the only authentic house of God ("one temple for the one God" remarks Josephus in Against Apion 2.193), so too the sects, which saw themselves either explicitly or implicitly as the (temporary) replacements or equivalents of the temple, advanced exclusive claims to the truth: only they understand God's will and only they perform God's law correctly.
The world which produced Jewish sectarianism, nurtured it, and gave it meaning, disappeared in 70. In addition to removing the focal point of Jewish sectarianism, the destruction of the temple also facilitated the emergence of individuals as authority figures to replace the institutional authority previously exercised by the temple and the sects, and the emergence of the ideology of pluralism to replace the monism which previously characterized the temple and the sects. The net effect of these developments was the end of sectarianism and the creation of a society marked by legal disputes between individual teachers who nevertheless respected each other's right to disagree.
… the major goal of the Yavnean rabbis seems to have been not the expulsion of those with whom they disagreed but the cessation of sectarianism and the creation of a society which tolerated, even encouraged, vigorous debate among members of the fold. The Mishnah is the first work of Jewish antiquity which ascribes conflicting legal opinions to named individuals who, in spite of their disagreements, belong to the same fraternity. This mutual tolerance is the enduring legacy of Yavneh.
.... the rabbinic ideology of the Yavnean period: there is one "orthodox" Judaism which, while tolerating disputes within the fold ... has no room for any group — even Pharisees — which maintains a sectarian self definition. The rabbis called such groups minim. ... the birkat haminim, the curse against minim ("heretics") which was inserted in the daily liturgy in the Yavnean period (Bab. Berakhot 28b-2ga), did not define which heretics were intended (all perushim, separatists, were included Tosefta Berakot, 3:25).
.... the major contribution of Yavneh to Jewish history: the creation of a society which tolerates disputes without producing sects. For the first time Jews "agreed to disagree." The major literary monument created by the Yavneans and their successors testifies to this innovation. No previous Jewish work looks like the Mishnah because no previous Jewish work, neither biblical nor post-biblical, neither Hebrew nor Greek, neither Palestinian nor diasporan, attributes conflicting legal and exegetical opinions to named individuals who, in spite of their differences, belong to the same fraternity. The dominant ethic here is not exclusivity but elasticity. The goal was not the triumph over other sects but the elimination of the need for sectarianism itself. As one tannaitic midrash remarks, לֹ֣א תִתְגֹּֽדְד֗וּ [Deut. 14:1]. Do not make separate factions (jagudot) but make one faction all together."
The destruction of the temple provided the impetus for this process: it warned the Jews of the dangers of internal divisiveness and it removed one of the major focal points of Jewish sectarianism.
The Significance of Yavneh: Pharisees, Rabbis, and the End of Jewish Sectarianism, SHAYE J.D. COHEN Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College Annual, 1984, Vol. 55 (1984), pp. 27-53 Published by: Hebrew Union College Press
.... not all Jews of the first century felt the trauma in the same way or treated all elements of the catastrophe equally. The air of crisis which pervades the apocalypses of Baruch and Ezra is conspicuously absent from tannaitic literature, even those dicta ascribed to Yavnean figures. The point of the legend about Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai and Vespasian is that rabbinic life ought to continue as before, the Jews sub servient to foreign rule and occupied with the study of the law. No crisis here. And even the apocalypses of Baruch and Ezra do not treat all the items on the above list. For example, neither seer is concerned about the cessation of the sacrificial cult or about the destruction of the temple perse. In this essay my theme is the end of Jewish sectarianism. Although no ancient text discusses the ultimate fate of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, I shall argue that their disappearance, as well as the disappearance of the Houses of Hillel and Shammai, is a consequence of the destruction of the temple.
SHAYE J.D. COHEN ibid.