QUMRAN COMMUNITY AS SOURCE OF CHRISTIANTY?
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. 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, 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
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. 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). 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, 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
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. 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.
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; 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; 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:
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).