Dead Sea Scrolls Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3087 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Some of the greatest controversies about the scrolls revolve around their possible connections with early Christianity and even Jesus Christ. Since the beginning of the Qumran studies, many scholars have noticed very close parallels between the scrolls and the books of the New Testament. For the most part, these connections are in the realm of ideas and suggestions and should not be construed as being totally accurate nor truthful, due to the fact that the fragments that point to these connections are just that, mere fragments that once made up a complete text but are now utterly lost to time and decay. Most importantly, the scrolls never mention the name of Jesus Christ, although it is possible that he was included in the scrolls at some time.

According to French scholar Andre Dupont-Sommer who studied the Dead Sea Scrolls in the early 1950's, there are amazing parallels between what the scrolls define as the "Teacher of Righteousness" and Jesus Christ. In one section translated by Dupont-Sommers, we find the following:

"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. Like the latter, He preached penitence, poverty, humility, love of one's neighbor, and chastity. Like Him, he prescribed the observance of the Laws of Moses. . .Like him, He was the Elect and the Messiah of God, the Messiah redeemer of the world. Like him, He was the object of hostility of the priests. . . Like him, He was condemned and put to death. . .Like him, He founded a Church whose adherents fervently awaited His glorious return" (Rowley 99).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Although some of these translations are based on misreadings of the Qumran texts, the judgments of Dupont-Sommer reached a vast audience, no doubt due to their obvious reflections of Jesus Christ. Not surprisingly, Dupont-Sommer met with some fierce opposition, especially from Jewish and Christian scholars whom Dupont-Sommer explained "were reluctant to admit the full extent of what the scrolls implied because it would unsettle their coveted religious assumptions." Also, Dupont-Sommer declared that the Jewish scholars were "too anxious to protect the authority of the Masoretic Text and were hardly willing to admit that Christianity was a natural development from any sort of Judaism" (Rowley 145).

While most scholars have devised a number of controversial conclusions regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls and its relationship to Christianity, some have been busy at work in attempting to establish exactly what the similarities and differences are between the New Testament and the scrolls. The results have been, to say the least, confusing and at times remarkable. One scholar from Yale University did much research on the similarities between John and the covenanters, Jesus the teacher and the messages that each provided. Some of the similarities were quite eye-opening, such as the communal structure (i.e. The non-priests in the Qumran group as opposed to the Biblical apostles), the form of worship, community practices, religious doctrines and the interpretation of the scriptures.

After a long and intensive study of these specifics, this scholar concluded that "after studying the Dead Sea Scrolls for seven years, I do not find my understanding of the New Testament substantially affected. Its Jewish background is clearer and better understood, but its meaning has neither been changed nor significantly clarified" (Burrows 343).

To further understand the connections between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament, we must consider several important aspects. First, before the scrolls were discovered, very little Hebrew or Aramaic literature from the last centuries B.C.E. And the first century a.D. existed in extant copies. However, since the discovery of the scrolls, this has changed radically, for scholars now have at their disposal a good body of Hebrew and Aramaic texts which supply valuable data concerning the spoken languages of Palestine during the years before and after the life and death of Jesus Christ. Second, although most scholars do not believe that the scrolls are highly reflective of the New Testament, some are convinced that parts of some New Testament books were based on the scrolls from Qumran. In Second Corinthians (6:14-7:1), one finds the following section:

"I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore, come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be your father, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

These six verses from the New Testament contain some very Qumran-sounding words and phrases. In this passage, Paul the Apostle is attempting to convert the Corinthians to purity which is related to holiness; purity was, of course, "a central tenet at Qumran and with the Essenes. However, it is not possible to prove that Paul took these words from the Essenes or from any work linked to the scrolls, but in the same section of Second Corinthians, Paul does in fact use language that can often be found in the Qumran documents" (Rowley 214).

Another section of the Dead Sea Scrolls with associations with the New Testament is found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, chapters 5-7. Some of the expressions are quite similar as those in the New Testament, such as "poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3 and the War Rules 14.7). There are also a number of attitudes used in the Sermon on the Mount that are very reminiscent of some Essene traits, one being the "duty to turn the other cheek" as found in the Manual of Discipline.

As previously mentioned, the people of Qumran, being the Essenes, and the New Testament Christians often spoke of the arrival of a messiah and offered quite a few beliefs about the coming messianic period. According to some of the texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls, two messianic figures are mentioned-one being from Israel through the generational line of King David and the other through the line of Aaron, being a priestly lineage. In the New testament, the books of Matthew and Luke mention that Jesus Christ descended from the family of King David; certain passages in these two books also mention how Jesus offered the forgiveness of sins via his work as the "Son of God." Although the New Testament only speaks of Jesus as the Messiah, the Dead Sea Scrolls mention two messiahs, meaning that they expected both of these iconic figures to appear at relatively the same time. Quite possibly, the other figure could be John the Baptist who allegedly was the cousin of Jesus Christ.

Thus, the similarities demonstrate that both the Essenes and the Christians depended upon messianic faith and deliverance. In the scrolls, one section known as the Florlegium refers to a political messiah as descending from the branch of King David, also to be found in the books of Isaiah, 11: 1 and Jeremiah, 23:5 and 33:15. In other sections of the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as being from the "root of David" (Revelations, 5:5 and 22:16).

Furthermore, in Luke, 1:32-33, an angel appeared to Mary and told her that she was destined to become the mother of the savior of the world:

"He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom there will be no end."

When this passage is compared to a specific document found in the scrolls, the similarities are quite striking:

"He shall be great upon the earth. . . He shall be called the son of the great God. He shall be hailed the Son of God, and they shall call him Son of the Most High. . . And his kingdom will be a kingdom forever" (Rowley 325).

The Dead Sea Scrolls, since their discovery in 1947 and their subsequent translations by numerous scholars, continue to demonstrate many contradictions among the books in the Old and New Testaments which points to an obvious conclusion, namely, that the Essenes and other religious groups at Qumran either wrote certain books of the Holy Bible or copied the text from much older sources that are now lost. Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls have greatly affected the lives of Jews all over the world, for they have not only strengthened the Jewish faith but have also made it abundantly clear that Jewish history as it is related in the Old Testament and in the Torah is quite accurate. Whether or not the Essenes at Qumran highly influenced the writers that created the books of the Old and New Testaments cannot, at this time, be sufficiently demonstrated. As Michael Wise so eloquently points out, for Jews, the Dead Sea Scrolls have greatly aided… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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