Guess what? For years now, archaeologists have told us that the infamous Dead Sea Scrolls, located at Qumran, were produced by an isolasionist/fringe group of Jesus’ contemporaries known as the Essenes. Now, evidence has surfaced which shows that most of the scrolls were probably originally located in Jerusalem and then transported to Qumran – a fortress-turned-pottery-factory – as it became more and more apparent that the Romans were going to launch an all-out invasion.
The practical upshot of all this is that some of the VERY strange-sounding texts that have been located at Qumran were not the product of a lunatic fringe, but the product of various lines of mainstream thought in rabbinical Judaism at the time.
I know a lot of historians and archaeologists don’t like this. It opens up the possiblity of a fairly substantial re-examination of the culture of Jesus’ day. But, in a strange way, it is an appealing idea to me. It shows that Jesus’ message surfaced amidst a huge cultural maelstorm. People were confused, even despirate to find some way of explaining how God could be faithful to Israel even as the Roman grip on God’s people became tighter and more apparent.
Jesus’ solution – to submit to the rule of human oppressors while simultaneously recognizing the presence of the real Kingdom – God’s kingdom – may only make more and more sense as historians begin to sort through the implications of this new discovery.
(News item via Scot McKnight)