Archives for category: Dead Sea Scrolls

Qumran34s2

To assess the foundations of Christianity and whether it was influenced by the teachings of the community at Qumran this essay will compare and contrast the texts of the Gospels of Matthew and John, the two apostles of Jesus of Nazareth, and the Qumran scrolls, which provide first-hand information on Palestinian-Jewish relationships during the the first century CE[1], as paleographic datings put the Qumran texts into the correct time frame[2]. The Old Testament also provides a background to the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth[3] and the particular Gospels were chosen because of the close relationship Matthew and John had to the life of Jesus. Although the Gospels have been redacted and are more than likely community documents written by more than one person, the texts of Qumran[4] and the books of the Old Testament also have these features. Therefore, through this method I hope to assess whether Christianity was more influenced by mainstream Judaism or the teachings of the Qumran community.

Christianity was based in the community of mainstream Judaism both religiously and geographically. The Gospels and the Qumran texts both refer to books of the Old Testament. In giving the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth, the Gospel of Matthew begins with a tabling device found in the beginning of the First Book of Chronicles[5]. The writer of the Gospel seems to use this initial device to provide a voice of authority. A tendenz appears in the Gospels to select passages of the Old Testament to legitimize a certain stance[6], such as Jesus’ infancy[7] with the Immanuel Prophecy of Isaiah 7.14 or the Egyptian exile[8] with Hosea 11.1. The Qumran scrolls, on the other hand, used the authority of ancient texts in a different context. It is the right interpretation of the Law that has primacy for the Qumran community. For example, one can be expelled from the community for not adhering to the Law, and must study the Law[9], but can have alternative views of the prophecies contained within the doctrine[10].

Like the Qumran community, the teachings of Jesus are deterministic. In Matthew 10.29 Jesus states: “And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your father’s will”. Also, in John 6.65 it states that, “…no one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by my Father”. This can be compared with the 1QS[11] which states ‘that they may love all the sons of light, each according to his lot in God’s design…’. However, the teachings of the Pharisees are only semi-deterministic while the Sadducees are not at all[12]. This determinism in both sets of texts is also noted in a fulfilment of law. In John 5.17, Jesus states: Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil’ and advocates for the commandments to be kept. Similarly, the 1QS[13] (1.4), and 4Q255, 257 state that the Master will do as commanded by the hand of “Moses and all His servants the Prophets”. This view has at its heart a strong dualistic notion of good and evil.

The dichotomy of good and evil has the Gospel of Matthew showing a marked similarity to 1QS and CD by offering potential converts the choice between darkness and light[14]. At 5.14 it states: “[Believers] are the light of the world”. This is similar to the dichotomic view in the1QS with all the children of righteousness being ruled by the ‘Prince of Light’[15] and all the children of injustice being ruled by the Angel of Darkness’[16]. At Matt. 8.12 it is stated: “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” In particular, the Gospel of John at 6.13 states that John [the Baptist] was the witness to the True Light. Again at John 12.46 “I have come as a light into the world that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness.” However, there is a significant difference to the Dead Sea sectarians in that Jesus also offers a mission statement: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.”[17]

This missionary movement is seen in the Gospel of John at 21.42 where it expands Christianity beyond Judaism and the Temple, quoting Psalm 118.22: “The stone which the builder rejected has become the chief corner-stone”. In 1QS at 8.8 also refers to the community being the ‘corner-stone’. Matthew 3.9 states that John offered ritual baptism not only to Jews but to many non-Jews as well. However, there does not seem to be an apparent effort to convert non-Jewish followers in the Qumran Scrolls. The difference is that the communities described in the Dead Sea Scrolls tend to keep themselves separate for the sake of purity – ‘No member of the Community shall follow them in matters of doctrine and justice, or eat or drink anything of theirs, or take anything from them except for a price’[18], whereas, the Gospel of John quotes Isaiah to include Gentiles in its teachings[19].

Christianity also has an emphasis on purity, but it is an abstracted version.  Matthew 4 shows a similarity to the 1QS by telling about how Jesus went into the desert as a ‘purification’ process after baptism. In 1QS they also state that members should go into the wilderness and quote Isaiah[20].  However, in Matthew 18 a figurative measure of purity is used in that the greatest are as ‘little children’. Also, in John 9.6-7 Jesus tells the blind man to purify himself in the pool at Siloam. The 1QS also refers to such cleansing processes: ‘And when his flesh is sprinkled with purifying water and sanctified by cleansing water…’ [21]. However, in John 1.25 there is a dispute between John’s disciples and other Jews about purification, and at 4.2 it states that, unlike John, Jesus did not baptise. These types of contradictions seem to emphasise the nonconformity that Jesus appeared to uphold in his ministry.

While much of Jesus’ ministry was to do with healing the sick, blind, lame, and insane[22], the CD excludes such people[23] and the 1QS does not mention them at all. The Essenes, on the other hand, were known to be healers that travelled about the land[24]. They were thought by some to be a part of the Dead Sea sectarians and that John the Baptist was an Essene raised in the desert at Qumran[25].  Pliny the Elder also wrote about the Essenes living in a desert community as a place of no women and no money[26]. However, John is not identified as an Essene by Josephus or the gospels. Also John practiced the purification by baptism only once[27], whereas purification was seen as a ritual by all other known Judaic sects. That being so does not mean that it was impossible for John the Baptist to have started a splinter group from either of these groups at a time when he thought the Messiah had come. This situation may come about when a person involved in a belief changes that belief to encompass what they consider another reality. A clue to the possibility of a new belief is the revelation of a ‘new commandment’ by Jesus to ‘love one another, as I have loved you’[28] and the introduction of the ‘Holy Spirit’ or the ‘spirit of truth’[29] which become fundamental to the doctrine of Christianity.

While the 1QS and CD used the solar calendar, there is no evidence in either gospels of Matthew or John that the lunar calendar, used in the mainstream Jewish religion[30], was not used by Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth preached in synagogues and the Temple and he attended such feast days as the Passover[31], thereby implying that Jesus’ doctrine did not involve any change to traditional worship only a change to doctrine, and that Christian changes from the lunar calendar to a solar calendar came after the death of Jesus. The 1QS, like mainstream Judaism, was particularly strict about the keeping of festivals and holy days, however Jesus calls himself ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ and defends his healing of others on this day[32]. This would have been seen as sacrilegious by the other sects in Judaism, particularly the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Also, as the doctrine of Qumran revolved around paying particular attention to upholding ‘the seasons of Jubilee’[33] in which the holy Sabbaths have been revealed by God’[34], it infers that Jesus, although perhaps influenced by them, had no interest in complying with the doctrines of the Qumran texts.

Christianity is based in mainstream Judaism as much of Jesus’ ministry was spent preaching in synagogues and the Temple and upholding mainstream feast days such as Passover. Yet the doctrine of Jesus of Nazareth shows remarkable similarities to the doctrines of the Qumran texts through its determinism, dualism and emphasis on spiritual purity. Jesus’ ministry also holds some similarity with the Essene sect through Jesus’ practice of healing and John the Baptist early life hold some similarity with descriptions of the Essene movement. However, the amount of contradiction between the doctrines of these mainstream and unconventional religious movements and the particular teachings of Jesus of Nazareth about the ‘new commandment’ and the ‘Holy Spirit’ show that Christianity was influenced by all facets of Judaism but was primarily a new missionary doctrine which was intended to be preached to Gentiles as well as Jews. Therefore, it can be said that Christianity was influenced by the Qumran sectarians but only as much as it was influenced by mainstream Judaism.

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Beall, Todd S. “Conclusion” in Josephus’ Description of the Essenes Illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls , Beall, Todd S. , 1988 , 123-130
  2. Betz, Otto. “Was John the Baptist an Essene?” in Bible Review , 1990 , 18-25
  3. Brooke, George J. “Biblical interpretation in the Qumran Scrolls and the New Testament” in Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament , Brooke, George J. , 2005 , 52-69
  4. Burg A. et al., (date unknown) Christian Calendar- Jerusalem Centre for Jewish Christian Relations, viewed 21 November 2012, http://www.jcjcr.org/kyn_article_view.php?aid=50
  5. Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins: General methodological considerations” in Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins , Fitzmyer, Joseph A. , 2000 , 1-16
  6. Josephus, The Jewish War, trans. G.A. Williamson, London: Penguin Books, 1970
  7. Pliny the Elder, Nat. hist. 5.15 (73) Natural History: With an English Translation, LCL 10; H. Rackham; Cambridge, Mass / London: Harvard University Press / Heinemann, 1962, PA6156.P65/1962
  8. The Holy Bible- Revised Authorised Version, (1982), British usage edition, Samuel Bagster & Sons Ltd, London
  9. Vanderkam, James  C. “The origin, character, and early history of the 364-day calendar: A reassessment of Jaubert’s hypotheses” Catholic Biblical Quarterly , 41: , 1979 , 392-411
  10. Vermes, G. (ed. & trans.), The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English London: Penguin Books, 2011

[1] Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins: General methodological considerations” in Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins , Fitzmyer, Joseph A. , 2000 , p.4

[2] Fitzmyer, 2000, p.6

[3] Fitzmyer, 2000, p.5

[4] Fitzmyer, 2000, p.15

[5] Chron. 1; Matt. 1-17

[6] Brooke, George J. “Biblical interpretation in the Qumran Scrolls and the New Testament” in Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament , Brooke, George J. , 2005 , p.55

[7] Matt. 1.23

[8] Matt 13.15

[9] 1QS V 6-7

[10] CD VI, 18; XX, 32-33

[11] 1QS I, 10

[12] Josephus, BJ,2

[13] 1QS I, 4

[14] Matt 3.16

[15] 1QS III,20

[16] 1QS III, 21

[17] Matt 5.16

[18] 1QS V, 17

[19] John 12. 18-23

[20] Isaiah 40.3

[21] 1QS 3.8

[22] Matt 8-9

[23] CD XV, 15

[24] Josephus BJ, 2.145

[25] Beall, Todd S. “Conclusion” in Josephus’ Description of the Essenes Illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls , Beall, Todd S. , 1988 , 123-130; Betz, Otto. “Was John the Baptist an Essene?” in Bible Review , 1990 , 18-25

[26] Pliny the Elder (Nat. hist. 2, 5.15, 73)

[27] John 2

[28] John 13.34

[29] Matt, 12.31; John 7.37;16.5

[30] Vanderkam, James C. “The origin, character, and early history of the 364-day calendar: A reassessment of Jaubert’s hypotheses” Catholic Biblical Quarterly , 41: , 1979 , p.411

[31] Christian Calendar- Jewish Centre for Christian-Jewish Relations, viewed on 23/11/2012

[32] Matt. 12.1-8; John 710; 9.13

[33] 1QS IX, 15; CD IV, 1

[34] CD III, 15

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This essay will explore the similarities and the differences between the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, being the Community Rule (1QS) and the Damascus Document (CD), and posit implications for the historical environment of the documents.

 

The 1QS scroll was found in a desert cave at Qumran in 1948. It contains the rules for a religious community that occupied the site from around the late second century BCE to the middle of the first century CE. The CD is a scroll found in the late nineteenth century in a synagogue in Cairo and is a medieval copy of scrolls also found at the Qumran site. The two texts show remarkable similarities in their intent but appear quite different in the theological method and the lifestyle of the two communities that they describe. It will be argued that the two texts have fundamental similarities which show that the CD was a prior document written in a time of persecution and that the 1QS was the later document that showed how the sect evolved to cope with the circumstances of its isolation.

In investigating the similarities between each text, three fundamental similarities appear. Firstly, both texts stress their community’s separation from the mainstream community. Secondly, both texts anticipate the arrival of a Messiah. Finally, both texts show a similarity between terms. In particular, they emphasise reliance upon the Law of Moses but as it is interpreted through a received divine Covenant. In this way, they show their roots in mainstream Judaism. However, both texts diverge from Judaism in the use of a solar calendar through which they must keep firmly ‘to the elect of the time’ and uphold ‘the seasons of Jubilee[1] in which the holy Sabbaths have been revealed by God[2]. The term ‘sons of zadok’[3] is applied to the authorities of both texts which shows that at some point in their history they recognised the authority of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, that officiated the change of religious authority from king to priest. Yet, in keeping to the original solar calendar, they seem not to recognise the change to the lunar calendar wrought after Babylonian exile. Therefore, both texts refer to a Hebraic priestly community that uses a prior system of keeping Sabbaths and festivals.

Separation from mainstream Judaism is stressed in both texts and results in an emphasis on perfection, which is asserted by the people of the community[4]. This emphasis on perfection reveals that both texts are based upon hierarchical communities where one’s position is determined by the leader[5]. The concept of hierarchical perfection may allude to the plant metaphor used to describe the community in both texts, where the root of the plant comes ‘from Israel and Aaron’[6] and will become the ‘Everlasting Plantation’.  It is inferred in both texts that this hierarchical perfection will allow the community to survive an age of wrath under the dominion of ‘Belial’[7]. Therefore, it seems that the similarities between the two documents point to a description of a similar, if not the same, community in two different periods of time.

The similarities that point to different time periods also show the crucial differences between the texts. The CD contains a history that relates the origins of the community which is not contained within the 1QS. In contrast, the 1QS scroll is composed as a set of community rules with a prayer at the end that is based upon the structure of a psalm[8]. The time stated within the CD text is 390 years after the capturing of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar[9].  There is also a reference to the ‘visitation’, in which the community was saved while ‘the apostates’ were given up to the sword and their ‘destruction was by the hand of Belial’[10].  Shortly after, the text refers to the ‘head of the asps [who] is the chief of the kings of Greece who came to wreak vengeance upon them’[11]. So perhaps it refers to the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, who violently suppressed a Jewish revolt in 168 BCE[12]. This would date the document’s origins in approximately the mid-second century BCE when there began a power struggle between different factions within the Jewish community in Judea[13]. The CD also relies upon the mainstream Hebrew texts as the scroll has fifty-one references to the books of the Old Testament, whereas the 1QS only has four. This implies reliance by the CD on the mainstream religious authorities while the 1QS has little reference to these authorities.

This reliance upon mainstream texts is reflected in the references to Temple worship found in the CD which are not found in the 1QS. In the CD, the three main sins cited are fornication, riches and the profanation of the Temple[14]. This stands in contrast to the concept of the Temple found in the 1QS, which sees the Council as the Temple[15]. The attainment of perfection in the 1QS is stated as being atonement for rebellion and unfaithfulness ‘so that they may obtain loving-kindness for the Land without the flesh of holocausts or the fat of sacrifice[16]. Further, it is stated in 1QS that the divine offering will be a blessing from the lips, which seems to be reliance upon the offering of prayers that uphold the seasons of Jubilee, rather than animal sacrifice[17]. This difference could imply that the community of the CD lived in a settlement that had already had a temple cult while the 1QS needed to find other methods of religious worship that suited their location in the desert.

This difference in the concept of the Temple is also borne out in the concept of the community. While the CD has rules for marriage and children[18] the 1QS makes no mention of women or children. The CD also excludes people from their community if they are found to be physically or mentally defective[19] and only allows men of a certain age to be in authority, while the 1QS is a semi-monastical community that shares its possessions and meals and makes no mention of exclusion through age or disability[20].  Both texts share the concept of a special Covenant with God but the CD advocates a New Covenant -‘a pact’- that will be (or has been in some parts of the text) declared in the land of Damascus[21]. The Covenant for the 1QS has a strict set of rules that governs every aspect of one’s life[22] whereas the CD demands a more generalised strict adherence to the ‘Laws of Moses’[23]. Therefore, there are quite distinct religiously conceptual differences between the two texts.

The historian, Eyal Regev, uses these theological differences to explain the divergences between the two texts and asserts that each text is based upon a different sect[24]. For Regev, the difference lies in the descriptions of each text’s social structures. Firstly, Regev points out that the CD was run by overseers who had exclusive authority[25], whereas the IQS was less hierarchical with the overseer not having religious authority[26]. Regev also points to theological differences such as concepts of divine revelation and the total separation from Israel that is stipulated by IQS[27].  However, the similarity in the texts requiring ten men of the Council needing one priest among them[28], their reliance upon the two prophesied messiahs from the houses of Aaron and Israel[29], and the endorsement of the solar calendar show that both texts had fundamental conceptual roots. The differences in divine revelation and total separation from the mainstream religion could infer that the sect evolved over a period of time into a much smaller and more intense community than the original sect.

This is also asserted by the historian, Charlotte Hempel, who uses the literary differences between the texts to map out their evolution[30].  Hempel states that the CD and the 1QS are more inter-textual than the other Qumran texts, with a particular reference to the perfection and holiness with which each text’s community describes itself[31]. This leads to Hempel’s conclusion that the texts originated independently of their place[32]. However, although they use similar vocabulary, one text appears to be a text that advocated a similar type of temple cult that was fundamental to the mainstream, while the 1QS became a more particular type of document that saw itself as the Temple. Therefore, textuality does not seem to be a completely effective method of explaining the two texts divergence and it could be inferred that each text shows its place through either the conformity to the temple cult of CD or the semi-monastic lifestyle of 1QS.

The historian, Phillip Davies, posits that the 1QS is based upon the older CD and that this text legitimised the community of 1QS[33]. For Davies, the CD is a description of a point of origin from Babylonian departure onwards, and rejects notions of the CD being a document from the religious strife in Judea during the mid-second century BCE. However, the CD is written in the historical genre and relates to itself as living in an age of wrath, with particular mention of the Greek kings. If one critically analyses the text, as Davies asserts one must[34], then it appears that the CD was the one of the original texts of the Dead Sea Sectarians that gives its history as a splinter group formed around the middle of the second century BCE during a time of persecution and religious strife.

The CD and the 1QS had a fundamental similarity and that was their belief that they had a special covenant based upon a more ancient law than the one advocated by Ezra and Nehemiah after the Babylonian exile. The sectarians considered themselves true believers that would be redeemed through their pursuit of perfection and strict adherence to ancient laws based upon the older, solar calendar. They suffered persecution for their beliefs, trying to remain separate themselves from the mainstream religion, and subsequently took refuge in camps in the desert. As time passed, this led to their semi-monastic isolation at Qumran, with the CD text being the one of the sect’s initial documents written while they were still in the mainstream community, and that evolved into the Community Rules of the 1QS. So, rather than a sect that splinters and dissipates into the mainstream, as Regev suggests, the Dead Sea Sectarians appear to be a splinter group of mainstream Judaism that became more isolated, intense and idiosyncratic over time.

 

 

REFERENCES:

 

  1. Vermes, G. (ed. & trans.), The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (London: Penguin Books, 2004 or 2011)
    1. Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, William Whiston, A.M., Ed.
    2. Regev, E., ‘Between Two Sects: Differentiating the Yahad and the Damascus Covenant’, in The Dead Sea Scrolls: Text and Context (ed., C. Hempel; Leiden: Brill, 2009)
    3. Hempel, Charlotte, ‘CD manuscript B and the Rule of the Community—Reflections on a Literary Relationship’, Dead Sea Discoveries 16 (2009)
    4. Davies, Philip R. “The prehistory of the Qumran community” in Dead Sea Scrolls: Forty Years of Research , Dimant, Devorah; Rappaport, Uriel , 1992

 

This essay will explore the similarities and the differences between the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, being the Community Rule (1QS) and the Damascus Document (CD), and posit implications for the historical environment of the documents.

 


 


[1] 1QS ix 15; CD ivi 5

[2] CD iii 15

[3] 1QS v 2; CD iv, 1

[4] 1QS i 12; CD ii 15

[5] 1QS ii 22; CD xiii 13

[6] CD i 7; 1QS xi 7

[7] 1QS. ii, 5; CD iv, 14

[8] 1QS, x.5 – xi.23

[9] CD. i,6

[10] CD. viii, 2

[11] CD. viii, 11

[12] Josephus, BJ 1.1.34

[13] Josephus, BJ 1.2.67

[14] CD. iv, 16

[15] 1QS. viii, 7

[16] 1QS. ix, 5

[17] 1QS. x, 1

[18] CD, vii, 6

[19] CD, xv, 15

[20] 1QS, v, 2; 1QS, vi, 2

[21] CD, viii, 21- ix, 12

[22] 1QS, vi, 25

[23] CD, xv, 12

[24] Regev, E., ‘Between Two Sects: Differentiating the Yahad and the Damascus Covenant’, in The Dead Sea Scrolls: Text and Context (ed., C. Hempel; Leiden: Brill, 2009) p. 431

[25] Regev, 2009, p.432

[26] Regev, 2009, p. 435

[27] Regev, 2009, p. 437

[28] 1QS, vi, 4; CD, xiii, 1

[29] CD, i, 7; 1QS, ix, 11

[30] Hempel, Charlotte, ‘CD manuscript B and the Rule of the Community—Reflections on a Literary Relationship’, Dead Sea Discoveries 16 (2009) p.374

[31] Hempel, 2009, p.382

[32] Hempel, 2009, p.374

[33] Davies, Philip R. “The prehistory of the Qumran community” in Dead Sea Scrolls: Forty Years of Research , Dimant, Devorah; Rappaport, Uriel , 1992 , p.121

[34]  Davies, 1992 , p.125