Bible Review 9:6, December 1993

The Suffering Servant at Qumran

By John J. Collins

Much of the current interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls is stimulated by parallels, real or imagined, between passages in the scrolls and New Testament statements about Jesus. A new text has recently been published that, its editor claims, contains a new and very interesting parallel. The text allegedly refers to a “servant messiah”—that is, a messianic figure who is said to atone for the sins of others, like the suffering servant in Isaiah.

This Dead Sea Scroll text was first brought to public attention in 1963 by Jean Starcky,1 one of the original members of the official Dead Sea Scroll editing team. It has now been published in definitive form by Emile Puech of the Ecole Biblique et Archéologique Française in Jerusalem.2 Puech is a scholar of impeccable credentials. In recent years he has produced a series of exemplary editions of difficult fragmentary texts from Cave 4. Yet, in this case, I suspect that he has exaggerated the theological overtones of what is, as is so often true at Qumran, a rather obscure text.

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