Qumran is on most important places according to biblical archaeology. It is the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found by a bedouin shepherd in 1947.
The Dead Sea Scrolls include the most ancient manuscripts of the Bible, administrative inscriptions and other hundreds of ancient Jewish literature. The scrolls were discovered in 1947 after hidden from the eyes of the world for over two thousand years.
Qumran is located south of Jericho overlooking the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, the ruins of the site were inhabited by the community that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, some scholars related it to Essenes or to Priest society.
Current understanding of the Qumran community is therefore based on evidence from a number of sources: the excavations of Khirbet Qumran (and a subsidiary building 3 km (c. 2 miles) to the S at Ain Feshkha), the contents of the scrolls from the nearby caves, and information on the sect of the Essenes supplied by Pliny, Philo and Josephus.
John J. Bimson and J. P. Kane, New Bible Atlas, Wheaton: InterVarsity Press, 1985, 59.
In 1947 a Bedouin boy, looking for lost goats in the caves overlooking the Dead Sea near the arid ruin of Khirbet Qumran, came upon a cache of scrolls which W. F. Albright soon pronounced to be “the greatest manuscript find of modern times.” The first discovery led to a “scroll rush” of Bedouin and archeologists who found eleven caves with scrolls at Qumran and other caves throughout the Judean desert and at the mountain fortress of Masada. While the term Dead Sea Scrolls can refer broadly to all the finds, it is popularly used for those belonging to the distinctive community at Qumran. The Dead Sea Scrolls afford us the surest contemporary evidence of the Judaism from which first-century Christianity emerged. Knowledge of these scrolls is crucial to any careful study of the apostle Paul and his times.
“QUMRAN AND PAUL,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, 776.
1. Understanding the Qumran Community and Scrolls.
Since their discovery the Qumran Scrolls have evoked varied and sometimes bizarre theories as to the origin of the community that penned them and its relationship to individuals and groups known from the NT.
1.1. Identity of the Sect. By the late 1950s a consensus among scholars identified the Qumran sect with the Essenes mentioned by Josephus, Pliny and Philo of Alexandria. Further, it was claimed that the Essenes took rise from the Hasidean reaction to Hellenization of Judaism under the Seleucid kings such as Antiochus IV and the Jewish Hasmonean priest-kings who replaced them. The “Wicked Priest” who persecuted the sect’s founder, the Teacher of Righteousness, was identified as the Maccabean priest-king Jonathan (152–142 BC.) or Simon (142–134 BC.). The “seekers after smooth things” (CD 1:18) were identified with the Pharisees, who split from the Essenes and subsequently allied themselves with the Hasmonean and Herodian regimes.
Since 1970 several well argued reconstructions, not to mention several speculative proposals, have complicated this scholarly consensus. Archeological data do provide a terminus a quo of the mid-second century BC. and a terminus ad quem of the Jewish Revolt in a.d. 66–73 (see Revolutionary Movements). However, analysis of Qumran texts like the Damascus Covenant and the Temple Scroll suggest a longer prehistory to the movement than that focused on the Maccabean era. The collection at Qumran of nonsectarian apocalypses like 1 Enoch, the Aramaic Testament of Levi and Jubilees suggests that the Essene movement predates and subsumes the group at Qumran, as Josephus claimed. A newly published “halakic letter” (4QMMT) strengthens the view that the primary cause of the withdrawal to Qumran was a dispute over legal and calendrical rulings. The new text has also led one leading scholar (L. H. Schiffman) to conclude that the sect was not Essene in origin but Sadducean.
Despite the complexity of Qumran origins, the large overlap between Josephus’s description and the Qumran texts themselves still favors the Essene hypothesis, but publication of new texts may force a change in the scholarly consensus.
“QUMRAN AND PAUL,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, 776.
1.2. Contents of the Library. The 800-plus scrolls from the Dead Sea caves comprise OT texts (including Tobit, Sirach and Baruch from the Apocrypha), pseudepigraphal works and sectarian compositions. All the books of the OT canon are represented except Esther, reflecting an intermediate stage of canon formation. It is unclear, however, what status the Essenes granted to patriarchal revelations such as 1 Enoch or “deuteronomic” restatements of the Law like the Temple Scroll.
The earliest scrolls published from cave 1 were, on the whole, the most complete because they were preserved in jars. They represent different genres: (1) sectarian rules, such as the Manual of Discipline (1QS); (2) exegesis, such as the pesher commentaries on the Prophets; (3) prayers and liturgies, such as the Hymns (1QH); and (4) messianic visions and plans, such as the War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness (1QM), the Messianic Rule (1QSa) and the New Jerusalem texts (e.g., 1Q32, 2Q24, 5Q15).
Much of the community library was deposited in the more vulnerable cave 4; the massive collection of fragments from this cave has been published over the past twenty-five years. Numerous manuscripts of The Book of Enoch written in Aramaic were published in 1976. The most startling discovery from the Aramaic versions of 1 Enoch is that an original “Book of Giants,” detailing the escapades of the bastard sons of the “Watchers” (Gen 6:1–4), was replaced by the “Similitudes of Enoch” (1 Enoch 37–71) in the first century a.d. Since the latter book makes the most overt connection between a heavenly “son of man” and messiah, its relevance for NT Christology is a matter of renewed debate. Several large scrolls have been published since the late 1970s. The Temple Scroll, confiscated by the Israelis in 1967 and published in 1978, appears to be an “inspired” revision of biblical Law, adapting earlier Essene legal rulings to the expected messianic age. In 1985 the full collection of the angelic liturgy texts, entitled Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, saw the light of publication.The scholarly logjam to publishing the remaining Qumran scrolls seems to have broken up, and we should expect to have the entire Qumran corpus available by the end of the century. These new texts will sharpen our knowledge of the sect and Second Temple Judaism and thus further supplement our knowledge of NT background.
“QUMRAN AND PAUL,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, 776-777.
1.3. Qumran and Paul: Method of Study. Studies of Paul and Qumran have taken two directions. Earlier studies emphasized specific parallels between particular words and ideas in the two bodies of writings. For instance, strong similarities can be found in 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 to the Qumran exclusivist dualism of light and darkness, God and Belial. Pauline phrases like “righteousness of God” (Rom 1:17 / 1QS 11:12), “works of the Law” (Gal 2:16 / 4QFlor [4Q174] 1–2), “church of God” (1 Thess 2:14 / 1QM 4:10), and “sons of light” (1 Thess 5:5 / 1QS 1:9 et al.) and “son of God” (Rom 1:4 /4QpsDan).
Parallels are particularly strong in the case of Ephesians and Colossians with their Semitic phraseology such as “a share in the lot of the saints in light” (Col 1:12 / 1QS 11:7–8). The elaborate introduction in Ephesians 1 reflects the style of Manual of Discipline as well as its idea that God’s predestined yet mysterious plan has been fulfilled in the community.
On the strength of these parallels, some scholars would claim that Paul and his associates were influenced by the Essenes. Others would argue that we do not have sufficient comparative data to determine to what extent Paul and the Qumran texts were drawing from a common pool of contemporary Jewish usage (see Jew, Paul the).
A second, more recent approach has been to compare the “patterns of religion” between Paul’s gospel and the Essene covenant. E. P. Sanders emphasizes the overarching “covenantal nomism” which the Qumran sect shares with all other forms of Judaism in contrast with Paul’s experience of salvation. A. F. Segal, developing Käsemann’s claim that “apocalyptic is the mother of all Christian theology,” points out the similar social psychology of messianic conversion in Paul and the Essenes. In another direction, J. Neusner rejects the idea of one normative pattern and emphasizes the distinctiveness of “Judaisms” in the period just before and after the destruction of the Second Temple.
The approach taken here is, without accepting fully any of these theories, to identify several major themes which appear in the theology of Paul and the Dead Sea Scrolls and to compare how they work within the worldview of their particular community.
“QUMRAN AND PAUL,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, 777.