Mar 22, 2018

The Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for the Study of the New Testament

I appreciate the caution expressed below by Loren Stuckenbruck in using the Dead Sea Scrolls to shed light on the New Testament (see here for the book section).
The recognition of essential differences between “the New Testament” and “the Dead Sea Scrolls” as collections is enough to demand that we be cautious about attempting to draw any direct lines of connection between or of influence from one to the other. Such lack of caution is especially apparent in comparisons which have centred on some of the following sorts of claims: (a) that this or that figure in the Dead Sea Scrolls can be identified with this or that figure in the New Testament (as proposed, for example, by Barbara Thiering and Robert Eisenman); (b) that this or that idea or practice of “Essenes” or “the Qumran community” gave rise to or is responded to by the same in early Christian communities (so e.g. Brian Capper, Rainer Riesner, Yigael Yadin, and Hans Kosmala); and (c) that some of the instructions in the New Testament were specifically formulated with “Qumran Essenes” in mind, whether adopting them straight out – as in Jesus’ radical instructions on divorce (Mark 10:2-9) and oath-taking (Matt 5:33-37) – or rejecting them – as in Jesus’ directive to love one’s enemy over against those who endorse a view to love their neighbor and hate their enemy (Matt 5:43).
Loren Stuckenbruck, “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament,” in Qumran and the Bible: Studying the Jewish and Christian Scriptures in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Nóra Dávid and Armin Lange (Leuven: Peeters, 2010), 134–35.

That being said Stuckenbruck identifies seven “kinds of contributions Scrolls research can make to our understanding of traditions that circulated through the writings of Jesus’ immediate followers and early Christian communities” (pp. 137–68).

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