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Early christian Communities and the DSS

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  • Tom Ragland
    http://sunsite.unc.edu/expo/deadsea.scrolls.exhibit/Library/commrule.html I think it fitting that I share my impressions on the most important of the
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 29, 2000
      http://sunsite.unc.edu/expo/deadsea.scrolls.exhibit/Library/commrule.html

      I think it fitting that I share my impressions on the most important of the
      manuscripts discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls. What is now called
      "Community Rule" is a description of a proto-Christian community that used
      many of the same terms and adopted the same structures. From what I can
      gather this document was composed around the time of the birth of Jesus,
      some three decades before Jesus began teaching. It was shortly after The
      Sadducean Essene Zealoti (many names, same movement) party forms to opposed
      Roman taxation and the corruption of the priesthood by the Herodians and the
      Pharisees after the death of Herod. Judas the Galilean and the Pharisee
      Zaddok become the leaders. 2000 of these Zealots were crucified by the
      Romans in 4 BC. They formed communities that supported one another with a
      network of charity. These communities of "Essenes" are described by Philo
      of Alexandria in "The Hypothetica", a writing from about 45 AD, and Josephus
      in "The Jewish War", a writing from about 78 AD. What I believe we have in
      "Community Rule" is a first hand report from one of the originators of this
      "church" of religious minded people that resembles Christianity and predates
      it by about a half-century.

      I use the (page:line) notation in the following notes for references to 1QS.

      Community Rule (1QS, 4Q255-264a, 5Q11) is a very important text. 13 copies
      of this text were discovered among the caves that housed the Dead Sea
      Scrolls. We are fortunate that one of the finds, 1QS, was discovered as
      being in very good condition. Yahad means Unity, the term for a network of
      communities, this text being the charter for The Way (9:18), the New
      Testament, the continuing revelation for the Children of Light (3:13). It
      should be duly noted the influence that 10:21—11:2 had upon James 3:1-12,
      remembering that this James was called the brother of Jesus. Perhaps the
      most shocking conclusion drawn from the study of this text is that a
      “Christianity” existed even before Jesus began to teach. This community
      must have had a great impact on the forming of Jerusalem Christianity, which
      was once led by James. Some scholars see evidence in the final redactions
      of this text a corresponding dating of around 68 AD. The Yahad was
      obviously a unification front with both religious and political objectives,
      active at the time of Jesus and the formation of Christianity. It stands at
      a period of time detached from the original Teacher of Righteousness of a
      century earlier, looking ahead to the coming of the Messiah, the one who
      will Stand by God (11:16-17)—The Standing One.
      Consider some of the concepts from this very important text—
      The Teacher instructs the Holy Ones with a new guide for the Yahad’s rule
      (1:1).
      His message is that God should be sought with complete heart and soul,
      combined with the good works of being upright (1:2).
      The Children of Light are to share in a communal love as the council of God.
      The Children of Darkness are to be hated as they are held in guilt and face
      the vengeance of God (1:9-11).
      The initiates into the New Testament will answer Amen to the blessings and
      the cursings (2:10).
      The one who completely follows the Law without deviating will be accepted by
      God as an offering of an atoning sacrifice and be accepted into the New
      Testament of the Eternal Yahad (3:10-12).
      There is a Prince of Light influencing all righteous people and an Angel of
      Darkness influencing all wicked people (3:20-21).
      God of Israel and the Angel of His Truth help all of the Sons of Light. God
      created both the spirits of Light and the spirits of Darkness, setting them
      to be the foundation of deeds, the impulses that inspire actions. God is
      eternally bonded in love with the Spirit of Unity, eternally supportive of
      its inspirations. God is eternally opposed to the impulses of the Dark
      spirits. (3:24—4:1).
      Each who join the New Testament by oath must agree to separate himself from
      all unholy outsiders who travel the wicked pathway (5:10-11).
      No one of the Yahad is allowed to discuss the Torah with, to eat or drink
      with, or to accept any gift from unholy outsiders (5:15-17).
      The Yahad is established as an eternally planted Temple for Israel, a Holy
      of Holies of Mystery for Aaron, truly beholding salvation. These have been
      selected by God to be the atonement for the land (8:5-6). All of them will
      know the Testament of Justice by this knowing will be a sweet offering to
      God. These blameless builders of a New House in Israel will keep the
      Eternal Testament and become that acceptable sacrifice that atones for the
      land. This is the verdict against the existence of the influence of evil,
      the result of which is that perversity will cease to exist (8:9-10). Guided
      by the instruction of the Holy Spirit, they shall become an atonement for
      the guilt of transgression. For the rebellion of sin, they shall become an
      acceptable sacrifice for the land, just as the burnt offerings. Prayer
      shall become the very means for grace to be attained, the sweet odor of
      righteous and holy lives will be considered to be a pleasing freewill
      offering (9:4-5).
      The Yahad will continue with the original instructions given until the
      coming of the Prophet of Aaron and the Messiah of Israel (9:10-11).
      Never return evil for evil. Communicate only good (10:17-18)
      My words will not be used for deceit or fraud, impure thoughts will not be
      accepted by my mind. I will supply wisdom in holiness and love, encouraging
      the fearful. I will teach understanding to the lost souls. I will answer
      with my humble spirit all those who oppress, hate, and seek position and
      wealth (10:21—11:2).
      My eyes can see into Eternity, discovering the Wisdom hidden from others
      (11:5-6).
      If I stumble, God’s Love will save me. If my body drags me down into sin,
      my justification will be the Eternal Holiness of God (11:12).
      By His Holy Truth he justifies me. By His Perfect Goodness he atones for my
      sins. By His Holiness he cleanses me of the defilement that comes with
      being human (11:14-15).
      Please raise up the Son of your Maid to be with the selected of humanity
      that will be with you forever, for apart from You the Way cannot be
      completed (11:16-17).

      Tom Ragland --> tomragland@...
      http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/8219/centuries/





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    • Andrew Smith
      Tom, Lots of stuff there. I found your webpage a while ago. How can you give such precise dates to DSS documents, etc. I notice that you date Thomas at
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 29, 2000
        Tom,

        Lots of stuff there. I found your webpage a while ago. How can you give such
        precise dates to DSS documents, etc. I notice that you date Thomas at
        33ad!!!!

        We've had a few historical threads with only peripheral reference to the
        GoT recently. I wonder if there's a need for a historical Jesus/Christian
        origins list that can be a bit more speculative, while still trying to
        remain more or less scholarly, on a similar level to this list.

        Anyone else agree?

        Best Wishes

        Andrew Smith
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