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The Dead Sea Scrolls Community The Essenes. The Essenes. WHO: Strict Jewish sect 1 st century BCE – 68 CE messianic WHERE Qumran, Jerusalem, throughout Israel. The Essenes & the Dead Sea Scrolls. WHY IMPORTANT Oldest known biblical manuscripts

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The Dead Sea Scrolls Community The Essenes

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the essenes
The Essenes
  • WHO:
    • Strict Jewish sect
    • 1st century BCE – 68 CE
    • messianic
    • Qumran, Jerusalem, throughout Israel
the essenes the dead sea scrolls
The Essenes & the Dead Sea Scrolls
    • Oldest known biblical manuscripts
    • Significant firsthand glimpse into a 1st century BCE & 1st century CE Jewish community
  • OTHER JEWISH GROUPS besides the Essenes
    • Sadducees
    • Pharisees – forerunners of the rabbis
    • Zealots
    • (1st century CE) Jesus and his first followers
qumran views
Qumran - Views

The watchtower

Looking south, along the shores of the Dead Sea, towards Masada

qumran views writing room
Qumran Views – Writing room


“the Scriptorium” or

Writing Room



150 60 1 68 70

1. Originated here? After Antiochus Epiphanes’ persecution

68 Qumran destroyed

70 Jerusalem destroyed

3. Originated here? Reign of Queen Salome

2. Originated


5 BCE – 30 CE: Jesus

30 – 62 CE: James

Mid 30’s – mid 60’s: Paul

70 – Destruction of Jerusalem

After 70: rabbinic Judaism

After 70: first gospels

the teacher of righteousness
The Teacher of Righteousness
  • Led by the Teacher of Righteousness
  • A community of priests, laypeople
  • Went into the wilderness

Violent men have sought my life

Because I have clung to Thy Covenant.

I thank Thee, O Lord,

For Thou hast fastened Thine eye upon me.

Thou has saved me from the zeal

Of lying interpreters,

And from the congregation of those

Who seek smooth things.

a few facts
A few facts
  • The community existed for almost 200 years
  • In 68 CE, Qumran destroyed, along with all its inhabitants.
  • Prior to the Roman conquest, they deposited their scrolls in jars and hid them in caves.
  • These were discovered in 1947, 1948.
  • Over 800 scrolls have been found.
  • First scholars to work on the scrolls were Christian, largely Roman Catholic
a sensational find
A Sensational Find

The Dead Sea Scrolls –

The most important

biblical archeological find

of the 20th century

why all the excitement
Why all the excitement ??



Earliest biblical manuscripts

New Jewish writings

No writings from other groups -- except

Philo – 1st century CE

Josephus – 70/80 CE

Talmud – 2nd century reflecting earlier traditions

Messianic Jewish community

Led by an inspired teacher

Strict Torah-observance

Purification ritual

Meal of bread and wine

Terminology – Community of the Way; New Covenant


3. WHY



Why? ?
  • To create a congregation of the righteous
  • To be ready for God’s messianic kingdom
    • World is evil – worst time in human history
    • God has to intervene soon to create a better world
what did they expect would happen
What did they Expect Would Happen?
  • Restoration of the Davidic monarchy
    • Jerusalem will be the pre-eminent city
    • Israel the pre-eminent state
  • Rule of the righteous
    • Righteous will triumph – eternal life
    • Righteous dead will be resurrected
    • The unrighteous will be killed – eternal death
what did they expect would happen19
What did they Expect Would Happen?
  • Universal implications
    • God will be worshipped by

all humanity

    • Universal peace
  • ….and best of all …

Eternal life for the righteous

how would this come about
How would this come about?
  • They were actively preparing for such a world

“In the wilderness,

prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight in the desert

a highway for our God”

(Isaiah 40:3)

how would this come about21
How would this come about ?
  • Some thought God would do it directly.


  • Others thought that a “messiah” would help God achieve this new state of affairs

So… What’s a messiah?

what s a messiah
What’s a Messiah?

A Messiah is a human being who

appears at the end time, when God recreates the world.

becomes the Davidic king over a restored Israel

assists God in eliminating all the unrighteous people and rulers, rewarding the righteous with eternal life.

    • In sum, a messiah is a world-transformer
  • It will be a time of unparalleled peace.

4. HOW







the scrolls
The Scrolls
  • Books of the Hebrew Bible – except Esther – OLDEST BIBLICAL MANUSCRIPTS
  • Own writings:
    • Community Rule
    • Copper Scroll
    • Temple Scroll
    • War Scroll
    • Hymns
    • Messianic texts
    • Damascus Scroll
from the community rule
From the Community Rule

What awaits the righteous…

…It shall be healing, great peace in a long life, and fruitfulness, together with every everlasting blessing and eternal joy in life without end, a crown of glory and a garment of majesty

in unending light.

from the war scroll
From the War Scroll
  • This shall be a time of salvation for the

people of God, an age of dominion for all the members of His company and everlasting destruction for all the company of Belial [=Satan]…The dominion of the Kittim [=Romans] shall come to an end and iniquity shall be vanished, leaving no remnant; for the sons of darkness there shall be no escape.

  • The sons of righteousness shall shine over all the ends of the earth; they shall go on shining until all the seasons of darkness are consumed and, at the season appointed by God, His exalted greatness shall shine eternally to the peace, blessing, glory, joy, and long life of all the sons of light.
from the copper scroll
From the Copper Scroll
  • In the vale of Achor under the stairs

which go eastwards 40 cubits, a box

filled with silver weighing in all 17 talents

  • In the tomb of …the third, 100 gold bars.
  • In the great cistern which is in the courtyard of the little colonnade, at its very bottom, closed with sediment, 900 talents.
  • In the cistern of the esplanade which is under the stairs, 42 talents
  • In the cave of the old Washer’s House, on the third platform, 65 gold bars.
from the thanksgiving psalms
From the Thanksgiving Psalms

Violent men have sought my life

Because I have clung to Thy Covenant.

I thank Thee, O Lord,

For Thou hast fastened Thine eye upon me.

Thou has saved me from the zeal

Of lying interpreters,

And from the congregation of those

Who seek smooth things.

from psalms attached to the community rule
From Psalms attached to the Community Rule

My eyes have gazed

On that which is eternal,

On wisdom concealed from men

On knowledge and wise design

Hidden from the sons of men

significant similarities
Significant Similarities

Jesus’ First Followers

DSS Community



Inspired teacher: Jesus


Communal meal



Sadducees/Temple priests



Inspired teacher: the Teacher of Righteousness

Water ritual – purification

Communal meal


The Liar

Sadducees/Temple priests

why important
Why Important?

Oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible

  • First-hand Glimpse into 1st century Judaism
  • 1st Century BCE & 1st century CE
  • Helps us understand Jesus’ First Followers in Jerusalem
  • who shared many of their beliefs and practices
york at qumran
York at Qumran

Barrie lecturing at Qumran

to 29 York/Atkinson

Students - 2001