My quest for the most believable theories about the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) was most difficult. Now that I’ve settled my conclusions, to summarize and simplify my reasons is daunting. But there were revolutionary moments surrounding my discovery that were worth this fight to me. For you, I hope the journey of discovery and understanding will challenge you. I’ll introduce you to my main DSS challenges today, and touch on revolutionary moments for all of us. Next week I’ll give a few more quotations to allow you a little of your own opinions regarding the DSS.
MY REVOLUTIONARY MOMENTS & THE DSS CHALLENGES
Looking back, I’ve had revolutionary moments more significant to me than the discovery of the DSS throughout my life. But if it was a “revolutionary moment” for me to believe the Essenes did write the (DSS), it was partly when I read this:
Some scholars think the DSS (especially in a few of the commentaries, or pesharim) allude to the Sadducees when it refers to…the “wicked of…a divisive group who ally themselves to Manasseh” … The “divisive group” …could very naturally refer to the powerful Sadducees, with whom the Essenes disagreed on so many vital points. However, some scholars have suggested that the authors of the DSS may have been friendly rather than hostile to the Sadducees. They suggest that some of the laws found in the scrolls reflect that Sadducean legal interpretation of the Law of Moses. It has also been suggested that the one dozen or so occurrences of the epithet “sons of Zadok” …point to a Sadducean origin of the Qumran community. Almost no one today agrees with this hypothesis. The Essenes almost certainly viewed both the Pharisees and the Sadducees negatively….From the Dead Sea Scrolls
WHAT PERPLEXED ME
Perhaps the next thing you’ll wonder is why would I have been convinced from my first source that the Essenes were friendly with the Sadducees? To be enemies or even neutral is one thing, but friends? My first source on the DSS pointed out both pros and cons of the Essene theory (see last week’s blog). Their hypothesis started with the fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls weren’t all translated for 40+ years. It was inevitable to form theories before all the facts were in. They built on this weakness a disconnect from what scholars already knew about the Essenes from Josephus and Philo. Through this, their parallels between the Sadducean and the Qumran community, the “sons of Zadok,” naturally grew.
My first source on the DSS said, since we were familiar with what Catholic monks were like, scholars read into the evidence that Essenes were like Catholic monks. Add to this the complexities of trying to identify who’s who in the DSS. Almost all people in the DSS are referred to by veiled references, such as “the Man of the Lie” or “Teacher of Righteousness.” And add to this the apparent contradictions from one scroll to the next. This convinced me one couldn’t be certain of which theory to believe.
But if it wasn’t the above quote that convinced me I needed to rethink who wrote the DSS, it was this: why was money left in the caves with the scrolls? Of course, there were numerous other factors to consider, too. I can’t sum up all I learned from these 2 books in my blogs since I try to make them short and sweet.
ABOUT THE VEILED REFERENCES
Some of the Greek kings of Syria (the Seleucids or Antiochids) and Egypt (the Ptolemies) are mentioned by name in the DSS. Why is this? One theory is that there were no widely recognized nicknames for foreign rulers as there were for Jewish rulers (such as Wicked Priest, Lion of Wrath, and the like). Thus perhaps the authors used specific names of foreign rulers when they wished to speak of the groups the rulers represented….From the Dead Sea Scrolls
A DSS commentary on Nahum says:
“Where is the lions’ den, the feeding place or the cubs?” …This refers to Demetrius, king of Greece, who sought to enter Jerusalem through the counsel of the Flattery-Seekers; but it never fell into the power of the kings of Greece from Antiochus until the appearance of the rulers of the Kittim; but afterwards it will be trampled by the Gentiles…. “The lion catches enough for his cubs, and strangles prey for his mates”… This refers to…the Lion of Wrath who would kill some of his nobles and the men of his party….” This refers to the Lion of Wrath…vengeance against the Flattery-Seekers, whom he will hang up alive. And they will become a curse, as it was in Israel in former times.From the Dead Sea Scrolls