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Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls

  • Introduction:

    Quite a bit of mystery surrounds the Dead Sea Scrolls and it appears as though some of this is by design. Consider, for example, that a library (an entire library of books) called the Nag Hamaadi Library was translated within only a few years of its discovery. The Dead Sea Scrolls, on the other hand, took decades. Numerous scholars have tackled this aspect of the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the great controversy surrounding ownership of the scrolls as well as which scholars had access to them and which ones did not.

    I do not intend to delve into that aspect of the scrolls' history, but rather just offer some random thoughts on their contents. Most of my observations and comments come after reading The Dead Seas Scrolls Deception by Baigent and Leigh.

  • Did they perform wudu' (ablution) as Muslims do?:

    The scroll entitled, Community rule, found in cave 1 at Qumran establishes the rule and hierarchy within the community. In this scroll, the authors referred to themselves as "keepers of the covenant" and also as those having "zeal for the Law." This would imply that they must have paid close attention to what the Law required of them. And if they were, in fact, "zealots" as many scholars have referred to them as, then they must have held to the letter of the Law. (Today, they might be called fundamentalists.) With this in mind, consider the following quote from The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Michael Baigent & Richard Leigh:

    Among the rituals stipulated, there is cleansing and purification by baptism - not just once, but, apparently, every day. Daily prayers are also specified, at dawn and at sunset, involving recitation of the Law. (140)

    Specified daily prayers? Reciting the Law? Ritual washing on a daily basis, perhaps before each prayer? This community sounds like Muslims to me.

  • Capital Punishment for Slandering the Prophet:

    In his discussions of the Essenes, the community thought to have preserved the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, Josephus mentions their adherence to the Law of Moses:

    "What they reverence most after God is the Lawgiver, & blasphemy against him (Moses) is a capital offence." (166)

    Is this to say that if Salman Rushdie mentioned Moses (peace be upon him) in his book, Satanic Verses that he would have been issued a death sentence by the Essenes?

  • Paul as a heretic: 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)

    If after years of persecuting the Jews, Hitler had a dream that he saw Moses (peace be upon him) and was told to go and preach in Moses' name, does anyone really think that there is a Jew alive who would believe him? Likewise, if Ariel Sharon had a dream in which he saw Muhammad (peace be upon him) and came to the Muslims saying, Muhammad told me to give you a message, is there a Muslim alive who would believe him? Of course not.

    That an enemy could have a dream and then claim authority, and offer an entirely new teaching, and be accepted, I find disturbing. And frankly, I am surprised that Christians remain under the influence of Pauline thoelogy.

    '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)

    Three Personalities:

    The Dead Sea Scrolls make mention of three personalities, the identities of which have been debated. Of all of the analyses that I have read of the passages which refer to these individuals, I have found those mentioned in The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception to make the most sense. This could be my own bias as a Muslim, but read the following passages yourself:

    From the Acts of the Apostles, from Josephus and 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 and distinct adversaries. One of these is Paul, an outsider who, having first persecuted the community, then converts and is admitted into it, only to turn renegade, prevaricate and quarrel with his superiors, hijack the image of Jesus and begin preaching his own doctrine - a doctrine which draws on that of the community, but distorts it. James' second adversary is from outside the community - the high priest Ananas, head of the Sadducee priesthood. Ananas is a notoriously corrupt and widely hated man. He has also betrayed both the God and the people of Israel by collaborating with the Roman administration and their Herodian puppet-kings. James publicly challenges Ananas and 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 and the early Christian historians. The scrolls told their own story, at the center of 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 and distinct adversaries.
    One of these was dubbed the "Liar", an outsider who was admitted to the community, then turned renegade, quarrelled with the "Teacher" and hijacked part of the community's doctrine and 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 and 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" and 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)

    Recognizing Paul as "the Liar" is one way of reconciling the vastly different theologies mentioned in the New Testament. If you have a Bible with red letters for the words attributed to Jesus (peace be upon him), read just those words. Then go back and read that which is attributed to Paul. You will find something totally different.

    The statement, "Think not that I have come to destroy the Law or the prophets. For I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill," which has been attributed to Jesus (peace be upon him) in the New Testament goes along with the theology of the Essenes who were "zealous for the Law".

    A Closing Note:

    We do not know who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. Nor do we know who wrote the New Testament gospels. There are no last names, no signatures, et cetera. There are inconsistencies between them. This, alone, is enough for me to caution against using any of these documents as "proof" of anything. They are unreliable in that regard and therefore, it would be unwise to base one's entire belief system on any of them.

    Please do not misunderstand my purpose in writing this short commentary on the above passages...I do not intend to prove anything with it. Proof, in my opinion, can only come from a book of revelation which has been untouched and unaltered. Among the revealed books, only one remains, the Holy Qur'an. The Qur'an does not call Paul a Liar, per se. Instead, it calls all of humanity to the religion which Jesus and all of the prophets (peace be upon them) called to and from which all of Christendom has strayed.

    Recommended Reading:

  • The Noble Qur'an
  • Baigent, Michael & Leigh, Richard, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, Summit Books, NY, NY 1991.

    Related Links:

  • The Dead Sea Scrolls & the Gospel of Barnabas
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Three Personalities

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