An Ancient Testimony to God's Grace in Christ!
The Christ-Centered Theology of Many Writings in the Dead Sea Scrolls

     The studies to be posted in this article will examine the crucial matter of the Christ-centered theology of many writings in the Dead Sea Scrolls. No book has been written on the subject to date that remotely deals with the true issues. Protestant and Catholic theologians are quite happy to let the matter be discussed and promoted by kooks and radicals who have no interest in the truth! I would propose that the church world does not want the real issues raised by these writings to be examined at all. 

     Here is the sequence of studies that I will be posting here. The thread will initially be closed to responses, however, after a few posts a separate discussion thread will be opened.

  1. Why is the Qumran discovery significant?
  2. The alleged ‘gap’ or ‘period of silence’ in God’s revelation.
  3. Variance in dogma over Old Testament meanings.
  4. The influence of Hellenistic thought on Judaism and Christianity. From what source did this come? Was it the leading of God or an apostasy from the ancient wisdom disclosed in OT revelation?

    Sorting Out the Evidence:
  5. Why did Jewish Nonconformity exist, or what was the historical background of the nonconformist communities?
  6. Who was the Teacher of Righteousness and what was the significance of his writings?
  7. Are other writings besides those of the Teacher as significant?

    The Theology of the Teacher
  8. The immutability of God in the absolute predestination of all things. This teaching stands directly against the Greek free-will philosophy of the Pharisees.
  9. Predestination is absolute and double, including both the elect and reprobate.
  10. Justification totally in God and accepted only by faith.
  11. God created evil as well as righteousness.
  12. The seed of evil in each soul is God’s creation.
  13. Sin remains in believers all of their lives after regeneration.
  14. Truth is the basis of all revelation and salvation experience.
  15. Truth is the great divider and watershed of all mankind.
  16. Salvation in heaven and reprobation in hell are the ultimate end of God’s purposes.

     Why is the Qumran discovery significant?

     Why do we even need to study the extra-biblical writings discovered at Qumran? This question certainly poses a true challenge and there are seemingly legitimate arguments on both sides of the issue. There is no dispute on the significance of the BIBLICAL writings gleaned from the caves; they are the oldest known scriptural manuscripts unearthed to date. Their discovery lays to rest many skeptical arguments advancing a theory that the books authored by God’s Old Testament prophets were fraudulent. But are the ancient biblical manuscripts the ONLY material of value retrieved from the caves? Most conservative Protestant expositors would have us believe so. In spite of tireless legal dispute for decades between governments and religions on who is the true ‘steward’ of the fragments, a lot of preachers and teachers assure us that there is nothing there to be excited about–with the sole exception of the Old Testament manuscripts. Allegedly, the extra-biblical material amounts to a bunch of kooky notions of zealous idiots in the desert who thought that they knew something! If there is indeed valuable and relevant material in even a small portion of the Qumran writings, refuting the dogmatic claims of well-published church scholars is a most worthy challenge facing those who desire to know the truth.

     In performing a web search on the content of the scrolls or the doctrines of the Teacher of Righteousness, almost endless arguments will be encountered. This is largely because scholars have not done their homework in ably refuting the ignorance of wild-eyed speculators. When an issue is ignored by Christian leaders who should have dealt with it head-on, a vacuum opens for any strange theory to be promoted and take hold of the masses. And the theories are definitely legion! Is it possible for ANYTHING to have more diverse interpretations and controversy over the facts of history? No, it isn’t. There are as many lies published on the real content of the scrolls as on anything else to be studied in the world, with no one available to seriously challenge the claims! So we genuinely have our work cut out for us if we want to know the truth.

     Nonconformity has no value in and of itself. There never has been, is not, and never will be an admirable virtue in disagreeing with the majority simply to prove oneself a rebel! Such an attitude is stupid and ignorant. Unless nonconformity is based on real discernment from the Holy Spirit--convicting a person that the accepted views and culture of the majority are against God and Christ--there is no value whatever in standing against popular dogma. Many Jewish nonconformists were undoubtedly of the same mind-set as a lot of misguided rebels who call themselves Christians. We can certainly expect to find a whole lot of dross and worthless material in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The content of them comes from a library that represents no one position or united teaching. It was simply material that was stored away by certain individuals to preserve what might be of value within it. The views espoused contain many differences and were held by different nonconformist sects who claimed to follow the Teacher.

     The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation by Michael Wise, Martin Abegg Jr., and Edward Cook. The findings documented there challenge most all previous theories and I heartily recommend reading the entire presentation of the facts contained therein.     

     The Alleged 'gap' or 'period of silence' in God's revelation

     Protestant interpreters allege that God gave no prophetic revelations or special illuminations of truth for at least 400 years prior to Christ. Therefore no scripture is proposed to exist between Malachi until the writing of the New Testament. Roman Catholic interpreters deny this, insisting that many of the books classified as ‘Apocrypha’ and written in the interim period contain scripture. 

     The issue is whether the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha are the only Jewish writings of significance in the centuries between the Testaments. Is it possible that some may have direct significance upon this question: 

29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and garnish the tombs of the righteous, 30 and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we should not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye witness to yourselves, that ye are sons of them that slew the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell? 34 Therefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: some of them shall ye kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: 35 that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous unto the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar. Mt. 23:29-35, ASV

     The footnote of the New Geneva Study Bible on this passage explains it in typical Protestant fashion:

Abel was the first person to be killed for righteousness sake (Gen. 4:8). The identity of Zechariah is problematic, and all suggested solutions have difficulties. Zechariah the prophet was the "son of Berechiah," but there is no evidence that he was martyred. There was a Zechariah, son of Baruch, who was killed by the Zealots as mentioned by Josephus (Jewish Wars 4:334-44). He was killed in the temple area, but probably not between the sanctuary and the altar. Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, is the last martyr mentioned in the Old Testament in the Hebrew canonical order (2 Chr. 24:20-22). He was killed in the temple courtyard by command of Joash. If not for the words "son of Berechiah," the Zechariah of 2 Chr. 24 would be most likely, since Abel and Zechariah are the first and last martyrs in the Hebrew canon. It is remotely possible that "son of Berechiah" was an insertion by an early copyist (Luke 11:51 does not have it).

     It does not take much sound reasoning to come up with weaknesses in this argument. Firstly, the canon of the Pharisees included the Apocrypha–which contains the history of the Maccabees and the persecution of the Jews around 165 BCE. In no way would they have thought of Zechariah over 700 years earlier as the last martyr killed by Jewish leaders! Although we do not know the identify of this other Zechariah, who was murdered specifically between the Holy Place and the altar, the expression "whom ye killed" suggests a far closer identity of the Pharisees with the murderers than a ‘corporate guilt’ identity with King Joash many centuries before. The "fathers" whom the Pharisees of Jesus’ day attempted to disassociate themselves with in all likelihood were men of fairly recent times that possessed the same character and mentality; they were part of the same "wicked generation" having power at the time of Christ.     

Another newly published text sheds some light on that question. Although known to the tiny group of official scroll editors since the late 1950's, it was only in the 1980's that the existence of the work now called Miqsat Maase ha-Torah (MMT for short) or the Sectarian Manifesto (text 84) was revealed. The Manifesto is a position paper of some kind and juxtaposes the views of three parties: a "we" group, a "you" individual who is a ruler, and a "they" group who are doing things in the Temple that the "we" group condemns. The "we" group further tries to persuade the "you" ruler to support them in this condemnation. Who are these three parties? Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., & Edward Cook, p. 28. Used by permission.

     A lot of material will be presented on the three parties as these studies proceed. But what is the simple meaning of the above finding? It is that the Nonconformist party was not opposing the Sadducees or Hasmoneans outright as the embodiment of evil. So the traditional "Essene" theory of who these nonconformists were is entirely wrong. Although the communities opposing the ‘status quo’ of that era were very diverse and may have contained many unregenerate radicals, as evidenced by some of the content of the scrolls, the real issue is whether there was any legitimate and prophetic testimony contained therein.

The evidence suggests, then, that the scroll group resembled the Sadducees in some ways and the Essenes in others. Yet there are major obstacles to identifying the group straightforwardly as one of the other.

Apart from this problem of labeling the group, so far we can say the following, In Praise of King Jonathan, the Commentary on Nahum, and the Manifesto, taken together, seem to imply that the sect (whoever they were) took sides in the inter-Jewish political conflicts of the first century B.C.E. They favored Alexander over his opponents, the Pharisees, and favored Sadducean law over its opponents, also the Pharisees. The Sectarian Manifesto in particular seems to point to an era when the tide was turning away from Alexander’s partisans–including the scroll writers–and in favor of his old enemies, the Pharisees. Josephus describes only one possible period of rising Pharisaic power in the Hasmonean period: the reign of Salome Alexandra, the widow of Alexander.

The Commentary on Nahum fits very well into this watershed era. It author considers the activity of the Lion of Wrath to be past, while the "dominion of the Flattery-Seekers" is a tragic reality at the time he is writing. Since, as we have seen, the Lion was Alexander, the writer must be living in the period after Alexander’s death in the year 76 B.C.E. Salome Alexandra followed him in power, and she favored the Pharisees, granting them unprecedented sway over the internal affairs of the nation.

Josephus wrote of this turn of events with thinly veiled disapproval, and of Salome Alexandra’s allowing it with outright disdain. The Pharisees, he noted,are a certain sect of the Jews that appear more religious than others, and seem to interpret the laws more accurately. Now {Salome} Alexandra hearkened to them to an extraordinary degree. . . .These Pharisees artfully insinuated themselves into her favour by little and little, and became themselves the real administrators of the public affairs: they banished and reduced whom they pleased; they bound and loosed men at their pleasure: and, to say all at once, they had the enjoyment of the royal authority. . . .Now she {Salome} was so superstitious as to comply with their desires, and accordingly they slew whom they pleased themselves.. . . .While {Salome Alexandra} governed other people, the Pharisees governed her. (War 1.110-113) Ibid, pp. 28, 29, 31.

      cannot recommend the book that I am quoting too highly: The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation by Wise, Abegg, and Cook.

     Throughout history, a characteristic of persecution has always been that the writings of the persons killed were destroyed. If there are any significant writings of prophetic significance in the nonconformist scrolls, they would have been destroyed by the Pharisees if at all possible. So the writings that we had preserved from the inter-testamental period, up until recently, were those that the Pharisees saw fit to preserve. Hence the ‘gap theory’ of prophetic testimony or the notion of a period of silence for 400 years prior to Jesus Christ!

     Variance in OT Interpretation; Hellenistic Influence on Judaism and Christianity

And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. John 5:37-40 NKJV

     A dividing characteristic between regenerate and unregenerate humans has always been their respective and conflicting understandings of scripture. As we know well, this is not to say that regenerate souls will always agree on every precise detail of interpretation. Far from it! However, for those persons without the Holy Spirit, the whole approach of looking at the Bible and discerning its meaning is a world apart from those converted.

     Christ’s statement as recorded by John does not state a new principle or situation that hadn’t existed before. The false interpretations of the Old Testament by the Jewish leaders of Christ’s day had been handed down to them by their predecessors! As we have seen in the previous study, the religious zeal of the Pharisees caused them to murder their opponents in times past when they had the power to do so. Once wicked Queen Salome (their political ally) granted them authority approximately 100 years before the death of Christ, they went on a murderous rampage killing anyone whom they so desired! It is quite reasonable to assume the likelihood that this was when the martyrdom of Zechariah occurred, mentioned by Christ in Matt. 23. It took the invasion of the Romans to end this awful era in Jewish history. God actually caused Rome to invade Israel in order to stop the murdering power of Pharisaic leaders! The Roman leaders then forced the Pharisees to share authority with their former enemies, the Sadducees.

     The unregenerate enemies of God have always used the power of the state to persecute their opponents whenever they have had opportunity to do so. The religion of man’s inventing NEVER makes people better, it ever and always makes people worse! We certainly see this manifested in the history of Christianity and its false professors. But the nature of unregenerate mankind has not changed from the beginning of history. The murders of Islam, the Papacy, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestants merely repeat the murderous history of pre-Christian religionists who gained the power of the state. Wicked and religious men who gain such authority always imprison, torture, destroy the writings, and murder those who disagree with them. The only thing that keeps this from happening today in many countries is constitutional government forbidding such persecution. But the SPIRIT of unregenerate hatred of the truth has not changed one iota! Given the opportunity, all of the murderous horror of past times would certainly be repeated without restraint. It is unreservedly happening today in those countries without laws that prevent it! On rare occasion, God causes the enemies of the gospel in apostate Christianity to experience a slip of the tongue and actually admit that they would like to kill their opponents.

     Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., & Edward Cook, pp. 13-24)

The Dead Sea Scrolls taken as a whole give evidence of a diverse movement, though not so diverse that it could accommodate just any point of view. This is a judgment supported by both the works we have called sectarian and by those that seem to be nonsectarian texts. This movement was clearly favorable to priests, inclined to support those rulers who submitted to priestly direction, and was violently averse to Pharisaism–perhaps because that ideology allowed lay teachers, the later "rabbis," to revise traditional laws. The movement arose among the religious conservatives of its day, whereas the Pharisees were more liberal. . . . The Teacher’s group supported conservative politicians such as Alexander Jannaeus and his son Aristobulus II, at the same time opposing those under liberal domination.

After the Romans came to power, the situation changed. The movement could no longer hope to influence the political course of events directly, although the priests could still attempt, by collaborating with the occupying powers, to control the religious practices of the people. We can guess that some in the movement did exactly that, while others were not willing to cooperate with the Romans. The uncooperative group still had two further choices to make: to seek the violent overthrow of Roman power or to wait quietly for the intervention of God. Some chose the latter option, and they may have been described by Josephus under the umbrella term "Essenes." Ibid, pp. 32-33.

     The notion of an apolitical sect called "Essenes" being the authors of the non-biblical scrolls is wrong; the Essene party originated after the nonconformist group founded by the Teacher split into various factions once the invasion of Rome occurred. The radical Zealot party also formed during this time. The post-invasion group of nonconformists that constituted most of the remnant of true Israel were those that attempted to live in harmony with the Romans, while maintaining their distinct theological heritage and identity. Those who remained true to the ancient heritage of the Old Testament always remained separate from the religion of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and pagans. 

     It should not surprise us that nonconformists with an interpretation of scripture radically different from the Jewish power mongers existed in the first and second centuries before Christ. Those times were not as different from ours as we might think. As we are about to discover, the unregenerate Talmudic Judaism of all centuries following the Advent of Jesus had its origin in the Pharisaic law-zealots prior to Christ! 

     The influence of Hellenistic thought on Judaism and Christianity

Modern Judaism comes from Pharisaism, but in the first centuries B.C.E. and C.E. there were also other kinds of Judaism, and it was not obvious that the Pharisees would be the ones still standing at the end of the day. Understanding the world of the first century C.E. now means understanding the fact of diversity, and the scrolls have helped cultivate a sense of the historical complexity of the matrix of Judaism and of early Christianity. . . . For Christians, the texts say, "You are more Jewish than you realized." There are many individual parallels between passages in the scrolls and the New Testament. . . . Early Christianity, we learn, was not a hybrid of Judaism and Hellenism–it was rooted in the native soil of Palestine. (Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., & Edward Cook, p. 34.)

     Much has been written on the contrast between the Rabbinic Judaism of the Pharisees and Hellenistic Judaism. The religious teachers in Judea with a strong commitment to the traditions of oral and written law were uncomfortable with the increasing absorption of Greek-speaking Jews into the culture and philosophy of their contemporaries in the Roman world. Yet the common philosophical roots of the school of Philo and that of the Rabbis cannot be overlooked. Although standing against the increasing Hellenization of Judaism, the Pharisees still were heavily influenced by the free-will philosophy of Plato–having been submersed in the Greek culture and thinking that dominated Judea for centuries. The strict separation between Hellenistic and Pharisaic Judaism, from a philosophical standpoint, is a myth. The following link, though supporting the traditional errors of the Essene hypothesis and a belief in the Rabbinic roots of Christianity, is very informative on the history of the Pharisees as related to Greek culture and thought:

     This link on Philo of Alexandria yields a good overview of Hellenistic Judaism:

     The free-will teachings of the Pharisees and of Philo were both a "hybrid" of Judaism and Hellenism, albeit different hybrids with varied interpretations of the law and a contrast in views on the literal vs. figurative meaning of the Old Testament. The Teacher of the scrolls stands firmly against this corruption, espousing and maintaining the ancient wisdom of predestination in the Hebrew scriptures–taught for generations prior to the Greek invasion of Israel. The notion of Platonic free-will and human autonomy vs. Divine determinism is the most striking and obvious difference between the non-biblical scrolls and the rest of the writings of pre and post-Christian Judaism. The same Greek philosophy that was used by the Rabbinic leaders to destroy the ancient meaning of the Old Testament was also used by Patristic leaders to destroy the real meaning of the New Testament. Major apostasy from the pure teachings of Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John occurred in the later first and early second centuries C.E. As the Jews in the centuries before Christ lost their pure doctrine through free-will pagan philosophy, even so did the professing Christians of the first centuries after Christ. Here is a study on the influence of Greek philosophy on the church "fathers":

     In the world of pre-Christian Judaism and the first two centuries following Christ, there was no compromise between a belief in divine predestination vs. the autonomy of man. Either one or the other was true, period. This is why there is essentially no ‘hybrid’ doctrine from the writings of that period. The scroll writers were strong believers in absolute predestination, other Jews (including the Pharisees) were equally strong in their belief on the freedom of the will. The free-will philosophy of Justin, like that of Philo and the Pharisees, is also purely Platonic. It was not until the philosophy of Neoplatonism was founded by Plotinus in the third century C.E. that the hybrid positions became paramount.

     If there is any doubt that the men referred to as "church fathers" deviated from the New Testament, the facts cited in the study above (as well as simply reading their writings) shows otherwise. Justin spawned a bastard child of Christianity and Platonism; Augustine created an ingenious and whoring union of Christianity with Neo-Platonism. Hence the pure free-willism in Justin versus a neo-Platonic hybrid style of predestination in Augustine. If we seek to recover the pure and ancient doctrine of the Old and New Testaments, we must recognize where the statements of scripture conflict with these corrupting philosophies. The differences between the tenets of Augustinian predestination and that of the scroll writers will inform us a lot on why certain established doctrines of present-day Christianity are rooted in Greek philosophy instead of the scriptures!

Why did Jewish Nonconformity Exist; Identity of the Teacher of Righteousness

     The Old Testament witness to Jesus Christ consists of law and promise (Gal. 3). Most study and discussion of the times before Christ focuses entirely too much on the Law. It is of immense significance that we determine whether the primary focus of the earlier writings of the scrolls was the correct interpretation of the law of Moses OR the right understanding of the prophetic testimony (Grace)! If the latter was the main focus of the Teacher, then the debate about the Hasmonean vs. Zadokite priesthood was a non-issue.

     Any living human who falls into a body of water or a cistern shall not be helped out with ladder, rope, or other instrumentSectarian Charter 

     The original concern of the Teacher was preserving the true theology of God’s ancient revelation in contrast to the apostate Hellenistic movements of the time in which he lived. A study of the earliest non-biblical scrolls will confirm this proposition. The sectarian movements flourishing in the desert originated from the persecution of the Teacher and his followers by the Pharisees. After the death of the teacher (probably by martyrdom), the sects developed into different ideologies, interpretations, and apocalyptic fantasies–all of them claiming to follow the Teacher. Examples of such division after the death of a beloved leader are myriad in history and should not surprise us. The Essenes and Zealots mentioned by Philo and Josephus are radical groups that had come to fruition a hundred years later. The teachings of neither should be identified in the least with those of the Teacher whom they claimed to follow. The radical War Scroll, the Temple Scroll, Hodayot containing the original views of the Teacher.

     A sober consideration of the facts discussed so far will reveal that a strong belief in determinism in no way guarantees an understanding of the truth of God on all matters. The predestinarian Essenes, Zealots, and Masada community rejected Jesus as the true Messiah and savior of Israel! The original religion of Islam taught by Mohammed was also completely predestinarian. Unless a determinist knows and believes the true gospel of grace in Jesus Christ, there is no basis for any persuasion other than that of fearing the sovereign and condemning God of hellfire--who is a ‘hard man’ impossible to be assured of pleasing (Mt. 25:24-27)! Such religion evidenced in many of the law-centered scrolls is worthless.

     This brings us to a consideration of whether the original doctrine of the Teacher was one of works-salvation based on human merit as taught in 1 Enoch:

When righteousness shall be manifested in the presence of the righteous themselves, who will be elected for their good works duly weighed by the Lord of spirits; and when the light of the righteous and the elect, who dwell on earth, shall be manifested; where will the habitation of sinners be? And where the place of rest for those who have rejected the Lord of spirits? It would have been better for them, had they never been born. I Enoch 38:2

     In his book Beyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism, Gabriele Boccaccini proposes that the original scroll community (in contrast to the later Qumran sect) followed a divergent predestinarian theology based on the apocalyptic teachings of Enoch and Daniel. Supposedly, the beliefs of the scroll authors were a recent innovation that diverged from the historic non-apocalyptic and free-will traditions of the priests of Zadok! Such thinking is typical of liberal authors. In actual fact, the following considerations are all true:

  1. Both the Rabbinic and Nonconformist traditions respected certain views taught in the book of Enoch (the existence of angels, spirits, and the future resurrection is an example).
  2. Sectarian Manifesto. There are many passages in the non-sectarian scroll writings teaching a justification solely by the grace of God. Furthermore, the books of Enoch teach only a loose view of predestination. Enochic theology and the theology of the teacher are not one and the same thing. If any want to dig into the strange but somewhat interesting apocalyptic of the books of Enoch, enjoy! Many expressions and idioms found in the New Testament have an earlier occurrence in these writings.
  3. The rest of the Old Testament outside of Daniel clearly teaches predestination and a future resurrection. These doctrines are not part of some anti-Zadokite tradition diverging from God’s earlier revelation. Isaiah, Ezekiel, the earlier Psalms, Job, and Moses himself taught the same doctrines revealed in the Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot) of the scrolls. 

     Who was the Teacher of Righteousness and what was the significance of his writings? Are other writings besides those of the Teacher as significant?

     The question of the identity of the Teacher has plagued scholars for 50 years. Because of an inability to date many of the scroll writings with precision, a myriad of notions on the identity of the Teacher have been advanced:

  1. David
  2. One of the major or minor prophets
  3. John the Baptist
  4. Jesus Christ
  5. James the brother of Jesus
  6. The personification of truth and wisdom (no actual identity)
  7. A real person in the second or first century before Christ.

     The position to be advanced in the present writing is that the Teacher was a real person who lived and ministered 65-100 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. None of the theories surrounding other identities fit very many of the historical facts revealed in the scrolls. Before 1991, most scholars accepting a 2nd century B.C.E. dating of the Teacher’s ministry (including F.F. Bruce) proposed a much earlier date than stated above. This is because of the erroneous belief that the Teacher started his ministry to oppose the post-Maccabean (Hasmonean) priesthood and advance the priestly line of Zadok as the only rightful heir to the temple ministry. Some have even advanced the theory that the Teacher was himself was a Zadokite priest. Even if he was, it has little bearing on the question under consideration. The recorded convictions of the Teacher in 1QS and 1QH focus primarily on theology and cosmic truth and contain little debate on proper observance of the law.

     With the more recent findings disclosed in the early 1990's examined together with the Commentary on Habakkuk, a much more plausible theory has sprung forth:

In short, we suggest a scenario markedly different from that of the Standard Model: the Teacher of Righteousness began his ministry late in the second or early in the first century B.C.E., perhaps during the reign of Alexander. After the Pharisees came to power under Salome, they persecuted the Teacher’s group, which was sympathetic to the Sadducean establishment, eventually hounding the Teacher into exile. When Hyrchanus II became king, he renewed efforts to destroy the Teacher and his group. The Roman intervention ended the Jewish civil war of Pharisee versus Sadducee, Hyrcanus versus Aristobulus. All of the verifiable historical references with the scrolls and the apparent attitudes of the scroll writers to those references fit this model exceedingly well. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., & Edward Cook, p. 32. Used by permission. 

     The divergent views of various sectarian communities formed in the Teacher’s name after his death (and after the Roman invasion) mean very little to discerning the original reason for his ministry. The group originally schooled by the Teacher were nonconformists but not radical sectarians. They did not withdraw into the desert until persecuted by the Pharisees. Theologically, they followed neither Pharisee nor Sadducee–but politically they supported the Sadducees. The reason is very simple to grasp–the Sadducees of the early 1st century B.C.E. were tolerant of divergent views and did not persecute the Teacher’s group. After the Roman invasion, many who had previously followed the Teacher simply absorbed back into Jewish society. They no doubt preserved his theological traditions, however, the radical Essene and Zealot sects forming in his name presented no interest to them. This is because the original group founded by the Teacher were neither legalistic pacifists nor warmongers–but submitted to the ruling powers as ordained of God!

     The significance of any scroll writing must be determined by a study of its content and context. Many of the sectarian writings are kooky and radical. Although the Teacher is generally claimed as the founder of each diverse sect, in actual fact the founder is someone else. The writings of the scrolls that exalt the grace of God in salvation are those having real and lasting significance. Others are valuable for what they reveal about historical dogma and conflicts within Judaism but have little doctrinal value. The doctrines of the Teacher constitute a background for much of New Testament theology. Being of recent origin, his writings undoubtedly were still in circulation among nonconformist Jews at the time of Christ.

     With some historical background established, we will now begin to examine the actual doctrines of the Teacher and a few others of his persuasion. Since the writings are heavily predestinarian, it is important to state at the outset that there are critical differences between the scroll teachings and historic Calvinism. No rubber stamp of approval will be found for many details of Augustinian theology and dogma. Instead, a sharp contrast will be revealed on quite a few issues. The theology of the Teacher is very logical and consistent and therefore exciting to study! A fresh method of examining the canonical scriptures and New Testament teaching will open up to us.

     The Doctrine of Absolute and Double Predestination in the Scrolls

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son." And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call--she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory--even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? Romans 9:6-24 ESV

     The above scripture from Paul the apostle is quoted more than any other as the foundation and rationale of Calvinism. Yet there has not been unity on the detailed exegesis of this passage among Christian predestinarians. The grand majority of those professing to follow Calvin are infralapsarians, believing that although every event in the universe is predetermined, God does not positively predestine anyone to damnation. In opposition to the ‘ruling majority,’ supralapsarians often refer to Paul’s statement that God willingly elected Jacob and Esau to opposite destinies before either had done good or bad. But as we will soon discover, the issues with predestination in the scrolls go far beyond even this major dispute among Calvinists!

     The revered Teacher of the scrolls undoubtedly taught absolute and double predestination of elect and reprobate spirits to their respective destinies. As has already been demonstrated, this perspective from God’s ancient revelation (i.e. Isa. 45, Ps. 139) stood in direct contrast to the popular Hellenistic and Pharisaic philosophies of free-will and Open Theism originating in Plato and his predecessors. NOTE: Anytime [brackets] are displayed from a scroll quote it signifies that the passage is too worn to translate, therefore the proposed meaning is supplied.

I know by Your Understanding that it is not by human strength [ . . . ] a man’s way is [not] in himself, nor is a person able to determine his step. But I know that in Your hand is the inclination of every spirit [ . . . and all] his [works] You have determined before ever You created him. How should any be able to change Your words? You alone have [creat]ed the righteous one, and from the womb You established him to give heed to Your covenant at the appointed time of grace and to walk in all things, nourishing him in the abundance of Your compassion, and relieving all the distress of his soul for an eternal salvation and everlasting peace without want. Thus You raise his glory above the mortal. But the wicked You created for [the time of] Your [w]rath, and from the womb You set them apart for the day of slaughter. For they walk in a way which is not profitable, and they reject Your covenant and their soul abhors Your truth. They have no delight in all that You have commanded, but they chose that which You hate. All [ . . .] You have prepared them in order to execute great judgments among them before all Your creatures that they might be a sign [ . . . ] eternal, so that all might know Your glory and great power. And what indeed is a mere human that it might have insight into [ . . . ] how is dust able to determine its step?

You yourself have formed the spirit, and its activity You have determined, [ . . . ] and from You is the way of all life. I know that no wealth compares with Your truth, and [ . . . ] Your holiness. I know that You have chosen them above all and for ever they shall serve You. 1QHodayot7, translated in The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., & Edward Cook, p. 89 (HarperSanFrancisco: 1996). Used by permission.

     The fact that ALL EVENTS and created phenomenon in the universe are predetermined is equally affirmed:

By Thy wisdom [all things exist from] eternity, and before creating them Thou knewest their works for ever and ever. [Nothing] is done [without thee] and nothing is known unless Thou desire it. Thou hast created all the spirits [and hast established a statute] and law for all their works. Thou hast spread the heavens for Thy glory and hast [appointed] all [their hosts] according to Thy will; the mighty winds according to their laws before they became angels [of holiness] . . . and eternal spirits in their dominions; the heavenly lights to their mysteries, the starts to their paths, [the clouds] to their tasks, the thunderbolts and lightnings to their duty, and the perfect treasuries (of snow and hail) to their purposes, . . . to their mysteries.

Thou hast created the earth by Thy power and the seas and deeps [by Thy might]. Thou hast fashioned [all] their [inhabi]tants according to Thy wisdom, and hast appointed all that is in them according to Thy will. And to the spirit of man which Thou hast formed in the world, [Thou hast given dominion over the works of Thy hands] for everlasting days and unending generations . . . in their ages Thou hast allotted to them tasks during all their generations, and judgement in their appointed seasons according to the rule [of the two spirits, For Thou hast established their ways] for ever and ever, [and hast ordained from eternity] their visitation for reward and chastisements; Thou hast allotted it to all their seed for eternal generations and everlasting years . . . In the wisdom of Thy knowledge Thou didst establish their destiny before ever they were. All things [exist] according to [Thy will] and without Thee nothing is done . . . . 

It is Thou who hast created breath for the tongue and Thou knowest its words; Thou didst established the fruit of the lips before ever they were. Thou dost set words to measure and the flow of breath from the lips to metre. Thou bringest forth sounds according to their mysteries, and the flow of breath from the lips according to its reckoning, that they may tell of Thy glory and recount Thy wonders in all Thy works of truth and [in all Thy] righteous [judgements]; and that Thy Name be praised by the mouth of all men, and that they may know Thee according to their understanding and bless Thee for ever (cf Ps. 139:4). 1QHodayotIX, translated in The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Geza Vermes, pp. 253-255 (Penguin Books: 1997). Used by permission.

     A doctrine of origins very different from Augustinian theology is already apparent! The predestinarian doctrine of the Teacher is obviously in harmony with a supralapsarian view of God’s purposes in history. This includes a doctrine of equal ultimacy in which God positively destines to his glory both an elect people to life everlasting and a reprobate people to everlasting shame. But the position espoused in these passages goes further than that. It ascribes the origin of evil and of every angelic or human spirit to the direct creative action of God! That is where the scroll doctrine of predestination greatly differs from historic Augustinianism and Calvinism. 


From the God of Knowledge comes all that is and shall be. Before ever they existed He established their whole design, and when, as ordained for them, they come into being, it is in accord with His glorious design that they accomplish their task without change. The laws of all things are in His hand and He provides them with all their needs.

He has created man to govern the world, and has appointed for him two spirits in which to walk until the time of His visitation: the spirits of truth and injustice. Those born of truth spring from a fountain of light, but those born of injustice spring from a source of darkness. All the children of righteousness are ruled by the Prince of Light and walk in the ways of light, but all the children of injustice are ruled by the Angel of Darkness and walk in the ways of darkness. The Angel of Darkness leads all the children of righteousness astray, and until his end, all their sin, iniquities, wickedness, and all their unlawful deeds are caused by his dominion in accordance with the mysteries of God. Every one of their chastisements, and every one of the seasons of their distress, shall be brought about by the rule of his persecution; for all his allotted spirits seek the overthrow of the sons of light.

But the God of Israel and His Angel of Truth will succour all the sons of light. For it is He who created the spirits of Light and Darkness and founded every action upon them and established every deed [upon] their [ways]. And He loves the one everlastingly and delights in its works for ever; but the counsel of the other He loathes and for ever hates its ways. 1QSIII,IV (Vermes, pp. 101,102)

Until now the spirits of truth and perversity have contended within the human heart. All people walk in both wisdom and foolishness. As is a person’s endowment of truth and righteousness, so shall he hate perversity; conversely, in proportion to bequest in the lot of evil, one will act wickedly and abominate truth. God has appointed these spirits as equals until the time of decree and renewal . . . He has granted them dominion over humanity, so imparting knowledge of good [and evil, de]ciding the fate of every living being by the measure of which spirit predominates in hi[m, until the day of the appointed] visitation. 1QS4 (Wise, p. 131)

     Why all the reference to so many different ‘spirits’ and the fact that every spirit is created and governed by God? It is because in that era, the strange and absurd philosophy of Traducianism had not yet been invented! Whatever else they believed, the Hebrews before Christ understood that BOTH righteousness and evil were spiritual and not physical principles. The books of Enoch refer to God as the ‘Lord of spirits’ so often that the perspective of that age cannot be questioned. Hebrews 12:9 uses a like expression. The notion of a biological or physical origin of the soul and of evil was invented by Tertullian in the early 3rd century A.D.--to combat Origen’s heresy of the pre-existence and transmigration of souls. The following studies provide an explanation of the facts regarding this history:

     Nothing in the scrolls would suggest any belief that human spirits existed prior to their creation and residence in a human body. So the Gnostic doctrine of Tertullian is not the answer to combat Origen’s demonic doctrine of transmigration. The teaching of revelation is that God creates the human spirit and body as a unity. The Hebrew perspective did not depreciate the material creation IN ANY WAY; everything in the Old Testament lifts up the physical aspects of God’s creation as fearfully and wonderfully made! But matter is NEVER proposed to be wicked or sinful inherently–it is ALL God’s good creation which may indeed be abused through rebellion and sin. Wickedness is purely spiritual

     The (particular) Augustinian doctrine of Original Sin merely builds on Tertullian’s false teaching of the origin of souls and of evil. It attributes the evil in the soul of every human being not to the creative action of God--but to the biological human relationship and descendancy from Adam! This strange belief of Augustine is the foundation of the Calvinistic theory that Adam’s sin is immediately imputed by God to the whole human race in a way that is exactly parallel to the imputation of Christ’s redemption to the elect! There is no foundation for such a teaching in the Old Testament scriptures; hence writings before Christ (of whatever persuasion) cannot be used to support such a dogma. While the scroll doctrine teaches that all mankind is conceived in iniquity, it attributes the curse of original rebellion in the soul to God’s creative action alone. 

     Most Roman Catholics and a very few Protestants (i.e., Charles Hodge) deny the Traducianism of Tertullian--but still affirm the Augustinian doctrine of the biological transmission of sin. The proposed answer to Tertullian’s strange belief is that God creates the soul without the spirit of rebellion for a split second prior to infusing it into a human body. Such a teaching has the convenience of preserving the teaching of Gus on the origin of evil while denying the notion that human bodies have the power create eternal souls by copulation!

     The doctrine of the Teacher in the passages above is that many spirits are created directly by God, including the following:

  1. Each elect angel
  2. Each reprobate angel
  3. Each elect human
  4. Each reprobate human
  5. The spirit of Light (or truth) 
  6. The spirit of Darkness (or perversity)

     The function of each of these "eternal spirits in their dominions" is absolutely necessary in the course of history to fulfill God’s ultimate purposes. The last two spirits are not personal and eternal souls, but in context are spiritual principles governing two opposite kingdoms. These principles function as ordained by God in every member of humanity. The ultimate dominion of the spirit of light is guaranteed for those created unto salvation, while the constant dominion of the spirit of darkness is guaranteed for those created unto reprobation. Though all mankind partakes to some degree of both spirits, the reprobate are not made with a capacity for truth where the spirit of light will ever have dominion in their souls. They are ‘spiritual idiots’ and always will be. Even in eternity, they will never comprehend the God’s truth aright.

     On this side of the coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah, we can better comprehend the meaning of the teaching in these ancient passages. As the reprobate might ‘receive the word with joy’ in this life but will never understand it, even so they will be in the presence of Christ in the next life but never truly comprehend who he really is and what he has accomplished in his work of salvation. Only God’s elect will truly hear, receive, and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ–both in the present life and for eternity future!

The Doctrine of the Centrality of Truth in the Scrolls

Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." John 18:37 NKJV

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. John 16:12,13 NKJV

Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? And who is as Your truth? And who can be justified before You, when he enters into judgment? None of the spiritual hosts is able to answer to Your punishment, and none can stand firm before Your anger. But all the children of Your truth You bring before You in forgiveness, cleansing them from their rebellious acts in the multiplicity of Your goodness, and by the abundance of Your compassion maintaining them before You for ever and ever. For You are an eternal God, and all Your ways endure for eternity without end; there is none beside You. 1QHodayot15:28-32a, translated in The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., & Edward Cook, pp. 101,102 (HarperSanFrancisco: 1996).

     The kingdom of grace and light is often presented to us in scripture as the realm of those who know and believe what is true. The elect of God are those who belong to the truth, while the non-elect created by God are those belonging to the lie. The Holy Spirit is referred to by Christ as ‘the Spirit of truth’ (John 16:13) while Satan is spoken of as the ‘father of lies’ (John 8:44). So the kingdom of light is that spiritual and material reality where the dominion of truth is complete and unceasing, whereas the kingdom of darkness is controlled fully and eternally by delusion!

     The message above in the Hodayot Psalms of the Teacher is very lucid on the connection between the truth of God and the justification of his elect. Those of humanity to be forgiven of their rebellion in the Lord’s grace and made partakers of eternal life are the ‘children of truth.’ There is no distinction made in these writings or anywhere in scripture between ‘moral’ and ‘intellectual’ truth. Such a dichotomy is very popular to the millions wanting to espouse a ‘practical Christianity’ where the important thing is to ‘live the life’ and not debate propositions. But there is no salvation without believing correct doctrine. The Lord’s revelation of gospel truth in the scriptures is to be our continuous measure of whether we are in the faith. It is those who know and love the truth of the gospel that God has given the assurance of inclusion in the election of grace. The gospel is not an elementary concept that is believed once and settled forever in the mind. It is instead an ever-growing tree of life that feeds our souls continuously. We are to grow in our understanding of it and its implications throughout our entire lives. Those who want to engage only elementary principles of gospel language and focus primarily on moral issues as the ‘meat’ of Christianity are greatly deceived. Their souls have been devoured and destroyed by the false teaching of moral and philanthropic good as a substitute for God’s truth.

     As Christians, we may never conveniently dismiss any of the truths of scripture. When the Holy Spirit speaks through the Word about any issue the matter is final. As a part of our Christian growth experience, we must expect to be continuously shown attitudes, habits, and notions or propositions from the flesh that do not honor the truth of the gospel of Christ. Though the remnant of darkness is ever-present with us, those who are truly God’s elect will ultimately end up agreeing with an ‘amen’ to what the Lord teaches!

     In our last study we pondered the doctrine of the Teacher that God determines which spirit predominates in every living being, whether the spirit of light or of darkness. This leads us to the question of whether elect souls partake of the spirit of light before they experience regeneration. The answer has to be ‘yes’--because they are foreordained to glory and the image of God is present in them, which includes the capacity to know and love the truth. Though the spirit of darkness predominates in the elect until the time of their visitation by the Holy Spirit, the work of the Spirit is to enlighten the minds of God's chosen with the truth. Until this renewal of mind and transformation of thinking occurs, the elect are without hope experientially and have no knowledge of God or ability to come to him. The non-elect, on the other hand, do not have the spirit of light present in their souls to any extent that may be properly termed the ‘image of God.’ They are created with no capacity to understand the complete gospel truth as it is in Jesus. As we shall see, the reprobates do come to know certain aspects of the truth and the Holy Spirit strives with and in them to this end. However, true understanding of the gospel is never realized in their minds. God has purposed in eternity to shut them out of knowledge of the kingdom of light. The truth becomes to them a devouring fire. They are like weeds that quickly grow up with over-fertilization and perish. Compare the following observation of Christ with other sayings from the Teacher of Righteousness: 

And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. 

The shoot of h[o]liness grows up into a planting of truth, hidden and not esteemed. And because it is not known its secret is sealed up. But You, O [G]od, You protect its fruit with the mystery of powerful warriors, holy spirits, and the whirling flame of fire so that none may [come to the] fountain of life, nor with eternal trees drink the waters of holiness, nor make his fruit flourish with [the plan]t of the heavens. Namely, the one though he sees has not recognized, and considering has not believed in the spring of life 1QHodayot16:10b-14a (Wise, pp. 102,103).

The destiny of each individual is not simply affected by cosmic dualism but entirely depends on it. It is God’s dualistic creation that determines the party to which each individual belongs. Everything depends on the allotted quantity of evil versus good spirits, the individual having no control whatsoever on God’s decision. Beyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism, Gabriele Boccaccini, p. 63 (Eerdmans Publishing: 1998).

     Evaluating the free-will philosophy present in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, an opposing work from the same era as the Teacher’s ministry, the contrast becomes readily apparent:

The distance of the anthropology of the Testaments from the Qumran doctrine of the spirits could not be greater. In the Testaments God is not the source of both the good and evil spirits; the presence of evil spirits is against both God and humankind. Not only is the internal struggle a deviation from the original plan of creation, but also God has not preordained the outcome. The number of good and evil spirits is the same in each individual, which guarantees humans fairness in the struggle and gives the last word over to human responsibility. It is the "conscience of the mind" that ultimately makes the difference. Boccaccini, p. 141.

     The philosophy of the Rabbis and other Greek-thinking Jews would affirm that all of mankind knows truth and error equally; that each person is responsible to choose between the two using freedom of choice. Nothing could be further from the teachings of Christ and of the nonconformist Teacher a century earlier. The free will system of belief is grounded in dualistic philosophy of the powers in control of the universe and man’s destiny. This is the same erroneous teaching on the principalities and powers that Paul opposed in Colossians and is also opposed in the book of Hebrews. In affirming that Jesus created all principalities and powers opposed to himself (Col. 1:16,17) and then disarmed them by his work on the cross (Col. 2:15); Paul aligns his own teaching squarely with the ancient revelation of God to the Hebrews affirmed by the Teacher regarding God’s sovereign creation of all things good and evil (Isa. 45:7)! And as believers in these same truths ourselves, we can be certain that our own convictions are in line with God’s revelation through his prophets in the Old Testament, Christ himself, and the teaching of his apostles.

Topics: Pristine Grace Dead Sea Scrolls Gospel Distinctives
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