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By re-reading my past blogs on the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), there are 2 large topics about the DSS I still need to briefly address. The first topic: why I changed my opinion to believe Essenes wrote the scrolls. The other is what the DSS reveal to make different things in the New Testament resonate with us better. Both these subjects seem daunting for me to cover adequately in these blogs. But I’ll start with the former, by far the most daunting, in a 3-part series.
WHAT THE HISTORY OF THE DSS COVERS
The history the DSS covers seems to be mostly about the Qumran community’s origins, which
was founded by someone whom the DSS call the Teacher of Righteousness. Due to his criticisms of the religious establishment in Jerusalem, this teacher was opposed by Jewish high priest John Hyrcanus (ruled 134-104 BC) or perhaps the priest-king Jannaeus (ruled 103-76 BC). One of these high priests (we’re not sure which one) is called the Wicked Priest in the scrolls…. In any case, it is likely that Wicked Priest had become a technical term that referred to more than one of the compromising Hasmonean high priests. The Teacher of Righteousness probably came to be viewed as a title of office even if originally the title referred to a lone historical figure. Likewise, the Wicked Priest…came to be understood as the title of the opposing office…From The Dead Sea Scrolls, by Evans
Those oppressed Jews, at least during Herod the Great’s time, knew spies were everywhere. Speaking in code likely seemed either wise or at times, even necessary.
THE HISTORICAL FIGURES IN DSS
These are just some of the problems in trying to identify the Essenes. Most of the references to historical figures are veiled…. I believe that the men who wrote or collected the scrolls found at Qumran were Essenes….From The Dead Sea Scrolls, by Evans
Evans, the author of my source, covers the intertestamental history of Israel in a long and complex series of people and events. He tries to find what’s familiar with what we find by veiled reference in the DSS.
In 175 BC Antiochus IV became king of the Seleucid Empire…took out his vengeance on his Jewish subjects…. Scrolls of the Law of Moses were burned; Jews were commanded to eat pork…circumcision was banned; Jewish priests were ordered to sacrifice to Zeus and even Antiochus himself…. The books of Maccabees narrate the history of this period…. In 167 BC one priest, Mattathias of the family of Hasmoneus, struck down the king’s officer and a young Jewish man being trained in offering sacrifice to Zeus. The zealous priest and his sons Judah Maccabeus, Jonathan, and Simon summoned the faithful…. Revolt was underway…. The sons of Mattathias founded what was known as the Hasmonean dynasty. At first they served as high priests, but in time they began to call themselves kings. Not all Jews were happy with this development…. Among the discontented were the priests who eventually established the Qumran community….From The Dead Sea Scrolls, by Evans
RECONCILING MY OPINION ON DSS AUTHORSHIP
I found Evans convincing. The authors of the first book I read on the DSS, The Dead Sea Scrolls, by Wise/Abegg/Cook, also at one time convinced me the Essenes didn’t write the DSS. Wise/Abegg/Cook concluded it’s not possible to determine with any certainty who wrote the DSS. They go on at great length about the pros and cons of 3 main theories for who wrote the DSS. The Essenes were only 1 of these 3 theories. But after I read both books, re-read and thought about them a lot, I felt The Dead Sea Scrolls, by Wise/Abegg/Cook didn’t do justice to the Essene theory.
The Hasmonean dynasty was…not descendants of the family of Zadok. Zadok had served as high priest under David and Solomon. This link to Israel’s famed royal family helped make Zadokite lineage the traditional lineage for priests, and the Essenes stressed tradition. Also, the Essenes were not happy that the Hasmoneans had merged the kingly role with the priestly role…. Essene opposition to the Hasmonean high priest eventually led to a sharp falling out between the two groups, and the result that the founders of the Essenes withdrew from Jerusalem. In their writings the Essenes refer to one of the Jerusalem high priests as the Wicked Priest. He is said to have robbed the poor and persecuted at least one of the founders of the Essene community. Perhaps this was in reference to John Hyrcanus, who ruled Israel from 134 to 104 BC.From The Dead Sea Scrolls, by Evans
Next week I’ll introduce the challenges and significance of the discoveries to all of us. But for this week I need to address the root of the DSS authors’ problems which too often creeps into our churches: pride in politics.
Is pride in politics destroying the unity of your church? Or