A NEW TEACHER FROM

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS

 

September 29, 2006

Introductory

 

Large portions of the scrolls were biblical. All books of the Old Testament were represented except the Book of Esther. Several different fragments of the Book of Enoch were found, along with fragments of other Apocryphal texts known since antiquity. The nature of the cave discoveries suggests a reference library used by the Quamran community.

 

Material was also found of a genre never before known. This last group was published by Theodore Gaster under his title "The Dead Sea Scriptures." Doubleday Anchor Books issued three editions in 1956, 1964 and 1976, each time expanded by further cave discoveries. More recently a secular translation of the Scrolls has been published as Dead Sea Scrolls, Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., Edward Cook, Harper, San Francisco, 1996.

 

The materials published by Gaster include:

 

1. A Manual of Discipline for a future body of people who "flee into the wilderness,"

2. A Zadokite Document, previously known from Egyptian discoveries and offering other instructions to a unique body of dedicated people in the "end times,"

3. The Book of Hymns, also known as Psalms of Thanksgiving,

4. Exposition on passages from several biblical prophets,

5. The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness, and the

6. Text on Melchizedek, among other pieces.
 

In his Introduction Gaster describes a dedicated community, a regenerated House of Israel. They view themselves as a small remnant who have stayed faithful to the ancient Covenant
 

". . . thereby ensuring the continuance of God's people and the eventual cleansing of His land from the stain of guilt." ". . . They picture themselves as going out into the wilderness to receive a new Covenant." This is ". . . no 'New Testament' in the Christian sense of the term, no abrogation or substitution of the old Covenant, but simply a new affirmation of it." 

"There is, however, one crucial difference between this community and its remote prototype; it is not waiting to receive the Law; it already possesses it. Its aim is simply to assert that Law, to deliver it from the realm of darkness in which it had become engulfed. The Torah that is, the Divine Teaching (or Guidance) as revealed to Moses has, it is held, been successively garbled and perverted by 'false expositors'. The community's main purpose is to exemplify and promulgate the true interpretation. It bases that interpretation on a kind of 'apostolic succession', begun by the prophets and continued by a series of inspired leaders each of whom is known as 'the correct expositor' or 'right teacher'  . . ." 

"Just as Israel had been led of old by these prophets and teachers, so, it is held, a new Prophet and a new Teacher (perhaps, indeed, one and the same person), will arise at the end of the present era to usher in the Golden Age."

 

Gaster's word "Law" is derived from the Hebrew word "torah." The meaning of the word is "teaching," not some holy legal command promulgated by God. Law is a derived meaning. If the "Torah," the "teaching" of Moses, came from God, then it was assumed that all mortals must obey it, hence it is God's Law. Since those instructions contained many new commandments for physical, moral, and social conduct they were regarded as God's Law. But this view degrades the intent of "divine teaching." God is a compassionate, not dictatorial, Father. He is concerned about his created children, and wants them to love Him. When men become fearful of Him they lose their affection for Him. They then turn to rote obedience, without reflective thought or feeling.

 

Since the advent of Jesus, and the larger enlightenment he provided, the Teaching is not limited to the words given to Moses. Jesus gave us better understanding of a compassionate Father who is concerned about his created children. Indeed, the many generations perverted the divine teaching, converting it to their fanciful desires.

 

Although Gaster's statements imply a continuous "apostolic succession" this is not correct. The "succession" comes at times of world import, and not continually through the generations. Gaster expressed the thought of "inspired leaders" appearing continually through time but this also is not correct. The generations have shown the blindness that afflicted them, without the corrective help of "inspired teachers."

 

Personal attributes of the New Teacher are explicitly described in the document Gaster called The Book of Hymns or Psalms of Thanksgiving. Gaster obtained these titles from the forms of expression found within the scroll. Many hymns begin with the phrase "I give thanks unto Thee, Oh Lord, . . ."

 

The scroll is written in the first person, as though penned by the individual who is the subject of its presentation. This unique style caused modern scholarship to assume it was written by a contemporary leader of the Quamran community. They issued many fanciful speculations on possible candidates to this supposed authorship, even including Jesus and John the Baptist! Unfortunately, that scholarship is blinded by its many secular assumptions. The content of the document well specifies its application in time.

 

"When the shafts of corruption fly, with none to turn them back."
"When they are hurled apace with no hope of escape."
"When the hour of judgment strikes.
"A fire that consumes all foundations of clay."
"When the earth cries out in anguish for the havoc wrought in the world."
"When the world's foundations rock and reel."
"Warfare the like of which has never been."

 

Clearly, this is the time of World Judgment; this is the advent of the Righteous Teacher.

 

Instruction From the Scroll

 

The Thanksgiving scroll is a series of statements by the individual acknowledging subservience to God. Gaster provides translation from more than eighteen columns of Hebrew text, although segments of the scroll are missing. The statements of thanksgiving are unique in several respects.

  • If the New Teacher, expressing himself in the Psalms, is to appear at the end of the age he could not have penned those words himself. Someone else must have done so, but for him.

  • If the words are truly predictive, if they contain knowledge of someone who was to appear, if they foresee the future, they could not have been invented by human authors. A divine hand had to be at work with the scribes who did the actual physical transcription. This could have been Melchizedek. Or it also could have been Jesus, since he was often within a half-days journey of the Quamran community at the time the scrolls were being transcribed.

The question then arises as to the purpose of the Songs. Since someone other than the New Teacher created the text, that other someone had to know in minute detail the life and personality of the New Teacher. But why could the New Teacher not create his own Songs of Thanksgiving at the time of his appearing? Why surrogate expression? 

  • The time and place of his appearance may prevent him from doing so. The environmental conditions of general disbelief may prohibit such devout statements.


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  • He may not be able to articulate such explicit statements because of his personal limitations.


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  • The individual would not aspire to such explicit formulations out of personal humility.


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  • The close relationship between God and the individual would not have been presumed by a human mortal. That relationship is a condition brought by God. The document is used as a vehicle by which God shows the individual the common awareness of that close relationship.


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  • The sensitivity of the individual to God is conveyed as statements of appreciation for opportunity of such unique service. If God were involved in the formulation of the thoughts and feelings of thanksgiving it shows in more graphic manner His care for the individual.


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  • This method establishes a high degree of intimacy between God and the individual. The mortal comes to sense how closely God worked to produce this intimate form of communication, and expression of care.


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  • It establishes him as a unique person on the scene of world destiny. What other individual in the flow of time had such unprecedented communication in such an unusual manner?


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  • The usefulness of the mortal to God's service is shown in the expenditure of time and labor of the Quamran scribes, and preservation over two thousand years, along with well nigh miraculous Dead Sea Caves discovery, to convey to the individual the nature of his unique and crucial service.


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  • A sense of predestination is captured in a way that approaches Paul's experience on the road to Damascus, but not with direct contact.

  • Refer to Paul's discussion in Eph 1:4f.
     
  • The document, as a public vehicle, demonstrates to brothers and sisters that communication with the individual is not through open contact.


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  • The document serves as a vehicle of communication that could not be prosecuted another way, while still preserving the exercise of faith. The constraints of the earthly episode prohibit direct communications.

  • The demonstration of faith is exhibited by the mortal's sincere and trustful acceptance of this form of communication. This helps to build a reliance on God without direct and open contact. The individual learns to build a complete faith in God's personal hand in his life.


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  • He could not be subjected to high spiritual visions as was Paul on the road to Damascus. The use of such phenomena, and possible confusion with the techniques used by the fallen Prince, might create dangerous psychological dilemmas.


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  • He would not be subjected to audible phenomena or voices directing his service, for similar reasons.


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  • He would not openly or directly experience contact by spirit beings. This could again cause psychological difficulties to prevent clear personal decisions.


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  • Direct contact may be too devastating. The modern secular era effectively prevents conscious contact because of general social disbelief, or the individual is too fragile for such methods.


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  • A strong element of faith is preserved. Without direct communication the individual can serve as an example to his brothers and sisters. That example would be undermined by direct communication. Faith and decisions are reinforced, not diluted.


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  • The document serves as a vehicle of reassurance through long periods of life vicissitudes. The human mortal may experience doubts about his service through many years of fruitless exercise. He would have recourse to periodic examination and reaffirmation of his call.


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  • The document carries a special display of prophetic power. Paul stated that he was known from before the foundation of the earth. Jeremiah stated that he was known in the womb of his mother; his service was known before he was born. This document manifests explicit foreknowledge by God and his ability to communicate with specific human mortals over immense stretches of time.


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  • The document serves as an illustration to a dedicated community. If brothers and sisters come to recognize the deep destiny display in the mechanical execution of the scrolls, in its creation, transcription, and preservation over two thousand years, they also may come to recognize the personal hand of God, not only in the life of the Teacher, but also in their own lives. They also become an intimate part of destiny.


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  • The document serves to reinforce intimacy between God and his destiny reserve. Only the doubts and psychological reservations of this generation prevent them from developing a similar intimate relationship.

From this list we can come to a better understanding of how the Prophet, the Servant, demonstrates faith-decision, and how he illustrates to his brothers and sisters the relationship to the other prophecies of a Prophet.

 

 

EXAMPLES OF TWO DEAD SEA PSALMS
I offer illustration of two complete Psalms to show the nature of the writing. I shall go on to other quotations from the document, to show the role of this unique personality, and also the role of his brothers and sisters. I draw directly from Gaster's translation. He attempted to retain the devout tone of the writing, as well as the literal meaning. He places the style in terminology that captures sincerity and reverence. Although the translated style may hark back to former times it replaces a loss our modern secular expressions cannot capture.  

PSALM #2

I give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, for Thou art my strength and my stronghold, 
Thou hast delivered my soul from all works of unrighteousness. 
For Thou hast put truth in my heart and righteousness in my spirit, 
Along with all gifts of Thy wisdom; 
And hast crushed the loins of them that have risen up against me. 
Thou bringest me cheer, O Lord, amid the sorrow of mourning, 
Words of peace amid havoc, stoutness of heart when I faint, 
Fortitude in the face of affliction. 

Thou has given free flow of speech to my stammering lips; 
Stayed my drooping spirit with vigor and strength; 
Made my feet to stand firm when they stood where wickedness reigns. 
To transgressors I am a snare, but healing to them that repent, 
prudence to the unwary, temperance to the rash. 

Thou hast made me a reproach and a derision to them that live by deceit, 
But a symbol of truth and understanding to all whose way is straight. 

I am become an eyesore unto the wicked, a slander on the lips of the unbridled; scoffers knash their teeth. 
I am a song unto transgressors, and the hordes of the wicked rage against me; 
Like ocean gales they storm which, when their billows rage, cast up mire and dirt. 

Yet, Thou hast set me as a banner in the vanguard of Righteousness, 
As one who interprets with knowledge deep, mysterious things; 
As a touchstone for them that seek the truth, 
A standard for them that love correction. 

To them that preach misguidance I am but a man of strife; 
But to them that see straight, a very symbol of peace. 
To them that pursue delusion I am but a gust of zeal; 
Men that live by deceit roar against me like the roar of many waters. 

Naught is there in their thoughts save mischievous designs. 
When opening the fount of knowledge to all that have understanding, 
Thou hast set a man's life to rights by the words of Thy mouth, 
And hast taught unto him Thy lesson and put understanding in his heart. 

But they thrust him back into the pit. In place of these Thy gifts they offer a witless folk stammering lips and barbarous tongue. 

Wandering astray, they rush headlong to their doom.

 

PSALM #6

I give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast freed my soul from the pit, 
And drawn me up from the slough of hell to the crest of the world. 
So walk I on uplands unbounded and know that there is hope for that which Thou didst mold out of dust to have consort with things eternal. 

For lo, Thou hast taken a spirit distorted by sin, and purged it of the taint of much transgression, 
And given it a place in the host of holy beings, and brought it into communion with the Sons of Heaven. 

Thou hast made a mere man to share the lot of the Spirits of Knowledge, 
To praise Thy name in their chorus and rehearse Thy wondrous deed before all Thy works. 

I, that am molded of clay, what am I? 
I, that am kneaded with water, what is my worth? 
I, that have taken my stand where wickedness reigns, that have cast my lot with the froward; 
Whose soul has lodged like a beggar in a place of wild unrest; 

I, whose every step is amid ruin and rout-- 
On what strength of mine own may I count, 
When corruptions snares are laid, and the nets of Wickedness spread, 
When far and wide on the waters Frowardness sets her drags, 
When the shafts of Corruption fly with none to turn them back, 
When they are hurled apace with no hope of escape; 
When the hour of judgment strikes, 
When the lot of God's anger is cast upon the abandoned, 
When his fury is poured forth upon dissemblers, 
When the final doom of His rage falls on all worthless things; 
When the torrents of Death do swirl, and there is no escape; 
When the rivers of Belial burst forth from their banks-- 
Rivers that are like fire devouring all (. . .), 
Rivers whose runnels destroy green tree and dry tree alike, 
Rivers that are like fire which sweeps with flaming sparks, devouring all that drink their waters-- 

A fire which consumes all foundations of clay, every solid bedrock; 
When the foundations of the mountains become a raging blaze, 
When granite roots are turned to streams of pitch, 
When the flame devours down to the deep abyss, 
When the roots of Belial burst forth unto hell itself; 
When the depths of the abyss are in turmoil and cast up mire in abundance, 
When the earth cries out in anguish for the havoc wrought in the world, 
When all its depths are aquake, and all that is on it quails and quivers in mighty havoc; 
When with His mighty roar God thunders forth, 
And His holy welkin trembles, and His glorious truth is revealed, 
And the hosts of heaven give forth their voice, 
And the world's foundations rock and reel, 
When warfare waged by the soldiers of heaven sweeps through the world, 
And turns not back until final doom, 

Warfare the like of which has never been.

DISCUSSION

It is obvious the individual lives amid strife, severe affliction, and dissension, amid a great contest in belief and in dedication. The world scoffs at these teachings, but those who love God know the value of their great revelations. This individual serves as "a banner in the vanguard of Righteousness, as one who interprets with knowledge deep, mysterious things."

 

Psalm #6 shows the destiny context and world conditions at the time of service of this individual. Is there any doubt as to the time and place of these events? What ancient mortal could have devised such dramatic and predictive statements? How could such concepts have occurred to the ancients? Is there any question as to the divine authorship required to make such forecasts?

 

Who can fail to recognize a judgment that, literally, turns granite into pitch? Or "when the shafts of corruption fly, with none to turn them back, . . . when they are hurled apace, . . . when the hour of judgment strikes?" "Warfare the like of which has never been!"

 

This individual, this servant, feels that he joins the heavenly host in their understanding. He experiences the meaning of holiness and praises his Lord for bringing him into communion with the Sons of Heaven. But what mortal would dare to make such comparisons? Would any mortal, molded of clay and kneaded with water, presume to such expressions? Only divine beings would venture into such style.

 

I shall now offer a few other brief quotations to show the specific application of this important document.

So, for mine own part, because I have clung to Thee,
I shall yet arise and stand upright against them that revile me;
And my hand shall be upon all that hold me in contempt.
Though Thou show Thy power through me, they regard me not.
Howbeit, Thou in Thy might, hast shed upon me the Perfect Light,
And bedaubed not their faces with shame
That have let themselves be found when I sought them out,
Who, in common accord, have pledged themselves to Thee.

Through his work the individual exhibits unusual insights. Note the common accord and pledge of dedication to God. This is a work of faith, and of decisions. The statements suggest that brothers and sisters are willing to accept the extraordinary meaning of the teachings of this individual.  

Through me has Thou illumined the faces of full many,
And countless be the times Thou hast shown Thy power through me.
For Thou hast made known unto me Thy deep, mysterious things,
And hast shared Thy secret with me and so shown forth Thy power;
And before the eyes of full many this token stands revealed,
That Thy glory may be shown forth, and all living know of Thy power.

Again, indications are given how others may accept the teachings of this individual. In the eyes of humanity he is but a token. But their response is far more than

mere acceptance. They recognize the spiritual soundness of that which he teaches and make supreme decisions based on that spiritual sense. The use of the word "token" shows a humility and lack of charismatic fervor in the nature of the individual.

Thou hast sheltered me, O my God, in the face of all mankind,
And hidden Thy teaching within me, until it be shown unto me that the hour of Thy triumph is come.

This statement shows that the individual waited for indications of God's proper time.

 

Many of the Psalms are designed to express the feelings of this servant.

They purposed to trammel my spirit, to wear down all my strength,
With blasphemous mystic lore, converting the works of God into that which they guiltily imagined.

This again shows the degraded spiritual environment in which the individual lives and works.

 

Other statements tell much of the personality and attitudes of the servant.

Thou knowest also the nature of this, Thy servant, how I have not relied upon the things of the world lifting my heart in pride and vaunting my strength.

The soul of this, Thy servant, abhors all wealth and gain; in abundance of worldly delights his heart has no pleasure. Nay, in Thy covenant does my heart rejoice, and Thy truth it is that regales my soul.

Psalm #15 has many parallels with the first few verses of Isaiah 50, and some highly specific statements.

Though mine eyes sleep not at night . . .
Though mine eyes fail . . .

For my father has renounced me,
And my mother has abandoned me to Thee.

The autobiographical remarks show knowledge of intimate personal relationships and physical conditions of the servant. Concern for God's people, and the responsibility of executing this service, weigh heavily on the servant. Irregular sleeping hours reflect that mental and spiritual tension.

 

Failure of the eyes could be from strain in a younger person; they could be from the deteriorations of age. The latter is intended.

 

The attitudes of his parents condition their relationship. The father does not understand the unusual relationship of this servant with God, the conditions of the age, new revelations, or how those elements affect the conduct of the servant. The mother may recognize the sincerity of the servant but is at a loss on how to deal with his unusual behavior. She turns it over to God.

 

The document certainly conveys mighty sustenance for a servant who is dedicated to God. It also carries mighty sustenance for those who might elect to join this servant in an awesome demonstration of faith and service.