August 18, 2019
"Go therefore and
make disciples of all
them to observe all that
I commanded you, and lo,
I am with you always,
even to the end of the
age" (Matthew 28:19-20,
1) The Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Contribution to the Background of the
New Testament (Marc W. Gibson)
2) News & Notes
The Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Contribution to the Background of the
Marc W. Gibson
The ancient manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls were
discovered in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd in a cave in the cliffs
just above the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. In the years that
followed, some eight hundred intact and fragmented manuscripts were
found in several nearby caves, adding up to the greatest
archaeological find of the twentieth century. It continues to be the
prevailing view of scholars today that these ancient scrolls were
placed in these caves by the inhabitants of the settlement of
Qumran, the remains of which lie between the cliffs and the Dead
The most likely inhabitants of Qumran were the Essenes, a sect of
the Jews which separated itself from, and was critical of,
mainstream Judaism based in Jerusalem. Though a point of dispute
among scholars today, the manuscripts were most likely produced and
owned by the Qumran settlement, and hidden when the Romans sent
their army to the region to put down a Jewish uprising (A.D. 68-70).
The excavators of Qumran have determined that it was destroyed in
A.D. 68 by the Romans as they prepared to overthrow Jerusalem.
Though Qumran was destroyed, the scrolls were safely hidden in the
caves until their discovery 1,879 years later. The scrolls date from
between 250 B.C. and A.D. 68 and include communal (sectarian) laws
and regulations, religious documents, and most importantly for
biblical textual studies, manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible. Every
book of the Old Testament was represented except Esther. This
discovery pushed the evidence for the Old Testament text back more
than one thousand years, and a study of these texts have shown that
our Old Testament translations today are extremely accurate and
based on solid textual evidence.
The remaining materials in the cache of scrolls should not be
quickly dismissed as inconsequential to the study of the Bible or
the New Testament in particular. When one understands that most of
the sectarian and religious scrolls were produced and/or collected
in a Jewish setting of the two centuries leading up to the time of
Jesus and the New Testament (known as Second Temple Judaism), then
he will realize that information may be available to shed light on
the society and times in which Jesus lived and the New Testament was
written. Jesus encountered various opinions and views among the Jews
of his day. Could the scrolls help us identify some of this
thinking? In what ways can they illuminate our understanding of New
In reading scholarly works on this subject, one will be inundated
with the theories of men concerning the relationship of the New
Testament and the Second Temple Judaism in the years before and
during the first century. The Christian should beware of the liberal
critical opinions that downplay, or even dismiss, the role of divine
inspiration as the source of the message of the New Testament. Much
speculation is practiced in the attempt to derive the “sources” of
the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament. Emphasis is given to
the Jewish “soil” out of which Christianity supposedly arose. While
it is true that the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament must be
understood against the backdrop of the promises, prophecies, and
shadows of the Old Testament, Jesus was not dependent on the Jewish
thinking of his day to help formulate his doctrine.
The prevailing Jewish opinions of that day about the Old Testament
and the person and work of the Messiah were not the “soil” from
which New Testament doctrine was founded. Any parallels that have
been suggested are only that, parallels. They do not prove in any
way that Christianity borrowed or tweaked the popular thinking of
its day, and became just another sect of Judaism. Jesus came to
fulfill the Law and reveal divine truth (Matt. 5:17; John 7:16-17).
He confronted various erroneous views and faulty interpretations
(John 5:46-47; Matt. 22:15-46). The scrolls can help us understand
more about both the parallels and contrasts.
One of the more interesting parallels in the teachings of the Dead
Sea Scrolls and the New Testament is the distinction between Light
and Darkness. One Qumran text, The Scroll of the War of the Sons
of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, speaks of the battle
between the forces of Light and Darkness. Jesus used light and
darkness to illustrate the distinction between truth and error (John
3:19-21; 8:12), as did Paul (2 Cor. 4:3-6; 6:14) and John (1 John
1:5-6; 2:9-10). Other parallel themes found in the scrolls include
criticism of loving riches, righteousness, flesh and spirit, and the
necessity of conversion. These parallels illustrate the common use
of metaphors and the understanding of general themes revealed in
Old Testament Prophecy
The Qumran community cited the Old Testament in its religious texts,
but the fulfillments of its prophecies were often interpreted in the
context of their ideology. One such example is found in the Manual
of Discipline [Community Rule] (8:12-15) where Isaiah 40:3 is
applied to the community itself, instead of John the Baptist’s
heralding of the coming of Jesus (Matt. 3:1-3). They also understood
themselves to be the eschatological “last generation” through whom
God would bring final victory for the righteous. Through them would
come a “Teacher of Righteousness” that would give the proper
understanding of God’s Word. These examples affirm the fact that the
Old Testament prophecies and promises were not fully understood
until Jesus Christ revealed their fulfillment in him and his
Views About the Messiah
One of the most significant subjects that the Dead Sea Scrolls helps
us to understand is the confused first century view of the person
and work of the Messiah. Those at Qumran reflected their times in
that they had a high expectation of the Messiah. References are made
to “the Messiah of Righteousness . . . the Branch of David” (Genesis
Commentaries [4Q252]; Commentaries on Isaiah [4Q161]), and to a
royal and militaristic “Prince of the Congregation” (Damascus
Document 7:18-20; War Scroll 5:1). But the concept was taken further
in the expectation of two messiahs: “They shall depart from none of
the counsels of the Law to walk in all the stubbornness of their
hearts, but shall be ruled by the primitive precepts in which the
men of the Community were first instructed until there shall come
the Prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel” (Manual of
Discipline 9:10-11). Actually, three different characters are
spoken of here: the Prophet, Messiah of Aaron, and the Messiah of
Israel. The Messiah of Israel was a royal messiah, while the Messiah
of Aaron was a priestly messiah and is the prominent one in that
context. These beliefs again reflected erroneous views of Old
Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah. On the other hand, the
Messianic Apocalypse accurately speaks of a Messiah whose work would
be of liberating captives, restoring sight to the blind, healing the
wounded, reviving the dead, and bringing good news to the poor (see
Isa. 61:1; Matt. 11:4-5). There were many different views and
opinions as to whom the Messiah(s) was and what role he would
fulfill, but there is no suggestion that he would be a suffering
servant who would die. The expectation that the Messiah would suffer
and give his life as a ransom for sinful man is noticeably absent in
Jesus’ day and in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Matt. 16:21-23; Luke
Misunderstanding and confusion is also found concerning the Prophet
and the Messiah being understood as two different individuals,
instead of two roles being combined in the Coming One (John 1:19-21;
Acts 3:22-26). The popular conceptions of the Messiah did not
consider him to be a suffering servant who would die (Matt.
16:21-23; John 12:34). The Jews were looking for a victorious
earthly warrior-king (John 6:14-15). Christ and the apostles would
be the ones who would expound the divine truth concerning Jesus the
Messiah as Prophet, Priest, and King (Luke 24:27, 44; Acts 2:36;
17:2-3). Jesus was given all authority and brought grace, truth, and
salvation (Matt. 28:18; John 1:9-16). He fulfilled the promises and
prophecies of the Old Testament.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the most significant discoveries in
the history of Biblical archaeology. They reveal snapshots of Jewish
thought in the years leading up to Jesus and the New Testament. We
view in them the struggle to understand the meaning of the text of
the Hebrew Bible. We see the confusion and errors that plagued the
thinking of many who needed the light of truth revealed in Jesus.
Only in that truth would they be able to find familiar themes placed
in their proper context and the divine plan of God revealed in its
fullness. Only in Christ would they be able to see the mystery
revealed (1 Cor. 2:26-16; Eph. 3:1-7).
The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Geza Vermes (New
York: Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1997).
Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Reader from the Biblical
Archaeology Review, Hershel Shanks, ed. (New York: Random
The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hershel
Shanks (New York: Random House, 1998).
The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls
and Other Ancient Literature, John J. Collins (New York:
The Dead Sea Scrolls After Forty Years, Hershel Shanks, et.
al. (Washington D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1991).
Solving the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Edward M. Cook
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994).
The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, Charles F. Pfeiffer (New
York: Weathervane Books, 1969).
The Dead Sea Scrolls and Modern Translations of the Old Testament,
Harold Scanlin (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993).
“Dead Sea Scrolls,” William Sanford LaSor, The
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, rev. ed.,
(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979),
— Via Truth Magazine, Vol. XLV, 1, p1, January 4, 2001
News & Notes
Folks to be praying for:
Rick Cuthbertson, who is being treated for lung cancer, will
soon be seeing his doctor about beginning a more effectual chemo.
The procedure for Barbara Thompson to close the hole in her
heart went well last Tuesday. She is now also doing remarkably
well following the mini stroke she had a couple weeks ago that
affected her speech, which has already greatly improved!
Bennie Medlock has been having some painful trouble with
his back and legs.
Deborah Medlock was also having some back pain.
Let us pray that Jan Bartlett will make the right decision
about whether to have or to not have treatments, following her
recent surgery. The cancer was eliminated, so the treatments
would be a precautionary measure.
We are glad to have Doug and Marie Pennock back with us,
after their visit up north for a few weeks!
Melotine Davis is healing well from her back surgery; but a
fall soon afterwards has caused a painful herniated disk. She
will soon be seeing her doctor about that.
Let us also be remembering our shut-ins: Mary Vandevander and
Also for our prayer list: Jim Lively, Pat & A.J. Joyner, and
Doyle & Joyce Rittenhouse
WordPress version of this week's bulletin:
that is how
2) Believe in
the deity of
3) Repent of
5) Be baptized in
water for the
1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in
the faith, living
for the Lord;
for, if not,
be lost (Heb.
2:10; 2 Pet.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10
a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
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