Words of Wisdom: Dead Sea Scrolls supply important data

This is the third installment of a four-part series on early Jewish writings

Article Highlights

  • The Jewish theologian/philosopher Philo records that there were about 4,000 Essenes around the time of the beginning of the Christian era.
  • Found were 10 scrolls, consisting of some 600 manuscripts and thousands of fragments, wrapped in linen.
  • Some of the scrolls address not so much the life and times of the early Jewish community at Qumran as the coming of the awaited Messiah.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, also called The Qumran Scrolls, were discovered by two Bedouin shepherd boys in a cave near the Qumran area in the northwestern region of the Dead Sea, in Palestine, in 1947. The location is approximately 10 miles south of Jericho. The Qumran ruins represent the Jewish city of the Essenes described in the writings of Josephus, Pliny the Elder, and Philo.

The Essenes were a Jewish religious community that flourished from 200 B.C. to 100 A.D. Next to the Pharisees and Saducees, they were the smallest of the known Jewish sects, dedicated to asceticism and voluntary poverty. The Jewish theologian/philosopher Philo records that there were about 4,000 Essenes around the time of the beginning of the Christian era. They have gained notoriety in modern times due to the discovery of The Dead Sea Scrolls there.

The Essene community had their roots in the Hasidean branch of the Maccabean revolt and appear to have settled in Qumran during the time of Jonathon’s leadership as high priest. The split seems to have occurred because Jonathon was not a Zadokite high priest and the Essenes thought that to be an unforgiveable sin against God. The Essenes then migrated to Qumran to begin an ascetic desert life, and were led there by one called, Moreh-ha-sedeq, “The Righteous Teacher.” The title finds its significance in the Old Testament book Of Joel (Joel 2:23). The teacher appears to have been a Zadokite high priest, but his identity remains a mystery.

The dating of the scrolls appears to be from the first century A.D. The scrolls were stored in earthen jars covered with tar for preservation. Found were 10 scrolls, consisting of some 600 manuscripts and thousands of fragments, wrapped in linen. The scrolls are referenced by the cave that they were found in and the number of each manuscript and/or fragment.

The Essene community at Qumran appears to have lived their lives in an end-times (eschatalogical) context. This is evident from The Pesharim Commentaries, The Messianic Testimonies, and The End Times Midrash which were found. Some of the scrolls address not so much the life and times of the early Jewish community at Qumran as the coming of the awaited Messiah. The scrolls contain several Messianic testimonies dated about 100 B.C. The Essene community at Qumran was destroyed by the Romans about 68 A.D. and the scrolls were hidden from that time until they were discovered in 1947.

Michael Hickey is a local writer and poet who lives in Pelican Bay and Swampscott, Mass. His book, “Get Wisdom,” is published by Xlibris Div. Random House Publishing and is available at 1-888-795-4274, ext. 822, at www.Xlibris.com or your local bookstore. E-mail Mike Hickey at Mikehic@nii.net.

Read Michael Hickey’s short poem online at marconews.com/news/islander.

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