Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible Qumranian Heritage

A study of the Qumran texts alongside the Gospels and the Acts shows how closely they are related, and derived from the same source. Considering how little time has passed since the Qumran material has been made available to the public, the similarities found so far between the Scrolls and the New Testament must be seen as remarkable. To take just one example, according to the Acts of the Apostles, the leadership of the early Church resided in twelve apostles; the most important among these were three - Peter, John and James the 'Lord's brother'. Similarly, according to the governing rules given in a Qumran text known as the 'Community Rule', Qumran was governed by a council of twelve and three priests who wielded the greatest authority.

Further, the early Church and the Qumran community were both messianic in spirit and awaited the arrival of a Messiah. In Christianity this is seen to have been fulfilled by Jesus - the Only Son of God. In the Qumran texts, as we already saw, we find Teacher of Righteousness whose description parallels that of Jesus, and may in fact be seen as his prototype. We may therefore conclude that the authors of the Gospels have taken the messianic spirit that pervades the Qumran texts and presented Jesus as the fulfillment of those expectations. This is exactly what several Biblical scholars beginning with Dupont-Sommer have contended.

This indebtedness of the New Testament to the Qumran literature is particularly striking in the modes of literary expression and imagery used by the two, and this extends even to the famous Sermon on the Mount. "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" says Jesus in Matthew 5.5. This is borrowed from the Psalm 37.11 "But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." The Qumran texts contain a commentary on the same Psalm pointing out: "Interpreted, this concerns' t Te e Congreg 'Congregation of the Poor' was how the Qumran people - the ones called Ebionites by early authors - referred to their community. This is the one that we recognize as the early Church. (The Vatican still calls itself the 'Congregation of the Poor' - no matter how absurd it may seem to outside observers.) As far as the Ebionites are concerned, Eisenman and Wise point out:

It is important to see the extent to which the terminology Ebionim ('the Poor') and its synonyms penetrated Qumran literature. Early commentators were aware of the significance of this usage, though later ones have been mostly insensitive to it. The use of this terminology, and its ideological parallels, 'Ani ('Meek') and Dal ('Downtrodden'), as interchangeable terms of self-designation at Qumran, is of the utmost importance. There are even examples in crucial contexts of the published corpus of an allusion like 'the Poor in Spirit', known from Matthew's Sermon on the Mount in both the War Scroll, xi. 10 and the Community Rule, iv.3. (Eisenman and Wise, p. 233)

As tradition proceeds, it becomes clear that the Ebionim (the so-called Ebionites) or 'the Poor' is the name by which the community descending from James' Jerusalem Community from Palestine goes. In all likelihood, it descends from the one we are studying in these materials [Qumran texts] as well. (ibid.)

This unequivocally ties the early Church of Jerusalem to Qumran. We shall soon see that its leader was James, not Jesus. No less interestingly, some of the best known passages in the Sermon on the Mount owe their importance not to Jesus, but to the Qumranian Orthodox Jewish sect that called itself the 'Congregation of the Poor (or the Meek)' - the one that we can recognize as the early Church. This gives a completely different sense to the famous line: The meek shall inherit the earth. This was appropriated by the compilers of the Gospels who went on to attribute it to their Jesus Christ.

Nor are these by any means the only examples. Allegro's book on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the more recent book by Eisenman and Wise contain numerous examples showing the New Testament's indebtedness to Qumran. Allegro observed long ago:

My own opinion is that the scrolls prompt us increasingly to seek an eschatological meaning for most of Jesus' reported sayings: more and more become intelligible when viewed in the light of the imminent cataclysm of Qumran expectations, and the inner conflicts in men's hearts as the time grew near. (Allegro 1990, p. 175.)

That is to say, Jesus became the embodiment of people's messianic expectations. In the circumstances, it is only natural that Christian propagandists should have used all available materials in propagating their new faith, while at the same time claiming originality for it. This also meant concealing its Qumranian heritage, for, without originality a message cannot be a revelation. Along the same lines, there is now overwhelming evidence to show that even the Bible has been tampered with from the earliest times in order to erase all traces of its Qumranian ancestry. The Qumran texts establish that its followers treasured a book called the Book of Enoch. The Acts shows that the early Christians too treasured the same work. But in the third century of Christianity, the Fathers and Apologists of the Church decided to remove it from the Bible. All copies of it disappeared and it was not seen again until a British explorer found an Ethiopian version of it in that country in 1773. With its messianic tone, the work is Qumranian in language and spirit.

Nor is this the full story - for there is now evidence suggesting that the story of the crucifixion of Christ may have been borrowed from it. The Book of Enoch contains a remarkable final part written between 95 BC and 65 BC - describing the expectation of the coming of a Messiah. Amazingly, it even has a lament about the slaying of the 'Righteous' - written fully a century before the date assigned to the crucifixion of Christ! Based on this discovery, some scholars now hold that the story of the crucifixion of Christ, which forms the main part of the Gospels, is no more than a later concoction that combines this with the Roman execution of a Zealot rebel leader made to look like this story of the 'slaying of the Righteous' - a messianic figure! This goes to explain why the early Church fathers wanted to destroy all copies of the Book of Enoch and almost succeeded. The Jews were later made to bear the weight of this imaginary murder.

In removing from the Bible and then destroying all copies of the Book of Enoch, the Christian Fathers of the third century AD sought to eliminate every trace of its influence on the Bible. Also banned was a companion work known as the Book of the Secrets of Enoch. Not a single copy of it was known for nearly fifteen centuries. A few copies have now been recovered from Russia and other eastern European countries. Dated to between 30 BC and AD 70, it is even more strongly messianic in spirit and language than the Book of Enoch.

Some of this was confirmed, albeit unwittingly, by a present member of the International Team. Despite continuing attempts at stonewalling, members of the International Team have been known on occasion to drop their guard. Father Emile Puech, a young French monk now a member of the International Team, revealed to Michael Baigent in November 1989 that he had found overlaps between the Scrolls and the Sermon on the Mount. He had also found that some of the early Christian writers from the first and second centuries had drawn their material directly from the Qumran texts. It is not hard to see that the creators of the Gospels also based their works on the Qumranian texts and traditions that were available to them - including possibly the crucifixion itself. This is precisely what the Church had been trying desperately to keep under the lid by denying access to the Scrolls.

Some of this was confirmed by Father Puech himself, who also revealed that there are overlaps between Luke's Gospel and a Qumran document. They both speak of a 'Son of God' and 'Son of the Most High'. None of these Qumran texts that Puech was talking about had been made public at the time he revealed this. (They may be among the fifty texts published by Eisenman and Wise in their Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered.)

To sum up: there cannot be the slightest doubt that the New Testament and the Qumran texts are intimately related with the former, drawing heavily upon the latter. It remains only to assess the extent to which the New Testament - the Gospels in particular - is based on Qumran texts. Full details will be known only after Biblical scholars have had the time to study and analyse the transcripts of the Scrolls. There is however no denying its indebtedness to Qumran literature; this is now a certainty. Allegro and Puech - two men with first hand knowledge of the Scrolls have confirmed it; and now Eisenman and Wise have confirmed it in every detail. The conclusion therefore is inescapable: Qumranians and the early Christians were one and the same. And the more we learn about them from the primary sources like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the more this gains in strength. As Eisenman and Wise observe in their recent book:

By the fourth century, the high Church historian Eusebius, previously

Bishop of Caesarea, is willing to tell us about these Ebionites. Of Palestinian origin and one of the people primarily responsible for the Christian take-over of Rome, he clearly regards the Ebionites he describes as sectarian - sectarian, of course, in contradistinction to that form of Pauline Christianity that he helped promote in Constantine's time. (pp. 233-4)

These Ebionites as we saw were the early Christians of Qumran. The next question is: who exactly were the Qumranians? Pacifists or militants?

Was this article helpful?

0 0


  • Cornelio
    Who were the qumranians?
    8 years ago
  • carmela pisani
    Why was the secrets of enoch banned and removed from bible?
    8 years ago

Post a comment