30 May 2011

The Scrolls and the Christian Origin Theory

In the previous post we have seen how many different interpretations have been developed about the Scrolls origin. In this post we are going to analyse the Christian origin theory according to which, there is a specific relation between the Scrolls and the beginning  of Christianity.
If proved, this theory could change many certainties we have about the history of Christianity, including the historical time of his origin.
As we have seen in previous posts there are many books of the Old Testament present in the Scrolls, but no one about the New Testament. Therefore, no Gospel and no Apostles Letters.  

The Messiah

The word “Jesus” is never mentioned in the texts, as is never mentioned in any other document of the first Century. But as Florida International University scholar Erik Larson has noted, the scrolls have "helped us understand better in what ways Jesus' messages represented ideas that were current in the Judaism of his time and in what ways they were distinctive." One scroll, for example, mentions a messianic figure who is called both the "Son of God" and the "Son of the Most High." Many theologians had speculated that the phrase "Son of God" was adopted by early Christians after Jesus' crucifixion, in contrast to the pagan worship of the Roman emperors. But the appearance of the phrase in the scrolls indicates the term was already in use when Jesus was preaching his gospel.
In the Scrolls is present instead the word Christ, from the Greek “Christos” that means “the anointed” (the elected) from the Hebraic word “Mashiah”.  
Michael Wise, Assistant Professor of Aramaic  in the Department of Near Eastern Languages at the University of Chicago and Robert Eisenman of the Department of Religious Studies at State University of California at Long Beach, tried to give an answer to this enigma.

The Conspiracy Theory
The most important Cave for our purposes was Cave 4, discovered in 1954. About 20% of the scrolls were soon published, but the remainder were held out for 35 years.
For this reason some Scholars began to think that the content of these Scrolls had dangerous revelations about the Christianity and for that they were keep under censorship by the Vatican.
 W. F. Albright, a rightly esteemed scholar, did not say it openly, but left the impression at a meeting of the American Philological Association in Washington, that the scrolls might damage Christianity.
John Allegro, member of the Scroll Team, wrote a letter to  John Strugnell, at the time chief editor in charge of the scrolls, who was considering becoming Catholic saying: "By the time I've finished there won't be any Church left for you to join". But he was an avowed agnostic. His book, The Sacred Mushroom, said Jesus never really existed, he was only an image developed by Christians under the influence of a hallucinating drug, psilocybin. Fourteen prominent British scholars repudiated Allegro's book in the London Times. The publisher then apologized for publishing the book.
Not only,  Hershel Shanks commented that now the scrolls have been released, with much help from Catholic scholars, it was "without the slightest shake of or shock to the church's foundations."
This case is similar to another attempt to discredit the Catholic Church: The “Da Vinci Code” book. It’s enough to invent strange hypothesis, usually with no evidence, and with the intention of giving the idea that the Church has  cheated you all this years, to sell millions of books and to earn a fortune.
Here I found a rare interview of former editor in Chief Prof John Strugnell and Fr O’connors  that openly declare that The Vatican is not afraid and has not reason to stop any archaeological research.

The Conspiracy Theory was clearly false, let us go back to our investigation about connections between the Scrolls and the Christianity.

Scholar studing the Scrolls

The Theory of Eisenman and Wise is based on three exhibits:
1)      They compare the text found in the scrolls (4Q521) “The Messiah of Heaven and Earth” with   lines 8 & 12 to the NT passage which cites Isaiah 61:1 "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted”.
My opinion about these thought is: It’s true that 4Q521 and the gospel are similar, but both comes from a common source which is Isaiah 61. Book that has been wrote before Christianity.

2)      The Pierced Messiah text: 4Q285
This text does not use the word Messiah at all, but Eisenman and Wise assume that the word nasi, leader, means the same. But the trouble is that this text is very ambiguous, as all admit.
In fact in Hebrew only the consonants are written, not the vowels. According to the vowels you add, you can change the meaning of the word. In this case the sentence could be “they executed the nasi”  (The pierced Messiah) or  “the nasi would kill another male person”.
Even considering this Hypothesis, I think we don’t have enough evidences to reconsider the Christianity origin. Too many possible interpretations and doubts about the translation.
3)      Works-Righteousness Texts: These three texts speak of justification by works, which Eisenman and Wise claim is the mirror image of what Paul teaches.
Because Paul says  “He will repay each on according to his works” and seems that the justification comes only from the works and not from the Grace.  But Paul is fully in accord with Jesus. In fact  when the Judaizers said: “Jesus is not enough, you need the law too”. Paul reacted by saying: "You are free from the law". He meant that keeping the law does not earn salvation,  but you need  the Grace of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Which is not mentioned in the Works-Righteousness text.
At the end many Scholars arrived to the conclusion that there is nothing in the scrolls to show Christianity came from Qumran or even is closely identical with it.


       Thy thora is emet 2010, Hebrew language study resources, viewed 24 May 2011,

      Isrealarchaeology 2010, The Dead Sea Scrolls Conspiracy Theory, viewed 24 May 2011,
Most, W 1999, Dead sea scrolls: threat to Christianity?, Global Catholic Television Network  viewed 24 May 2011,
 Lawler, A 2010, 'Who wrote the dead sea scrolls?', Smithsonian, Vol.40 Issue 10, pp 40-47, Australia/New Zealand Reference, Ebscohost, viewed 24 May 2011.
'Christ' [image], digilander, viewed 24 May 2011,
'Scholar studing the Scrolls' [image], New shawker, viewed 24 May 2011,

For this post I searched using Databases, Libraries Australia, Ulrich, Web Search Engine and Ebscohost.

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