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Messiaism in the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) community are popularly referred to as the Essenes, but this has come to be doubted by some in the scholarly community. The DSS community’s scrolls contain some of the earliest extant books of the Hebrew bible. The modern Hebrew bible is based on the Masoretic text (c. 200 CE). The DSS scrolls, however, date to around the beginning of the Hasmonean era (c. 150 BCE) to the Roman era (the first century CE). In quite a few instances, the DSS scrolls reflect the earlier polytheism of the Israelites that was later corrected in the Masoretc; even agreeing with the LXX when the LXX disagrees with the Masoretic.

The DSS community came about after the events recorded somewhat in Daniel. The outlawing of Judaism by Antiochus IV and the ousting of the previous high preisthood in favor of the Hasmonean priest-kings after the previous high priest had allowed Antiochus to desecrate the temple. While this was a victory for the Maccabees, the DSS community favored the previous high priest kicked out by the Maccabees, and their writings reflect their sectarian views. Thus for the Qumran community, they longed for two messiahs – one that would be a Kingly Messiah to re-estaish the authentic kingdom of David, and one that would be a Priestly Messiah who would re-establish the authentic pre-Maccabean priesthood. The Hasmoneans, however, made their own bid for authentic priestly succession with the introduction of the Sadducees. “Sadducee” is etymologically derived from Zadokim (or Tsadokim) implying that they followed the teachings of the high priest Tsadok who, according to tradition, anointed king Solomon.
Some of the DSS scrolls include The Temple Scroll; The Scroll of the 24 Priestly Watches; The Scroll of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice; The Scroll of Priestly Blessings; The Scroll of Melchitsedek (describes the Archangel named Melkitsedek who functions as High Priest in heaven); The Testament of Levi; The Zadokite Document (also known as the Damascus Covenant).

All of these scrolls have to do with priestly issues. Then there’s also the War Scroll (portraying the struggle between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness) and the commentaries (pesher) on biblical prophetic books which are rewritten and reinterpreted in a way that all consoling prophecies refer to the Sons of Light and all rebuking prophecies relate to the Sons of Darkness. The Sons of Light are lead by the Priest of Righteousness (Cohen Tsedek [or Zadok]) and the Angel of Light while the Sons of Darkness are lead by the Evil Priest (Cohen Resha) and by the Angel of Darkness

The Messainic Scrolls include:
4Q175 (or 4QTest), also known as The Testimonia, is one of the Dead Sea Scrolls and was found in Cave 4 at Qumran in the West Bank. Only one sheet long, 4Q175 is a collection of scriptural quotations seemingly connected to a messianic figure. The manuscript was written in Hasmonean script of the early first century BCE and was edited by John Marco Allegro.

The Testimonia is a short document containing five Biblical quotations arranged in four sections concerning God’s activities at the end-time. Only the last section is followed by an interpretation. The first three sections refer to future blessings which will come from three figures, a prophet similar to Moses, a messianic figure and a priestly teacher.

The first section consists of two texts from Deuteronomy and refers to the prophet-figure who is like Moses (Deuteronomy 5:28-29; 18:18-19). The second section is an extract from a prophecy of Balaam about the Messiah-figure, who is similar to David (Numbers 24:15-17). This prophecy predicts “A star shall come out of Jacob and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel; he shall crush the temples of Moab and destroy all the children of Sheth.”[Simon Bar-Kokhba, the Jewish Messiah of 132 CE literally means “Simon son of the star”] The third section is a blessing of the Levites, and of the Priest-Messiah who will be a teacher like Levi (Deuteronomy 33:8-11). The last section begins with a verse from Joshua (6:26), which is then expounded by means of a quotation from the Psalms of Joshua (see 4Q379). These verses show that the Qumran community was interested in the messianic prophecies found in the Tanakh.

4Q252 Column V, formerly known as Patriarchal Blessing, covers Joseph’s blessing of Judah. It contains a quotation from Jeremiah 33:17. The author links this blessing to Messianic expectation and the “covenant of royalty” given to David. The commentary serves dually as anti Hasmonaean polemic and affirmation of the Qumran community’s self understanding as spiritual descendants of David.

The Rule of the Blessing (1QSb) is a very fragmentary text once thought to be part of the Dead Sea Scrolls book known as the Community Rule. It is added as one of two appendices (including the equally eschatological Rule of the Congregation) following the book of the Community Rule, on one of the first seven scrolls discovered at the Qumran site. The Rule of the Blessing includes three benedictions for use during the eschaton: one for the general assembly of the eschatological Tribe of Israel, which describes a sort of “living water” bringing them into a new covenant with God, one concerning the Sons of Zadok, priests chosen by God who will act “like angels” and lead Israel after the War. The third prayer is that for the messianic meal, to bless the “Prince,” or Davidic messiah, who has come to deliver Israel. These blessings are meant to praise the sect who inhabited Qumran and its leaders, for the ultimate perfection had dawned, and they had been its harbingers. Similar prayers are found elsewhere in the scrolls, and some believe that this particular manuscript many be a collection of prayers for general, daily use.

1QSa (The Rule of the Congregation) The scroll [says] that in the “last days” there will be a great war with the Gentiles, and the whole of Israel will join with the Yahad (an eschatological community) to fight. The Rule of the Congregation then outlines in several sections the rules for governing the eschatological sect, stages of life for members of the sect and the duties expected of them at each age, those disqualified from service, duties for members of the Tribe of Levi, acts of the council of the community, a description of a man (or men) described as “the Messiah of Aaron and of David” entering, and the eschatological banquet that will follow to celebrate his arrival. The Rule of the Congregation concerns itself largely with the operations of the sect during these “end-times,” and the functions and purity prerequisites demanded of the sect during the messianic assembly (banquet).

The War of the Messaiah is a series of Dead Sea scroll fragments describing the conclusion of a battle led by the Leader of the Congregation. The fragments that make up this document include 4Q285, also known as The Pierced/Piercing Messiah Text, and 11Q14 with which it was found to coincide. It is possible that it also represents the conclusion of the War Scroll.

This six-line fragment, commonly referred to as the “Pierced Messiah” text, is written in a Herodian script of the first half of the 1st Century and refers to a Messiah from the Branch of David, to a judgement, and to a killing. 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 traditional transcription and translation support the “killing Messiah” interpretation, alluding to a triumphant Messiah (Isaiah 11:4).

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Posted by on October 7, 2010 in dead sea scrolls, messiah

 

Pharisees vs. Sadducees

The Sadducees were a priestly group, Levites, associated with the leadership of the Temple in Jerusalem. Sadducees represented the aristocratic group of the Hasmonean High Priests, who replaced the previous High Priestly lineage. The earlier Priestly lineage had been blamed for allowing the Syrian Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes to desecrate the Temple of Jerusalem with idolatrous sacrifices and to martyr monotheistic Jews. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the ousting of the Syrian forces, the rededication of the Temple, and the installment of the new Hasmonean priestly line. The Hasmoneans ruled as “priest-kings”, claiming the titles of high priest and king simultaneously, and like other aristocracies across the Hellenistic world became increasingly influenced by Hellenistic syncretism and Greek philosophies: presumably Stoicism, and apparently Epicureanism in the Talmudic tradition criticizing the anti-Torah philosophy of the “Apikorsus” אפיקורסות (i.e., Epicurus) refers to the Hasmonean clan qua Sadducees. Like Epicureans, Sadducees rejected the existence of an afterlife, thus denied the Pharisaic doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead.

The Dead Sea Scrolls community, who are probably Essenes, were led by a high priestly leadership, who are thought to be the descendents of the “legitimate” high priestly lineage, which the Hasmoneans ousted. The Dead Sea Scrolls bitterly opposed the current high priests of the Temple. Since Hasmoneans constituted a different priestly line, it was in their political interest to emphasize their family’s priestly pedigree that descended from their ancestor, the high priest Zadok, who had the authority to anoint the kingship of Solomon, son of David.

The Sadducees rejected the Oral Torah (Talmud), which the Pharisees claimed to be a continuously passed down oral tradition which Moses received on Mount Sinai as a companion and elucidation of the Written Torah (Five Book of Moses). Instead they insisted on strict literal interpretation of the Five books of Moses, the Written Torah.

Sadducees followed the Hebrew Bible literally. They rejected the Pharisees’ notion of an Oral Torah even before it was written (the written Oral Torah, the Talmud consisting of the Mishnah and Gemara which were completed by many Pharisee rabbis by 500 CE) by which the Pentateuch could be explained hermeneutically.

An example of this differing approach is the interpretation of the law of retribution (lex talionis):

And a man, when he maims his fellow, as he has done, so shall be done to him. A fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth—as he gives a wound in a man, so shall be given in him. (Leviticus 24:19-20)

Most Pharisees understood this to mean that the value of an eye was to be sought by the perpetrator rather than actually removing his eye too. In the Sadducees’ view the law was to be taken literally.

R’ Yitchak Isaac Halevi suggests that while there is evidence of a Sadducee sect from the times of Ezra, it emerged as major force only after the Hasmonean rebellion. The reason for this was not, in fact, a matter of religion. He claims that as complete rejection of Judaism would not have been tolerated under the Hasmonean rule, the Hellenists joined the Sadducees maintaining that they were rejecting not Judaism but Rabbinic law. Thus, the Sadducees were for the most part a political party and not a religious sect. Being associated closely with the Temple in Jerusalem, after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE the Sadducees vanish from history as a group. There is, however, some evidence that Sadducees survived as a minority group within Judaism up until early medieval times, which may have been the origins of Karaite Judaism.

So the name “Pharisee” comes from the Hebrew פרושים perushim from פרוש parush, meaning “separated”. “Parushim” was transliterated into Greek as ΦΑΡΙΣΑΙΟΙ/φαρισαιοι [farisaiee] The name “Sadducee” comes from a “follower of Zadok” – צכים “[T]Sadokim” . Transliterated into Greek as ΣΑΔΔΟΥΚΑΙΟΙ/σαδδουκαιοι [Saddoukaiee]. The name “Notzrim” (Nazarenes) נֹצְרִים or נוצרים means “sentry” or “watchmen”. Possibly deriving from “offshoot” נצר netsir.

What does “Essene” mean and what is it derived from? According to the events unfolding here, the Essenes wanted the priestly line prior to the Hasmoneans/Maccabees to stay in power… but these priests were sympathetic to Hellenic Judaism and Hellenism.

But Christianity is Hellenic Judaism! Maybe another connection between the Essenes and Christianity? If Jesus or his followers wanted him to fulfill the role of “son of David”, wouldn’t they need some support from the Essenes and their “legitimate” line of High Priests, since only – supposedly – an “Essene” would be the only legitimate anointer of kingship?

Could Jesus’ “clearing of the Temple” leading to his arrest be representative of reversing the Hanukka/Hasmonean rule and re-establishing the rightful High Priest lineage?

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2009 in dead sea scrolls, essenes, Nazarenes, pharisees, sadducees

 

Greek, The New Testament, and the Essenes

This information is taken from the rational response squad, who I think are kinda cultish. Even so, this is a very good argument for why the NT was written in Greek and not the native tongue of Jesus and his disciples:

  • All four canonical gospels were written in Koine Greek, which reflects Greek education – the same education that Pliny the Elder / Younger, Julius Caesar, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Eratosthenes, Virgil, and Apollinus of Rhodes would have received. All four canonical authors would have had to attend gymnasion, the Greek school for filospohia, aglhteon, and grammatikov, or literary education – how to read and write, to learn to “know one’s letters”
  • Hellenized Jews were also welcome to attend gymnasion as long as they had enough money to afford it. Often Jews of high standing in a community could attend gymnasion.
  • The gospels are derived from a common form of literary creation[,] dependent on model use — something taught rigorously at gymnasion — where the author would use earlier literature as a foundation for building tropes, archetypes, and narrative to formulate plot and even name characters.

So, how could illiterate Palestinian fishermen who spoke Aramaic learn Koine Greek just out of nowhere? Unless they really weren’t fishermen and they were some of the higher class Jews. Reading and writing at this time period wasn’t just for anyone – only the highest class people would go to school and actually learn to read and write. If Jesus and his disciples were carpenters and fishermen – professions that don’t earn a lot of money and require no formal education – from some backwater of the Roman empire, why and how would they learn to read and write Koine Greek?

Also of note, I was reading the bio on John Allegro and it said that he was one of the people responsible for translating the scribes found at Nag Hammadi – which is where we get a lot of information about Gnosticism from. He said that the parallels between the Essenes and Christianity are intriguing, to say the least.

The Essenes were an ascetic sect of Jews from the Hellenistic period up until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. These Essenes mysteriously disappeared after the temple’s destruction, which is also around the time that Christianity started gaining ground. Most of what we know about the Essenes comes from Philo the Jew and [Flavinus] Josephus.

Josephus mentions the Essenes and their “river bathing rituals” which could be construed as a direct description of baptism or just a common religious meme from that time period and locale.

I think there’s an obvious connection between either the Essenes directly, former Essenes seeking some direction after the destruction of the Temple, or people who were incredibly influenced by Essenes theology. John the Baptist seems to fit the description of an “Essene” perfectly – and supposedly Jesus “continued” his ministry. The stories of Peter seems unequivocally to be nothing more than a dramatized mnemonic of the role of the Essene main “Overseer” (the Essene title ‘caiaphas’ – or ‘cephas’ as a word play on the Aramaic “stone”, ‘kepha’), recognized by many scholars as the equivalent of the later Christian “Bishop”. Essenes in their writings have a “Teacher of Righteousness” – which could be one of the possible influences of the creation of the Jesus that Christians have in their minds today. Maybe not a direct copypasta, but maybe some of the characteristics of the Essenes’ “Teacher of Righteousness” – their beloved, inspirational, and suffering Teacher, who they arguably regarded as a latter-day Joshua ben Nun (Jesus son of Fish) were ‘put into’ Jesus’ character. After all, Philo and Josephus were Jews who learned Greek education and they knew about the Essenes – it’s entirely possible that whoever wrote the gospels of the New Testament knew about Essenes theology as well – and injected their prior Essenes theology and sayings into the gospels.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2008 in Christianity, dead sea scrolls, essenes, greek, greek education, gymnasion, josephus, koine greek, nag hammadi, new testament, philo

 
 
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