Part One - The Dead Sea Scrolls Contradict the Qur'an


In his article, "The Dead Sea Scrolls confirm the Qur'an" (now relocated and renamed: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Islam) Mr. Mishaal Al-Kadhi tried to show that the Dead Sea Scrolls confirms the Qur'an. Christians, Muslims and atheists alike are just as likely to be excited about the possibility of the Dead Sea Scrolls either confirming one's or debunking others' beliefs. However, all theory must stand or fall on the hard evidence of the scrolls themselves, which we will refer to and quickly see that much of the excitement is unjustified. Due to the fragmentary nature of many of the manuscripts, translating and interpreting some of the texts can be especially difficult and often different restorations and translations bear out different interpretations.

This is a two-part response to Mr. Al-Kadhi's article. In Part One, we will examine each of these claims and refer to the actual scrolls in question and see what are the interpolations, interpretations, etc, that have been brought to bear, and see if these are justified. In Part Two, we will look at some of the more controversial "relationship" between Christianity and the Qumran sect as suggested by some scholars, themes that include Messianism and the title of "Son of God". This part is not exhaustive, but serves as a starting point to be more prudent in one's analysis. Nonetheless, its importance to understanding some of the New Testament's themes cannot be overstated.

Background Information

Mr. Al-Kadhi writes:
In 1947 a group of children stumbled upon the first set of scrolls in a cave on the shores of the dead sea. These scrolls were immediately identified as the work of a very devout sect of the Jewish community that lived centuries before the birth of Jesus (pbuh). Hershel Shanks says in his book Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls: "Such was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, manuscripts a thousand years older than the oldest known Hebrew texts of the Bible, manuscripts many of which were written a hundred years before the birth of Jesus and at least one of which may have been written almost three hundred years before the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethleham" (Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hershel Shanks, pp. 7-8).

There are many stories floating around about the discovery, and even the boy who was said to have discovered it, Muhammad edh-Dhib, now known as Abu Dahoud and more than 70 years old, have given different stories to different people, and is said to have even recently revised that date to 1936! (Weston W. Fields, The Shepherd Boy Who Discovered the Scrolls, Jerusalem: Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, 1993).

The Dead Sea Scrolls indeed have a very important bearing on the Hebrew Bible (ie. the Old Testament). For many years, the Massoretic text compiled by Jewish scribes from the medieval age have been about the only early Hebrew text of the Old Testament, and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls move this window back by one millennium, one to two centuries before Christ. The discovery of the Bible fragments among the Dead Sea Scrolls confirms the authenticity of the Massoretic text that formed the basis of the the Massoretic Hebrew text. Hebrew texts were also found that formed the basis of ancient translations like the Greek Septuagint (translated by Jews) which the Greek New Testament often quoted. This article, however, will not be concerned with the textual criticism of the Old Testament.

Mr. Al-Kadhi continues with this bit of history:

An immediate frantic search ensued through the remaining caves in the region in order to find what other ancient scrolls could be discovered therein. A small group of "international" scholars in Israel were given exclusive access to them and the rest of the world was all but totally barred from gaining even the slightest glimpse of the texts (Prof. Eisenman observes that one of the major stumbling blocks for the publication of the scrolls was that "in the first place, the team was hardly international") . Prof. Robert Eisenman was one of the key players in the drama that finally lead to the release of the scrolls. In his book The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered we read: "In the spring of 1986, at the end of his stay in Jerusalem, Professor Eisenman went with the British scholar, Philip Davies of the University of Sheffield, to see one of the Israeli officials responsible for this - an intermediary on behalf of the Antiquities Department (now 'Authority') and the International Team and the Scrolls Curator at Israel Museum. They were told in no uncertain terms 'You will not see the Scrolls in your lifetimes'".

The drama involved is a lot more complicated than what Mr. Al-Kadhi presents, who might have forgotten that the original team assembled were under the auspices of the Jordanian government. Unable to find the expertise in Jordan, the director of the Antiquities Department (under the British Mandate, later under the Jordanian government), G. Lankester Harding, wrote to international archaeological societies to suggest names. Finally, the director appointed was Father Roland de Vaux, an archaeologist with L'Ecole Biblique et Archaeologique Francaise, who is pro-Arab and anti-Israel, and the rest of the team were: Frank Moore Cross of McCormick Theological Seminary (later of Harvard), Patrick Skehan of the Catholic University of America, Donique Barthelemy of France, Jean Starcky of Poland, Joseph T. Milik of Great Britain, John Allegro of Manchester University, John Strugnell of Oxford then later of Harvard, Claus Hunzinger of West Germany. Later another French priest, Maurice Baillet, was added. Most of these people were pro-Arab, and were against the establishment of the State of Israel.

In 1967, Israel occupied Jerusalem after the Six-Day War and took over the Cave 4 and 11 scrolls. Later expeditions and buying from the market discovered many more scrolls, but it is almost certain that there are more scrolls that have not been acquired from the Bedouins or the black market dealers.

By then, the leadership has fell on Pierre Benoit, another French Catholic scholar from Ecole Biblique, who was determined to speed up the process of publication. By 1973, 5 volumes of the DJD (Discoveries in the Judean Desert) have been published, the Book of Enoch by Milik followed, then volume 6 of DJD in 1977. Several other people were added to the team over time, but the work of reconstruction, translation and commentary went on very slowly, coupled with war and the death of several people. The Biblical fragments were published much more quickly than some of the other sectarian literature. All these people had full-time teaching and research jobs outside these appointments, who flew to Jerusalem for a few months a year to work on them. According to Barrera, there were 55 members on the international team in 1991 (Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, p. 22).

David Noel Freedman, one of those who later worked on the scrolls, wrote in the September 1977 issue of Biblical Archaeological Review of the workload upon them:

I write as a guilty party, since I was assigned responsibility for the Leviticus Scroll from Cave 11 about ten years ago. There have been some diplomatic and other complications, but basically, the reason this document has not been published is that I was overloaded with other obligations and commitments which claimed my time. That is not an excuse, and I should either have published the scroll or returned it to the team for reassignment. Many if not most scholars harbor optimistic delusions about what they can and will do in the way of productive writing, and even after observing many colleagues fall into the pit, I have followed the same primrose path.
Mr. Al-Kadhi continues:
This stung them into action, and as a result of this statement, a massive effort was launched and five years later, through a whirlwind of media publicity, absolute access to the scrolls was attained. Prof. Eisenman eventually received 1800 pictures of the previously unpublished scrolls. The book goes on to describe how "Eisenman was preparing the Facsimile Edition of all unpublished plates. This was scheduled to appear the following spring through E. J. Brill in Leiden, Holland. Ten days, however, before it's scheduled publication in April 1991, after pressure was applied by the International Team, the publisher inexplicably withdrew and Hershel Shanks (author of Biblical Archaeology Review) and the Biblical Archaeology Society to their credit stepped in to fill the breach". However, finally in September 1991, the archives were officially opened and two months later the 2-volume Facsimile Edition was published.

Again, this is a lot more simplified than it really is. By then, the directorship fell on Strugnell, who was particularly disdainful of Eisenman for his "factual errors and understanding [he] made about the history of the Qumran Editorial project." On the other hand, Strugnell had let other scholars gained access to the scrolls. Many people suspected that Eisenman leaked a transcription of 4QMMT, as well as well as a private printout of Cave IV documents, which he denied. Baigent and Leigh quote him: "I decided to circulate anything that came into my hands without conditions. This was the service I could render: plus, it would undermine the international cartel or monopoly of such documents" (The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, p. 78). Regarding his motives for his request, Eisenman said "we wanted to be turned down; we expected to be turned down." (Robert Eisenman, The Desecration of the Scrolls, Midstream, Dec 1991, p. 15).

From October 1989, through anonymous people sympathetic to his cause, Eisenman received through the mail hundreds of secretly obtained photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Eisenman confided in Shanks, but Shanks, through BAR, continued to criticize the team. The Israeli IAA wanted set timetables for the publication of the scrolls, but Strugnell was against what he perceived as Israeli takeover for national ends. In fact, in an interview with a reporter from the Israeli newspaper Ha-Aretz, he not only criticized the state of Israel, but also denounced Judaism as religion, labeling it "a horrible religion". Soon after, he was removed from his position in the team.

Strugnell had earlier got some graduate students to work on a complete concordance for scrolls from Cave 2-10, with extensive sentence context, and had them distributed to institutions studying them. A graduate student, Martin Abbegg, of Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, used the computer to reconstruct the scrolls from the concordance. The headline "COMPUTER BREAKS MONOPOLY ON STUDY OF DEAD SEA SCROLLS" appeared on the Sept 5th 1991 edition of New York Times.

Many outside the circle welcome such a break in the monopoly, who certainly felt that the team deserved what they got. There are others, however, who felt that whatever the faults of the team, they were the ones who had done the work of putting the puzzles together and restoring them, and for other people to publish these under their own names is unjustifiable and unethical.

On Nov 25th, the IAA authorized a full publication of over 6,400 photos through the same publisher that had cancelled the publication of Eisenman's secret photos.

An "Islamic" Theory

We now turn to the theory that Mr. Al-Kadhi proposes :
We have already read the words of Mr. Tom Harpur in the preface to his book: "The most significant development since 1986 in this regard has been the discovery of the title "Son of God" in one of the Qumran papyri (Dead Sea Scrolls) used in relation to a person other than Jesus.....this simply reinforces the argument made there that to be called the Son of God in a Jewish setting in the first century is not by any means the same as being identical with God Himself." For Christ's Sake, pp. xii. So why don't we study these scrolls in a little more detail and see what else we can learn ?

Unfortunately, Mr. Al-Kadhi does not present further evidence for the "Son of God" thesis in the rest of his article. Perhaps, he is not aware that this title appears only in one place in the whole Qumran collection, 4Q246. His assertion turned out to be an overstatement, as we shall see in Part Two when we look at the actual text, because there are several differences of context, translation and interpretation. One wonders if Mr. Al-Kadhi has actually done what he suggested, "study" them "in a little more detail", or he just repeat what others had said. It turns out that from this little piece of fragment, we can better understand why the Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy when he claimed to be the Son of God.

In describing what peshers are, the author made this remark :

The Pesher texts are strings of interpretations of Biblical verses compiled by the most knowledgeable among the Jews.
Now, of course, those pesher strings reflect a halakhic development among Judaism. And the peshers are very sectarian in nature, interpreting scripture and presenting the beliefs (some very unique) of the sect. However, by what right (and knowledge) does the author say that they are the most knowledgeable among the Jews? In a simple stroke, the author dismissed all other strands of Judaism, strands that were active right through the ministry of Jesus the Messiah. Is it because the author believes that the Dea Sea Scrolls confirm Islam? If they are most knowledgeable, how does one deal with its blatant contradiction to Islam, as we shall see later. The author's judgment a priori is certainly tainted, and represents a built-in bias. The author's bias is dealt a severe blow by this quotation from the USC site for West Semitic Research Project :
This kind of commentary is not an attempt to explain what the Bible meant when it was originally written, but rather what it means in the day and age of the commentator, particularly for his own community.

Mr. Al-Kadhi continues:

So, remembering that we are henceforth quoting from texts that have been carbon dated at about 100 years or more before the coming of Jesus (pbuh), and that this dating is confirmed by literary analysis, and that the authors were a sect of very religious and devout Jews, considering all of this let us see what they have to say:

It is most interesting that Mr. Al-Kadhi should mention this, and later go on to quote from Prof. Eisenman and Prof. Wise, without qualifications, concerning Qumran Messianism. He seemed to be unaware that Eisenman believe that the Qumran texts are Christian writings and that he do not believe the results of the two separate C-14 or the paleographic (by studying the script style) dating of these artifacts. Yet, Eisenman and Wise might still be correct about some of the dates, although their assessment of the Qumran writings as Christian is unlikely to be correct since the scrolls themselves testify against that. If Prof. Eisenman and Wise are right about the dates, then the Qumran writings have no relevance to the Islamic theory that Mr. Al-Kadhi espouses, since the "prophecies" appear after the facts of history. Eisenman and Wise's theory completely undermines Mr. Al-Kadhi's theory. Most scholars, on the other hand, believe that the writings are completely Jewish before the time of Christ (Messiah). Mr. Al-Kadhi continues :
Those who have studies the scrolls have noticed a common theme prevalent throughout these manuscripts, that is, most of the pesher texts prophesise the comming of a "Teacher of Righteousness" who will be sent by God to the Jews. This "Teacher of Rightousness" will be opposed by the "Teacher of Lies" and the "Wicked Priest". These scrolls also predict the coming of two messiahs. These two messiahs are referred to as a 1) priestly and a 2) temporal messiah. What we had here was a society of very devout Jews who were convinced that the time of the coming of the two messiahs was at hand, therefore, they set about preparing for their advent by detaching themselves from the mainstream society, and dedicating their lives to their worship and the preparation for their imminent arrival.

It is not true that the manuscripts prophesy the coming of a Teacher of Righteousness. Instead, the Damascus Document actually describe the Teacher of Righteousness as the founder of the sect (we'll see the text later), who is not the Messiah expected by the sectarians. Not only that, we find in the Qumran writings not only two, but THREE Messianic roles. We shall see later, what these roles are and see that two messianic roles already shatters the Islamic interpretation of Mr. Al-Kadhi.

It is interesting that Mr. Al-Kadhi quotes extensively from Schiffman, and then turn around with Eisenman's. In a panel discussion after his paper presentation, Eisenman says :

"People see this material through the myopia or the eyeglasses that they're wearing. Okay, we all have eyeglasses; you want to call mine Islamic, that may be. I think Islam relates to this material more than any of the traditions that we've been talking about, at least in the ethos." (Robert Eisenman in Wise, Michael O., Golb, Norman, Collins, John J. and Pardee, Dennis, G. ed. Methods of Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and The Khirbet Qumran Site - Present Realities and Future Prospects, 1994, p. 368)
Lawrence Schiffman comments on Eisenman :
What you essentially do is load on a whole lot of associative material that may or may not be parallel, and then deny all criteria of dating which specifies anything that we can possibly use -- one by one they're all written off -- then you take a fundamentally correct position (that all this stuff has got to be reevaluated and requestioned) and turn it into a bunch of jumbled information, which has nothing to do with the subject at hand.... Thus theory presents the notion that the entire set of documents is talking about a certain period, whereas virtually everybody believes that it dates to another period. So you must simply write off all evidence which doesn't fit your view." (Lawrence Schiffman in Wise, Michael O., Golb, Norman, Collins, John J. and Pardee, Dennis, G. ed. Methods of Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and The Khirbet Qumran Site - Present Realities and Future Prospects, 1994, p. 367)
But Mr. Al-Kadhi's acceptance of the datings certainly puts him at contradiction with Eisenman's "Islamic eyeglasses".

Mr. Al-Kadhi then continues :

The Jews had prophesies of two messiahs. The first was best known to them for his "religious" or "preistly" works which he would perform. The second was best known to them for his "kingly" works; his bringing of an epoch of peace.

These two prophesies refer to Jesus (pbuh) and Muhammad (pbuh). Jesus (pbuh) was best know for his "preistly" works. However, he never lead an army, and he never established a kingdom or a government. Quite the opposite, he called to peace and submissiveness and to leave the rule of the land to others (Matthew 22:21). He told his followers that he yet had many things to teach them but they could not bear them yet and that another would be coming after him who would teach them the complete truth (John 16:7-14).

Mr. Al-Kadhi, however, does not go on to show us from the Gospel of John that if this other person, if he is Muhammad, will end up being the Holy Spirit (who in Islam is angel Gabriel!), and being sent in the name of Jesus! In other words, Mr. Al-Kadhi believes that Muhammad is the same as angel Gabriel, and that Muhammad was sent in the name of Jesus. Either this, or Mr. Al-Kadhi quotes the Bible without any regard for the context and accompanying words of Jesus.

Jesus is indeed the Priestly Messiah from a Christian viewpoint, but this doesn't quite make sense in Islam since it has no concept of priesthood. In fact, the Qumranians are actually a community led by priests ("sons of Zadok"). For Mr. Al-Kadhi's theory to stick, he will also have to explain the concept of priesthood in Islam to the rest of the world.

Anyway, let us just suppose that that Muhammad is the Kingly Messiah. However, this definitely contradicts the quotation from Lawrence Schiffman that Mr. Al-Kadhi quoted:

"According to the dominant view in the sectarian texts from Qumran, two messiahs were to lead the congregation in the End of Days, one priestly, and the other lay" (Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, pp. 321-322).
which is a faithful interpretation of the texts of Rule of the Congregation II 11-16. We know that many Muslims believe that Jesus will come again in the end times, some Muslims identifying Him with the Mahdi, others believing that the Mahdi is another person. But nowhere in Muslim eschatology do we find the belief that Muhammad will be coming in the Last Days. Now, if one were to stick to the ground rules of consistency, we find ourselves having to either believe that Muhammad will come in the Last Days, or that Muhammad is not the kingly messiah in the writings, and the Mahdi is also a Messiah, assertions neither found in the Qur'an nor in the Hadiths. Add to this the fact that the Qur'an and the Hadiths never say that Muhammad is the Messiah, we obtained an even greater anomaly. Almost as quickly as the parallels were said to exist, they disappear.

Another point overlooked by Mr. Al-Kadhi about this eschatological description of the communal meal as it pertains to the Muslim interpretation is in order here:

"The Manual of Discipline 6:2-8 ordains a communal meal which begins with a priest's blessing over the bread and wine. Likewise, the Rule of the Community 2:11-12 legislates the same meal where the members, led by the priest who is followed by the "messiah of Israel", sit according to rank. The blessing of the bread and wine is done again in the identical order or rank: the priest, the messiah of Israel, and the remainder of the congregation." (Neil S. Fujita, A Crack in the Jar, 1986, p. 150-151).
Going by Mr. Al-Kadhi's Islamic interpretation, it must mean firstly that Jesus the Messiah-priest, also known as "Messiah of Aaron", is of higher rank than Muhammad the Messiah-king, also called the "Messiah of Israel". Secondly, how is Muhammad the messiah of Israel? Other texts tells us that this Messiah is also called the Branch of David, and how does Muhammad relate to such a Jewish title?

Mr. Al-Kadhi continues :

Muhammad (pbuh) too began his ministry preaching submissivness and passiveness. However, his ministry was nurtured by God almighty to a point where it was able to defend itself and establish justice in the earth and abolish evil. His followers fought several wars in self defense and against injustice. The Islamic empire finally stretched from China to Spain and even those who did not follow Muhammad (pbuh) knew him well. However, what did they know him for? They knew him for his "kingly" actions and not for the "priestly" side of him that his followers knew.

I guess Mr. Al-Kadhi believe that all the wars fought, so that the Islamic Empire stretched from Spain to China, is a result of self-defense?

And, what, might we ask, is the "priestly" side of Muhammad which the followers knew? We've already seen that there is no concept of priesthood in the Islam. The priest, in Judaism, stands between God and man, atoning the sins of the latter with sacrifices. How is this concept related to Islam?

[Qur'an quotations deleted]

Over time, the prophesies of the Jews began to become a little blurred, and this in addition to the continuous persecution of many nations towards the Jews eventually lead to their blending of these prophesies into one single prophesy and their aggrandizing of this one all- conquering wondrous event that would finally relieve them of their persecution and pave the way for them to march forth conquering all nations, and establishing themselves as the protectors of the kingdom of God. For this reason, when we read the Gospel of Barnabas, we find that when the Jews ask Jesus (pbuh) whether he is "the messiah" he replys that he is not "the messiah" that they are expecting.
We have already seen that this "blurring" totally goes against the chronological developments in the scrolls themselves. Also here, Mr. Al-Kadhi here certainly has contradicted the Qur'an, where we find the title "Jesus, the Messiah" (al-Masihu Isa), or "Jesus, the Messiah, son of Mary" (al-Masihu ibn Maryam) mentioned 11 times in the Qur'an (eg. Surah 4:157, 171, 3:45, etc). No other person in the Qur'an nor in the Hadiths have such a title. The Qur'an affirms, without any qualification, the title of Messiah for Jesus. It may also have escaped Mr. Al-Kadhi that the Gospel of Barnabas is a medieval forgery that tries to prove Islamic viewpoints. Muslims have pointed out the contradictions with the Qur'an and so have others. The Gospel of Barnabas contradicts itself by saying in the opening lines "Barnabas, apostle of Jesus the Nazarene, called Christ ...", obviously unaware that "Christ" is just the Greek translation of the Hebrew "Messiah". By claiming and quoting from the Gospel of Barnabas, one wonders if Mr. Al-Kadhi thinks that the Qur'an is wrong and the Gospel of Barnabas right.

Mr. Al-Kadhi continues :

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."
--Matthew 10:34-35

This is because he understood their question. They were not asking him for his title, rather, they wanted to know whether he was the one who would finally fulfill all of their prophesies of leadership, power, and grandeur that they had been waiting for for so many centuries. For this reason, he told them that he was not "the messiah", but that "the Messiah" they were waiting for would not come until later. He was referring to the SECOND messiah in their prophesies. (the Jews had expectations of three prophecies to be fulfilled)

The quote from Matthew 10 gives the false impression that Jesus denied that he was THE Messiah. Jesus never deny that he was THE Messiah in any of the gospels, and never "told them that he was not the messiah". Only the Gospel of Barnabas contains such a purported vehement denial, where Jesus purportedly called down curses on himself. Such a portrayal is in clear contradiction to the Qur'an.

Mr. Al-Kadhi continues his quotes:

Lawrence Schiffman says regarding Pesher Habakkuk: "It (Pesher Habakkuk) describes the struggle between the Teacher of Righteousness and his opponents - the Man of Lies (also termed the Spouter or Preacher of Lies) and the Wicked Priest. The Spouter is pictured as heading a community. The dispute between the Teacher and the Spouter is seems to have been based on matters of religious interpretation and law. The Wicked Priest is said to have begun his rule in truth but then to have abandoned the way of truth. He then persecutes the Teacher, confronting him on the holiest day of the year, the Day of Atonement". (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 228).

This prophesy also continues in Pesher Psalms: "This text also mentions the familiar dramatis personae: the Teacher of Righteousness, termed 'the priest'; the wicked priest; and the Man of Lies. The Wicked Priest persecuted the Teacher and sought to kill him. The man of lies lead people astray".(Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 229).
What we begin to see in all of this is the story of the coming of Jesus (pbuh), his selection of Judas as one of the apostles, the deviance of Judas from the truth, how a sect of the Jews persecuted Jesus (pbuh), how this sect tried to deceive the masses and differed with Jesus (pbuh) regarding the truth of God's message, and finally, how they schemed with Judas to kill Jesus (pbuh). The Teacher of Righteousness is thus a reference to Jesus (pbuh); the "priestly" Messiah. The Wicked Priest is a reference to Judas, and the Spouter of Lies is most likely the leader of the "chief priests and Pharisees" who persecuted Jesus (pbuh) and are mentioned so often in the Bible.

To accept the above interpretation, we need to accept that Judas was literally a priest and that the "chief priests" which Mr. Al-Kadhi identifies with the Spouter of Lies is/are not the Wicked Priest(s). Perhaps, Mr. Al-Kadhi will be able to provide us with historical evidence that Judas was a priest and was the leader of a sect of Jews. "Matters of religious interpretation and law" were important to the sectarians. They are led by "sons of Zadok" where the high priest at Jerusalem were drawn. Where is the evidence that Jesus and his disciples are "sons of Zadok" and are thus priests in an Old Testament literal sense. Secondly, Mr. Al-Kadhi quotes Schiffman that "the Wicked Priest is said to have begun his rule in truth but then to have abandoned the way of truth." When did Judas ever rule (over Israel, which Habakkuk Pesher VIII 9-11 actually say)? And what rule can that be? When did Judas confront Jesus on the Day of Atonement? All the gospels are unanimous in that Jesus was crucified before the Passover. Do you think the priests and Pharisees, who were meticulous in ritual purity, would defile themselves by this persecution, trial and crucifixion on their most holy day of penitence? In 1984, it was reported that an uncompromising letter (six copies were found) from the Teacher to the Wicked Priest (who is an important public figure from the letter) telling him the 20 points of the Law that the Wicked Priest had departed from (Neil Fujita, A Crack in the Jar, p. 46). Is it possible that Jesus and Judas could still be together all the time till the betrayal after Jesus wrote that uncompromising letter?

Mr. Al-Kadhi continues :

Many Christian scholars have snatched up these prophesies in order to prove the validity of their claim that Jesus (pbuh) was indeed sent by God and that the Jews are required to follow him. However, they have been thwarted in their attempts by one other quite amazing piece of evidence that the Jews continually manage to refute their claims with, specifically, that the Dead Sea Scrolls claim that the coming messiah will be persecuted and that the Wicked Priest will try to kill him, but that the Wicked Priest will not be successful and that it is he who will recieve the fate he wished for the messiah.

It is true that some Christians are too eager to snatch up the prophesies. But so do you, Mr. Al-Kadhi. The truth about these scrolls is that there is much less Christianity in there than what the media created or what some would like to believe. I can also say that there is absolutely zero Islam in there. The writings are those of a group of pious Jews and they carried with them certain notions of the messiah, and the end times. There is really no relevance of your last statement to Christianity.

[A few quotes deleted]

"Various theories have sought to identify the Teacher with Jesus, claiming that he was executed by the Wicked Priest. However, had that been the case, the text would not have gone on to explain how God took vengeance against the priest by turning him over to the 'ruthless ones of the nations'. And according to this text, the teacher certainly survived the ambush. Indeed the entire passage is an interpretation of Psalms (37:33) where the text continues,

"The Lord will not abandon him (the Righteous), into his hand (the Wicked); He (The Lord) will not let him (the Righteous) be condemned in judgment (by the wicked)." (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, pp. 233-234).

Indeed, one of those theories was proposed by Eisenman and Wise, and later by Wise and Tabor, which we will look at again in Part Two. Many, however, do not see that the Qumran manuscripts tell the story of the Teacher's death in a violent manner.

On the other hand, what is wrong with the Teacher being executed by the Wicked Priest and then God judge the Wicked Priest? These two are not incongruent on their own right, so I do not understand the statement "had that been the case..." Is this a preconceived notion of Schiffman (and Mr. Al-Kadhi)? On the other hand, Mr. Al-Kadhi is right that nowhere does the texts talk about the Teacher's death.

Mr. Al-Kadhi continues:

The author goes on to quote Pesher Habakkuk with regard to the Wicked Priest's intentions and his punishment. He says: "Ultimately, however, the Wicked Priest was punished: '.. because of his transgression against the Teacher of Righteousness and the men of his council, God gave him over to the hands of his enemies to afflict him with disease so as to destroy him with mortal suffering because he had acted wickedly against His chosen one'.

The Wicked Priest's enemies tortured him which represents divine punishment for his attacks on the Teacher of Righteousness. The sufferings of the Wicked Priest are even more graphically described in another passage: 'and all his enemies arose and abused him in order for his suffering to be fit punishment for his evil. And they inflicted upon him horrible diseases, and acts of vengeance in the flesh of his body'. But the one who suffered was the Wicked Priest, not the Teacher of Righteousness.
The quote from Schiffman is what the scrolls says, but when framed into the interpretation of Mr. Al-Kadhi, it begs a few questions. How did the enemies afflict Judas with diseases, if he had died by crucifixion according to Islamic beliefs? Does crucifixion equate with diseases? Who are the men of his council? Did Judas try to persecute the disciples? If Mr. Al-Kadhi is correct, then the enemies of Judas must be the Roman soldiers. He continues with this quote :
"The enemies of the Wicked Priest, the nation against whom he had made war, are said to have tortured him, so that his life ended in mortal disease and affliction." (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 234).
Now, we see how Mr. Al-Kadhi shoots his own leg. Schiffman said that the Wicked Priest made war with a "nation", so according to Mr. Al-Kadhi's interpretation, Judas made war with a "nation"! What is this enemy nation of the Wicked Priest? Were Jesus' disciples a nation? If so, they tortured Judas with diseases and afflictions? Or are they the Romans? If so, then Judas had before that made war with the Romans, which will make him a Zealot. We read that there was another disciple who was a Zealot, Simon (Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15), but it does not say that Judas was a Zealot, most assuredly because he was not. Even if Judas was a Zealot and made wars with the Romans, why would they be enemies with the sectarians, who themselves were also waiting for the Messiah to come and vanquish the Romans?

Mr. Al-Kadhi quotes from Schiffman, but did not really read carefully what he said.

[description from Gospel of Barnabas deleted]

This is exactly what the Qur'an has been saying for 1400 years now; that Jesus (pbuh) was not forsaken by God to be killed by the conspiracy of the Jews and Judas, but that "it was made to appear so to them":

Exactly what? Not in so much detail as Mr. Al-Kadhi has proposed. The Qur'an only states that the Jews did not crucify Jesus, which the Bible agrees, but it appeared so unto to them. Technically, this is correct, since the Jews have no jurisdiction to crucify Jesus. The Romans did. The Qur'an in Surah 4:157 neither affirms nor denies that Jesus was crucified. Furthermore, it is said that a hadith says that one of Jesus' disciples volunteered to be crucified (Kerry Brown and Martin Palmer ed., Essential Teachings of Islam, Arrow Books, 1990, p. 40-41), which is totally against the dominant Muslim belief. Also, Mr. Al-Kadhi does not find any support for his theories from the Dead Sea Scrolls as we have seen above. In order to accept his theories, we have to be inconsistent over several places of the texts, and often come into contradiction with the Qur'an and Islamic beliefs.

[Qur'an quote deleted]

"Some texts also speak about an eschatological prophet who will announce the coming of the Messiah, a figure similar to Elijah in the rabinnic tradition" (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 323).

Referring to the manuscript titled The Rule of the Community, verse 9:11-12, Mr. Schiffman says: "this text unquestionably refers to two messiahs who will be announced by an eschatological prophet and based on a the cave 4 manuscripts of Rule of the Community, the original publication team argued that this passage was added to the text later in the history of the sect. However, the evidence in these manuscripts does not sufficiently support such an assertion. As far as we can tell, the two-messiah concept was part of Rule of the Community from the time it was composed". (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence H. Schiffman, p. 324).

We'll see also that this prophet is also a messiah figure, although this description is an oblique one. We have already seen that the the appearance of two messiahs in the Last Days contradicts Islamic beliefs. Now, Mr. Al-Kadhi skirts over the general description of an "eschatological prophet" announcing the arrival of the two messiahs. But this is impossible according to Islamic beliefs, since Muhammad is supposed to the be last (seal of) prophet, so how can a prophet come in the Last Days, ie. after Muhammad?

Mr. Al-Kadhi continues :

The Dead Sea Scrolls make mention of many more quite amazing and illuminating prophesies and parallels with the teachings of the Qur'an and Islam and There is so much more that could be said about the Dead Sea Scrolls and their confirmation of the Qur'an and the mission of Muhammad , however, that will have to be left to a future article where, God willing, many more detailed examples of this sort shall be analyzed in detail.
We have already seen how Mr. Al-Kadhi mishandled Schiffman's quotations and showed the contradictions in his statements with the Qur'an and Islamic beliefs. I'm not sure what kind of parallels he can still see. Yet, I am quite sure the differences with Islam will be just as, if not more, significant. We will see some of the more significant differences at the end of Part One.

Let us now try and look more closely at the actual text and see if we can get a clearer idea of what those writings actually say. I here present the dominant view mostly, although there are places where it is difficult to be certain. As a non-expert in archaeological research, I can only read what is published to learn about this interesting area. Let me say at the outset that any theory concerning the Qumranians have been thrashed about many different ways, and the controversy (about this sect) is certainly to continue for many years to come.

Who was the Wicked Priest?

Much of the general descriptions of this Wicked Priest, enemy and persecutor of the Qumran sect, has been given above. We seek here to be more specific about his status and his works. As already seen earlier, this person is a public figure from which we can try and identify him. According to the Habbakuk Pesher, he was "called according to the name of truth at the beginning of his service, but when he had ruled in Israel, his heart became proud and he forsook God and betrayed the commandments for wealth" (VIII 9-11). He "gathered the wealth of the violent men who had rebelled against God, taking the wealth of the Gentiles" (VIII 11-12); he also "polluted the temple of God" (XII 8-9). As revenge for his persecution of the Teacher and the sect, he will be "smitten with the judgments of wickedness; they wrought on him the horrors of evil diseases, acts of vengeance in the body of his flesh" (IX 1-2). The "cup of God's wrath destroys him" (XI 14-15). God "has given him into the power of his enemies to humiliate him with a plague to destruction in bitterness of soul, because he did evil to his chosen" (IX 10-11). Also, "God will pay him back by putting him into the power of the cruel gentiles to pass judgments on him" (Psalms Pesher IV 9-10).

If one were to assume Mr. Al-Kadhi's interpretation that Judas is the Wicked Priest, then we have to accept that Judas was a priest and had ruled over Israel (as king or High Priest) who had polluted the temple of God (how, if he had not been king or priest). Not only that, he was also able to gather wealth from violent men who had rebelled against God (ie., he gets the money from the enemies of God). He also took wealth from the Gentiles. The Bible describes Judas as the treasurer of the apostles, not of the gentiles, and therefore far too poor to generate the kind of wealth talked about in the Habbakuk Pesher. The Wicked Priest led wars against an enemy nation and was ultimately killed by them.

Historians have tried to identify this Wicked Priest among the Hasmoneans rulers from the Maccabean family. One probable figure is Jonathan (160-142 B.C.). Jonathan was well reputed in his early days ("called according to the name of truth at the beginning of his service"). He led Israel to conduct several successful military campaigns in the early days against the Greeks and other Gentiles ("taken the wealth of the Gentiles"). Through his diplomatic skills, he was able to bring peace to the nation of Israel. In 152 B.C. he was appointed as high priest by the Greek king Alexander Balas! ("betraying the commandments for the sake of wealth". 1 Maccabees describes the vestments, purple robes he received). According to de Vaux's excavations, the settlements of Qumran began about the time of Jonathan, and Josephus first mentions the Essenes during Jonathan's reign (Antiquities XIII v 9), if we are to equate the Essenes with the Qumranians. Thus, some scholars have suggested that the Jews (including the Qumranians) supported the Maccabees (and including Jonathan who was "called according to the name of truth") in the revolt against the gentile rulers (which erupted during the antiochene crises, under the rule of the Antiochus IV Epiphanes), and broke away when Jonathan accepted the appointment to high priesthood from Alexander Balas. Jonathan was finally killed by the gentile Greek marshal Trypho.

Of course, these are not without difficulties. Others have proposed Jonathan's younger brother, Simon, where the priesthood was given to his descendents forever, or John Hyracanus, or Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.). The Damascus Document identifies the location of founding of the sect as Damascus. This may be where the movement began, whose members then returned but were disgusted with the Hellenized society they found in Palestine, and so retreated to the desert. This can be indirectly confirmed by the presence in Cave 4 of Nabatean documents (a letter 4Q343 and a fragment of the biblical book of Kings 4Q345), the Aramaic dialect used near Damascus.

Another difficulty is that we do not know of Jonathan dying due to diseases. The description that the enemies inflicted diseases (how is that possible?) on the Wicked Priest might have been symbolic (the wordings itself seems a little strange). Among the Hasmonean rulers, Aristobulus I (104-103 B.C.) and Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.) are known to have suffered severe diseases. Aristobulus' reign appeared to be too short. Jannaeus fell sick from drinking and died 3 years after that (Josephus, Antiquities XIII 398). Some scholars (eg. Andre Dupont-Sommer) thus name Alexander Jannaeus to be the Wicked Priest. Aristobulus had put his brother Jonathan (Greek name Jannaeus) in prison when he became king. When he died, Jannaeus became king ("in truth"?) and quickly expanded the boundaries of Israel to Philistine, borders of Egypt, outer Jordan, etc ("taken the wealth of the Gentiles"?), matching those of David and Solomon. Judaism grew rapidly under his rule ("in truth"?), but he later got in dispute with the Pharisees and even killed 800 of the Jewish rebels, an event Josephus records with horror. Habbakuk Pesher XI 8-11 describes the Wicked Priest's routine drunkenness.

Thus, the two most likely candidates appears to be Jonathan or Alexander Jannaeus. The difficulty with identifying the Wicked Priest with Jannaeus means that if the Teacher started his ministry at about age 30, he would be at least 100 years old during Jannaeus' reign going by the dates given in the Damascus Document. This is not too likely but still possible (even if he is a prodigee leading at the age of 10, he would still be 80 years old by Jannaeus' reign). Thus, some scholars have taken the figures of Damascus Document to be figurative. Van de Woude points out that the Hebrew text concerning the death of the Wicked Priest in Habakkuk Pesher is in the imperfect tense, suggesting that it has not happened when it was written, and is consonant with XII 2-6: "God will sentence to complete destruction..." and Psalms Pesher IV 9-10.

Who was the Teacher?

Mr. Al-Kadhi asserts that the Teacher of Righteousness is the Messiah-priest (ie. Messiah of Aaron) that the sectarians were expecting. However, the Damascus Document clearly shows that the Teacher is different from the expected Messiah of Aaron and Israel of the sectarians. The former is the founder of the sect, while the latter figures are eschatological figures to come in the Last Days :
And thus, all the men who entered the new covenant in the land of Damascus and turned and betrayed and departed from the well of living waters, shall not be counted in the assembly of the people and shall not be inscribed in their [lis]ts, from the day of the session of the unique Teacher until there arises the messiah of Aaron and Israel. Blank (CD XIX 33 - XX:1).
"Its prediction refers to the Priest, the Teacher of Righteousness, whom God chose to stand in front of him, for he installed him to found the congregation of his chosen ones for him, and straightened out his path, in truth." (4Q171 III 15-17)

Although a knower of mysteries of God, yet the Teacher himself is very much aware of the sins in his life : "I am a clay pot, compounded of water, a shameful secret, a fountain of filth, a caldron of iniquity, a figure of sin, an erring and perverse spirit, without understanding, fearful of righteous judgment" (Thanksgiving Scroll I 21-23).

The confessions of the Teacher certainly do not fit any picture of Jesus, whether in the Bible or in the Qur'an. Nowhere do we find Jesus confessing His sins, and the fact that this Teacher is so aware of his sins contradicts both Christian and Islamic beliefs that Jesus is sinless. Islam will also have to disqualify the Teacher from being a prophet because of his sins ("a figure of sin").

The identification of this Teacher is difficult since he is not a public figure. The Damascus Document, however, gives us a clue as to the period of the Teacher's ministry:

In the Age of Wrath, 390 years after he [God] put them [Israel] into the power of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, he visited them and made to grow from Israel and from Aaron a root of planting to inherit his land to grow fat on the goodness of the soil. And they discerned their iniquity and they knew that they were guilty men. They were as blind men and as those who grope for the way for 20 years. Then God discerned their deeds, that they had sought him with a whole heart; so he raised up for them a Teacher of Righteousness to guide them in the way of his heart. (Damascus Document I 5-11)

Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar in the year 586 B.C. Add to this 390 and 20 gives us the year 176 B.C., coming within 16 years of Jonathan's reign, and the Teacher's ministry could have went for a few decades into Jonathan's reign. The high priest before Jonathan was Alcimus, who died in 159 B.C. According to Josephus, "the city continued for seven years without a high priest" (Antiquities XX 237), until Jonathan's appointment in 152 B.C. Yet 1 Maccabees 10:38 refers to an unnamed high priest during that period. Who was that person officiating at the feasts at the temple during this gap? Was it the Teacher (who was a Zadokite), who was then ousted by Jonathan (who was not a Zadokite)?

Interestingly, two historical figures were mentioned in another text 4Q169 :

[Its interpretation concerns Deme]trius, king of Yavan, who wanted to enter Jerusalem on the advice of the those looking for easy interpretations, 3 [but he did not go in because God did not deliver Jerusalem] into the hand of the kings of Yavan from Antiochus up to the appearance of the chiefs of the Kittim. But later, it will be trampled (4Q169 3-4 I 2-3).
In Qumran terminology, Kittim refers to the Romans, who under Pompey, conquered Jerusalem in 63 B.C. Most scholars believed that this Antiochus is the infamous Antiochus IV Epiphanes who reigned 175-164 B.C, while Garcia Martinez believes he is Antiochus V Eupator (164-162 B.C.).

No matter how we try and identify Jesus with the Teacher, Jesus would be too late by about a century, but a man ministering around Jonathan's reign (or possibly Jannaeus') certainly fits the texts.

Who was the Man of the Lies?

The next major figure is the "Man of the Lie," also called the "Man of Mockery." According to the Habbakuk Pesher (1QpHab) which describes the formative events of the Qumran sect, the Teacher of Righteous and the Man of Lies belonged to the same community:

Its interpretation concerns the House of Absalom and the members of his council who kept silent at the time of the rebuke of the Teacher of Righteousness, and did not help him against the Man of Lies who rejected the Law in the midst of their whole Community (V 9-12).
Thus, following Mr. Al-Kadhi's interpretation, Jesus must have belonged to the Temple group, of which he should be a priest there. We have no evidence that Jesus ever serve in the Temple in Jerusalem.

The "Man of Lies" also "rejected the Law in the midst of the whole congregation" (V 11-12), resulting in "rebuke of the Teacher of Righteousness" (V 10). He "led many astray to build a vain city in bloodshed" (X 9-10); similarly, he "led many astray with lying words, because they had chosen easy things and did not listen to the Knowledgeable Interpreter" (Psalms Pesher I 18-19), another name for the Teacher. Thus, it appears that the Man of Lie is a schismatic teacher within the sect who rejected the rigid code within the Qumranians for easier rules. The Damascus Document does not mention the Wicked Priest, but alludes bitterly to the "Man of Mockery" and the "congregation of traitors" (his followers) who caused a split that was perhaps early in the history of the sect. Josephus notes two different group of Essenes, and many scholars think the sectarians could be Essenes.

Mr. Al-Kadhi's assertion that the Man of Lies is the high priest has some appeal. However, one cannot quite yet see how this man has "rejected the Law in the midst of the whole congregation," or that they opted to have easier rules. We do not see Jesus rebuking the High Priest in this event. Other events are even more vague.

In any case, Mr. Al-Kadhi's interpretation requires that we take Judas who was not a priest to be the Wicked Priest, and the High Priest who was a priest to be not the Wicked Priest. If this be the case, then perhaps the Man of Lies is not a man of Lies, the Teacher of Righteousness is not a teacher of righteousness, etc. This really boggles my mind.

Differences between the Qumran sect and Islam

Having seen the various contradictions Mr. Al-Kadhi's hypothesis causes, we now look at some of the differences between Islam and the Qumran sect. Any Islamic claim will have to explain these differences.

  1. The importance of the priesthood among the sectarians. The Community is led by the sons of Zadok. What is the concept of priesthood in Islam?
  2. The Qumranians believe that God is responsible for good, and Satan (Belial) is responsible for evil. God is not responsible for evil. Islam, however, believes that Allah is responsible for all good and evil.
  3. The Qumranians used a solar calendar, and is the primary reason for splitting with the rest of Judaism, for they view the sacrifices and festivals of the rest as illegal. Islam uses the lunar calendar.
  4. The Community forbids divorce and advocates monogamy (11QTemple Scroll LVII 17-19, CD IV 20-21) except for the king, whereas Islam allows divorce and polygamy.
  5. The sectarians drink wine at the Table of Community, while Islam forbids the drinking of wine. In fact, Jesus drank with the disciples, too. In fact, the Rule of the Congregation (or Messianic Rule, 1Q28a [1QSa]) descibes the drinking of the new wine, where the believers and the Messiahs drink together. Did Muhammad drink with the Muslims in 600+ AD?
  6. The Qumranians forbid taking of oaths, except for the oath to enter the Community. Jesus also advocated the same. In Islam however, oaths and curses are part and parcel of life.

Conclusion of Part One

Having gone through the above, it is my opinion that the Dead Sea Scrolls do not confirm the Qur'an at all. Some basic doctrines are different than and irreconcilable with Islam's, and others require a twisting of the words from the scrolls themselves. Thus, I believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls, in fact, contradict Islam.


  1. Cook, Edward M., Solving the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, ISBN 0-310-38471-0.
  2. Dupont-Sommer, Andre, The Essene Writings from Qumran, tr. G. Vermes, 1973, ISBN 0-8446-2012-2
  3. Fitzmyer, Joseph A., The Dead Sea Scrolls - Major Publications and Tools for Study, 1990, ISBN 1-55540-510-8.
  4. Fujita, Neil S., A Crack in the Jar, 1986, ISBN 0-8091-2745-8.
  5. Garcia Martinez, Florentino and Barrera, Julio Trebolle, The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls - Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices, tr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Leiden, 1995, ISBN 90-04-10085-7.
  6. Silberman, Neil Asher, The Hidden Scrolls - Christianity, Judaism, & The War for the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1994, ISBN 0-399-13982-6.
  7. Wise, Michael O., Golb, Norman, Collins, John J. and Pardee, Dennis, G. ed. Methods of Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and The Khirbet Qumran Site - Present Realities and Future Prospects, 1994, ISBN 0-89766-794-8.
End of Part One.
Goto to Part Two

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