"This material is composed of biblical texts, commentaries on biblical texts,aprochyphal and pseudepigraphal texts, sectarian and ritualistic documents, and apocalyptic literature. Every book of the Old Testament is represented, except Esther, although there is evidence it too was
The more than 800 documents discovered in caves in the vicinity of the Dead Sea have been commonly referred to as the Dead Sea Scrolls. This material is composed of biblical texts, commentaries on biblical texts,aprochyphal and pseudepigraphal texts, sectarian and ritualistic
documents, and apocalyptic literature. Every book of the Old Testament
is represented, except Esther, although there is evidence it too was
known. The community that preserved this collection (generally thought
to have resided at the site of Qumran in the Judean desert) represented
a type of Messianic Judaism more closely related to early Jewish
Christianity than the Jewish sects encountered in the New Testament.
The eschatology of the sect was consistent with mainstream Judaism (see
Eschatology, Jewish), but where more traditional groups played down
apocalyptic expectations, they were the sect's characteristic feature.
This led Israeli scholar Shemaryahu Talmon to classify them as "the most
decidedly millenarian movement in Second Temple Judaism and possibly in
antiquity altogether, Christianity included." Their apocalyptic
literature presents not only the eschatological perspective the
community, but perhaps that of an earlier post-exilic community as well.
As such, it offers us an unparalleled glimpse into the eschatological
setting of Jesus and the New Testament writers, who while not dependent
upon such literature, wrote within a context that was familiar with this
Their eschatological interpretations are preserved in commentaries
they wrote on Old Testament books (e.g. Psalms, Prophets) and in their
sectarian documents (e.g., Damascus Document, War Scroll). The form of
their interpretation is called pesher because this noun is used
frequently in the scrolls themselves for the “interpretation” of a raz,
an Aramaic term for “mystery.” The pesher developed through the
prophetic influence of the Book of Daniel as a special means of
reconstructing the hidden history revealed to the prophets concerning
the end of time, but reserved in mystery form for the generation upon
whom the end would come.
The sect's eschatology is derived from its understanding of human
history as being built up in stages determined by God and linked
together to move toward an inevitable goal, the eschaton. This defined
order of the ages that unfolds progressively and successively in
predetermined periods of time The order of these ages according to 4Q180
(The Ages of Creation) consecutively enumerates these periods beginning
with the time prior to the creation of man (cf. CD 2:7; 1QS 3:15-18; 1QH
1:8-12). The history of mankind is traced from the Creation (1QS
4:15-17) and leads up to the eschaton or the "latter generation" or the
"end-time," finally culminating in the "Latter Days" (QpHab 4:1-2, 7-8,
10-14; cf. 2:5-7). This culminating period also looks forward in its
description of this age ending the era of wickedness as "the decreed
epoch of new things" (1QS 4:25; cf. Dan. 9:26-27; 11:35-36; Isa. 10:23;
28:22; 43:19). The dividing point of this order of the ages is the
destruction of the First Temple (586 B.C.), with ages preceding it
termed "the generations of wickedness," and those that follow after (the
post-destruction/post-exilic period) as "the generations of the Latter
The pesent age of wickedness will escalate until the final conflict
between the "sons of darkness" and the "sons of light." According to the
War Scroll the final age was to be preceded by a period of tribulation
or "birth pangs [of the Messiah]" (1QH 3:7-10), which "shall be a time
of salvation for the People of God …" (1QM 1). Central to this coming
age of conflict is the image of eschatological evil rulers and deceivers
(counterparts to the true Messiah). In Dead Sea texts which depict this
period of great spiritual declension of Israel, the apostasy is said to
be spearheaded by a figure refer to as "Belial" and a "son of Belial."
The term appears also in the New Testament at 2 Cor. 6:15. In other
texts, this figure is called “son/man of sin” (cf. CD 6:15; 13:14; 1QS
9:16; 10:19). This expression is quite similar to an expression found in
the Pauline description of the eschatological desecrator, the
Antichrist, in 2 Thess. 2:3b. It is complemented by another term “son of
iniquity” in 1QS 3:21, which is comparable to the phrase “the man of
lawlessness” paired with "man of sin" in 2 Thess. 2:3. Even the phrase
“the mystery of lawlessness," found only at 2 Thess. 2:7, has an almost
identical expression at Qumran: "the mystery of iniquity" (1QH 5:36;
50:5. In addition, Hebrew University professor of Second Temple Judaism,
David Flusser claims to identify an Antichrist figure (a wicked king who
calls himself the "son of God") in the late first--century B.C. Aramaic
pseudo-Daniel fragment 4Q24. In his opinion it proves that the idea of
Antichrist is pre-Christian and clearly of Jewish origin.
According to the scrolls, the present age was also to see the imminent
visitation of Elijah as the precussor of Messiah (4Q521) and the advent
of the Messiah. The Messiah of the Dead Sea Scrolls is clearly
eschatological. His coming is at "the end of days," and is royal
(Davidic), priestly (Aaronic), and prophetic (Mosaic) in nature. It may
be that the sect envisioned two or three messiahs, and such interpretive
confusion is understandable in light of the developing messianism of
Second Temple Judaism. Nevertheless, the application of Old Testament
messianic texts in the Scrolls appears to have predominately combined
the messianic offices in one person, and this is the Jewish theology
reflected in the Gospels (cf. Matt. 2:4-6; 22:42; Mk. 14:61; Lk.
2:25-38; 3:15; Jn. 6:14; 7:27, 31; 12:34).
After the Messiah had defeated all of Israel's enemies, and slain the
wicked (the correct interpretation of 4Q285) in the great 40 year (Gog
and Magog) war (cf. 1QM; 4QpIsaa 7-10; 22-25; 4QpIsab 2:1; 4Cantenab
3:7-8), at the Day of the Lord (4Q558), a time of redemption would come
with a universal peace; men would live a thousand generations, evil
would be destroyed, and an ideal world will come about. The sect
apparently expected to build an interim Third Temple in Jerusalem at
some point and had blueprints preserved in a Temple Scroll (11QT).
Perhaps the means to build this Temple was to be funded from a vast
treasure (considered Temple treasure), which they hidden throughout the
Land. The locations for this treasure they preserved with a catalogue of
items on a Copper Scroll (3Q15). They also held that a final Temple (the
"New Temple") would be built by Messiah for the Age to Come (cf. Zech.
One problematic characteristic of their eschatology was their
conviction that the precise dates of prophetic events could be
determined. They believed that their “Teacher of Righteousness” was
inspired by the Holy Spirit to properly discern the hidden timetable of
the Last Days. Just as Daniel had reinterpreted Jeremiah’s prophecy of
the seventy-year exile (Jer. 25:1) to encompass the greater “seventy
weeks of years” (Dan. 9:24-27), so the “Teacher of Righteousness”
reinterpreted various prophetic passages from the Old Testament and
reapplied them to the situation of his day. Based on this method of
interpretation, they expected the coming of the Messiah would take place
between 3 B.C.E. and 2 A.D. When their predictions failed, the Community
seems to have not attempted further calculations, but apparently
reformulated their eariler expectations to accommodate a divine
postponement or delayed judgment, although some may also have adopted a
more militaristic posture that saw the urgent need for intervention to
bring about the next age.
The Dead Sea Scrolls offer to us a window into the eschatological
world-view of Jesus and the New Testament. Their eschatology followed a
literal interpretation of prophetic texts, a numerological calculation
of temporal indicators in judgment pronouncements, and understood a
postponement of the final age while not abandoning their hope of it. In
many ways their eschatology was not dissimilar from modern Christian
premillennialism, and reveals that as a system of interpretation,
premillennialism is more closely aligned to the first-century Jewish
context than competing eschatological systems.
F.F. Bruce, Biblical Exegesis in the Qumran Texts (London: The Tyndale
Press, 1959), John Marco Allegro, The Treasure of the Copper Scroll (New
York: Doubleday, 1960), Johann Maier, The Temple Scroll: An
Introduction, Translation & Commentary. Journal for the Study of the Old
Testament Supplement Series 34. eds. David J.A. Clines, Philip R. Davies
(Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1985), David Flusser, Judaism and the Origis of
Christianity (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1988), and The Spiritual
History of the Dead Sea Sect (Tel-Aviv: Mod Books, 1989), Shemaryahu
Talmon, The World of Qumran from Within (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press,
1989), James H. Charlesworth, Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Anchor
Bible Reference Library (New York: Doubleday, 1992), Hershel Shanks,
ed., Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Random House, 1992),
Florentino Garcia Martinez, Qumran and Apocalyptic: Studies on the
Aramaic Texts from Qumran. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah
10. eds. F. Garcia Martinez, A.S. Van Der Woude (Leiden: E.J. Brill,
1992), Eugene Ulrich and James VanderKam, eds. The Community of the
Renewed Covenant. Christianty and Judaism in Antiquity Series 10
(Indiana: The University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), Lawrence H.
Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Doubleday, 1995),
Helmer Ringgren, The Faith of Qumran: Theology of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Expanded edition (New York: Crossroad, 1995), John J. Collins, The
Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other
Ancient Literature. The Anchor Reference Library (New York: Doubleday,
1995), J. Randall Price, Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Eugene,
Oregon: Harvest House, 1996).
Dr. J. Randall Price is the Author of In Search of Temple Treasures and Ready to Rebuild and has appeared on the
nationally televised CBS special "Ancient Secrets of the Bible." He is president of World of the Bible Ministries, Inc. He is a Th.M. graduate of Dallas Tehological Seminary and holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew Languages and Literature from the University of Texas at Austin and is personally acquainted with many
leading figures in Scroll research.
Dr. Randall Price has just release his latest video entitled Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This video is a companion to his book by the same name. If you would like to order or learn more about this book and video you can contact Dr. Price at his mailing address or Email him below. Also let him know what you think of his articles.
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