DEAD SEA community as source for Christianity

Home | Intro to the Jesus legend articles | In the Gospels Jesus Was a Mortal--jk | Mark Describes Jesus' Gay Affair | SOURCE FOR JESUS LEGEND | SKEPTICISM ON HISTORICAL CHRIST by Catholic theologian | Published Commentary on the Previous Article | Fictional Christ--McKinsey | New Testament Studies, Professor Wells | EARLIEST CHRISTIANITY--Prof. Wells | Who Was Jesus--Prof. G. A. Wells | NO HISTORICAL JESUS, response to critic by Prof. Wells | Old Testament Messiah Prophecies and the Gospels | Balanced New Testament Analysis | THE HISTORICAL REFERENCES TO JESUS; A Scholarly Analysis | Jesus Legend Sources--Wikipedia | TEXTUAL CRITICISM OF THE NEW TESTAMENT | TEXTUAL PROBLEMS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT | THE HISTORICAL REFERENCES TO JESUS | Did Jesus Exist?--Walker | The Jesus Puzzle--Doherty | The Jesus Puzzle--Doherty, continued | NASTY JESUS & STUPID ADVISE | New Testament, Sources, Transmission, Variations, & Modifications | CONTRADICTIONS: New & Old Testaments | BIBLE CANON: History & Analysis Thereof | End of the World is soon, Bible Tells US--quotes








    There are two very different pictures of the antiquity upon which the gospels are woven.  One is nurtured on faith and assumes that there is scant little that is relevant to the understanding of the New Testament other than religious dogma/theology and the teaching of the Old Testament that were incorporated into the teachings of Paul and Jesus[1].   The other is that the New Testament evolved from certain prior teachings in the Levant.  Is it a coincidence that the DNA of the Chimpanzee is 98.5 % percent the same as that of homo sapient?   Was Yahweh so fond of the chimp that he used its blueprint when creating us?  Or is the identity in DNA sequences a result of common, recent linage?  There is a hierarchy of solutions.  Is the similarity of the New Testament (NT) to the Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnostic Apocrypha,[2] and Jewish Pseudepigrapha because Yahweh liked those works?  It is through knowledge of evolutionary biology that one comes to comprehend the cause of the 98.5% identity in DNA; and it is through the study of the works by uncompromised scholars such as Randel Helms and G.A. Wells that one comes to understand the development of the NT.

   My purpose is to look at one important window of evidence, the Dead Sea Scrolls, (most of which was written a century before the New Testament) so that we may understand the soil upon which the Christian faith sprang.   The scrolls are by no means the only evidence; however, it is enough to establish that the relatedness was not accidental.[3]  Moreover, the evidence supports the speculation that the seed for the Jesus myth came from a particular Essence known as The Teacher of Righteousness.  This journey into the foundation of Christianity serves two purposes, one to place the foundation of Christianity in its proper historical context, and secondly to advance the most historically sound explanation of the Jesus legend. 

   The first issue considered is one of direct influence versus parallel development.  If parallel how much borrow occurred?  Direct influence of the Qumran sect on the early church may turn out to be less probable than parallel developments in the same general situation.  The quest here is the same one encountered when we attempt to explain similarities between Judaism and Zoroastrianism, or between Christianity and the pagan mystery cults (183).[4]   Others (including JK) find, looking closely at the evidence that these similarities arise from inheritance.  There are parallels [I]n language, (especially in John), in eschatological motifs, and in their order and liturgical institutions (baptism, liturgical meals, community of goods, leadership).  In each case the Qumran covenanters and early Christians shared essential viewpoints (184).  The parallels vary in quality, but the sheer quantity is more than impressive it is demonstrative of adoption.  In 1966 a German scholar, Herbert Braun, published a two-volume work entitled Qumran und das New Testament containing a chain-like treatment of all New Testament passages, from Matthew through Revelations, for which parallels arguably exist.  The book totals 326 pages of rather small print (185).  The Qumran scrolls show a community communal life shaped by the anticipated Kingdom of God, a model assumed by the early Christian communities.  The borrowing went so far as to be  remarkable similar in theological vocabulary, in some major doctrinal tenets, and in several organizational and ritual practices (185).  Such similarities within the same region make highly unlike the position of separate and parallel development.

  The relationship between the two however can only be inferred.  One strong piece of evidence is the usage of the same language.  A number of Pauline expressions are the same (at 187).  The entire passage of 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 sounds very much like what we find at Qumran.  The name Belial (or Beliar) occurs only here in the whole New Testament, but it occurs several times at Qumran (188).  A similar unique parallels is found with the Sermon on the Mount (Plain in Luke).  Among the same phrases are poor in spirit (Matt 5:3).   The then unique Essence practice of avoiding oaths is echoed in Matthew 5:33-37 and explains Josephus statement that the Essences were excused from taking the oath of loyalty to Herod.  The duty to turn the other cheek (Matt 5:38-39) is found at Qumran in the Manual of Discipline (10:17-18), but not elsewhere (188).   This degree of similarity to the NT is not to be found anywhere else in the Jewish literature. 

   Given the lack of an historical Jesus,[5] it has for sometime been speculated that one of their leaders was in fact the source for legend.  In 1950 the French Scholar Andre Dupont-Sommer argued that the Teacher of Righteousnessthe founder and first leader of the Qumran group according the scrollshad a career that prefigured and paralleled 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 Master of Justice [that is, the Teacher of Righteousness, as the title came to be translated].  Like the latter He preached penitence, poverty, humility, love of ones neighbours, chastity.  Like him, He prescribed the observance of the Law of Moses, the whole Law, but the Law finished and perfected thank to His own revelations.  Like him He was the Elect and Messiah of God, the Messiah redeemer of the world.  Like him He was the object of the hostility of the priests, the party of the Sadducees.  Like him He was condemned and put to death.  Like him He pronounced judgement, which was taken and destroyed by the Romans for having put Him to death.  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 (182).


These parallels given the silence of the Epistles and the historical fiction of the Gospels are strong support for the hypothesis that The Teacher of Righteousness grew into the Jesus legend.  This is made all the more likely given the time gap:  the Teacher of Righteousness was executed during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.).  Paul comes 150 years after his death.[6]  Thus there was enough time for a legend to grow inside and outside the Qumran community.   Given the above-mentioned similarities between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the NT a relationship between the 2 must have existed.  This relationship makes it all the more likely that the Teacher of Righteousness was the seed for the Jesus legend.[7]


Were the Gnostics the first Christians?

   Another reasonable conclusion is that the Gnostics were before the Catholics.  When puzzling over the silence of the Epistles (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25), the fact that certain passages in Paul seem to be of a position that distinguish and thus opposes the Gnostics; that Mark seems to be aware and influenced by the Gnostics;[8] that as to sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas (Gnostic), they parallel the synoptic gospels in a more primitive (i.e. earlier) form;[9] and the literary relationship between the three groups, the Essences, the Gnostics, and the Christians (discussed above), the question of priority naturally occurred to me.  But the Christian scholars naturally consider the Gospels as historically reliable and the Gnostics a later heretic development.  This gap in years from the Essence teacher and Paul is sufficient for the Gnostic Christians to have developed before the Catholic Christians.  I have not found any thing in my extensive research that which would confound this hypothesis.  And on the affirmative side is the greater similarity of certain early Gnostic teachings to the Jewish Pseudepigrapha of the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C.  When comparing to the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Jewish Pseudepigrapha (The Book of the Secrets of Enoch, The Book of Jubilees, The Sibylline Oracles) to both the Gnostic works such as On the Origin of the World and to the NT, one is struck by the greater divergence of the NT.    Christianity could be an offshoot of the Gnostics and the Gnostics closer to the Essence source?

  To rely upon analysis instead of faith entails a much different understanding of how Christianity developed:

      It would seem an immense advantage for cultural and social intercoursethat is, for civilizationthat the rise of Christianity should, at last, be generally understood as simply an episode of human history rather than propagated as dogma and divine revelation.  The study of the Dead Sea Scrollswith the direction it is now takingcannot fail, one would think, to conduce this (183).          


Enlightenment comes from the persistent use of logical analysis.  Analysis exposed the Gospel fictions, analysis set out the natural development of Christianity, analysis showed that the Gnostics could well be the first Christian cult, and analysis showed that an Essence Teacher could well be the seed for the Jesus legend.  Unlike faith which affirms a remote possibility, logical analysis has shown new and more plausible possibilities concerning the Jesus legends and the first Christians.   


[1]    Consistent with my other essays thought I speak of Jesus teachings in fact there were none.  This conclusion is based upon the silence of the Epistles.  So though I write of the teachings of Jesus, what I mean is the fictional character, Jesus, as found in the Gospels.  I use Jesus rather than Christ, because Christ means anointed (as a king of the Jews), and the Teacher of Righteousness was not anointed.

[2]   I consider it more likely than not that the Gnostics were the first Christians developing in the 1st century BC from the deification of the Essence Teacher of Righteousnessmore on this point at the end of this paper.

[3]    All this is supported by scholarship; however, not a consensus of scholars.  As I have grumble in nearly every work on religion such a consensus is not possible because the majority of researchers wear the scholars gown yet come to the flock with religious intent. 

[4]  Hershel Shanks, Editor, Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls:  A reader from Biblical Archaeology Review, Random House, New York, 1992. Which particular author and work quoted in the article by James Vanjderkam in Chapter 14 will not be cited; it is of interest only to the academics.    

[5] See my essays on the Historical Jesus at 

[6]   Paul admits that he never met Jesus, nor does he claim to know those who have met Jesus, nor does he place a date of Jesus birth or deaththough one interpolation does for his death.  

[7]  Differences between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Essence Teacher of Righteousness are not a telling criticism.  For consider how the Paul of the Epistle had undergone changes in the author of Acts; and similarly how the Jesus of the Epistle was transformed by Mark in just one generation.  Legends distort history, often to the point of uncertain; viz., that even the plausible episodes might too be fiction, for where the story telling process end and what if any historically accurate information did the story tell build up his tale upon.  What for example is historical about the battle of Troy, other than that the city had been sacked.  It was sacked 8 times. 


[8]  The afore mentioned passage in Mark 1 of Jesus being a mortal unto whom upon baptism the spirit of the Lord enters him. 

[9] See commentary by Barnstone, 299, on the Gospel of Thomas.

While these two thesis (Teacher of Righteousness being the seed of the Jesus legend and the Gnostic Christians coming before the Catholic Christians), lack the concrete evidence that amounts to a proof, there is suggestive evidence based upon textual exegeses to uphold their position as alternatives to the standard solutions based on the gospels.  My position that is strengthened by the fact that the gospels cannot by scholars be read as an historical account.