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Maturing Dead Sea Scrolls Scholarship
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Carsten Peter Thiede,
The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish Origins of Christianity (NY:  Palgrave MacMillan, 2001).

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Thiede reviews documents and fragments that have not previously been translated or have not been discussed widely.  He has some detailed and exciting analyses, critically comparing with other proposals for reconstruction of fragments in Caves 4 and 7.

This book provides a thoroughly stimulating and satisfying read, handling the scenarios of history and culture in a flowing fashion that held my interest.  Even with extensive notation and comparison with some other materials on the Dead Sea Scrolls, I read this technical book in only two days!

The author presents an especially fascinating reconstruction and detailed critical argument proposing that two small fragments are actually sections of two New Testament documents.  He does this by way of a general review and criticism of attitudes and assumptions by previous scholars, who have automatically ruled out the possibility that documents we now know as the New Testament could have been collected at Qumran before the destruction of the place by the Romans in AD 63.

The two passages he convincingly details as present in Cave 7 are Mark 6:52-53, represented in document fragment 7Q5, and 1 Timothy 3:16-4:1, 3, represented in two document fragments designated together as 7Q4.  He provides a detailed and highly reasoned proposal, in addition to the textual analysis, to show how the Qumran archives could have easily gotten documents that later became part of the New Testament.

Thiede also provides another great critical service in this volume, by reviewing all the known similarities and differences between the Essenes and the Nazarenes, later called Christians in Antioch and European history.  Since the followers of Jesus were Jews, it is not startling that other messianic Jews would be interested in their documents.  Especially it makes sense that an eclectic library like Qumran appears to have been would have had a copy of some or all available before AD 63.

He points out even more similarities than have previously been proposed, by criticizes the previous naïve assumption that the Essenes were either a source of John the Baptist and Jesus´ teachings, or that the Essene community became a new Christian community wholesale, or that they were totally unrelated to the new Nazarene messianic sect.

The author reviews very competently the already established fact that the first Nazarenes, or Christians, were fully Jewish, and the writers on the New Testament writing fully within the Jewish tradition.  [In this regard, he also agrees with a growing numbers of commentators who feel that even Luke was not a Gentile, as traditionally proposed, but also a Jew.  He points out that no commentator suggested this before Jerome in the 400s.]

Thiede emphasizes, however, that the Essenes would only have been a likely group to respond to the news that Jesus was the Messiah.  He detailed the novel way in which the followers of Jesus interpreted the Old Testament passages to indicate that Jesus was the Messiah.  He further uncovers more practical ties between the Essene movement and the disciples of Jesus during Jesus´ lifetime.

I learned here for the first time that the Essenes had members all over Palestine and even in Syria, not just the well-known Qumran monastic community.  He reviews much previous information and correlates that with recently discovered information to provide a revised, more complete picture of the Essenes and the overall messianic milieu of Judaism in the first century.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[Review] Dead Sea Insights and Alternatives
[review] Delay, Deception and Delivery of the Dead Sea Scrolls
[review] Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls
[review] Thessalonica, Qumran and the Cult of the Emperor

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First written and posted on Amazon.com 5 June 2006
Posted on Thoughts and Resources 9 September
Last edited 27 Februuary 2009

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2006 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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