Tag Archives: Dead Sea Scrolls

Was Jesus an Essene?

Was Jesus, or key leaders of the early Christian community, members of the “Dead Sea Scrolls” community at Qumran?

Cave #4 at Qumran, at the Dead Sea. The vast majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the late 1940s, date back to within a few hundred years BEFORE the time Christ. Many scholars contend that the community at Qumran, who maintained the scrolls, were the Essenes, a Jewish ascetic sect. Was Jesus an Essene? The evidence suggests that the answer is “NO.” But that does not prevent people from promoting a type of conspiracy theory thinking that Jesus WAS an Essene. Did the early Christian movement hide this fact from the rest of us?

When I was in the Holy Land some 25 years ago, I heard a lecture delivered by a small cadre of scholars, who were discussing the possibility that either John the Baptist and/or Jesus was an Essene. Others, like retired Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, Robert Eisenmann, have suggested that James, the brother of Jesus, was a member of this group, and wrote a bunch of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

This eclectic group went onto propose a variety of “theories,” suggesting that the original, authentic Christianity of Jesus was essentially hijacked by the Apostle Paul, or some say the “Roman Catholic Church,” to give us today what we think is Christianity. Instead, the real Christianity was hidden away in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and now such fringe scholars have figured out how to bring the “truth” to the light of day.

In some circles, these are very popular views. Nevertheless, such fringe scholarship promotes conspiracy theory thinking that oddly ties the Dead Sea Scrolls to the New Testament. The most popular “theory” advanced by this fringe movement made its way into Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel and movie, The Da Vinci Code, which many bizarrely think is based on “fact.” But other competing, and frankly, contradictory “theories” abound as well.

Nevertheless, the bulk of the Dead Sea Scroll documents do NOT contain the New Testament. What the Dead Sea Scrolls contain, in direct relevance to our Bibles, is a complete record of all of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures, what Christians typically call the “Old Testament,” except the book of Esther. Nearly all of these scrolls can be dated to roughly 300 to 100 years before the birth of Christ. The community at Qumran was abandoned near the time of, or a few decades after, the destruction of Jerusalem, in 70 A.D.

As with any conspiracy theory, there is always some element of truth. Yes, the Essenes were critics of the ruling Jewish establishment, just as was the early Christian movement. But this does not necessarily imply that either Jesus, John the Baptist, or James the Just (brother of Jesus) were members of the Qumran community.

Furthermore, it is true that a relatively small number of Dead Sea Scroll documents, that can possibly be dated to the 1st century C.E., may possibly contain small fragments of the New Testament. However, there is no evidence to indicate that any New Testament documents originated at Qumran. Nor were there any members of the 1st century C.E. Jesus movement writing Dead Sea Scrolls documents clearly dated prior to the birth of Christ (unless the Essenes figured out a way travel back through time!!). Unless you can demonstrate that the twin lines of evidence to support the dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls, namely paleography and radiocarbon dating, can not be trusted, then you are pretty much wasting your time.

As an aside: When it comes to political matters, we all have various convictions. But when it comes to matters of church history and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Christians should avoid whacky ideas being promoted by media personalities, like Glenn Beck. Stick to the evidence instead. Truth is based on evidence, not on wild concoctions.

For further information, I would direct the Veracity reader to consider Dr. Michael Heiser’s FringePop321 video on the topic to get the real story behind the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the caves at Qumran. Dr. Heiser is one of the top Old Testament scholars today, but what I appreciate about him the most is that he knows how to take high-quality, scholarly content and make it accessible to normal people. FringePop321 is a great resource, available on YouTube, that addresses many of the wild and wacky claims, coming from the popular fringe:

Is the Virgin Birth Prophecy a Mistranslation?

The media coverage of the burning of the RSV, the “Revised Satanic Version” of the Bible. From the November 25, 1952 edition of the Courier Mail, Brisbane, Australia. Luther Hux made quite a news splash all over the world.

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emman′u-el” (Matthew 1:23 RSV)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman′u-el. (Isaiah 7:14 RSV)

Bible Burning

Luther Hux knew full well that the RSV was unholy, and accordingly he announced his intention to burn a copy of the new Bible,” so reports historian Peter Johannes Thuessen, from his In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles over Translating the Bible (p.96). Hux, a North Carolina Baptist pastor, had recently received a copy of the new “Revised Standard Version” of the Bible, published that year in 1952. In his fury over what he saw as a “mistranslation” of Isaiah 7:14, Luther Hux was determined to make a show over this “Bible burning” in front of as many press reporters as possible. Isaiah 7:14 is the famous prophecy of the virgin birth, as referenced by the Gospel writer Matthew. All previous English translations of this verse referred to a “virgin,” not a more generic “young woman,” as the new Revised Standard Version had done. Thuessen continues:

On the night of 30 November Hux delivered a two-hour oration and then led his congregation from the white-frame Temple Baptist Church into the cold autumn air, where every member received a small American flag. Climbing onto the bed of a waiting truck, Hux held aloft a copy of the RSV on which he had written the word “fraud.” Instead of burning the whole book, however he ripped out and ignited the page bearing Isaiah 7:14. “This has been the dream of modernists for centuries,” he shouted, ” to make Jesus Christ the son of a bad woman.” (p. 97)

Burning part of a Bible? It would hardly register a blip on the 24-hour news cycle at CNN today. But back in 1950s North Carolina, the “Buckle of the Bible Belt,” you just did not do things like that.

Well, at least he was being patriotic about it.

But what if Luther Hux was right? Was the Revised Standard Version (RSV) a fraud? Was the RSV, from Hux’s own word’s, “the Master Stroke of Satan?

I am not approving of “Bible burning,” but actually Luther Hux was onto something. What Hux did not know at the time is that he had stumbled upon an issue that has puzzled Bible scholars now for decades,… if not centuries.
Continue reading

Dead Sea Scrollback

George Orwell wrote about the tendency to revise history into a muddle of misinformation in order to pacify people. Though Orwell had political totalitarianism in mind, is there perhaps a similar application with respect to popular distortions of church history?

George Orwell wrote about the tendency to revise history into a muddle of misinformation in order to pacify people. Although Orwell had political totalitarianism in mind, is there perhaps a similar application with respect to popular distortions of church history?

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” George Orwell penned this in his classic novel, 1984. Can the same be said of God’s people regarding their knowledge of church history?

Perhaps the greatest battleground in apologetics today revolves around the early history of the church.   Many students of the Bible are content to honor the authority of Scripture as God’s Word straight from Jesus Christ.  Some say that if all you need is the Bible, why trouble yourself with church history?

However, the Bible as we have it today did not drop down out of the sky.   During the early centuries of the church, Christians passed down the teachings of those earliest apostles to make up the New Testament.   The Old Testament was borrowed from the Jewish community.     Put together, the Scriptures as we have them arose out of the spiritual life of the early church.   If we fail to grasp a hold on this earliest Christian history, we risk falling into a type of Orwellian trap that would make discussions about the Bible… sadly…. useless.
Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: