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Dead Sea Scrolls

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The scrolls and scroll fragments recovered in the Qumran environs represent a voluminous body of Jewish documents, a veritable "library", dating from the third century B.C.E. to 68 C.E. Unquestionably, the "library," which is the greatest manuscript find of the twentieth century, demonstrates the rich literary activity of Second Temple Period Jewry and sheds insight into centuries pivotal to both Judaism and Christianity. The library contains some books or works in a large number of copies, yet others are represented only fragmentarily by mere scraps of parchment. There are tens of thousands of scroll fragments. The number of different compositions represented is almost one thousand, and they are written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
 


The main categories represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls are:

Biblical
Those works contained in the Hebrew Bible. All of the books of the Bible are represented in the Dead Sea Scroll collection except Esther.

 Apocryphal or pseudepigraphical
Those works which are omitted from various canons of the Bible and included in others.

 Sectarian
Those scrolls related to a pietistic commune and include ordinances, biblical commentaries, apocalyptic visions, and liturgical works.
 


The Discovery

In 1947, young Bedouin shepherds, searching for a stray goat in the Judean Desert, entered a long-untouched cave, on the shores of the dead sea, and found jars filled with ancient scrolls. That initial discovery by the Bedouins yielded seven scrolls and began a search that lasted nearly a decade and eventually produced thousands of scroll fragments from eleven caves.

These scrolls were immediately identified as the work of a very devout sect of the Jewish community that lived centuries before the birth of Jesus (pbuh). Hershel Shanks says in his book Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls: "Such was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, manuscripts a thousand years older than the oldest known Hebrew texts of the Bible, manuscripts many of which were written a hundred years before the birth of Jesus and at least one of which may have been written almost three hundred years before the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethleham" (Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hershel Shanks, pp. 7-8).

An immediate frantic search ensued through the remaining caves in the region in order to find what other ancient scrolls could be discovered therein. A small group of "international" scholars in Israel were given exclusive access to them and the rest of the world was all but totally barred from gaining even the slightest glimpse of the texts (Prof. Eisenman observes that one of the major stumbling blocks for the publication of the scrolls was that "in the first place, the team was hardly international") . Prof. Robert Eisenman was one of the key players in the drama that finally lead to the release of the scrolls. In his book The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered we read: "In the spring of 1986, at the end of his stay in Jerusalem, Professor Eisenman went with the British scholar, Philip Davies of the University of Sheffield, to see one of the Israeli officials responsible for this - an intermediary on behalf of the Antiquities Department (now 'Authority') and the International Team and the Scrolls Curator at Israel Museum. They were told in no uncertain terms 'You will not see the Scrolls in your lifetimes'".

 This stung them into action, and as a result of this statement, a massive effort was launched and five years later, through a whirlwind of media publicity, absolute access to the scrolls was attained. Prof. Eisenman eventually received 1800 pictures of the previously unpublished scrolls. The book goes on to describe how "Eisenman was preparing the Facsimile Edition of all unpublished plates. This was scheduled to appear the following spring through E. J. Brill in Leiden, Holland. Ten days, however, before it's scheduled publication in April 1991, after pressure was applied by the International Team, the publisher inexplicably withdrew and Hershel Shanks (author of Biblical Archiology Review) and the Biblical Archeology Society to their credit stepped in to fill the breach". However, finally in September 1991, the archives were officially opened and two months later the 2-volume Facsimile Edition was published.

We have already read the words of Mr. Tom Harpur in the preface to his book: "The most significant development since 1986 in this regard has been the discovery of the title "Son of God" in one of the Qumran papyri (Dead Sea Scrolls) used in relation to a person other than Jesus.....this simply reinforces the argument made there that to be called the Son of God in a Jewish setting in the first century is not by any means the same as being identical with God Himself." For Christ's Sake, pp. xii. So why don't we study these scrolls in a little more detail and see what else we can learn ?

The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of fragments from many manuscripts, however, some of the most interesting among them are the Pesher texts. The Pesher texts are strings of interpretations of Biblical verses compiled by the most knowledgeable among the Jews. The word itself is derived from the Hebrew root word p-sh-r, which means, "to explain". The texts consist of Biblical passages followed by the words pesher ha-davar "the interpretation of the matter is", and then the interpretation itself.

The basis of all of these texts is the notion that all of history is preordained by God. In other words, God is not restricted to looking at matters as "past", "present", or "future", rather, all of time is an open book to God Indeed, this is the essence of how prophets receive "prophesies", because God "sees" the future. So, remembering that we are henceforth quoting from texts that have been carbon dated at about 100 years or more before the coming of Jesus (pbuh), and that this dating is confirmed by literary analysis, and that the authors were a sect of very religious and devout Jews, considering all of this let us see what they have to say:

Those who have studies the scrolls have noticed a common theme prevalent throughout these manuscripts, that is, most of the pesher texts prophesies the coming of a "Teacher of Righteousness" who will be sent by God to the Jews. This "Teacher of Righteousness" will be opposed by the "Teacher of Lies" and the "Wicked Priest". These scrolls also predict the coming of two messiahs. These two messiahs are referred to as a 1) priestly and a 2) temporal messiah. What we had here was a society of very devout Jews who were convinced that the time of the coming of the two messiahs was at hand, therefore, they set about preparing for their advent by detaching themselves from the mainstream society, and dedicating their lives to their worship and the preparation for their imminent arrival.

In The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, we read that the early scrolls spoke of two messiahs, but that later on, the communities of the Jews began to combine them into one messiah:
"As we have suggested, contrary to the well-known 'two-Messiah' theory of early Qumran scholarship, these references to the 'Messiah of Aaron and Israel' in the Damascus Document are singular not plural... and one possible explanation for it is that it is evoking a Messiah with both priestly and kingly implications, like the somewhat similar recitations of Hebrews" (The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, p. 162).

"According to the dominant view in the sectarian texts from Qumran, two messiahs were to lead the congregation in the End of Days, one priestly, and the other lay" (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, pp. 321-322).

The Jews had prophesies of two messiahs. The first was best known to them for his "religious" or "priestly" works which he would perform. The second was best known to them for his "kingly" works; his bringing of an epoch of peace.

 These two prophesies refer to Jesus (pbuh) and Muhammad (pbuh). Jesus (pbuh) was best know for his "priestly" works. However, he never lead an army, and he never established a kingdom or a government. Quite the opposite, he called to peace and submissiveness and to leave the rule of the land to others (Matthew 22:21). He told his followers that he yet had many things to teach them but they could not bear them yet and that another would be coming after him who would teach them the complete truth (John 16:7-14).

Muhammad (pbuh) too began his ministry preaching submissivness and passiveness. However, his ministry was nurtured by God almighty to a point where it was able to defend itself and establish justice in the earth and abolish evil. His followers fought several wars in self defense and against injustice. The Islamic empire finally stretched from China to Spain and even those who did not follow Muhammad (pbuh) knew him well. However, what did they know him for? They knew him for his "kingly" actions and not for the "priestly" side of him that his followers knew.

 "And fight against them until persecution is no more and religion is for God alone. But if they desist then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers"
--The Qur'an, al-Baqarah(2):193

"Those unto whom We gave the Scripture recognize him Muhammad as they recognize their sons. But verilly, a party of them conceal the truth while they know it"
--The Qur'an, al-Baqarah(2):146

Over time, the prophesies of the Jews began to become a little blurred, and this in addition to the continuous persecution of many nations towards the Jews eventually lead to their blending of these prophesies into one single prophesy and their aggrandizing of this one all- conquering wondrous event that would finally relieve them of their persecution and pave the way for them to march forth conquering all nations, and establishing themselves as the protectors of the kingdom of God. For this reason, when we read the Gospel of Barnabas, we find that when the Jews ask Jesus (pbuh) whether he is "the messiah" he replies that he is not "the messiah" that they are expecting.

 

   "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came 

not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance 

against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the 

daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." 
  

--Matthew 10:34-35
This is because he understood their question. They were not asking him for his title, rather, they wanted to know whether he was the one who would finally fulfill all of their prophesies of leadership, power, and grandeur that they had been waiting for so many centuries. For this reason, he told them that he was not "the messiah", but that "the Messiah" they were waiting for would not come until later. He was referring to the SECOND messiah in their prophesies. (the Jews had expectations of threeprophecies to be fulfilled)

Lawrence Schiffman says regarding Pesher Habakkuk: "It (Pesher Habakkuk) describes the struggle between the Teacher of Righteousness and his opponents - the Man of Lies (also termed the Spouter or Preacher of Lies) and the Wicked Priest. The Spouter is pictured as heading a community. The dispute between the Teacher and the Spouter is seems to have been based on matters of religious interpretation and law. The Wicked Priest is said to have begun his rule in truth but then to have abandoned the way of truth. He then persecutes the Teacher, confronting him on the holiest day of the year, the Day of Atonement". (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 228).

This prophesy also continues in Pesher Psalms: "This text also mentions the familiar dramatis personae: the Teacher of Righteousness, termed 'the priest'; the wicked priest; and the Man of Lies. The Wicked Priest persecuted the Teacher and sought to kill him. The man of lies lead people astray".(Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 229). What we begin to see in all of this is the story of the coming of Jesus (pbuh), his selection of Judas as one of the apostles, the deviance of Judas from the truth, how a sect of the Jews persecuted Jesus (pbuh), how this sect tried to deceive the masses and differed with Jesus (pbuh) regarding the truth of God's message, and finally, how they schemed with Judas to kill Jesus (pbuh). The Teacher of Righteousness is thus a reference to Jesus (pbuh); the "priestly" Messiah. The Wicked Priest is a reference to Judas, and the Spouter of Lies is most likely the leader of the "chief priests and Pharisees" who persecuted Jesus (pbuh) and are mentioned so often in the Bible.

Many Christian scholars have snatched up these prophesies in order to prove the validity of their claim that Jesus (pbuh) was indeed sent by God and that the Jews are required to follow him. However, they have been thwarted in their attempts by one other quite amazing piece of evidence that the Jews continually manage to refute their claims with, specifically, that the Dead Sea Scrolls claim that the coming messiah will be persecuted and that the Wicked Priest will try to kill him, but that the Wicked Priest will not be successful and that it is he who will receive the fate he wished for the messiah.

In interpreting Psalms 37:32,

 "The Wicked watches for the righteous, seeking to put him to death,"
the text states: 'Its interpretation concerns the Wicked Priest who watched out for the Teacher of Righteousness and sought to put him to death'"

(Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 233). So Judas will try to kill Jesus (pbuh).

"The Wicked Priest began his career with the support of the sectarians, but he quickly lost his way and began to transgress in order to increase his wealth". (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 233).


  

"And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto 

you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver". 


--Matthew 26:15
"Various theories have sought to identify the Teacher with Jesus, claiming that he was executed by the Wicked Priest. However, had that been the case, the text would not have gone on to explain how God took vengeance against the priest by turning him over to the 'ruthless ones of the nations'. And according to this text, the teacher certainly survived the ambush. Indeed the entire passage is an interpretation of Psalms (37:33) where the text continues,
 

 

"The Lord will not abandon him (the Righteous), into his hand (the

Wicked); He (The Lord) will not let him (the Righteous) be condemned in 

judgment (by the wicked)."  (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, 

Lawrence H. Schiffman, pp. 233-234).
The author goes on to quote Pesher Habakkuk with regard to the Wicked Priest's intentions and his punishment. He says: "Ultimately, however, the Wicked Priest was punished: '.. because of his transgression against the Teacher of Righteousness and the men of his council, God gave him over to the hands of his enemies to afflict him with disease so as to destroy him with mortal suffering because he had acted wickedly against His chosen one'.

 The Wicked Priest's enemies tortured him which represents divine punishment for his attacks on the Teacher of Righteousness. The sufferings of the Wicked Priest are even more graphically described in another passage: 'and all his enemies arose and abused him in order for his suffering to be fit punishment for his evil. And they inflicted upon him horrible diseases, and acts of vengeance in the flesh of his body'. But the one who suffered was the Wicked Priest, not the Teacher of Righteousness.

 

 "The enemies of the Wicked Priest, the nation against whom he had 

made war, are said to have tortured him, so that his life ended in 

mortal disease and affliction." (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, 

Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 234). 

 

    If we read the Gospel of Barnabas, we will find that when Judas came 

with the Roman troops in order to betray Jesus (pbuh), God raised 

Jesus (pbuh) unto Him and saved him.  He then made Judas look and 

even speak like Jesus (pbuh) so that the Romans dragged him (Judas) 

away with them kicking and screaming that he was not Jesus (pbuh) 

but Judas.  Even the Apostles were totally bewildered.
After the Romans had their fill afflicting Judas with all manner of abuse and torture, he was finally taken to trial. By now he had totally given up hope of ever being believed. So now when he was asked, "art thou Jesus?" He replied "Thou sayest". In other words, "you will not believe me if I say otherwise, so why fight it any more". His enemies (the Romans) then took him, mocked him, kicked him, cut him, spat on him, humiliated him, and tortured him. Finally, they put him up on the cross. It appears, however, that shortly after they took him down, he disappeared from his tomb (maybe to live in disease and torment and die later on if he was not already dead). The Gospel of Baranabas then goes on to describe how Jesus (pbuh) returned to the apostles to tell them of how God had saved him from the hands of the Jews and the Romans and how the traitor (Judas) was taken instead.

This is exactly what the Qur'an has been saying for 1400 years now; that Jesus (pbuh) was not forsaken by God to be killed by the conspiracy of the Jews and Judas, but that "it was made to appear so to them":

"But when Jesus became conscious of their disbelief, he cried: Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allah? The disciples said: We will be Allah's helpers. We believe in Allah, and bear you witness that we have surrendered (unto Him). Our Lord! We believe in that which You have revealed and we follow him whom You have sent. Enroll us among those who witness (to the truth). And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers"
--The Qur'an, A'l-Umran(3):52-54.

"And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger, and they slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; for of a surety they slew him not"
--The Qur'an, Al-Nissa(4):157

. The scrolls then go on to describe how "Kittim" (the Roman empire) and the kings of Greece would both try to take Jerusalem (the symbol of the faithful), but that it would be Kittim (the Romans) who would finally be successful.

"Some texts also speak about an eschatological prophet who will announce the coming of the Messiah, a figure similar to Elijah in the rabinnic tradition" (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 323).

Referring to the manuscript titled The Rule of the Community, verse 9:11-12, Mr. Schiffman says: "this text unquestionably refers to two messiahs who will be announced by an eschatological prophet and based on a the cave 4 manuscripts of Rule of the Community, the original publication team argued that this passage was added to the text later in the history of the sect. However, the evidence in these manuscripts does not sufficiently support such an assertion. As far as we can tell, the two-messiah concept was part of Rule of the Community from the time it was composed". (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 324).

"And when there came unto them (the Jews) a Scripture from Allah, confirming that in their possession though before that they were invoking Allah (for the coming of Muhammad ) in order to gain victory over those who disbelieved, then when there came unto them that which they had recognized, they disbelieved in it. So let the curse of Allah be on disbelievers"
--The Qur'an, Al-Baqarah(2):89

The Dead Sea Scrolls make mention of many more quite amazing and illuminating prophesies and parallels with the teachings of the Qur'an and Islam and There is so much more that could be said about the Dead Sea Scrolls and their confirmation of the Qur'an and the mission of Muhammad , however, that will have to be left to a future article where, God willing, many more detailed examples of this sort shall be analyzed in detail.

Misheal Al-Kadhi

 


Final Note

The Dead Sea Scrolls have been the subject of avid interest and curiosity for nearly fifty years. Today, scholars agree on their significance but disagree on who produced them. They debate specific passages of individual scrolls and are still assessing their impact on the foundations of Judaism and Christianity. For the public in this country and throughout the world, the scrolls have an aura of reverence and intrigue which is reinvigorated periodically by the media--journalists who report serious disagreements among well-known scholars, as well as tabloids which claim that the scrolls can predict the future or answer life's mysteries.