Biblical Archaeology Review 30:1, January/February 2004

What Jesus Learned from the Essenes

The Blessing of Poverty the Bane of Divorce

By Magen Broshi

Scholars have been cautious about drawing a direct line between Jesus and the Dead Sea Scroll sectarians. Indeed, perhaps the most criticized sentence in the vast literature about the Dead Sea Scrolls is one penned by the great American literary critic Edmund Wilson. Based on the conclusions of the French Dead Sea Scroll scholar André Dupont-Sommer, Wilson wrote:

The monastery [at Qumran, adjacent to the caves where the scrolls were found], this structure of stone that endures, between the waters and precipitous cliffs, with its oven and its inkwells, its mill and its cesspool, its constellations of sacred fonts and the unadorned graves of its dead, is perhaps, more than Bethlehem or Nazareth, the cradle of Christianity.1

There is much to criticize here. Indeed, it is a gross exaggeration. Yet in certain instances it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Jesus did indeed base some of his teachings directly on sectarian doctrine found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. I shall discuss two such instances here.

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