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Theology Thursdays: The Dead Sea Scrolls, Prophecy and Messiah XIII

A tradition found in Midrash Rabbah - Bamidbar Rabbah 11:2 - says, "Just as the first Redeemer (Moshe) was revealed and then concealed from them, similarly, also the final Redeemer will be revealed to them and then concealed." Another translation of Bamidar Rabbah 11:2 reads, "Like Moses, Messiah will be revealed, then hidden, then revealed again."

What is Midrash? The word Midrash comes form the Hebrew root 'darash', meaning to search or investigate. Midrash Rabbah is a compilation of the efforts of learned Rabbis, through minute and detailed examination and interpretation of the Torah and the Five Scrolls (the Song of Songs, Esther, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes), to bring out the deeper and ethical meaning of the texts.

There are many different collections of Midrash. The largest of which is Midrash Rabbah (The Great Midrash).

Consider the above in light of what was included in the previous part of this series - twelve - which made reference to the idea that the two end-time Messiahs would come in the pattern of Moses and Aaron.

The idea of there appearing two messiahs at the end of the world is a serious subject in both the Rabbinical literature and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The "rabbinic" view of two Messiahs generaly holds that a Messiah - the son of Joseph, sometimes called "Ephraim," would appear and suffer to redeem his brothers in a pattern like Joseph; and a second Messiah - the son of David who would appear and rule from David's throne forever. The writings on this subject, about each of these two figures are vast. Some say that the work of the Messiah, the son of Joseph, is violently cut off or ended first, then, the kingdom of the Messiah, the son of David is eternally established. Others write that these two Messiahs will be contemporaries of one another and that no envy would exist between them. Some writings say that the Messiah son of Joseph will be killed in a battle against Gog and Magog and will be revived, or brought back to life by the Messiah son of David.



Keep in mind that an estimated 75 per cent of the eight hundred ancient Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls remain concealed from the public today. Why would this be, considering that the Dead Sea Scrolls were "discovered" 50 years ago?

Here is what is written by one scholar, concerning what the Dead Sea Scrolls say of the "two messiahs":

An Introduction to the
"Two Messiahs" at Qumran
by Paul Evans


One of the most interesting debates about the beliefs of the Qumran community revolves around its messianic expectations. Unlike the majority of Judaism in Qumran's day (and, of course, today), the sect seems to have been expecting two Messiahs. In a similar way in which Christians interpreted Jesus as fulfilling the messianic roles of both the Davidic king and High Priest, the Qumran community saw the need for a messianic figure to fulfill both roles. They, however, unlike Christians, saw not one "anointed one" but two "anointed ones"--one a secular ruler (Davidic king), and the other a High Priest. Much discussion and controversy has surrounded this doctrine with some claiming that the high priest was not really a Messiah but just an anointed High Priest and others claiming that the doctrine was only a temporary one which the sect believed for a short period of time, after which they reverted back to the orthodox position of only one Messiah. Despite this disagreement on the issue, the consensus of scholarship on the Dead Sea Scrolls today is that the Qumran community expected not one, but two Messiahs (Tabor 60).

Main Passages

The Community Rule (1QS)

The first passage that spoke of the Messiah in the early publishing of the Qumran manuscripts was 1QS 9.10-11 which reads "[they] shall be ruled by the primitive precepts in which the men of the Community were first instructed until there shall come the Prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel" (The Complete DSS in English 110). "Messiahs" is the Hebrew word meshihe which can also be translated "anointed ones". There was no doubt as to whether the word was plural because it was "unequivocally legible" (Kuhn 54).

The Damascus Document (CD)

The Community Rule uses the same term for the Messiah as the Damascus Document (CD) does, "the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel", although the latter uses "Messiah" as opposed to the plural "Messiahs". The Damascus Document was found in Cario in the nineteenth century and was a copy from Medieval times. The theory is that the plural reading may have been changed to the singular in the CD by a later scribe who was not familiar with the idea of two Messiahs (Burrows 298). Actually, at first scholars believed that the one instance where the title is plural (Messiahs) was the scribal error and that the singular reading was correct; but now the phrase "the Messiah of Aaron and Israel" in Qumran literature is taken to mean "the Messiah of Aaron and the Messiah of Israel" (Allegro 167).

The Messianic Rule (1QSa)

This understanding of two Messiahs is also reinforced by 1QSa where it describes a eschatological communal meal. At this meal the Messiah of Israel is pictured as being second in rank next to the Priest. No one is allowed to touch the food or wine until after the Priest. Only "Afte[rward] the Messiah of Israel [shall re]ach for the bread" (The Dead Sea Scrolls 147). The term "Messiah of Israel" used here is clearly a singular term, thus implying that the Messiah of Israel was a separate person from the Messiah of Aaron. The term "Messiah of Israel" is not found in the Old Testament at all (in the O.T. the king is always called the "Messiah of Yahweh") but is found in the Targum three times, but never in relation to "the Priest" (Kuhn 55). From these facts there is good reason to believe that the term refers to one of the two Messiahs in 1QS (the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel). The other Messiah is clearly, then, the Priest who ranks above "the Messiah of Israel" and is to be equated with "the Messiah of Aaron" mentioned in 1QS.

Annotated Bibliography

Allegro, John. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Reappraisal. Baltimore, Md: Penguin Books, 1956.

Berger, Klaus. Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Truth Under Lock and Key? Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1993.

Black, Matthew. The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Doctrine. London, ENG: The Athlone Press, 1966.

Black, Matthew. The Scrolls and Christian Origins: Studies in the Jewish Background of the New Testament. Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1961.

Burrows, Millar. More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls: New Scrolls and New Interpretations. New York, NY: The Viking Press, 1958.

Driver, G.R. The Judean Scrolls: The Problem and a Solution. Oxford, ENG: Basil Blackwell, 1965.

Kuhn, Karl Georg. "The Two Messiahs of Aaron and Israel." The Scrolls and the New Testament. Ed. Krister Stendahl. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1957. 54-64.

VanderKam, James C. The Dead Sea Scrolls Today. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994.

Vermes, Geza. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. New York, NY: Allen Lane/Penguin Books, 1997.

Vermes, Geza. The Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Middlesex, ENG: Penguin Books, 1965.

Wise, Michael O. and James D. Tabor. "The Messiah at Qumran." Biblical Archaeology Review 18 (Nov-Dec 1992): 60-61, 65. Wise, Michael, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New translation. New York NY: HarperSanFransisco, 1996.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

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