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The Beliefs of the People at Qumran

16 Feb 2017Literature Essays

The writers also display a belief on the second coming of the Messiah such as the Rule of the Congregation or Messianic Rule and in the Temple Scroll of an era immediately preceding the Messianic age.

“For he will honour the devout upon the throne of eternal royalty, freeing prisoners, giving sight to the blind, straightening out the twisted. Ever shall I cling to those who hope. In his mercy he will judge, and from no-one shall the fruit (of) good deeds be delayed, and the Lord will perform marvelous acts such as have not existed, just as he said for he will heal the badly wounded and will make the dead live, he will proclaim good news to the meek give lavishly to the needy, lead the exiled and enrich the hungry. (DSS: 4Q521 II 7–13)

This sums up the role of the Messiah according to the Qumran texts that portray the Messianic prophecy and the work the Messiah has to do. Apart from the prediction of a promised Messiah, Ringgren’s theory of Messianism is borne out of a “king ideology” concerning the relationship of Israel to the world. A point of contention is supplied by Bentzen (1970:48) that interpreted the above passage as less soluble if scholastic reviews will ever arrive at an answer relating to the church itself.

“You, O God of our fathers, we bless your name forever! We are a people...You have established a covenant with our fathers and confirmed it with their descendants through the appointed times of eternity. In all your glorious fixed times there was a memorial of your...in our midst for the help of the remnant and the preservation of your covenant...Who is like you according to power, O God of Israel!” (The War Scroll 13: 7-8, 13)

Ringgren (1963: 60-67)also provided that God has given a special illumination to the Teacher of Righteousness to find in the scriptures the true and hidden meanings which emphasizes the events at the Qumran community: to the Teacher of Righteousness, “God made known all the mysteries of the words of his servants.” “that righteousness have been predetermined to a life according to God’s will, whereas punishment befalls the wicked because they themselves have done what is evil.” In Ringgren this indicates that punishment is an important act and appropriate for wickedness (1963: 73-74). This also asserts a reference that the Qumran society are controlled by disciplinary laws and committed to a sectarian self-definition with possibility of disobedience within its ranks.

Philosophy of the group

The writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls are apparently a conservative group within Judaism who believed in a sovereign being and are deeply monotheistic. The organization of this group is tight which appears to refer to a male celibate group that could more or less be related to the Essenes, in general for the practice of celibacy or sexual abstinence is a preparation for encounter with God that is considered as an extension of the rules for priestly purity to the whole community.

“From the God of Knowledge comes all that is and shall be. Before ever they existed He established their whole design, and when, as ordained for them, they come into being, it is in accord with His glorious design that they accomplish their task without change. The laws of all things are in His hand and He provides them with all their needs. He has created man to govern the world, and has appointed for him two spirits in which to walk until the time of His visitation: the spirits of truth and injustice. Those born of truth spring from a fountain of light, but those born of injustice sprint from a source of darkness. All the children of righteousness are ruled by the Prince of Light and walk in the way of light, but all the children of injustice are ruled by the Angel of Darkness and walk in the ways of darkness.” (DSS: 1QS 3:15-21)

The text provides an insight of the beliefs of the congregation as an organization that strives to maintain a tight disciplinary regime (Davies, Brooke and Callaway: 2002; 89). Josephus, without endorsing the Essenes as the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls stated that the Essenes believed in the decree of fate and view predestination as a belief in “Fate”. For him there were three schools of thought among the Jews, that of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes. The Pharisees believe that certain events are the work of fate but not everything; the Sadducees do not want anything to do with fate as human actions are not according to fate; while the Essenes declare that fate is responsible for all things(Antiquities 13:171-173).

“...the sect of the Essenes affirms that fate governs all things, and that nothing befalls men but what is according to its determination.”(Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Bk XIII, Ch V, Sn 9)

Although there is no discernible pattern in this arrangement of the Hymns, these poems stress also the lowliness of humans compared to the power of God and God’s plans for the future spinning out the groups view in predestination.

“You alone did [create] the just and establish him from the womb for the time of goodwill, that he might listen to your covenant and walk in all your ways, and that [You might show Yourself great] to him in the multitude of Your mercies, and enlarge his straight soul to eternal salvation, to perpetual and unfailing peace. You will raise up his glory from among flesh. But the wicked You did create for [the time] of Your [wrath], You did set them aside for the day of slaughter, for they have walked in a path which is not good. They have despised Your covenant and their souls have loathed your [truth]; they have taken no delight in all Your commandments and have chosen that which You hate. For according to the mysteries of Your wisdom, You have ordained them for great chastisements before the eyes of all Your creatures, that [for all] eternity they may serve as a sign [and a wonder] and that all men may know Your glory and Your tremendous power.” (1QH 7:14-21)

Davies (2002:92) also pointed out this scroll as recognition of an explicit war between good and evil that is clearly linked with 1QS I 7-9 which proves the coherence that amplifies the Qumran laws in rational sequence on their beliefs of predestination.

The group’s strict and moderate views of predestination, is determinedly expressed in the Rule of Community, War Scroll and Thanksgiving Hymns. This distinguishes their doctrines that cannot be traced with any Jewish group except most probably the Essenes (Josephus, Antiquities 13.171-173).

“Moreover, there is another order of Essenes, who agree with the rest as to their way of living, and customs, and laws, but differ from them in the point of marriage, as thinking that by not marrying they cut off the principal part of human life, which is the prospect of succession; nay, rather, that if all men should be of the same opinion, the whole race of mankind would fail. However, they try their spouses for three years; and if they find that they have their natural purgations thrice, as trials that they are likely to be fruitful, they then actually marry them. But they do not use to accompany with their wives when they are with child, as a demonstration that they do not many out of regard to pleasure, but for the sake of posterity. Now the women go into the baths with some of their garments on, as the men do with somewhat girded about them.” (Josephus, War of the Jews, II, VIII, Sn 13)

In comparison with other groups, existent during the period, the Essene practice most likely coincides as the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The internal factors point out to their belief in predestination and in the afterlife. Among the other existing Jewish sects of the period, the Essenes were the only ones who do not use oil; careful about bodily functions and practiced celibacy. Josephus and Pliny and the Jewish philosopher Philo all describe the Essenes as celibate which is their most arresting trait. Though the scrolls contain no command to be celibate; on the contrary, numerous passages presuppose the opposite, that the group members will be married (Wise, Abegg, Jr.and Cook, p.24).

With all the beliefs they writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls place great importance on the priesthood and the temple, for the Qumran texts, righteousness and knowledge will conquer the world wiping out all forms of evil. Although the texts provided that true sages are patient and focus on the eternal secrets and roots of wisdom in contrast to magicians and soothsayers, the text provided for a group of selected individuals to govern the law for the group as an authority for the community.

“In the Community council (there shall be) twelve men and three priests, perfect in everything that has been revealed about all the law to implement truth, justice, judgment, compassionate love and unassuming behavior of each person to his fellow to preserve faithfulness on the earth with firm purpose and repentant spirit in order to atone for sin, doing justice and undergoing trials in order to walk with everyone in the measure of truth and the regulation of time. (DSS: 1QS VIII 1–4)

In its entirety, the sacred texts provided by the Qumran community enables us to understand religion and its perspectives without necessarily providing an argument for Christianity and Judaism. The teaching of both religion corresponds to the written texts by the Qumran that calls for a unification of all religion and beliefs.

Works Cited

  • Ringgren, Helmer.(1962). The Faith of Qumran: Theology of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Philadelphia: Fortress press.
  • Wise, Michael, Abegg, Jr., Martin and Cook, Edward. (1996). The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. Canada: Harper Collins.
  • Josephus, Flavius, & Whiston, William. (trans.).(2001). The Antiquities of the Jews. New York, Globusz Publishing.
  • Josephus, Flavius. War of the Jews.
  • Bentzen, Aage, Anderson, G.W.(eds).(1970). King and Messiah, 2d. ed. London: Lutterworth Press.
  • Davies,Philip, Brooke, George and Callaway, Phillip.(2002).The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Thames and Hudson.
  • Martinez, Florentino Garcia, & Watson, Wilfred, G.E. (trans.). (1996). The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

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