Until 1946 there was little assumption that additional knowledge could be uncovered regarding the Holy Scriptures however through the discovery of ancient scrolls excavated in a settlement located near the Dead Sea, more details have become available to historians regarding both the first century Jewish and Christian communities. Uncovered were several hundred scrolls that have now become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The settlement, known as Qumran, located along the West Bank, South of Jericho, from which the discoveries were made, existed during the Hellenistic Period under the reign of John Hyrcanus from 134 -104 B.C.E., up until its destruction by the Roman Empire approximately 68 C.E. These scrolls, totaling nine hundred found within eleven excavated sites, give insight to the beliefs, cultural practices and communal traditions of this monastic community.
From the documents, it seems evident that the Essene community sought to preserve both their holiness and obedience to God. Therefore, what is learned suggests that the Essenes lived and devoted their lives with strict adherence to the priestly order; in so doing, it was especially important for those who submitted themselves to this way of life, do so completely separated from the general communities around them. Additionally, it was their belief that those who lived outside of the sectarian way of life, did so by a manner contradictory to God’s will.
Consequently, the intent of this paper will critique both the theological convictions and practices of the Qumran culture through the observation of five distinct groupings: The Demascus Document, Thanksgiving Hymns, The Community Rule, and the Commentaries.
The Community Rule Documents
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...h the Hymns were fragments of Wisdom literature, Barki nafshi or “Bless My Soul”, and were probably grouped together due to their similarities in translation. In them there is a sense of God’s longing for, and care for man; His intentional desire to be in relationship with mankind. An example of this can be found in fr. i (4Q434), “ He has been gracious to the humble by His great kindness, and has opened their eyes to see His ways, and [thei]r e[ar]s to hear His teachings. He has circumcised the foreskin of their heart, and has delivered them because of His kindness, and directed their feet towards the way.” In reading both the Hymns and Wisdom literature I could not help but wonder the extent to which the author spent studying the books of Moses to consecrate Himself and maintain a purity with what was originally required of those exiting Egypt influence.