Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls | Reflections & Notes

John Bergsma. Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Revealing the Jewish Roots of Christianity. Image, 2019. (256 pages)


The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) are the greatest archeological find of the 20th century. (For more on the history and story of their discovery and interpretation, see The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls). They back date our earliest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) by over 1000 years, they recontextualize our understanding of the Gospel accounts (specifically of John), and they illuminate the Essene sect of Judaism, especially for Christians who focus more–or exclusively–on Pharisees and Sadducees. The comparative work that Bergsma has provided here is an incredible gift, and a careful consideration of his theses will (and should) cause us to rethink and reinterpret large portions of our textual tradition.

Here are a few highlights:

  • The Gospel According to John no longer needs to be relegated as a “late” document (written in the ~90s C.E.). The language, tone, terminology, and theology that is embedded in John, the DSS, (and even Revelation), were all well established by the 2nd c. B.C.E.
  • The Jubilee, while originally economic, is transformed into something deeply, and profoundly spiritual.
  • John “the Baptist” may have once been a member of the Essene sect, and departed for some unknown reasons.
  • The chronology of the Passover meal is reconciled with the existence of (at least) two different liturgical calendars, one of them represented by the Essene sect.
  • The militant themes of the Essene sect are transformed into radical nonviolence in the Jesus movement.
  • The physical building on Mt. Moriah called “the Temple” is transformed into the community in the Jesus movement.
  • “The priesthood,” “Baptism,” and “the Eucharist” all have their origins–terminology and meaning–in the Essene sect.
  • The “works of the law” so contentiously challenging for readers of Paul are understood through the DSS to mean ritual or liturgical regulations. We can (and must) put to rest any debates around the Protestant dichotomy of “works/faith righteousness” arguments.
  • Christians owe a debt to the Essenes, for their practices, traditions, and ethics, of which we are not inheritors.

At times, the parallels and connections felt a bit forced, attempting to draw relationships where none may be. The challenge in comparative analyses such as these is that shared terms does not necessarily equal a shared meaning, or even an intention of resemblance. It would be wise to be cautious in how conclusive we can be in our understanding of the relationship between the DSS, the Essenes, and the nascent Christian movement.

Regardless of that minor quibble, this is an excellent read (as the direct quotes from the DSS are in the book), and a great introduction and dive into the relevance of the DSS and the Jesus movement.

I commend this to you for your consideration.

[Note: any text that is grayed and bolded refers to a lacuna in the original manuscript that scholars interpretively fill.]




Chapter 1: The Archeological Find of the Twentieth Century

“Essene” probably derives from the Hebrew word ‘ôssîm, “doers,” meaning “doers of the law,” although other etymologies have been proposed. …they also accepted angels and demons, heaven and hell, judgment and resurrection, and the authority of oral tradition. … They lived a life of poverty and held goods in common, rejecting private property and indulgence in physical pleasures. Most eschewed family life and lived in celibate male community, sharing a common table and living a common life. They devoted themselves to the study of Scripture, and especially to prophecy, … They dressed in simple white garments and every day underwent a sacred bath followed by a common meal hosted by a priest who blessed the bread and wine. (7)

…the following are ten of the best-preserved and most important scrolls in the collection:

1. The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaiah)

2. The Community Rule (1QSerek-ha-Yahad / 1QS)

3. The Damascus Document (CD)

4. The War Scroll (1QM)

5. The Temple Scroll (11QTemple)

6. 4QMMT, short for Miqsat Ma’asei Ha-Torah

7. The Pesharim, such as 1QpHab (Pesher Habbakuk), 4QpNah (Pesher Nahum), and 4QpPsª (Pesher Psalms). Pesher is Hebrew for “interpretation,”…

8. The Psalms of Thanksgiving (1QHodayotª or 1QHª)

9. The Melchizedek Document (11QMelchizedek)

10. The Rule of the Congregation (1QSª)

Chapter 2: Waiting for the Messiah

They shall not be reckoned among the council of the people, and their names shall not be written in their book from the day the Beloved Teacher dies until the Messiah from Aaron and from Israel appears (CD 19:35-36)

As this statement indicates, after the death of the Teacher, they were actually expecting two Messiahs, a priestly one from the line of Aaron and a royal one from the line of David. (17)

They shall govern themselves using the original precepts by which the men of the Yahad began to be instructed, doing so until there come the Prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel. (1QS 9:10-11)

Scholars call this expectation of two messiahs “diarchic messianism.” (17)

Unfortunately, over the centuries, the Israelites observed the jubilee sporadically if at all. In time, the prophets saw it more as an end-times expectation than a living law. Isaiah foresaw an anointed “servant of the LORD” who would announce an end-times Jubilee Year:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor. (Isa 61:1-2)

[via: This is an “evolution” of the Jubilee.]

Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a Holy of Holies. Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of Messiah, a prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, Messiah shall be cut off, and shall have nothing. (Dan 9:24-26 RSV alt., cf. LXX; emphasis mine)

And concerning what Scripture says, ‘In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property” (lev 25:13)…the interpretation is that it applies to the Last Days and concerns the captives, just as Isaiah said: “To proclaim the jubilee to the captives” (Isa 61:1)…and whose teachers have been hidden and kept secret, even from the inheritance of Melchizedek, for…and they are the inheritance of Melchizedek, who will return them to what is rightfully theirs. He will proclaim to them the jubilee, thereby releasing them from the debt of all their sins. This word will thus come in the first week of the jubilee period that follows nine jubilee periods. Then the “Day of Atonement” shall follow at the end of the tenth jubilee period, when he shall atone for all the Sons of Light and the people who are predestined to Melchizedek. (11QMelch 2:1-8)

Melchizedek’s  jubilee won’t be about money debt; it will release people from the “debt of all their sins.” Furthermore, they will be freed not just from earthly slavery but from bondage to the Devil,… (21)

Therefore Melchizedek will thoroughly prosecute the vengeance required by God’s statutes. In that day he will deliver them from the power of Belial, and from the power of all the spirits predestined to him. (11QMelc 2:13)

It is written concerning him, “who says to Zion ‘Your God reigns’ ” (Isa 52:7). “Zion” is the congregation of all the sons of righteousness, who uphold the covenant and turn from walking in the way of the people. “Your God” is Melchizedek, who will deliver them from the power of Belial. Concerning what Scripture says, “Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud in all the land of…” (Lev 25:9, modified). (11QMelch 2:23-25)

Summing up, 11QMelchizedek presents an alternate view of the end-times, focused not on the twin Messiahs of Aaron and Israel but on a single priest-king figure, the almost-divine Melchizedek, who will proclaim a supernatural jubilee freeing God’s people from the debt of sin and slavery to Satan. (21)

…when we read this Gospel [Luke] with Essene eyes, John looks very much like the promised “Messiah of Aaron,” a priestly Messiah who “anoints a Holy of Holies,” namely Jesus himself, who is the replacement of the Temple. (22)

And the one who sits on the throne of David shall never be cut off, because the “ruler’s staff” (Gen 49:10) is the covenant of the kingdom, and the thousands of Israel are “the feet,” until the Righteous Messiah, the Branch of David, has come. For to him and to his seed the covenant of the kingdom of His people has been given for the eternal generations, because he has kept […] the Law with the men of the Yahad. (4Q252 5:2-5)

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33)

…sounds a lot like

Great will he be called and he will be designated by his name. He will be called son of God, and they will call him Son of the Most High. … His Kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, and all his paths in truth. He will judge the earth in truth and all will make peace. The sword will cease from the earth, and the provinces will pay him homage. The great God is his strength, he will wage war for him; he will place the peoples in his hand and cast them all away before him. His rule will be an eternal rule. (4Q246 1:9-29)

So we can see that an Essene reading Luke’s Gospel would find the figures of John and Jesus answering to the expectation of the “Messiahs of Aaron and Israel.” (27)


Chapter 3: The Scrolls, John the Baptist, and Baptism

The Essenes were the only sect of the Jews that produced prophets, observed strict asceticism, and practiced celibacy; and all that describes John: a celibate, ascetic prophet preaching repentance before an imminent judgment–a message also found abundantly in the Scrolls. But many of the connections between John and the Essenes are much more specific. (32)

| First of all, they were active in the same area. (32)

Both John and the Qumranites placed great emphasis on washing with water in conjunction with repentance for sins. (33)

John baptized anyone–not just devout Jewish men but the common people, women, and even Gentiles–without any process of initiation. (33)

When such men as these come to be in Israel, conforming to these doctrines, they shall separate from the session of perverse men to go to the wilderness, there to prepare the way of truth, as it is written, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 409:3). (1QS 8:12-14)

Certain facts about Qumran give satisfying answers to otherwise very curious and inexplicable facts about John’s person. (35)

| First, his diet. (35)

When I was informed that one, whose name was Banus, lived in the desert, and used no other clothing than grew upon trees, and had no other food than what grew of its own accord, and bathed himself in cold water frequently, both by night and by day, in order to preserve his chastity, I imitated him in those things and continued with him three years. (Life §11)

John, Banus, and the Qumranites were all living in the same area, practicing water washing and celibacy. John and Banus, in particular, were eating off the land. (35)

Before he is allowed to touch their common food, he is obliged to take tremendous oaths… (War 2:139) But for those that are caught in any heinous sins, they cast them out of their society; and he who is thus separated from them, does often die after a miserable manner; for as he is bound by the oath he hath taken, and by the customs he hath been engaged in, he is not at liberty to partake of that food that he meets with elsewhere, but is forced to eat grass, and to famish his body with hunger till he perish; for which reason they receive many of them again when they are at their last gasp, out of compassion to them, as thinking the miseries they have endured till they come to the very brink of death, to be a sufficient punishment for the sins they had been guilty of. (War 2:143-144)

I suspect both Banus and the Baptist had been expelled from Qumran–I’ll suggest why a little later. (36)

Fish may not be eaten unless they are split open while living and their blood poured out, but all species of locust must be put in fire or water while they are alive, because that befits their nature. (CD 12:14-15).

While locusts have been considered food and even a delicacy in different cultures and at different times, the only evidence we have of anyone in Israel eating locusts in the time of Jesus comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel passages about John the Baptist. (37)

Could Zechariah and Elizabeth have sent their son to be raised by the Essenes, perhaps the very community at Qumran? Maybe, and there are additional reasons why they might have. Zechariah and Elizabeth were both from priestly families, and Zechariah’s pedigree was good enough that he was a candidate for the solemn task of burning incense within the Temple (Luke 1:9). (37)

Mary says: “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers.” To “remember one’s mercy” is a Hebrew idiom that doesn’t make sense in Greek (or in English, for that matter). The terms “mercy” (Heb. hesed) and “covenant” (Heb. berith) are sometimes synonyms in Hebrew, and “to remember one’s mercy” means “to remember one’s covenant” (ie.e, the obligations one has to one’s covenant partner). (38)

Great will he be called and he will be designated by his name. And he will be called son of God, and they will call him son of the Most High. … His kingdom will be an eternal kingdom, and all his paths in truth. He will judge the earth in truth and all will make peace. … His rule will be an eternal rule. (4Q246)

They are caught in…fornication, by taking two wives in their lifetimes, although the principle of creation is “male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27) and those who went into the ark “went into the ark two by two” (Gen 7:9) and concerning the prince it is written, “He shall not multiply wives to himself” (Deut 17:17). (CD 4:20-5:2)

So what are we to make of all the similarities between John the Baptist and Qumran? We can venture a scenario that admittedly can’t be proven but does fit with all the known facts: (40)

| John the Baptist received some or all of his education from the Essenes at Qumran, either being sent to them by his parents at a young age or else joining them voluntarily when he was older. He got the characteristic features of his theology from them. However, John also studied the prophet Isaiah, who was greatly honored by the Qumran community–and through this study he eventually found himself at odds with the community that had formed him. For the prophet Isaiah clearly prophesied a coming salvation for all nations, in other words, all the Gentiles. For example, since in Hebrew and Greek the word for “nation” and “Gentile” is the same, the end of Isaiah can be read as follows:

“I am coming to gather all Gentiles and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will  send survivors to the Gentiles…that have not heard my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.” (Isa 66:18-19 RSV alt.) (40)

Chapter 4: The Scrolls, John the Apostle, and Baptism

I would argue that the author of the Gospel of John is using a literary technique to invite the reader to suspect that Andrew’s partner is the author himself, whom the Church traditionally has identified–correctly, in my view–as the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee. (45)

By His truth God shall then purify all human deeds. … Like purifying waters, He shall sprinkle each with a Spirit of Truth, effectual against all the abominations of lying and sullying by an unclean spirit. Thereby He shall give the upright insight into the knowledge of the Most High and the wisdom of the angels, making wise those following the perfect way. (1QS 4:21-23)

The operations of the spirit of falsehood result in greed, neglect of righteous deeds, wickedness, lying, pride and haughtiness, cruel deceit and fraud. (1QS 4:9)

Outside of the Scrolls, the term “Spirit of Truth” occurs only in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, an apocryphal work with many similarities to the Scrolls and Essene theology, and in the Gospel of John. (46)

We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of falsehood. (1 John 4:6)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

When anyone enters the Covenant–to live according to all these ordinances, to make common cause with the Congregation of Holiness–they shall test their spirits as a community, each member taking part. (1QS 5:20-21)

A text belonging to the Instructor, who is to enlighten and teach all the Sons of Light about the character and fate of humankind. (1QS 3:13)

“While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36)

They are to do the truth together with humility, charity, justice, lovingkindness, and modesty in all their ways. (1QS 5:3-4)

But he who does the truth comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God. (John 3:21)

When these things exist in Israel, the council of the yahad [community] will be established in truth–to be an everlasting plantation, a holy house for Israel, and a foundation of the Holy of Holies for Aaron, witnesses of the truth for justice, elected by grace to atone for the and. (1QS 8:4-6)

For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice. (John 18:37)

For I greatly rejoiced when some of the brethren arrived and witnessed to the truth of your life, as indeed you walk in the truth. (3 John 1:3)

And as for you, you shall walk in the truth, together with all who seek Him. (1Q418 2:11)

…phrases like “do the truth,” “witness of the truth,” and “walk in truth” are not good Greek and sound unnatural in the language. These are “Hebraisms,” because John is thinking in the rhythms of biblical Hebrew but writing in Greek. (49)

Another important theme the Scrolls and John share is the love that members of the community ought to have for one another. (49)

The instructor is to teach them both to love all the sons of light–each commensurate with his lot in the council of God–and to hate all the sons of darkness, each commensurate with his guilt (1QS 1:9-11)

Each man should reprove his neighbor in truth, in humility, and in merciful love for one’s fellow. No one should speak to his brother in anger or muttering. (1QS 5:24-25)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)

The notable difference in John’s writings, however, is the absence of hate for those outside. (50)

The Community Rule, Geza Vermes.pdf

Baptism in the Gospel of John

The number six, the material stone, and the liquid water are also symbolic. Six is one short of seven, the number of perfection and divinity. Stone recalls the tablets of stone of Moses (Exod 24:12) and the stony hearts of the people of Israel (Ezek 36:26). Water will keep one alive, but unlike wine, it doesn’t bring a lot of joy. The six stone jars of water, then, symbolize the old covenant and its external “baptisms,” which could not bestow the joy of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52; Gal 5:22). Jesus transforms this water into wine, a symbol of transforming the old covenant into the New, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, with which Jesus will “baptize” (John 1:33). So one of the many messages of the Wedding at Cana narrative (John 2:1-11) is that Jesus is superior to the water washings of the old covenant, which John knew so well from his youth. (52)

[via: The above paragraph and conclusion are quite allegorical.]

When these things exist in Israel the Community council shall be founded on truth, to be an everlasting plantation, a holy house for Israel and the foundation of the Holy of Holies for Aaron, witnesses of the truth for justice and elect by the grace (of God) to atone for the land. … This [i.e. the Community] is the tested rampart, the precious cornerstone that does not…shake or tremble from their place. (It will be) the most holy dwelling for Aaron…and it will be a house of perfection and truth in Israel in order to establish…a covenant in compliance with the everlasting decrees. (1QS 8:4-9)

This “place” is the house that they shall build for Him in the Last Days, as it was written int he book of Moses: “A temple of the Lord are you to prepare with your hands; the Lord will reign forever and ever” (Exodus 15:17-18). This passage describes the temple that no man with a permanent uncleanness shall enter. … Strangers shall not again defile it, as they formerly defiled the Temple of Israel through their sins. To that end He has commanded that they build Him a Temple of Adam, and that in it they sacrifice to Him proper sacrifices. (4Q174 1:2-7; emphasis mine)

One of the interesting things about the Dead Sea Scrolls is that the Qumranites never call themselves “Judeans” (in Hebrew, yehudim). Rather they always refer to themselves as “Israel” or some variation thereof (“sons of Israel,” “repentant of Israel,” “congregation of Israel,” “the multitude of Israel”). There are a number of reasons for this. Technically speaking, a Judea (Gk. ioudaios; Heb. yehudi) was a descendant of Judah, one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. But the Essenes and the Qumran community aspired to be the restoration not merely of Judah but of the ancient twelve-tribe nation of Israel that was joined together by Moses under the Sinai Covenant. … The name “Essene” was given to them by outsiders, and never occurs either in the Dead Sea Scrolls or in the New Testament. “Essene” was probably a Greek corruption of the Hebrew ‘ossim, “doers,” short for “doers of the law” (cf. Rom 2:13). (55)

…in the Gospel of John, the term “Judean” almost always refers to people opposed to Jesus, whereas the terms “Israel” and “Israelite” are always positive. (55)

For only through the spirit pervading God’s true society can there be atonement for a man’s ways, all of his iniquities; thus only can he gaze upon the light of life and so be joined to His truth by His holy spirit, purified from all iniquity. Through an upright and humble attitude his sin may be covered, and by humbling himself before all God’s laws his flesh can be made clean. Only thus can he really receive the purifying waters and be purged by the cleansing flow (1QS 3:6-9)

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring. (Isa 44:3)

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you. (Ezek 36:25-26)

…at what point did one move from being a “son of darkness” to a “son of light”? It was at that point in the initiation process when the candidates swore the grave oaths and entered the Spirit-infused water for the first time. Arguably, that was their “birth” as “sons of light.” (58)

He [God] instituted His covenant with Israel forever, revealing to them things hidden. … The desires of His will, which Man should carry out and so have life in them, He opened up to them. So they “dug a well,” yielding much water. Those who reject this water He will not allow to live. (CD 3:13-14)

But God called to mind the covenant of the forefathers; and He raised up from Aaron insightful men and from Israel wise men and He taught them and they dug the well: “the well the princes dug, the nobility of the people dug it with a rod” (Num 21:18). The Well is the Law, and its “diggers” are the repentant of Israel who went out of the land of Judah and dwelt in the land of Damascus. … And the “rod” is the interpreter of the Law of whom Isaiah said, “he brings out a tool for his work” (Isa 54:16). The “nobility of the people” are those who come to “dig the well” by following rules that the Rod made to live by during the whole era of wickedness, and without these rules they shall obtain nothing until the appearance of one who teaches righteousness in the Last Days. (CD 6:2-11)

cf. John 9:5-7

…there are at least four passages of the Scrolls that describe a man as “a vessel fo clay” kneaded from “dust” and “spittle.”

Who, indeed, is man among Your glorious works? As what can he, born of a woman, be reckoned before You? Kneaded from dust…he is so much spit, mere nipped-off clay. (1QS 11:20-21)

You placed knowledge in my frame of dust in order that I might praise You. And I was formed of spittle. I was molded of clay and my formation was in darkness. (4Q511, 3-4)

cf. Genesis 2:7: וייצר יהוה אלהים את האדם עפר מן האדמה

…apparently there was a pious Jewish tradition that God spat on the dust to make clay to knead the body of Adam, and that tradition (62) is reflected in all these passages of the Scrolls that speak of man as “mere spit.” (63)

Jesus spitting on the ground and making clay is an act of re-creation. Jesus the Son is re-performing the very acts by which God the Father formed the first man! Jesus is re-creating this man, born in darkness, into a “son of the light”! And he is doing it, in part, by having him wash in water. And not just any water, but the Pool of Siloam, which caught the waters of the Gihon Spring, which originally flowed from Eden (Gen 2:13). (63)

During festival times in Jerusalem, the priests sacrificed so many lambs in the Temple that they had to use buckets of water to wash the blood down drains in the Temple floor, and a torrent of blood and water gushed out of the side of the Temple Mount into the Kidron Valley below. (65)

Furthermore, the Baptist, the Essene, Jesus, and John the Apostle all shared a critique of the stone Temple in Jerusalem, as defiled ritually or morally or both. All were looking for a replacement with a “Temple of Adam.” For the Essenes, this “Temple” was their movement. For the Qumranites, it was their community specifically. But for the Apostle John, it was his Lord, Jesus the Christ–and then by extension the ekklesia (“congregation” or “Church”) that would eat his “flesh and blood” and so share his Temple-nature. (66)

If what one is looking for as ‘apostolic’ is a fresh and independent witness, John has it–and not as fabrications of the imagination stemming from some late period of the Gospel tradition, but as the voice of a living witness from the cultural context of the early decades of Christianity in Palestine! – William Brownlee

Chapter 5: Baptism Today

Anyone who refuses to enter the society of God, preferring to continue in his willful heart, shall not be initiated into the Yahad of His truth. … He lacks the strength to repent. He is not to be reckoned among the upright. … Ceremonies of atonement cannot restore his innocence, neither cultic waters his purity. He cannot be sanctified in oceans and rivers, nor purified by mere ritual bathing. … For only through the Spirit of God’s true society can there be atonement for a man’s ways, all of his iniquities; thus only can he gaze upon the light of life and so be joined to His truth by His Holy Spirit, purified from all iniquity. Through an upright and humble attitude his sin may be covered, and by humbling himself before all God’s laws his flesh can be made clean. Only thus can he really receive the purifying waters and be purged by the cleansing flow. (1QS 2:25-3:9; emphasis mine)

We see here a complementarity among three elements: the interior disposition of the candidate, the Spirit-infused community, and the water-washing rite. (71)

“Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off. …” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:37-42)

It is interesting that nowhere in the New Testament is Baptism simply a public profession of one’s faith in Jesus. The apostles describe Baptism as something that God does to the believer, not something the believer does for God. (72)

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:3-4)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. … So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:5-11)

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 3:21)

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses. … A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you. … And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes. (Ezek 36:25-27)

On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. (Zech 13:1)

cf. 4Q414 13:7

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring. (Isa 44:3)

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant. … This is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts. (Jer 31:31, 33)

I know that no one can be righteous apart from you. And I beg your grace by that Spirit which you have placed within me… to cleanse me by your Holy Spirit, and to draw me near by your will according to your great mercy (1QHª 8: 29-30; my translation)

The primary reality of Baptism as a divine action explains why the early Church baptized children. (75)

In [Christ] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in Baptism, through which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Col 2:11-12)

Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so–Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them. (Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215])

The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of sin, which must be washed away through “water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248])

These early Christian testimonies reflect the belief that Baptism is an act of God on the human person. This is part of Christianity’s Jewish heritage, because first-century Jews definitely believed that their water washings were not merely symbolic; the washings did something divine to them. (77)


Chapter 6: Did Qumran Have a “Eucharist”?

they labor with great diligence till the fifth hour, after which they assemble themselves together again into one place; and when they have clothed themselves in white veils, they then bathe their bodies in cold water. And after this purification is over, they every one meet together in an apartment of their own, into which it is not permitted to any of another sect to enter; while they go, after a pure manner, into the dining room; as into a certain holy temple, and quietly set themselves down; upon which the baker lays them loaves in order; the cook also brings a single plate of one sort of food, and sets it before every one of them; but a priest says grace before meat; and it is unlawful for anyone to taste of the food before grace be said. The same priest, when he has dined, says grace again after meat; and when they begin, and when they end, they praise God, as he that bestows their food upon them; after which they lay aside their [white] garments, and betake themselves to their labors gain till the evening; then they return home to supper, after the same manner. (War 2:129 [])

In this way shall they behave in all their places of residence. … They shall eat together, together they shall bless [i.e. pray] and together they shall take counsel. In every place where there are ten men of the Community council, there should not be missing amongst them a priest. And every one shall sit according to his rank before him. … And when they prepare the table to dine or the new wine for drinking, the priest shall stretch out his hand as the first to bless the first fruits of the bread and the new wine. And in the place in which the Ten assemble there should not be missing a man to interpret the law day and night, always, one relieving another. And “the Many” [Heb. ha-rabbim] shall be on watch together for a third of each night of the year in order to read the book, explain the regulation, and bless [i.e. pray] together. (1QS 7:1-8)

Two obvious points of connection between Josephus’s account and this passage of the Community Rule are the emphasis on the meal taking place in order–men sitting by rank, the baker laying the loaves “in order”–and the role of the priest to bless the food before anyone else touches it. (85)

| Certain aspects of the Qumran sacred meal remind us of the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper. First, there is the exclusive nature of who was invited… (85)

Second, there is the washing before the meal. [John 13:1-17] (85)

Third, there is the prayer before and after the food. [Luke 22:17, 20] (85)

Fourth, the Community Rule especially emphasizes a blessing over both the bread and the wine, and the Gospels likewise record distinct blessings over each at the Last Supper (Luke 22:17, 19). (85)

Fifth, the argument among the Apostles over who was the greatest as recorded by Luke (Luke 22:24) suddenly makes more sense in light of the need for “everyone to sit according to rank,” something on which the Community Rule places a great deal of emphasis. (86)

Sixth, Jesus utters strange words over the cup at the Last Supper, which have puzzled Christians for centuries: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for Many.” What does Jesus mean, “for Many”? Shouldn’t he have said, “for everyone”? But the Lord’s words become explicable in light of the Jewish practice of referring to the members of a community as “the Many”–Hebrew ha-rabbim, attested in the Community Rule, elsewhere in the Scrolls, and also in latter rabbinic literature. In its Jewish context, “for Many” means “for the members of the community,” in other words, for Jesus’ community, known elsewhere as the ekklesia or “church” (Matt 16:18, 18:17; Acts 5:11 etc.). (86)

| Seventh, there is the singing of a thanksgiving hymn. (86)

Finally, it is intriguing that the description of the common meal in the Community Rule is followed almost immediately by a description of staying up for a “third of the night” to meditate on Scripture and pray together. (86)

cf. Luke 22:39

…we are not, at this point, arguing that Jesus modeled the Last Supper directly on Essene practices, but we are allowing the Dead Sea Scrolls, as the only Jewish documents contemporary with the ministry of Jesus, to help us understand his words and gestures as if we were Jews living in his day. (87)

To put it bluntly: partaking of the meal meant full initiation into the covenant. (88)

The procedure for the meeting of the men of reputation when they are called to the banquet held by the party of the Yahad, when God has fathered the Messiah (or when the Messiah has been revealed) among them: the Priest, as head of the entire congregation of Israel, shall enter first, trailed by all his brothers, the Sons of Aaron, those priests appointed to the banquet of the men of reputation. They are to sit before him by rank. Then the Messiah of Israel may enter, and the heads of the thousands of Israel are to sit before him by rank, as determined by each man’s commission in their camps and campaigns. Last, all the heads of the congregation’s clans, together with their wise and knowledgeable men, shall sit before them by rank. When they gather at the communal table, having set out bread and wine so the communal table is set for eating and the wine (poured) for drinking, none may reach for the first portion of the bread or the wine before the Priest. For he shall bless the first portion of the bread and the wine, reaching for the bread first. Afterward the Messiah of Israel shall reach for the bread. Finally, each member of the whole congregation of the Yahad shall give a blessing, in descending order of rank. This procedure shall govern every meal, provided at least ten men are gathered together. (1QAª 2:11-22)

We can say, then, that the daily “thanksgiving meal” of the Qumranites was an anticipation of the messianic banquet when the “kingdom of God” would be established. (90)

Many, perhaps most, of the sacred rites of Judaism had an anticipatory character. … So expectation of the end-times, or “eschatological anticipation,” was a common feature of Jewish religion. (90)

cf. “…until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26). (90)

http://www.with the proper qualifications, we can say that Qumran did celebrate a “Eucharist”–if we understand that in a more general sense–because they practiced a daily meal of bread and wine that was preceded by an concluded with hymns of thanksgiving (Gk. eucharistia), which both signified and actualized their full initiation into the “new covenant,” and anticipated the banquet they would one day celebrate in the presence of the Messiah and all the famous men of Israel. (91)

Chapter 7: When Was the Last Supper?

…linen was an uncommon fabric in Judea at this time, making up only about 30 percent of all clothing. … Wool, by contrast, (96) was cheap and readily available, and made up about 70 percent of all clothing. … This odd combination of luxury and poverty is only attested among the Essenes. (97)

Nor do they allow of the change of garments, or of shoes, till they be first entirely torn to pieces or worn out by time” (War 2:126)

If each link in this chain of connections holds, one could conclude that John Mark had Essene ties, and it was his family’s property that hosted Jesus’ last Passover. This all would seem to indicate that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper in the Essene neighborhood of Jerusalem. (97)

The Pharisees followed a lunar-solar calendar consisting of twelve lunar months totaling 354 days, and every three years it was necessary to add a thirteenth month to catch up to the true solar year. The Essenes, however, followed a solar calendar of exactly 364 days, which was actually quite old and traditional in Israelite religion, and had probably been in use by all the Jews up until the time when the Maccabean kings took over the high priesthood about 150 B.C. (98)

That day Noah went out from the ark, at the end of an exact year, three hundred and sixty-four days. (4Q252 2:2-3; emphasis mine)

On the twenty-eighth of the month is a Sabbath. The month continues with the day after the Sabbath (Sunday), the second day, and an addition of the third day. The year is complete: three hundred sixty-four days. (4Q394 1:1)

Thus, we can be absolutely confident of the fact that there were at least two liturgical calendars in operation among Jews during the lifetime of Christ: the Pharisaic lunar-solar calendar observed in the Temple, and a 364-day solar calendar followed by other Jews, including the Essenes. … So, the reality of Judaism in the time of Jesus is similar to the reality of Christianity today, with multiple liturgical calendars (Catholic, Orthodox, and lesser-known rites) placing feast days (e.g., Easter) on different days. (99)

They have not certain city but many of them dwell in every city; and if any of their sect come from other places, what they have lies open for them, just as if it were their own; and they go into such as they never knew before, as if they had been ever so long acquainted with them. For which reason they carry nothing with them when they travel into remote parts, though still they take their weapons with them, for fear of thieves. Accordingly there is, in every city where they live, one appointed particularly to take care of strangers, and to provide garments and other necessaries for them. (War 2:124-125)

This is the rule of the Many for meeting all their needs: a wage of two days every month at least shall be given to the Overseer. Then the judges will give some of it for their wounded, with some of it they wills support the poor and needy, and the elder bent with age, the man with a skin disease, whoever is taken captive by a foreign nation, the girl without a redeemer, the boy without an advocate; and for whatever is common business, so that the communal house [Hebrew beth ha-hever] should not be cut off. (CD 14:12-17; emphasis mine)

Is there a reason Jesus, though clearly not an Essene himself, might lodge with the Essenes in Jerusalem? It’s not hard to figure out why. The Gospels make clear that both the Sadducees and the Pharisees were plotting to kill him, and he knew it! Therefore, staying in any part of Jerusalem that was controlled by or sympathetic to these two groups was dangerous. The Essenes, however, were pacifistic and are never recorded in the Gospels as coming into open conflict with Jesus. Moreover, there seem to have been ties of personal contact and common sympathies between Jesus’ entourage and the Essenes, and both were adamantly opposed to the prevailing regime of the Sadducees and Pharisees. (101)

All of this circumstantial evidence supports the hypothesis that the Essenes lived in the area near the Upper Room, and thus it is more likely that Jesus celebrated the Passover in or near their community and according to their calendar. (102)

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (John 2:13)

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (5:1)

Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. (6:4)

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. (11:55)

The “Passover of the Judeans” would refer to the Passover celebrated by the Temple-state of Judea, run by Herod and the alliance of Pharisees and Sadducees. (103)

…providentially, Jesus both gave himself sacramentally in the Upper Room on Passover and gave himself physically on the cross on Passover–each by a different calendar. (107)

| It’s true that this explanation of the Last Supper cannot be proven, but it does make sense of a great deal of data that otherwise seems like random “noise”: the man carrying the jar of water, the young man wearing a single linen garment, the site of the (107) Upper Room near the ancient Essene gate, the curious four-day discrepancy of Mark 14:1 and John 12:1, John’s phrase “Passover of the Judeans,” the too many trials for the wee hours of Friday morning, and the otherwise inexplicable ancient references to a Tuesday night Last Supper and arrest on Wednesday. (108)

Chapter 8: Putting It All Together: Reading the Last Supper in Light of the Scrolls

…David wrote two psalms for this sacrifice (Pss 38 and 70), and in the heading of the Greek version of these psalms reads eis anamnesin, which modern English translations render (114) “for the memorial sacrifice.” (115)

The Damascus Document speaks repeatedly of the “new covenant” (Heb. berith ha-hadashah) that was made “in the land of Damascus.” (116)

…they repudiate and keep aloof from everything which can possibly afford any inducement to covetousness; and there is not a single slave among them, but they are all free, aiding one another with a reciprocal interchange of good offices; and they condemn masters, not only as unjust, inasmuch as they corrupt the very principle of equality, but likewise as impious, because they destroy the ordinances of nature, which generated them all equally. … But in their view this natural relationship  of all men to one another has been thrown into disorder by designing covetousness, continually wishing to surpass others in good fortune, and which has therefore engendered alienation instead of affection, and hatred instead of friendship. – Philo, Every Good Man is Free, §§78-79

You are those who have continued with me in my trials; and I covenant to you, as my Father covenanted to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the Twelve Tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30, RSV alt.)

This description was written by the Church Father Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165), who was trying to explain to educated Greeks and Romans the nature of the weekly meal celebrated by Christians:

But we, after we have thus washed [i.e., baptized] him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled… There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks (Gk. eucharisteo) at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. … Those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving (Gk. eucharistêsis) was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion. And this food is called among us “the Eucharist,” of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. – Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin, p. 185 in vol. 1 of The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (ed. A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, and A. C. Coxe; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885).


Chapter 9: Celibacy in the Scrolls

While the law of Moses prohibits many kinds of food, the system of kosher is considerably more complex. …to talk about Moses and the Israelites “keeping kosher” in the desert would be an anachronism–… (128)

Another anachronism is the idea that ancient Israelites were opposed to celibacy. (128)

These Essenes reject pleasures as an evil, but esteem continence. … They neglect wedlock, but choose out other persons’ children…and form them according to their own manners. – Josephus, War 2:120

They repudiate marriage; and ad the same time they practice continence in an eminent degree; for no one of the Essenes ever marries a wife. – Philo, Hypothetica 11:14

The solitary tribe of the Essenes which is remarkable beyond all the other tribes of the whole world as it has no women and has renounced all sexual desire. – Pliny, Natural History II

…we find at Qumran almost no feminine-gendered objects–things like jewelry, certain kinds of combs, hand mirrors, or spindles, which are found at other Jewish sites from the period and are reliable indicators of the presence of women. (131)

Why were the Essenes practicing celibacy? …it is not even a challenge to figure out the reason: marital relations rendered one unclean, and the Qumranites never wanted to be unclean! They aspired to “perfect holiness”–and cleanliness, while not the same as holiness, was a prerequisite for holiness. (132)

In short, for all who conduct their lives by these laws, in perfect holiness (Heb. tamîm qôdesh), according to all the instructions, God’s covenant stands firm to give them life for thousands of generations. [space] But if they live in camps according to the rule of the land and marry women and beget children, then let them live in accordance with the Law. (CD 7:4-7; emphasis mine)

Moreover, there is another order of Essenes, who agree with the rest as to their way of living, and customs, and laws, but differ from them in the point of marriage, as thinking that by not marrying they cut off the principal part of the human life. (War 2:160)

They will be “the tested wall, the precious cornerstone” (Isa 28:16) whose foundations shall neither be shaken nor swayed, a fortress, a Holy of Holies for Aaron, all of them knowing the Covenant of Justice and thereby offering a sweet savor. They shall be a blameless and true House in Israel, upholding the covenant of eternal statues. (1QS 8:7-10)

No man who has a nocturnal emission is to enter any part of My temple until three complete days have passed. He must launder his clothes and bathe on the first day; on the third he must again launder and bathe; then, after the sun has set, he may enter the temple. They are not to enter My temple while unclean, for that would defile it. If a man has intercourse with his wife, he may not enter any part of the temple city (where I shall make My name to dwell) for three days. (11QTemple 45:7-12)

…since the Qumran community regarded themselves as not only a substitute temple but a “Holy of Holies for Aaron,” it followed that all members of the community had to live the life of “perfect holiness,” never willfully engaging in any activity that rendered them unclean, including intercourse. (134)

The Early Church, like the Qumran community, regarded itself as a human Temple. (135)

You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Eph 2:19-21)

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? (1 Cor 6:19)

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitue? Never! … Shun sexual immorality (Gk. porneia). Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the sexually immoral man sins against his own body. (1 Cor 6:15, 18; RSV alt.)

It is well for a man not to touch a woman. …. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. … Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. … I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Cor 7:1-35, excerpted)

The point, then, of Christian celibacy was not ritual cleanliness but “undivided devotion to the Lord.” … for the Essenes, too, celibacy was ultimately for the sake of “undivided devotion” to the LORD God of Israel. (137)

Chapter 10: Marriage in the Scrolls

The “Builders of the Wall”…are caught in…fornication, by taking two wives in their lifetimes, although the principle of creation is “male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27) and those who went into the ark “went into the ark two by two” (Gen 7:9). Concerning the Leader it is written “he shall not multiply wives to himself” (Deut 17:17). (CD 4:19-5:2)

Moreover, there is another order of Essenes, who agree with the rest as to their way of living, and customs, and laws, but differ from them in the point of marriage, as thinking that by not marrying they cut off the principal part of the human life, which is the prospect of succession; nay rather, that if all men should be of the same opinion, the whole race of mankind would fail. … But they do not use to accompany with their wives when they are with child, as a demonstration that they do no marry out of regard to pleasure, but for the sake of posterity. Now the women go into the baths with some of their garments on, as the men do with somewhat girded about them. And these are the customs of this order of Essenes. (War 2:160-161; emphasis mine)

When the door was shut and the two were alone, Tobias got up from the bed and said, “Sister, get up, and let us pray that the Lord may have mercy upon us.” And Tobias began to pray, “Blessed art thou, O God of our fathers, and blessed by thy holy and glorious name for ever. Let the heavens and all thy creatures bless thee. You made Adam and gave him Eve his wife as a helper and support. From them the race of mankind has sprung. You said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; let us make a helper for him like himself.’ And now, O Lord, I am not taking this sister of mine because of lust, but with sincerity. Grant that I may find mercy and may grow old together with her.” And she said with him, “Amen.” Then they both went to sleep for the night. (Tobit 8:4-9)

The Essenes’ emphasis on control of the physical passions is one of the reasons they valued the Book of Tobit, with its nonsensual, companionate view of the relationship of husband and wife. (148)

To this day, it is a favorite book for the Scripture readings at Catholic weddings. (148)

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God; that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we solemnly forewarned you. For God has not called us for uncleanness, but in holiness. (1 Thes 4:3-7; emphasis mine)

When St. Paul contrasts a Christian approach to marriage with “the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God,” he is expressing toward Greco-Roman sexual culture a disgust that was shared by the Essenes, other groups of Jews, and the early Christians. (149)

| Sex in the Greco-Roman world was cheap and readily available for the wealthy men who ran society, and women were not highly valued. (149)

Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of our persons, but wives to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households. – Demosthenes (384-322 B.C.)

The temple of Aphrodite was so rich that it employed more than a thousand courtesans, whom both men and women had given to the goddess. Many people visited the town on account of them, and thus these courtesans contributed to the riches of the town: for the ship captains frivolously spent their money there, hence the saying: “The voyage to Corinth is not for every man.” – Strabo, Geography. bk. 8, chap. 6, sec. 20

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun sexual immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the sexually immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:15-20 RSV alt.)

You and the wife of your bosom will become a union (Heb. yahad) because she is the flesh of your nakedness. (4Q416 2 iv 5)

What would have caught the eye of the ancient reader, however, is that wives are addressed directly, as moral agents in their own right (vv. 22-24). … Like the older Israelite Scriptures, neither the Scrolls nor Paul ever commands husbands to make their wives submit. Both exhort wives to do so of their own free will. (156)

Eventually, marriage between a man and a woman replaced the erotic relationship between an older and a younger man as the cultural ideal of the most intimate and satisfying bond between two human persons. This changed the way women were viewed culturally and philosophically: now they were seen as prospective (157) partners in whom a man could find a relationship of completion and wholeness that participated in divine love, God’s own nature. The whole genre of “romance” narratives in Western culture–whether expressed in music, novels, or (more recently) movies–grew out of this Christian “romanticization” of marriage. (158)


Chapter 11: Priesthood and the Scrolls

…the Essenes generally, an especially the Qumranites, were very concerned about priesthood, and there is no reason to doubt that their leadership consisted largely of priests whose bloodlines went back to the House of Aaron and the later priestly lines of descent that are recorded in Scripture. (163)

Their discussions shall be under the oversight of the Sons of Zadok–priests and preservers of the Covenant–and according to the majority rule of the men of the Yahad, who hold fast to the Covenant. (1QS 5:2-3)

One popular theory about the origin of the Qumran community holds that Jonathan Apphus, one of the Maccabees, drove out the legitimate Zadokite high priestly family when he (Jonathan) assumed the title of High Priest around 152 B.C., and the displaced Zadokites went into exile at Qumran and elsewhere. (164)

What we do know is that the Qumran community had two basic orders of leadership, whom they called “priests” and “Levites,” and then the regular “laity.” (164)

They shall do as follows annually, all the days of Belial’s dominion: the priests shall pass in review first, ranked according to their spiritual excellence, one after another. Then the Levites shall follow, and third all the people by rank, one after another, in their thousands and hundreds and fifties and tens. Thus shall each Israelite know his proper standing in the Yahad of God. (1QS 2:19-22)

The rule of dwelling in all the camps. All shall be mustered by their names: the priests first, the Levites second, the children of Israel third, the “strangers” fourth. (CD 14:3-4)

This is the rule for the Overseer of a camp. He must teach the general membership about the works of God, instruct them in His mighty miracles, relate to them the future events coming to the world with their interpretations; he should care for them as a father does his children, taking care of all their problems as a shepherd does for his flock. He should loosen all their knots, that there be no one oppressed or crushed in his congregation. He shall observe everyone who is added to his group as to his actions, his intelligence, his ability, his strength, and his wealth and write him down by his place according to his share in the allotment of Light. No members of the camp are allowed to bring anyone into the group except by permission of the Overseer of the camp; and none of the members of God’s covenant should do business with corrupt people, except hand to hand. No one should do any buying or selling unless he has informed the Overseer who is in the camp and taken counsel (with him), lest they err unwittingly. Likewise with any man who marries a woman: let it be with the counsel (of the Overseer); and likewise let him instruct a man who wishes to divorce. He shall educate their sons and daughters and young children in a spirit of meekness and love of mercy. He must not bear against them a grudge in anger and wrath for their transgressions. (CD 13:7-19)

This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint presbyters (Gk. presbuteroi) in every town as I directed you, if any man is blameless, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of being profligate or insubordinate. For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy, and self-controlled; he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it. (Titus 1:5-9)

You must all follow the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father, and follow the presbytery as you would the apostles; respect the deacons as the commandment of God. Let no one do anything that has to do with the church without the bishop. Only that Eucharist which is under the authority of the bishop (or whomever he himself designates) is to be considered valid. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the congregation be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church. It is not permissible either to baptize or to hold a love feast without the bishop. But whatever he approves is also pleasing to God, in order that everything you do may be trustworthy and valid. (Ignatius, 106 A.D., Smyrneans 8:1-2)

Similarly, let everyone respect the deacons as Jesus Christ, just as they should respect the bishop, who is a model of the Father, and the presbyters as God’s council and as the band of the Apostles. Without these no group can be called a “church.” (Ignatius, Trallians 3:1)

The similarity with the pattern Oversee, priests, and Levites is strong enough that some scholars have proposed that there was heavy Essene influence in Syria and Asia Minor, where Ignatius ministered, and this shaped the life of the early Church. That may be the case, but it’s more likely both the Essenes and the early Christians were building on the model of the High Priest, priests, and Levites from the Old Testament. (169)

Since, therefore these things are now clear to us…we ought to do, in order, everything that the Master has commanded us to perform at the appointed times. Both where and by whom he wants them to be performed, he himself has determined by his supreme will. … For to the high-priest the proper services have been given, and to the priests the proper office has been assigned, and upon the Levites the proper ministries have been imposed. The layman is bound by the layman’s rules. Let each of you, brothers, in his proper order give thanks to God, maintaining a good conscience, not overstepping the designated rule of his ministry, but acting with reverence. (1 Clement  40:1-41:1, emphasis mine)

Thus shall each Israelite know his proper standing in the Yahad of God, an eternal society. None shall be demoted from his appointed place, none promoted beyond his foreordained rank. (1QS 2:22-23)

Chapter 12: Priesthood in the Gospels

The “priests”: these are the repentant ones of Israel. (CD 4:2)

Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 2:4-5)

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Rev 1:5-6)

Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingship of priests and a holy nation (Exod 19:5-6), my translation)

When such men as these come to be in Israel, then shall the party of the Yahad truly be established, an “eternal planting,” a temple for Israel, and–mystery!–a Holy of Holies for Aaron; true witnesses to justice, chosen by God’s will to atone for the land. … They will be “the tested wall, the precious cornerstone” (Isa 28:16) whose foundations shall neither be shaken nor swayed, a fortress, a Holy of Holies for Aaron, all of them knowing the Covenant of Justice and thereby offering a sweet savor. They shall be a blameless and true house in Israel. … They shall be accepted to atone for the land. (1QS 8:4-10; emphasis mine)

So from the beginning, there was in the Christian movement–as among the Essenes–a concept of the “priesthood of all believers” that is clearly expressed in both the New Testament and the Church Fathers. (174)

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Rom 12:1)

By this exhortation of his, Paul has raised all men to priestly status. How marvelous is the priesthood of the Christian, for he is both the victim that is offered on his own behalf, and the priest who makes the offering! (St. Peter Chrysologus, A.D. 380-450, Sermon 108, PL 52, 499-500)

…in the early Church (174) there were those set aside and given spiritual authority for certain sacred tasks. The traditional Christian term for this specialized priesthood is the ministerial priesthood, distinguished from the common priesthood of each member of the community. (175)

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. but when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. (Matt 12:1-6)

He [Jesus] and the disciples may do on the Sabbath what they do because they stand in the place of the priests in the Temple; the holy place has shifted, now being made up of the master and his disciples. – Jacob Neusner, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, p. 83; emphasis mine.

cf. Matt 16:13-19; Isaiah 22:22

In the time of Jesus, the party of the Pharisees did most of the “binding” and “loosing” for the common Jews in Judea. Josephus says of them that, when they enjoyed royal favor, “they banished and reduced whom they pleased; they bound and loosed at their pleasure” (War 1:111). Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler says, “This does not mean that…they merely decided what…was forbidden or allowed, but that they possessed and exercised the power of tying or untying a thing by the spell of their divine authority.” (178)

cf. Deut 17:8-13; Hag 2:10-13; 4QMMT

This placed Peter and the Apostles de facto in a “priestly” role with respect to the rest of the “assembly” or church that Jesus was forming (179)

And the one who sits on the throne of David shall never be cut off, because the “ruler’s staff” is the covenant of the kingdom…until the Righteous Messiah, the Branch of David, has come. For to him and to his seed the covenant of the kingdom of His people has been given for the eternal generations, because he has kept […] the Law with the men of the Yahad. (4Q252 5:2-5)

…the New Testament texts describe Jesus establishing the Apostles as a new priesthood for his new covenant community, as they take on the roles of interpreting the law, offering sacrifice, and mediating the forgiveness of sins, all of which were performed by the Levitical priests of the Old Covenant. The early Church was like Qumran in being a priestly people that still had ministerial priests. (180)

Chapter 13: Priesthood in the Early Church

Since the Apostles referred to themselves as fulfilling the role of presbyters, and since the Apostles appointed the first presbyters, and since the presbyters collaborated with the Apostles in governing the early Church, it was natural that, after the death oft he Apostles themselves, the early Christians saw the presbyters as the successors of the Apostles, who continued to exercise their authority. So Irenaeus, the Church Father, writing around A.D. 150, tells Christians of the time: “It is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church–those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles.” [Irenaeus Against Heresies, p.497 in vol. 1, The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus] (184)

cf. James 5:14-15; Lev 14:1-20


Chapter 14: Did St. Paul Write Anything About the Church?

…thesis-antithesis-synthesis, was how [G.W.F.] Hegel saw human history developing. (193)

Ancient rhetoricians distinguished between the plain or “subdued” style, the moderate or “temperate” style, and the grand or “majestic” style. Any trained speaker or writer in antiquity was supposed to be able to write and speak in any of the three, depending on what was appropriate for the occasion. Ephesus was in Asia Minor, and the style of Greek preferred there–called “Asianism”–was majestic style, highly ornamented and “baroque.” … famous ancient per-(194)sons often got help with their compositions, just as politicians today have secretaries and speechwriters. These assistants–called amanuenes–could influence the style of the document produced, so maybe Paul collaborated with someone like Tychicus (Eph 6:21-22) in composing the letter. (195)

I find it fascinating that so many of the “distinctive concepts” that Paul advances in Ephesians have parallels in the Scrolls. (195)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. (Eph 1:3-5)

The priests are to bless all those foreordained to God (lit. “of the lot of God”), who walk faultless in all of His ways, saying “May He bless you with every good thing and preserve you from every evil. May He enlighten your mind with wisdom for living, be gracious to you with the knowledge of eternal things.” (1QS 2:1-3; emphasis mine)

The connection of predestination with the blessing of wisdom and enlightenment of mind is also found in Ephesians, for Paul goes on to pray that God “may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eye of your hearts enlightened” (Eph 1:15-18). In other words, the blessings that Paul prays down on the Ephesian Christians are very similar in content and theology to the blessings the priests of Qumran invoked on the “elect of God” who composed the membership of the community. The Qumranites shared with Paul a robust sense that God guided all things according to his foresight and plan:

All that is now and ever shall be originates with the God of knowledge. Before things come to be, He has ordered all their designs, so that when they do come to exist–at their appointed times as ordained by His glorious plan–they fulfill their destiny, a destiny impossible to change. He controls the laws governing all things, and He provides for all their pursuits. He created humankind to rule over the world, appointing them for two spirits in which to walk until the time ordained for His visitation. These are the spirits of truth and falsehood. (1QS 3:15-19)

For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the council of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:9-12)

(Eph 3:8-10). The “principalities and powers” are terms for angelic beings. (198)

May you abide forever as an Angel of the Presence in the holy habitation, to the glory of the God of hosts. May you serve in the temple of the kingdom of God, ordering destiny with the Angels of the Presence, a party of the Yahad [with the Holy Ones] forever, for all the ages of eternity! (1Q28b 4:21)

A text belonging to the Instructor. The song accompanying the sacrifice on the first Sabbath, sung on the fourth of the first month: “Praise the God of…, you angels (Heb. ‘elohim) of utter holiness; rejoice in his divine kingdom. For He has established utter holiness among the eternally holy ones, that they might become for Him priests of the inner sanctum in His royal temple, ministers of the Presence in His glorious innermost chamber. In the congregation of all the wise angels (‘elohim), and in the councils of all the divine spirits, He has engraved His precepts to govern all spiritual works, and His glorious laws for all the wise angels, that sage congregation honored by God, those who draw near to knowledge. (4Q400 1:1-6)

One of the strongest correlations between the Church in Ephesians and the yahad in Qumran is the Temple-nature of both communities. (199)

So Paul sees Jews and Gentiles as two parts of humanity that have been united in Christ, the new Adam. We have here the imagery (199) of both a new Temple and a new Adam, strikingly similar to the description of the yahad as a “Temple of Adam” in the Scrolls. 9200)

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22 RSV alt.)

When such men as these come to be in Israel, then shall the party of the Yahad truly be established, an “eternal planting” (Jub 16:26), a temple for Israel, and–mystery!!–a Holy of Holies for Aaron; true witnesses to justice, chosen by God’s will to atone for the land and to recompense the wicked their due. They will be “the tested wall, the precious cornerstone” (Isa 28:16), whose foundations shall neither be shaken nor swayed, a fortress, a Holy of Holies for Aaron, all of them knowing the Covenant of Justice and thereby offering a sweet savor. They shall be a blameless and true house in Israel, upholding the covenant of eternal statutes. They shall be an acceptable sacrifice, atoning for the land. (1QS 8:4-10)

We have here an amazing correlation of images and terms: in both Ephesians and the Community Rule, the respective communities are a “temple,” a “house,” built on a “cornerstone” and (200) “foundations,” and described as “holy.” If we bring in the near context of Ephesians, we find parallels for other elements of the Community Rule. The Rule describes the community as a “mystery” (Heb. sôd), and Paul likewise speaks of his insight into “the mystery hidden for ages in God” that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known” (Eph 2:9-10), later adding, “this mystery is a profound one…it refers to Christ and the Church” (5:32). The Community Rule speaks of the members of the yahad “upholding the covenant,” and Paul says that before entering the Church, the Gentiles were “strangers to the covenants” (2:12), but they are strangers no more. The members of the community offer “a sweet savor’ and are “an acceptable sacrifice” (1QS 8:8-10), whereas Paul calls Christians to imitate Christ, who was “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:1-2). The Spirit functions prominently in both communities: earlier the Rule speaks of the “Spirit pervading God’s true society” that atones for sin, so that one may be “joined to His truth by His Holy Spirit” (1QS 3:6-7), and Paul speaks of the Church as “having access in one Spirit to the Father” (2:18) and as “the dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (2:22). (201)

…the Rule refers to the members of the yahad as “children of light,” and Paul tells the Ephesians, “once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord: walk as children of the light” (5:8). However, the similarities we have identified suffice to make our point. The members of the Qumran yahad and the early Christians both understood their communities to be predestined to holiness of life by the plan of God, who also revealed to them divine wisdom and raised them to heavenly realms where they participate in worship with the angels. Both communities composed a new, holy, mysterious, and Spirit-infused Temple of (201) human beings, a mystical “new Adam,” replacing the defiled old Temple in Jerusalem, and replacing its ineffective sacrifices with spiritual sacrifices and atonement for all God’s people, the “children of light.” (202)

The fact that the Essenes expected the end of the history and arrival of the Messiah(s) to happen soon did not prevent them from forming a rather elaborate and hierarchically structured community designed to await this imminent event. If the Essenes could do it, so could Jesus and his Apostles. “Churchy” passages like Matthew 16:13-20 and much of Ephesians represent creative reuse and recombination of theological concepts that were available and attested in devout Judaism for over a century before the ministries of Jesus and Paul. (203)

A comparison with the Qumran texts shows that New Testament expressions and notions which many people regarded as Greek and late are, rather, Palestinian and early. – Otto Betz and Rainer Riesner

Chapter 15: The Scrolls, the Reformation, and Church Unity

cf. Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16; Gal 3:10; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 2:13

Now, we have written to you some of the works of the Law, those which we determined would be beneficial for you and your people, because we have seen that you possess insight and knowledge of the Law. Understand all these things and beseech Him to set your counsel straight and so keep you away from evil thoughts and the counsel of Belial. Then you shall rejoice at the end time when you find the essence of our words to be rue. And it will be reckoned to you as righteousness, in that you have done what is right and good before Him, to your own benefit and to that of Israel. (4Q398 2:2-8)

cf. Rom 3:20; Rom 4:3-5

The Essenes conclude 4QMMT by saying, “We have written to you concerning some of the works of the law.” …if we take a look at these topics, we can get an idea of the kinds of things that qualified as “works of the law.”

  • The proper liturgical calendar of only 364 days (4Q394 1:1-3)
  • Prohibition of Gentile-grown wheat in the Temple (394 1:6-8)
  • The proper way to cook the sin-offering (394 1:8-11)
  • Prohibition of sacrifices offered by Gentiles (394 1:11-12)
  • The proper way to eat the grain portion of the peace-offering (394 1:12-16)
  • Proper handling of the corpse of the heifer of the sin-offering (394 1:16-19)
  • Proper handling of leather (394 2:2-3)
  • How to sacrifice pregnant animals (394 3:7-9)
  • Prohibition of marriage for men who are permanently unclean due to physical defect or impure birth (394 3:9-18)
  • Exclusion of the blind and lame from the Temple (394 3:19-4:4)
  • The purity of liquids poured from one container to another (394 4:5-8)
  • Prohibition of dogs from Jerusalem (394 4:8-12)
  • Tithing of the produce of fruit trees (394 4:12-14)
  • Exclusion of lepers from the Temple precincts and from sacrificial offerings (394 4:14-16)
  • Cleanliness regulations concerning human corpses (396 4:1-3)
  • Prohibition of marriages between priests and laity (396 4:4-11)

[footnote: There appears originally to have been twenty-four topics at issue; I list here the sixteen that can most clearly be reconstructed from the extant copies of 4QMMT.]

Every single issue concerns either ritual cleanliness or liturgical regulation. (213)

O foolish Galatians! … Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? … Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? (Gal 3:1-2, 5)

cf. Rom 2:9; Gal 3:2; Rom 8:2-4

So Christians do end up fulfilling the “just requirement of the law,” which boils down to the twofold love of God and love of neighbor: (215) [cf. Rom 5:5; Rom 13:10; Rom 8:12-17]

The Essenes also recognized that one could live a holy life only by the power of God’s Spirit: (216)

For only through the Spirit pervading God’s true society can there be atonement for a man’s ways, all of his iniquities; thus only can he gaze upon the light of life and so be joined to His truth by His Holy Spirit, purified from all iniquity. (1QS 3:6-8)

cf. Rom 3:23

What is mortal man in comparison with this? … For he is sinful from the womb and in the guilt of unfaithfulness until old age. I know that man has no righteousness, nor does the son of man walk in the perfect way. (1QHa 12:30-32)

cf. Rom 7:24

I am a vessel of clay and kneaded with water, a foundation of shame and a spring of filth, a melting pot of iniquity and a structure of sin, a spirit of error, perverted without understanding and terrified by righteous judgments. (1QHa 9:23-25)

cf. Rom 8:2; Ezekiel 36:26

I know that no one can be righteous apart form You. And I entreat Your favor by that Spirit which You have given me, to fulfill Your mercy with Your servant forever, to cleanse me by Your Holy Spirit, and to bring me near by Your grace according to Your great mercy. (1QHa 8:29-30)

* * *

One thing that needlessly divides Christians is this fruitless and misguided polemic about “salvation by faith alone” versus “works righteousness,” which we have inherited from the Reformation era. In light of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we can once more read Romans and Galatians with first-century Jewish eyes–indeed, through Essene eyes–and come to agreement on what St. Paul meant. The issue at stake in Romans and Galatians is not “salvation by just believing” versus “doing good works to be saved.” The fundamental issue is: How do you receive the Holy Spirit, by having faith in Jesus or by performing the ceremonies of the Old Testament? When Paul says, “a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal 2:16), he means it is through having faith that the Spirit cleanses and empowers (i.e., “justifies”) us, not by being circumcised or any other Mosaic ceremony. After all, he wasn’t arguing against opponents who were urging everyone to pray, be kind, and give alms in order to be saved; rather, his opponents were urging people to be circumcised (Gal 5:2-12). (218)

| All Christians ought to be able to agree: it is through faith that we receive the Holy Spirit, and are empowered to live a holy life (Gal 3:2-5; Rom 8:13). (218)

| All Christians ought to be able to agree: a holy life is not optional (Matt 5:48; 1 Pet 1:14-16). All Christians are called to holiness, and just believing facts about Jesus will not save a person (218) who continues a sinful life (Matt 7:21; Luke 6:46; James 2:14-17). The way of salvation necessarily involves self-denial and discipleship (Luke 9:23; Rom 8:13, 17). (219)

All Christians ought to be able to agree: we don’t save ourselves (Eph 2:8). We don’t earn our salvation (Rom 6:23). The Holy Spirit is God’s gift, not something we merit (Acts 2:38, 10:45). God gives it to those who trust in him (Gal 3:2, 5), usually through Baptism (John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 1 Cor 12:13). So we never boast about our own accomplishments, because anything good we do is actually the work of God in us (Rom 3:27; Gal 2:20; Eph 2:8-10). (219)

Chapter 16: The Essenes and the Early Church: What Is the Relationship?

Granted there are all these connections between the Essenes and the Christians: what do we make of this fact? (222)

| One conclusion scholars have drawn is that Christianity is nothing but a child movement of Essenism, or even a form of Essenism itself. … (1) the Christian conviction that Jesus of Nazareth is the one Messiah, combining the roles of priest and king; (2) the divinity of the Messiah; (3) the necessity of the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah; and (4) the abrogation of the system of ritual cleanliness instituted by Moses. (222) … Concerning this latter point, the Essenes really treated ritual cleanliness on the same level that later Christians would treat what is called the “natural law” or the “moral law.” In other words, the Essenes considered all of Moses’ principles of ritual cleanliness to have been written into the fabric of nature itself, so pigs were unclean by their nature, and not simply because they were  declared to be so by an authority. This is a radical difference between the Essene and Christian movements. The following teaching of Jesus would have greatly upset Essene sensibilities:

“Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:18-19 NRSV, alt.)

Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works–a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both man y of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the “Christ”; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. (Antiquities 18:63-64)

…the fact that the Essenes, by their prayer and meditation on the Scriptures of Israel, were able to form themselves into a new covenant community bound together by shared rituals of Spirit-infused water washing and a daily sacred meal of bread and wine in anticipation of the Messiah–in other words, something that looks strikingly like early Christianity–suggests that perhaps the seeds of the structures, practices, and beliefs of the early Church truly were contained within the writings of the prophets (225) and the other Scriptures. Construed in this way, the similarities of the two communities would be a confirmation of the Church’s claim to be rooted in the Israelite Scriptures. (226)

| In any event, all of us who are heirs of the religious tradition of Israel, whether Christian or Jewish, owe a debt of gratitude to these ancient holy men. (226)

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