Part Two - The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christianity


There is often the charge that the team working on the scrolls were withholding the scrolls from publication because these were detrimental to some of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. If this charge is true, why would the liberals (who do not believe in miracles or the Bible as God's word, etc) among the team withhold these information? Why would Martin Abbegg, an evangelical Christian, who broke the monopoly of the scrolls with computers, want to risk his career and his faith as well?

The so-called "Son of God" and the "Pierced Messiah" texts have drawn the attention of many people who are eager to prove or disprove their theories. Or was there just more smoke than fire? The media help create further interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but thus far, the result have been less than expected.

Garcia Martinez explains this "conspiracy" :

In fact, all the responsible research institutions in the world have a concordance available in which are noted all the words preserved in all the Qumran manuscripts, including those still unpublished. There is then, no text which has been kept secret.

The real explanation for the delay in the publication of the texts are many and varied. The war, a tangled political situation and the premature death of the first two directors of the editorial project (Roland de Vaux and Perre Benoit); also, several of the editors (Patrick Skehan, Yigael Yadin and Jean Starky) died before finishing their work. These are some of the factors which have influenced the present situation. However, the most important factor is the actual condition of the still unpublished texts, hundreds of minute fragments, with pathetic remains of incomplete works.

When the texts in question have been preserved in relatively large fragments, the task of reading, translation and interpretation is not extremely complicated. Even texts previously unknown can be published with relative speed. However, even in such cases, the speed of publication can have disastrous results, as the publication of the first set of texts from Cave 4 proves. Their publication in the official series, under John Allegro, appeared with great speed in 1968. However, this hasty edition (of only 90 pages of text) is so flawed that it cannot be used without the corrections (of over 100 pages) published in 1971 by the later director of the international team for the edition of the texts, John Strugnell, of the University of Harvard.

(Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 195)

Very early in the editing, John Allegro, who worked firsthand with the scrolls, charged :

[T]he very scholars who should be most capable of working on the documents and interpreting them have displayed a not altogether surprising, but nonetheless curious, reluctance to go to the heart of the matter. The scholars appeared to have held back from making discoveries which, there is evidence to believe, may upset a great many basic teaching of the Christian church. (John Allegro, The Untold Story of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Harpur's Magazine, August 1966, p. 46)
The rest of the early team, Skehan, de Vaux, Milik, Starcky, Strugnell, wrote to the London Times, protesting,

"We are unable to see in the texts the 'findings' of Mr. Allegro... It is our conviction that either he has misread the texts or he has built up a chain of conjectures which the materials do not support."

Britain's top Old Testament scholars wrote a letter to the Times of London protesting Allegro's statement :

Nothing that appears in the Scrolls hitherto discovered throws any doubt on the originality of Christianity... The undersigned belong to different denominations or to none. They have no concern but to establish the truth and to see that these important documents are studied and evaluated with caution, scholarship, and a sense of proportion.

(The Dead Sea Scrolls: Significance for Scholars, Times of London, 21 Dec. 1965. The signers were G.R. Driver, H.H. Rowley (who had recommended Allegro to the team), Peter Ackroyd, Matthew Black, J.B. Segal (Jewish), D. Winston Thomas and Edward Ullendorff (Jewish).)

Allegro retracted his statements, admitting that he has stated as fact something he had read into the text. Millar Burrows, who was later added to the early team, says:

It is quite true that as a liberal Protestant I do not share all the beliefs of my more conservative brethren. It is my considered conclusion, however, that if one will go through any of the historic statements of Christian faith he will find nothing that has been or can be disproved by the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is as true of things that I myself do not believe as it is of my most firm and cherished convictions. If I were so rash as to undertake a theological debate with a professor from either the Moody Bible Institute or Fordham University [a Catholic University] -- which God forbid -- I fear I should find no ammunition in the Dead Sea Scrolls to use against them. (Millar Burrows, More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 39)

Concerning the publication of the manuscripts, Barrera writes :

Nor should we forget that the longest manuscripts from Qumran have already been published years ago. Many times a certain confusion between manuscripts and fragments from manuscripts have been played on. When the criticism was made repeatedly that most of the manuscripts from Qumran have not yet been published, it has been ignored or it has not been mentioned that the lengthy manuscripts were already published. And there has been a wish to ignore that what awaits publication comprises chiefly fragments and, according to Florentino Garcia Martinez, "A large part of the unpublished manuscripts - like a good part of the manuscripts already published already, comprises such fragmentary remains that to translate them would be of absolutely no value to the reader".

(Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 27)

When the IAA made available all photographs of the manuscripts in the museums in Jerusalem, Barrera wrote:

I could immediately verify that the vast majority of unpublished text consisted of small fragments from which often it is impossible to reconstruct even one sentence with any sense at all.

(Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 29)

We now look at some of the more controversial theories tying the Dead Sea Scrolls with Christianity.

Some Controversialists

Andre Dupont-Sommer

Andre Dupont-Sommer was a Catholic who left his faith. He is an expert in Hebrew and Aramaic, and subsequently held the Professorial chair at College de France. He believes that the Qumranians were Essenes, mentioned in the classical sources of Josephus, Philo and Pliny. Like Renan before him, he believes that Christianity is actually "Essenism that succeeded," and sought to prove that the Qumranians were actually Essenes who later became the Christians.

He quotes from the Habakkuk Pesher:

"The Wicked Priest pursued the Teacher of Righteousness to destroy him in his hot anger in the place of his exile. And in the time appointed for the repost of the Day of Atonement, he appeared to them to destroy them and to overthrow them on the fast day of their Sabbath rest. (XI 4-8)."

Cook explains Dupont-Sommer's theory :

Most people see one episode, Dupont-Summer sees two. He says that the Wicked Priest pursued the Teacher to destroy him, and succeeded. The second sentence refers to a later event, wherein the glorified Teacher was believed to have revealed himself to his enemies after his death and destroyed them on the Day of Atonement. This second episode, says Dupont-Sommer, occurred during the capture of Jerusalem by the Roman Pompey on the Day of Atonement in 63 B.C. (Edward M. Cook, Solving the Mysterious of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, p. 131).

Dupont-Sommer also see in another part of Habakkuk Pesher dealing with Habakkuk 2:7,

"Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim." Beginning at the bottom of Column VIII:

"The interpretation of the word concerns the priest who rebelled [...]
Laws of [God ... column breaks off. Then
Column IX
... ]
to wound him with judgments of wickedness, and horrors of evil diseases they have executed on him and acts of revenge in the body of his flesh" (IX.1-2).

Dupont-Sommer argued that the passage refers to the tortures the Wicked Priest inflicted on the Teacher : "he suffered in 'his body of flesh': without doubt he was a divine being who 'became flesh' to live and die as a man." Dupont-Sommer achieves this result by restoring some of the missing lines from the broken bottom of Column VIII: "the priest who rebelled [and violated] the Laws [of God and persecuted the Teacher of Righteousness]."

(Dupont-Sommer, The Dead Sea Scrolls, A Preliminary Survey, Oxford, Blackwell, 1952, p. 34)

Cook explains the difficulties :

Most specialists disagreed with Dupont-Sommer's reading. In the first passage, there is no indication that the Teacher was killed, and it is most natural to take the phrase "he appeared to them to destroy them" as referring to the Wicked Priest, not the Teacher of Righteousness. And it is not clear at all how the "glorious reappearance" of the tortured Teacher is connected with Pompey's arrival in Jerusalem. How can such a supernatural exploit be dovetailed with the approach of the hated Roman?

The same is true of the passage that is supposed to narrate the "Passion of the Teacher." According to the "ground rules" of the commentary, the good figures of the prophecy are interpreted to be the Teacher and his followers, and the bad ones are the Teacher's enemies. Since Habakkuk 2:7 denounces the wicked, it is most natural to take the verse and its interpretation wholly as a reference to the fate of the Wicked Priest, not the Teacher. There is no reason to restore the missing lines as Dupont-Sommer did. It is the Priest, not the Teacher, who suffers the horrible diseases and acts of vengeance in the "body of flesh." (The latter phrase is an ordinary Hebrew expression referring to the human body. It has nothing to do with any "Incarnation.")

(Edward M. Cook, Solving the Mysterious of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, pp. 131-132)

Indeed, we have seen in Part One the quotes from Lawrence Schiffman that it was the Wicked Priest who suffered the terrible fate, which Mr. Al-Kadhi picks up to be Judas Ischariot.

Barrera also points out another passage in the Psalms Pesher that seem to refute Dupont-Sommer's assertion that the Wicked Priest killed the Teacher :

The wicked of Ephraim and Manasseh who will attempt to lay hands on the Priest and the members of his council in the period of testing which will come upon them. However, God will save them from their hands and after they will be delivered into the hands of dreadful nations for judgments (4QpPs^a 2:18-20).

Analysis of the texts from Qumran does not authorize anyone to state, (as Dupont-Sommer did), that the Teacher of Righteousness died crucified like a messiah. The texts which speak about death by crucifixion make no mention at all of that character. (Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera in The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 55)

Dupont-Sommer ties his interpretation to Jesus:

The Galilean Master, as He is presented to us in the writings of the New Testament, appears in many respects as an astonishing reincarnation of the [Teacher]. Like the latter He preached penitence, poverty, humility, love of one's neighbor, chastity. Like him, He prescribed the observance of the Law of Moses, the whole Law, but the Law finished and perfected, thanks to His own revelations. Like him He was the Elect and the Messiah of God, the Messiah redeemer of the world. Like him He was the object of the hostility of the priests... judgment on Jerusalem.... Like him, at the end of time, He will be the supreme judge. Like him He founded a Church whose adherents fervently awaited His glorious return. (Dupont-Sommer, The Dead Sea Scrolls, A Preliminary Survey, Oxford, Blackwell, 1952, p. 99)

Cook points out further problems with Dupont-Sommer's theory:

It is unlikely the sect considered the Teacher the Messiah. Other texts from the scrolls plainly teach that the group still expected a Messiah who would save Israel (some passages even suggest that they expected two messiahs, a priestly Messiah and a royal Messiah). It is unlikely that the Teacher was executed, although he certainly was persecuted. There is no suggestion anywhere in the Dead Sea Scrolls that the Teacher, or any other human being, would be the supreme judge at the end of the end of time. That role was assigned to God. Although the Teacher found a group based on his teachings, there is no indication that his followers expected "his glorious return." Indeed, the comparison with Jesus Christ can only succeed if the Teacher formed the center of the sect's worship and devotions. He did not. Some of the scrolls, like the War Scroll, the Manual of Discipline, the Temple Scroll, and 4QMMT do not even mention the Teacher. He is not mentioned in any of the new Cave 4 material (with one possible exception). (Edward M. Cook, Solving the Mysterious of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, p. 133)

In Part One, we have already seen that the Teacher is different than the expected eschatological Messiah of Aaron and Israel. It is possible that the sectarians see the Teacher as an anointed office, however, they do not assign to him the technical Messianic title so typical of the eschatological Messiah.

John Allegro

Allegro has worked with the scrolls soon after the international team was formed. He uses Nahum Pesher which dealt with the following passage from Nahum :

"The lion killed enough for his cubs, and strangled the prey for his mate" (Nahum 2:12a)... the Angry Lion who smites by his great ones and the men of his party... ["Filling with the kill] his lairs and his dens with the prey" (Nahum 2:12b)... acts of revenge against the "seekers of smoothness," who hangs up men alive ... in Israel before, for concerning one hanged alive on a tree, it says, "Behold I am against you" (Nahum 2:13) (I 4-9).

Based on some hints earlier in the text, Allegro identified the "Angry Lion" with the Jewish king and high-priest Alexander Jannaeus (103 - 76 B.C.), who was much hated by his subjects and some went to invite a foreign king Demetrius into the country to help overthrow him. After defeating Demetrius, Jannaeus took revenge by crucifying 800 of them (Josephus, The Jewish War, I iv 6). The Jewish rebels are "seekers of smoothness", Jannaeus "the Angry Lion", "hangs up alive" means crucifies them. Allegro goes a step further by saying that the Angry Lion is also the Wicked Priest, and among those crucified was the Teacher of Righteousness.

Allegro explains :

"[Jannaeus] descended on Qumran and arrested its leader, the mysterious "Teacher of Righteousness," whom he turned over to his mercenaries to be crucified.... When the Jewish king had left, [the sectarians] took down the broken body of their Master to stand guard over it until Judgment Day. For they believed that the terrible events of their time were surely heralding the visitation of God Himself.... They believed their Master would rise again and lead his faithful flock (the people of the new testament, as they called themselves) to a new and purified Jerusalem... What is clear is that there was a well-defined Essenic pattern into which Jesus of Nazareth fits. What theologians make of it is really outside my province. I just give my findings." (Times Magazine, 6 Feb 1956, quoted by J. Fitzmyer, Responses to 101 questions on the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1992, p. 164).

Cook explains the problems with Allegro's explanation :

Anyone who compares this with the Nahum Pesher can see that Allegro's theory is very speculative. Not only this, Allegro's reading demands that Jannaeus' enemies be the "seekers of smoothness", which are also the enemies of the sect, as other scrolls makes clear. Why would Jannaeus, who Allegro thinks is the persecutor of the sect, crucify the enemies of his own opponents? Why would the Teacher be crucified with the hated "seekers of smoothness"? Actually, the Teacher is never mentioned, nor is the Wicked Priest. (Edward M. Cook, Solving the Mysterious of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, p. 136)

Allegro's statement led his colleagues to write a letter quoted earlier. Allegro backed off, saying he had been misquoted. In his own popular book on the scrolls he says that one should "avoid too dogmatic assertions about the life of the Teacher or the manner of his death." (John Allegro, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Reappraisal, 1964, p. 109).

Allegro respects the archaeological and paleographical evidence of the Qumran manuscripts. However, since he believed that Jesus Christ was the Teacher of Righteousness, therefore Jesus must have lived in the mid-second century B.C.!

Allegro also made strange connections between the Qumran sect and Christianity. He explains that the name "Jesus" is a cryptic reference to "Sacred Mushroom", a hallucinogenic drug supposedly used by the early Christians. He used a text which he thought was a medical prescription used by the sectarians, which turns out to be a writing exercise of random words in alphabetical order.

Robert Eisenman

Unlike Allegro, Eisenman does not respect the C-14 and paleographic datings of the Qumran artifacts and believe the writings are from Christian Jews. He identifies James the Just, the brother of Jesus, as the Teacher of Righteousness, the Man of Lie as Paul and the Wicked High Priest as Ananus, who executed James in A.D. 62. According to Eisenman, John the Baptist began a message of Messianic expectation after the death of Herod, and Jesus continued in that tradition and was finally executed as a Zealot. James the Just took over the movement and expelled Paul from the group for propagating dangerous nonsense centering around Jesus. He believes that the early Christian movement belonged to the followers of Paul. Judea was temporarily without a Roman governor when Ananus became high priest. When James tried to take over the temple and celebrate the rituals, Ananus "assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned." (Josephus, Antiquities XX ix 2). He believes that the Qumran texts and the New Testament, which he dates to the second century A.D., are two sides of the same coin. He used the same proof text as Dupont-Sommer.

The pesher and Josephus' account seemed very different. Eisenman attempts to reconcile them by recalling that, according to an ancient legend mentioned by Hegesippus, James was a priest. The most crucial flaw in this argument is that James was a priest and had access to the Holy of Holies. If this is rejected, then the theory falls. In contradiction to Eisenman, Hegesippus says that James was killed by the "scribes and Pharisees" for preaching Jesus as Savior. Moreover, there is nothing in the Pesher nor in any other Qumran writings that the Wicked Priest succeeded in killing the Teacher. We have already seen that the Pesher also mentions that the Wicked Priest "was called by the name of truth at the beginning of his service, but when he had ruled in Israel his mind became arrogant and he betrayed the Commandments for wealth." (VIII 8-13). How can these terms apply to Ananus? Josephus tells us that Ananus was high priest for only three months and the execution of James took place at the beginning of that time period. Could the execution of their beloved Teacher constitute a "calling by the name of truth"?

Cook further explains:

Finally, Eisenman asserts, without evidence, that James was tried on blasphemy. "For his part, Josephus testifies that James was tried before a Pharisaic/Sadduccean Sanhedrin on a charge of blasphemy, ie. pronouncing or causing others to pronounce the forbidden name of God [as the high priest did on Yom Kippur]." There is nothing like that in Josephus' narrative. (Edward M. Cook, Solving the Mysterious of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, p. 140).

James' execution in A.D. 62 and its destruction in A.D. 68 gives just too little time for the production of the vast amount of literature at Qumran, and thus Eisenman favors extending the date of the documents, saying that the C-14 dating process "is still in its infancy, subject to multiple variables, and too uncertain" to be useful, and the tests of the Swiss lab "were neither extensive enough nor secure enough" to provide definite dates. (Eisenman and Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, p. 13).

At the International Congress on the Dead Scrolls in El Escorial in March 1991, the results of the second set of C-14 datings applied to a series of manuscripts from different periods were presented. The result was a resounding confirmation of the dating of the manuscripts which had been proposed previously by paleographers and the first Carbon dating. Prof. H. Stegeman said :

Therefore one may dismiss Dr. Eisenman's ideas in this field. At least they can no longer trouble the common Qumran Essene hypothesis. (quoted by Julio T. Barrera in Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 25)

The Messiah

The word Messiah is derived from the Hebrew word meaning "to anoint" (mashiah). In the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil into that office. The "anointed priest" is mentioned in Leviticus 4:3,5,16, etc. Elisha was anointed to succeed Elijah (1 Kings 19:16; see also Psalms 105:15). Kings of Israel were anointed : Saul (1 Samuel 24:6), David (1 Samuel 16:13), Hazael (1 Kings 19:15) Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:30), etc. Even Cyrus king of Persia was refered to as "God's anointed" (Isaiah 45:1). However, there is a tendency to use the word chiefly of the King of Israel or Judah; the "Lord's anointed" is almost always the legitimate king (eg. 1 Samuel 2:10, Psalms 2:2, 18:50, 20:6, 132:10), especially from David's line.

The last mentioned usage, the Davidic king, leads into the technical usage of Messiah that New Testament readers are already familiar with, "ho Christos", the Christ. In Daniel 9:25, we see the technical usage of the Messiah for the coming Prince of God, who is to come from the line of David, whose reign would be characterized by peace, prosperity, blessings, submission of the Gentiles, and an intimate relationship with God. Isaiah speaks of the Prince of Peace (9:1-7), the Branch/Root of Jesse (11:1-10), the Leader of the Peoples (55:3-5), Micah speaks of the shepherd ruler from Bethlehem (5:1-5), Jeremiah foretells the Righteous Branch (23:5-6, 33:15), Ezekiel the David prince (34:23-24, 37:24-28), Zechariah the king of Zion (9:9-10).

Often, when one reads the New Testament and try to understand the difficulties involved in Jesus' usage of the title Messiah (Christ), or the "Son of Man" or the "Son of God", we find little parallel in the classical writings and those of the rabbinic tradition. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, we can now understand better the Jewish society that the Christians emerged from. In fact, Christians can now point to precedents in the Jewish society before them.

Garcia Martinez, in introducing the chapter of "Messianic hopes in the Qumran writings", writes :

In most of the other Jewish writings of the Second Temple period, the figure of the Messiah either does not feature or plays a very secondary role. In contrast, the new texts expressed not only the hope of an eschatological salvation introduced into this hope the figure (or figures) of a Messiah using the technical terminology. (Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 159)

Pierced Messiah or Killing Messiah ?

The Branch of David is one of the sect's most common names for the Messiah-King. They also sometimes refer to him as the Prince of the Congregation. The Hebrew word translated "prince" (or "ruler") is nasi and was used by the prophet Ezekiel in his prophecies of the Messiah (34:23-34; 37:24-28).

The most controversial text mentioning the Prince of the Congregation is the recently published "Pierced Messiah" text, 4Q285.

Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise released a statement about the text to the press on Nov 7, 1991, which prompted startling headlines of "MESSIANIC LINK TO CHRISTIANITY IS FOUND IN SCROLLS" in the New York Times, "MESSIAH-LIKE LEADER MENTIONED IN SCROLLS" in the Washington Post. This came from a tiny fragment with very little context. Eisenman and Wise's translation (The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered , p. 29) is given on the left and Vermes' translation obtained from sunsite is given on the right (those words within [...] represents the reconstruction of the various persons. Note that those reconstructions has to fit within the length of "space" and match up with the strokes visible in the existing manuscript) :

  1. [...]Isaiah the prophet,         1. [...]Isaiah the prophet: 
     [The thickets of the forest]        [The thickets of the forest] 
     will be fell[ed                     will be cut [
  2. with an axe and Lebanon shall    2. with an axe and Lebanon by a 
     f]all [by a mighty one]. A          majestic one will f]all. And
     staff shall rise from the           there shall come forth a 
     root of Jesse, [and a planting      shoot from the stump of Jesse 
     from his roots will bear            [...
     fruit ...
  3. ] the Branch of David. They      3. ] the Branch of David and they 
     will enter into judgment with       will enter into judgment with 
     [...                                [...
  4. ] and they will put to death     4. ] and the Prince of the 
     the Prince of the Congregation,     Congregation, the 
     the Bran[ch of David ...            Bran[ch of David] will kill 
  5. ]and with woundings, and the     5. by stroke]s and by wounds. And
     (high) priest will                  a Priest [of renown (?)] will
     command [...                        command [...
  6. the s]lai[n] of Kitti[m]         6. the s]lai[n] of the Kitti[m]

The phrase that caused the most uproar was "they will put to death the Prince of the Congregation." If Eisenman and Wise's translation is correct (which is possible), the text talks about a Messiah being killed in battle.

Concerning the word transliterated WHMYTW, the web display at sunsite explains :

Hebrew is comprised primarily of consonants; vowels must be supplied by the reader. The appropriate vowels depend on the context. Thus, the text (line 4) may be translated as "and the Prince of the Congregation, the Branch of David, will kill him," or alternately read as "and they killed the Prince." Because of the second reading, the text was dubbed the "Pierced Messiah." The transcription and translation presented here support the "killing Messiah" interpretation, alluding to a triumphant Messiah (Isaiah 11:4).

In September 1992, "Time Magazine" published an article on the War Rule fragment displayed here (object no. 12) exploring the differing interpretations. A "piercing messiah" reading would support the traditional Jewish view of a triumphant messiah. If, on the other hand, the fragment were interpreted as speaking of a "pierced messiah," it would anticipate the New Testament view of the preordained death of the messiah. The scholarly basis for these differing interpretations--but not their theological ramifications--are reviewed in "A Pierced or Piercing Messiah?"

Cook explains the difficulties with Eisenman and Wise's connection with Christianity :

Even if Eisenman and Wise's translation is correct, it would refer to the death of the Messiah in battle, not his crucifixion or atoning self-sacrifice. The "piercings" would have to refer to mutilations inflicted on the prince's corpse. So other than in the common occurrence of a messianic figure's death, we do not have here a true parallel to any distinctively Christian belief.

The fact is that the text is so fragmentary that we may never know what it really was about. Both Eisenman and Wise have backed off from their initial strong statements about the significance of the scroll. (Edward M. Cook, Solving the Mysterious of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, p. 161)

Garcia Martinez comments on Eisenman and Wise' interpretation :

The use of the verb in plural in line 3 could favor understanding the verb as a plural, assuming continuity between the two. However, the lacuna and the presence in line 5 of a verb in the singular lessen the force of this argument. On the other hand, the absence of the object marker ('et in Hebrew) before "Prince of the congregation" clearly counsels considering "Prince of the congregation" as the subject of the verb, although this is not a decisive argument either. Ultimately, only the context can assist us in deciding between the two grammatically possible interpretations. However, this context does not leave any doubt at all about the meaning of the clause.

In the text of Isaiah which the author quotes clearly, the death of the "shoot of David" is not announced. Rather, that it will be plainly he who will judge and kill the wicked. The Qumran interpretation of this biblical text in 4Q161, which we cited above, is even more important. There, the "Prince of the congregation" is mentioned in column II 15 and his victorious character is also stressed and "Lebanon" and "the most massive of the forest" are interpreted as meaning the Kittim who are placed in his hand (col. III 1-8). We have seen the same victorious exaltation of the "Prince of the congregation" in 1QSb, which also uses the text from Isaiah and it also appears in the other Qumran allusions to that person. In the same way, the reference to the destruction of Kittim in line 6 places us clearly in the perspective of the War Scroll and of the final victory over the powers of evil. This indicates that the interpretation according to which it is the "Prince of the congregation" who kills his foe is the one which fits best the original biblical text and the other interpretations of this text in the Qumran writings. This best explains all the elements preserved and is supplied with convincing parallels in other related texts.

On the other hand, the idea of the death of this "Prince of the congregation" at the hands of his eschatological foe is not documented in any other Qumran text dealing with the Davidic "Messiah", or in any other of the Qumran texts mentioning the "Prince of the congregation." The allusion to the death of the "Anointed" in Dan 9:25-26 or the allusions to the "Suffering Servant" of Is 40-45 play no role. Accordingly, we must conclude that the death of the "Messiah" is contextually alien to the tone of our text. (Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 167)

Later, Eisenman himself said :

"I never said there was a concept of a 'suffering Messiah' at Qumran... To be precise, this interpretation... was originally Professor Wise's." Eisenman says his motives were "to gainsay the notion that there was nothing interesting in the unpublished corpus" and "to show that the links between early Christianity and Qumran were much closer than previously thought" (Biblical Archaeological Review, Jan/Feb 1993, p. 66).

Unfortunately, of course, if there is no concept of a "suffering Messiah" at Qumran, one fails to see how "early Christianity and Qumran were much closer than previously thought."

The Messiah of Heaven and Earth

When reading about the expected Messiahs of the sectarians, we often find ourselves in the unpleasant situation where it is not clear if it is refering to a technical usage of the title Messiah, and if so, which Messiah it is talking about. This is probably transparent to the initiates of the sect, but not those outside the community. An example of this confusion is in the interpretation of the text 4Q521, dubbed "The Messiah of Heaven and Earth" by Eisenman and Wise and has been studied in greater depth by Wise and James Tabor. The latter claimed that

Our Qumran text, 4Q521, is, astonishingly, quite close to this Christian concept of the messiah ... [T]he Messiah of our text, 4Q521, controls heaven and earth, heals the wounded and raises the dead. He rules over nature. Even death, that old enemy, cannot stand before him (he will resurrect the dead). (Wise and Tabor, The Messiah at Qumran, Biblicical Archaeology Review, Nov/Dec 1992, 60-61).

The vital portion is found in the first two lines:

[... The hea]vens and the earth will obey His Messiah, [The sea and all th]at is in them. He will not turn aside from the commandment of the Holy Ones. (Wise and Tabor's translation)

Cook explains where the over-interpretation are :

"His Messiah" is a possible translation of the Hebrew phrase; so is "his Messiahs", plural. If taken that way, the messiahs could be the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel; or they could be the anointed priests, or the anointed priests, taken as a group. Wise and Tabor have overlooked the fact that the first two lines are in parallelism. The second line has to repeat the same thought as the first line. This strengthens the plural interpretation (as does the unambiguous plural "your anointed ones" in another fragment from the same scroll). A better translation therefore might be:

Heaven and earth will obey his anointed ones, Nothing in them will turn aside from the commandment of the holy ones.

Cook says that there is not enough room in the text for the letters required for Wise and Tabor's restoration and translation of "the sea and all..." (Edward M. Cook, Solving the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Note 26. p. 177). He continues :

If this is correct, then the "he" who acts in the rest of the passage must be God:

He releases the captives, opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up [...] ... he will heal the slain, and will resurrect the dead, and will announce the good news to the humble... (Cook says that "Wise and Tabor's ''heal the sick'' is incorrect, the Hebrew word means ''slain''" in Solving the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Note 27, p. 177)

Garcia Martinez comments on Wise and Tabor's interpretation :

In line 10 they read "and [in his good]ness [for ever. His] Holy [Messiah] will not delay [in coming]", supporting their reconstruction with the use of this same expression in 1Q30. However, both the reading "and in his goodness" and "Holy" are paleographically impossible; the strokes purported to be there do not match the traces preserved. Just as false is their reading "his works" in line 11, which besides syntactically old, deprives the following verbs of a subject. With the editor, read "he will do".

Wise-Tabor fell obliged to accept that the Lord is the agent of the deeds announced in lines 5-9 (among which are found some of the elements that also appear in the New Testament texts, such as the cure of the blind men), but they suppose a change of subject starting from line 10. For that they insert a mention of the "Messiah" in the lacuna of line 10. And in line 11 they insert an idea which not only does not appear in the text if read correctly, it is even contrary to the thought of the whole Hebrew Bible: the idea that there are wonderful actions (in the positive sense) which are not the work of the Lord. Wise-Tabor translate the lines in question as follows: "(10) a[nd in His] go[odness forever. His] holy [Messiah] will not be slow [in coming.] (11) And as for the wonders that were not the work of the Lord, when he (i.e. the Messiah) [come]s (12) then he will heal the sick, resurrect the dead, and to the poor announce glad tidings." However, all these speculations are unnecessary if the text is read correctly. In it, the Messiah does not raise up the dead, nor are there wonderful deeds which are not the work of God. What the text teaches us is that in the final epoch, in the time of the "Messiah," God will perform wonderful deeds as he has promised and the resurrection of the dead (those who have been faithful, of course) will be one of the wonderful deeds. (Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 171)

4Q521 partially matched the words of Jesus. When asked if He is the expected Messiah, Jesus replied with :

Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard : The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preach to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me. (See Luke 7:22-23, also Matthew 11:5-6)

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Christians refered to the prophecies in Isaiah 29:18-21, 35:5-6, 61:1 to explain Jesus' reply.

The text 4Q521 is a Jewish text from a period just before the time of Jesus that showed the traits of the age of redemption were already well-understood by that time, and Jesus' reply would be easily understood by John the Baptist, especially when he lived in the desert for many years (Luke 1:80), in close proximty to (some suggest among) the Qumranians.

Morever, we have seen that 4Q521 assigns the redeeming actions to God instead of to human beings. Thus, by Jesus' reply, He claimed that God was uniquely present in his own ministry. On the other hand, we note a big difference in that Jesus do claim these miracles as His own, in contrast to what the sectarians believed, going by Garcia Martinez's interpretation. Thus, in an indirect way, Jesus once again claim divinity through these miracles.

How many Messiahs?

We have already mentioned in Part One that the Qumran sect expected three Messianic figures to come in the final days to lead the faithful, their community. Since it is basically acknowledged that there is more than one Messiah, we shall not belabor the point here, but just quote :

They shall be judged by the ancient precepts... until the coming of the Prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel (Rule of the Community IX 11)

"I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house, and he will minister before my anointed one always." (1 Samuel 2:35)

"[...] the two sons of oil of anointing [...] observed the precepts of God [...] because the men of the co[mmunity...]". (4Q254), which is a reference to Zechariah 4:14.

Regarding the relationship between these two Messiahs :

[The interpretation of the word concerns the shoot] of David which will sprout [in the final days, since with the breath of his lips he will execute] his enemies and God will support him with [the spirit of] courage [...] throne of glory, [holy] crown and hemmed vestments [...] in his hand. He will rule over all the peoples and Magog [...] his sword will judge all the peoples. And as for what he says: "He will not [judge by appearances] or give verdicts on hearsay," its interpretation: [...] according to what they teach him, he will judge, and upon his mouth [...] with him will go out one of the priests of renown, holding clothes in his hand. (4QpIsa^a III 18-25, also known as 4Q161)

We have already seen in Part One that in the assembly, the Messiah-Priest leads the Messiah-King. 4Q161 tells us that the Messiah-King will be taught by the priests, more specifically the Messiah-Priest. Another name for the Messiah-King is the Prince of the Congregation, made explicit in fragment 5 of 4Q285, and which Eisenman and Wise has used to justify their hypothesis of the "Pierced Messiah".

The third messianic figure is mentioned, among other texts, in :

They should not depart from any counsel of the law in order to walk in complete stubbornness of their heart, but instead shall be ruled by the first directives which the men of the Community begun to be taught until the prophet comes, and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel. Blank (Rule of the Community, 1QS IX 9-11)

Here we also have a third figure, the Prophet, who appears together with the Messiahs. A fragmentary scroll, 11QMelchizedek also seems to speak of this prophet. The text strings together various biblical verses with commentary to give a comprehensive picture of God's coming redemption of Israel through the intervention of "Melchizedek", who is also, apparently, the archangel Michael, the Prince of Light. Before that intervention (also described in the War Scroll), a figure shall come who is described in Isaiah 52:7: one who "brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings good tidings, who proclaims salvation." This prophet is described as a Mashiah.

"The one who brings good news" is the one anointed (mashiah) with the spirit [...] he shall make them wise in all the eras of wrath.

Jesus himself used Isaiah 61:1-2 to start his ministry (Luke 4:18-21) :

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Interestingly, 4Q375 refers to Moses as "God's anointed."

Cursed is the man who does not arise and observe and do according to all the commandments of the Lord in the mouth of Moses his Anointed One (mashiah), and to walk after the Lord, the God of our fathers, who commands us from Mount Sinai ... [The people] stood afar off... but Moses, the man of God, was with God in the cloud ... and like an angel he [God] speaks from his mouth... (John Strugnell, Moses-Pseudepigrapha at Qumran: 4Q375, 4Q376 and similar works, in L. Schiffman, ed. Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1990, 221-56.)

If David was the model king, and Aaron the model priest, Moses was the model prophet. Moses' intimate relationship with God face to face is to found in no other prophet except in the Prophet to come (Deuteronomy 18:18), and thus sets Moses apart as the model and prototype. The above passage is significant because it is clearly a rare symbolic use of the term mashiah since Moses was never literally anointed with oil. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism.

Garcia Martinez also considers this prophet to be a Messiah :

It is obvious from his juxtaposition on the two "Messiah" figures that this person is an eschatological person. It is less evident that he is a true "messianic" figure, since unlike the other two he is not termed "anointed" here. And yet I think that even so he must be considered as a true "messianic" figure.

In essence, my reasoning is as follows. 4QTestimonia, a collection of texts which the community interprets messianically, and corresponds to the three figures in 1QS IX 11, begins by quoting Dt 18:18-19 as the base text which is the foundation for hope in the "Prophet like Moses," "the Prophet" awaited at the end of time. Then comes Num 24:15-17, which is the foundation for hope in the "Messiah-king". Then Dt 33:8-11, which is the foundation for hope in the "Messiah-priest". The three quotations are at the same level and in complete parallelism, and therefore must refer to similar figures. This figure of the "Prophet" is identical with the figures which the other texts denote as the "Interpreter of the Law," who "teaches justice at the end of times" and the "messenger" - figures which have a clear prophetic character and are considered as messianic figures. Like them, then, the "Prophet" must be considered as a "messianic" figure. About the last of these figures, "the messenger," we are told expressively in 11QMelch II 18 that he is "anointed by the spirit." In other words, the technical term which in 1QS IX 11 is applied to the other two messianic figures is applied to him, in the singular. Accordingly, it seems justifiable to consider this "Prophet," whose coming is expected at the same time as the "Messiahs of Aaron and Israel," as a true "messianic" figure.

(Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 186)

We thus have three messianic figures in the Qumran manuscripts : The King, the Priest and the Prophet, corresponding to their Old Testament models David, Aaron and Moses respectively. The Melchizedek theme is also taken up in the New Testament in Hebrews 7, where Jesus is described as the Priest like Melchizedek. The prototype Melchizedek in Genesis 22:17 is also a priest-king, and thus describing Jesus like Melchizedek becomes interestingly fitting, who in Himself is prophet, king and priest. Obviously, the New Testament portrayal of Jesus is not a direct fulfillment of Qumran expectations since they expected three different figures, while the Bible combines all into the central figure of Jesus the Messiah - king, priest and prophet.

The "Son of God" text, 4Q246 or 4QAramaic Apocalypse

The next controversial text is the so-called "Son of God" text because of the presence of the title "Son of God". Many of those who believe that Jesus' use of "Son of God" does not amount to a claim of divinity were quick to echo one scholar's conclusion :

"there is nothing particularly unique about calling someone 'son of God' at the time of Jesus" (James D.G. Dunn, The Evidence for Jesus, 1985, p. 49).

Then why did the Jews react so negatively to Jesus' use of that title? 4Q246 can actually help us here. This text consist of two surviving columns. Half of the first column is torn away; the second is intact. In the translation of Garcia Martinez, what remains of the first column reads :

  1. [...] settled upon him and he fell before the throne 
  2. [...] eternal king. You are angry and your years 
  3. [...] they will see you, and all shall come for ever.
  4. [...] great, oppression will come upon the earth
  5. [...] and great slaughter in the city
  6. [...] king of Assyria and Egypt
  7. [...] and he will be great over the earth
  8. [...] they will do, and all will serve
  9. [...] great will he be called and he will be designated by his name.

The second column reads :

  1. He will be called son of God, and they will 
     call him son of the Most High. Like the sparks
  2. of a vision, so will their kingdom be; 
     they will rule several years over
  3. the earth and crush everything; a people 
     will crush another people, and a city another city.
  4. [blank] Until the people of God arises and 
     makes everyone rest from the sword.
  5. His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, 
     and all his paths in truth and uprigh[tness].
  6. The earth (will be) in truth and all will make peace. 
     The sword will cease in the earth,
  7. and all the cities will pay him homage. 
     He is a gerat God among the gods (?).
  8. He will make war with him; he will place the 
     peoples in his hand and cast away everyone before him.
  9. His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, 
     and all the abysses.

The obvious question is, Who is this "Son of God"? Garcia Martinez described the contents of this fragment when it was published in 1983 :

The text tells us that someone (a seer?) falls down in front of a king's throne and addresses him. He describes to him the evils to come, among which references to Assyria and Egypt play an important role. Even more important will be the apparition of a mysterious person to whom will be given the titles of "son of God" and "son of the Most High," a person who "will be great upon the earth" and whom "all will serve." His appearance will be followed by tribulations, but these will be as fleeting as a spark and will only last "until the people of God arises." The outcome will be the end of war, an eternal kingdom in which all will make peace, cities will be conquered, because the great God will be with him (with his people?) and he will make all his enemies subject to him." (Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 175)

Garcia Martinez believes that this "Son of God" is a heavenly figure based on the close parallel with the "Son of Man" in Daniel 7: "His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom" of II 5 (Daniel 7:27), "His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom" of II 9 (Daniel 7:14). This Son of God "will be an agent to bring eschatological salvation, judge all the earth, conquer all the kings through God's power and rule the whole universe." (Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 176)

What is awkward with this interpretation is that in II 1-2, where Garcia Martinez translates:

"He will be called son of God, and they will call him son of the Most High. Like the sparks of a vision, so will their kingdom be ..." Garcia Martinez interprets (rather strangely) to be the shortness of the tribulation. The more natural interpretation will be the kingdoms that are like the sparks of a vision, ie. fleetingly short. The question is, who is the "their" in that line of text? Perhaps along this interpretation, one might be able to force the interpretation that the shortness refers to the kingdoms of Assyria and Egypt.

Another problem with this view is that the "Son of God" does not bring peace or redemption. Instead, he is preceded by tribulation and followed by war and violence. Milik thought that this passage is history disguised as prophecy, that the "Son of God" was one of the Greek kings who oppressed the Jews during the Hasmonean period and who claimed to be divine, while the Israeli scholar David Flusser thought him to be the Anti-Christ.

Cook comments :

Probably Milik and especially Flusser were closer to the truth than Fitzmyer and Garcia-Martinez. The key is to notice that, after the "Son of God" is introduced, the text goes on to talk about "their kingdom." Who are "they"? There must be more than one ruler. Probably the "king of Assyria and Egypt" is the first ruler, and the Son of God, his son or successor, a king who claims divine honors, the second ruler. The fragmentary end of the first column must originally have read like this:

[His son] shall be called great, and by his name he shall be designated.

-- that is, the son shall have the same name as his father. But "their kingdom" shall be as brief as a meteor's flash....

Milik thinks that this could refer to the infamous Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.), whose name means "God made manifest" and who claimed to be the manifestation on earth of Zeus. He prohibited some of the central elements of Judaism, attempted to destroy all copies of the Torah and required offerings to Zeus. He also erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple and sacrificed a pig there, thus igniting the Maccabean revolt in 167 B.C. ("the people of God shall arise"). The nine year old boy, Antiochus V Eupator ("designated by his name"?), succeeded him and reigned only from 164 to 162 B.C. (kingdom "like the sparks of a vision"?). He and his general Lysias, undertook a campaign against Judas Maccabaeus (1 Mac 6:28-54, 2 Mac 13:1-2, Antiquities XII 366-383) and destroyed the walls of the Temple before withdrawing.

Scholars were quick to point to the similarities of 4Q246 with Luke 1:32-33 concerning the annunciation of Jesus' birth :

You [Mary] will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:31-33)

Cook comments on this connection :

But, as we have seen, 4Q246 probably does not refer to a Messiah, or even to a good person. Though the Qumran text and the Luke passage have some expressions in common, the latter speaks about Jesus' birth as a fulfillment of the promise made to David's descendant: "I will be his father, and he will be my son" (2 Sam 7:14). In 4Q246 there is no trace of the Davidic connection, and the appearance of the "Son of the Most High" is the occasion for suffering, not joy. Therefore it is unlikely that there is any direct connection between the text. (Edward M. Cook, Solving the Mysterious of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, p. 170)

In explaining the Jews' anger at Jesus' claim to be the "Son of God", Christians had explained them by citing the Roman emperors' claim to the title "son of God" (divi filius or theou huious). However, we now know of precedents of this claim in a Jewish context. Cook explains :

Qumran can help us here. It is true that in this period someone by virtue of his royal office or great piety, might, in a moment of high exaltation, be recognized as specially favored by God, and accordingly called God's "son". But that momentary acclamation never become a fixed title or intrinsic name of the person so complimented. "The son of God" never become merely a synonym of the Messiah or the man of God. It is always used sparingly and figuratively. In fact, apart from 4Q246, no one, including the Teacher of Righteousness, is described by this title. Although God may be addressed as "Father" in the psalms of the sect, no member of the sect is called his son.

Indeed, 4Q246 shows us how blasphemous the title Son of God was thought to be. It clearly implies that part of the gentile ruler's wickedness was in claiming that designation as a fixed prerogative. Although someone could be called "a" son of God, no one could be "the" son of God. (The Aramaic phrase must be translated "the", not "a" Son of God.). The Qumran evidently saw this claim as an assertion of equality with God.

All of this throws light on the use of the term "Son of God" in the New Testament. According to John 3:16, Jesus is God's "only son." Jesus' continual reference to himself as "the Son" prompted his opponents to accuse him of blasphemy (John 10:33,36). The high priest's question in Mark 14:61, "Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?" makes sense against this background. He did not mean, "Are you claiming to be the Messiah, by royal status a son of God?" He meant, "Are you that messianic claimant who is reputed to call himself 'the' Son of God?" When Jesus responded, "I am," the priest considered this to be blasphemy worthy of death (Mark 16:64).

Claiming to be the Messiah was not blasphemy. Claiming to be the Son of God was. Text 4Q246, in its negative portrayal of "the Son of God" typifies the mindset behind that attitude. (Edward M. Cook, Solving the Mysterious of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, pp. 172-173)

On the other hand, if Garcia Martinez is correct, then the title "Son of God" refers to a divine being, and Jesus' claim to be the Son of God likewise will be a claim to divinity, and likewise a blasphemy. The Qumran manuscripts, by the scarcity of this title, testifies that this title is definitely reserved for some special person (either supremely good, or bad).

The title of "Son of Man"

Although we find no text among the Qumran manuscripts bearing the title of "Son of Man" which Jesus often used of Himself, the previous discussion of the "Son of God" text sheds some light too. As seen before, the text gives the same description as that of Daniel's "Son of Man," thus effectively equating the two titles. In the light of this usage, Jesus' use of this title would be a claim to divinity.

The title of "Lord"

Before the Qumran discoveries, the title Kyrios (Lord) applied to Jesus was thought to have originated from the Greeks who used it of the pagan gods. However, we now find precedents in Jewish writings of the Qumran. Two texts from Qumran have shown that the use of "Lord" on its own was not only possible in the Judaism of the period, but that they refer to the Creator, God. The Targum of Job (11QtgJob XXIV 6-7) uses the term "Lord" (mare') in parallelism with "God" ('elaha'). Similarly, in 4QEnbar (4Q202) IV 5, there occurs the expression "[And to Gabriel] the Lord [said]: Go [to the bastards...]." Thus the title "(the) Lord" was well known in Judaism. All these sheds enormous light when Jesus said :

"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46)


We find many parallels between the Messianic expectations of the Qumran sect and those written in the New Testament. However, there are also distinct differences, and it is easy to fall into the same pit as Mr. Al-Kadhi did.

Garcia Martinez concludes :

Ultimately, in the 1st century the Jewish group whom we know through the New Testament was to merge the hope in a "Messiah king", a "Messiah-priest", a "Prophet like Moses", a "Suffering Servant" and even a "heavenly Messiah" into one historical person from the past whose return is expected in the eschatological future. (Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 189)

In broad terms, I would say that the Dead Sea Scrolls do not explain Christianity to us but help us know the Judaism from which Christianity was born. (ibid, p. 198)

Barrera cautions :

If only the points of contact between the New Testament texts and those from Qumran are noticed, a distorted view of them both results. It is important not to forget the points of disagreement, which we have not considered here but turn out to be more numerous and, in general, more significant. So, for example, the concepts of "Law" and "Covenant" are fundamental in the texts from Qumran. In the message of Jesus, however, the concept of "the Kingdom of God" is predominant, but is very marginal in texts from Qumran....

In line with texts from the Old Testament, especially the prophet Ezekiel, the writings from Qumran stress divine transcendence and present the figure of a God who unleashes his wrath against successive generations of men. In each generation, God does not allow more than a small remnant to remain. (Damascus Document III 13). These texts comprise a link between the Old Testament and the Pauline doctrine in Rom 9-11, but on the other hand they offer a strong contrast with gospel texts which speak of God the Father, "who makes his sun rise upon evil and good and rains over just and unjust" (Matt 5:45), or of the Father who orders the fatted calf to be killed on the return of the prodigal son (Lk 15:23). Ultimately, the overall image of the message and figure of Jesus presented in the gospel text contrasts with the extremely rigoristic attitudes expressed in the texts of the Qumran sect. (Forentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. ????)

Finally, Barrera writes :

The certain fact is that the New Testament texts show many parallels and points of contact with the texts from Qumran. As the Essene writings are more ancient than the Christian writings it is logical to assume that the former could influence the latter. Undoubtedly, just as two parallel lines never actually meet, a Qumran text and a gospel text can run parallel without it meaning that the first has influenced the second directly. Study of comparative literature and comparative religion has often fallen into "parallelomania" (Sandmel), which confuses parallel with tangents and similarities of form or content with direct contacts or influences. In this respect it is a really surprising fact that the gospel of Mark, the most ancient and most Semitic of the gospels, offers very few parallels with the texts from Qumran, whereas the gospels of Matthew and John and the epistles of Paul provide, as we will see, many points of contact....

Although they do offer no direct evidence about the Christian origins, the importance of the texts from Qumran for study of the New Testament is absolutely conclusive. They provide much rich and valuable information about the Judaism of the period and as a consequence allow us to know what has been called the Jewish matrix of Christianity (Kasemann). (Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, pp. 203-204)


  1. Cook, Edward M., Solving the Mysterious of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, ISBN 0-310-38471-0.
  2. Dupont-Sommer, Andre, The Essene Writings from Qumran, tr. G. Vermes, 1973, ISBN 0-8446-2012-2
  3. Fitzmyer, Joseph A., The Dead Sea Scrolls - Major Publications and Tools for Study, 1990, ISBN 1-55540-510-8.
  4. Fujita, Neil S., A Crack in the Jar, 1986, ISBN 0-8091-2745-8.
  5. Garcia Martinez, Florentino and Barrera, Julio Trebolle, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls - Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, ISBN 90-04-10085-7.
  6. Silberman, Neil Asher, The Hidden Scrolls - Christianity, Judaism, & The War for the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, ISBN 0-399-13982-6.
  7. Wise, Michael O., Golb, Norman, Collins, John J. and Pardee, Dennis, G. ed. Methods of Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and The Khirbet Qumran Site - Present Realities and Future Prospects, 1994, ISBN 0-89766-794-8.
This very fine essay came into my hands anonymously. if you know the author please advise me so proper credit can be given.

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