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Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls

  • 'community rule' found in cave 1 @ Qumran establishes the rule & hierarchy within the community -they referred to themselves as 'keepers of the covenant' & as those having 'zeal for the law' -'Among the rituals stipulated, there is cleansing & purification by baptism - not just once, but, apparently, every day. Daily prayers are also specified, at dawn & at sunset, involving recitation of the Law.' (140)
  • Josephus mentions Essene adherence to the Law of Moses, 'What they reverence most after God is the Lawgiver, & blasphemy against him is a capital offence.' (166)
  • 'The Gospels, it is generally acknowledged, are unreliable as historic documents. Mark's, the earliest of them, was composed no earlier than the revolt of AD 66, & probably somewhat later. All four Gospels seek to evoke a period long predating their own composition - perhaps by as much as 60 or 70 years' (175)
  • '...it must be emphasized that Paul is, in effect, the first 'Christian' heretic, & that his teachings - which become the foundations of later Christianity - are a flagrant deviation from the 'original' or 'pure' form extolled by the leadership. Whether James, 'the Lord's brother', was literally Jesus' blood kin or not, it is clear that he knew Jesus... personally. So did most of the other members of the community... When they spoke, they did so with first-hand authority. Paul had never had such personal acquaintance with the figure he'd begun to regard as his 'Saviour'. He had only his quasi-mystical experience in the desert & the sound of a disembodied voice. For him to arrogate authority to himself on this basis is, to say the least, presumptuous. It also leads him to distort Jesus' teaching beyond all recognition... For Jesus, adhering rigorously to Judaic Law, it would have been the most extreme blasphemy to advocate worship of any mortal figure, including himself. (181)
  • Yet Paul knows full well what he is doing. He understands, with a surprisingly modern sophistication, the techniques of religious propaganda; he understandt what is necessary to turn a man into a god, & he goes about it more astutely than the Romans did with their emperors. (182)
  • 'Christianity', as it will subsequently evolve from Paul, has by now severed virtually all connection with its roots, and can no longer be said to have anything to do with Jesus, only with Paul's image of Jesus. (183)
  • From the Acts of the Apostles, from Josephus & from early Christian historians, there emerges a coherent, if still incomplete, portrait of James... He appears to be an exemplar of 'righteousness' - so much so that 'the Just' or 'the Righteous' is appended as a sobriquet to his name. He is the acknowledged leader of a 'sectarian' religious community whose members are 'zealous for the Law'. He must contend with two quite separate & distinct adversaries. One of these is Paul, an outsider who, having first persecuted the community, then converts & is admitted into it, only to turn renegade, prevaricate & quarrel with his superiors, hijack the image of Jesus & begin preaching his own doctrine - a doctrine which draws on that of the community, but distorts it. James' 2nd adversary is from outside the community - the high priest Ananas, head of the Sadducee priesthood. Ananas is a notoriously corrupt & widely hated man. He has also betrayed both the God & the people of Israel by collaborating with the Roman administration & their Herodian puppet-kings. James publicly challenges Ananas & eventually meets with death at the hands of Ananas' minions....(194-195)
  • When the fragmentary details of the Qumran texts had been assembled into a coherent sequence, what emerged was something extraordinarily similar to the chronicles from Acts, Josephus & the early Christian historians. The scrolls told their own story, at the center oi which was a single protagonist, the 'Teacher of Righteousness' - an exemplar of the same virtues associated with James. Like James, the 'Teacher' was the acknowledged leader of a 'sectarian' religious community whose members were 'zealous for the Law'. And like James, the 'Teacher' had to contend with two quite separate & distinct adversaries. One of these was dubbed the 'Liar', an outsider who was admitted to the community, then turned renegade, quarrelled with the 'Teacher' & hijacked part of the community's doctrine & membership. According to the 'Habakkuk Commentary', the 'Liar''did not listen to the word received by the Teacher of Righteousness from the mouth of God'. Instead, he appealed to 'the unfaithful of the New Covenant in that they have not believed in the Covenant of God & have profaned His holy name'. The text states explicitly that 'the Liar...flouted the Law in the midst of their whole congregation'. He 'led many astray' & raised 'a congregation of deceit'. He himself is said to be 'pregnant with {works) of deceit'. These, of course, are precisely the transgressions of which Paul is accused at the end of Acts. (195)

    Bibliography:

  • Baigent, Michael & Leigh, Richard, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, Summit Books, NY, NY 1991