Prophet & Messiahs in the Community Rule: A Preliminary Investigation into Immediate and Wider Questions

Br. Usman Sheikh has continued to publish some very brilliant academic papers from his time at Heythrop College at the University of London. Here is the abstract for his latest publication:

This study will consider a popular text appearing in a rule or law book of the Qumran community (the Yahad), known as the Community Rule (also called Manual of Discipline, 1QS being its most complete manuscript). No discussion on the theme of messiahship in the community can afford to ignore this unique passage. A closer examination of pre-Christian Jewish documents has dispelled the notion of a “uniform system of messianic expectation in ancient Judaism.” In this brief study I cannot consider the breath of this diversity and will restrict myself to the exploration of just one expectation: the hopes for two messianic figures in some texts and how such an expectation might have come about. It will also be argued that caution is required when drawing conclusions about Jewish communities on the basis of the Qumran texts.

The full paper can be read or downloaded right here:

The paper can also be read on Academia.edu (I recommend following Br. Usman Sheikh) or downloaded by clicking here.

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Categories: Bible, Biblical scholarship, Christianity, Dead Sea Scrolls, London, Scholarship

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. Another interesting article. I can see that this information could be interpreted in a variety of ways by different people.

    The possibility of two messiahs, or three the figures (a Prophet AND two messiahs), could cause all sorts of questions, reinterpretations, and problems in regard to traditional Christian theology.

    But I wonder what kinds of implications such information might have in relation to Islam?

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    • Thanks. Things are, actually, far more complicated once we throw in other documents, so much so that it becomes difficult to speak about “the messiah.” Some writings mention heavenly eschatological figures (1 Enoch, for example), some Priestly figures, others Davidic figures… I think after the destruction of the Temple, during the terrible tragedy suffered by Israel in the years to come, and once the new political set up was established after the end of the jihad launched by Mattathias (and carried forward by his sons) against Antiochus Epiphanes IV, different people developed different hopes for the future. The volatile situation, the ups and downs, produced varying hopes for the future. It is not even clear if the divergent views in the Qumran are reflective of the views of the rest of Israelites. The Qumran community, I think, was not a monolith and it is not necessary that a particular viewpoint/hope in one of its writing is necessarily representative of the entire community, let alone the rest of Israel.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “But I wonder what kinds of implications such information might have in relation to Islam?”

      Let me say some points about that.
      Dr. Bart Ehrman argues that the whole genre of literature about salvific figures and prophecies at the end of time in the bible reflects the desperate situation those authors were in, so they wrote that as a kind of hope for them.

      Before dr Ehrman,I believe the famlus muslim scholar, Ibn Khaldun wrote about this phenomena in the Islamic world which were as “Mahdiac”movements.

      The question is what the authentic understanding is for promise of hope?
      https://bloggingtheology.net/2018/03/05/book-review-mahdi-the-promised-caliph/

      Regarding the Messiah & the Prophet, I think Qur’an is more than clear
      “This Quran relates to the Children of Israel most of what they differ about.” QT

      Messiah is Isa (as) & The Last Prophet is Muhammad ﷺ

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  2. Thank you. The article has a highly academic language which is hard for one like me. However, I think I got the gist of the article.
    It seems that there were different opinions in the community of Qumran, and how they expected their heroic figure(s).

    Could we see the reflection of that notion about 3 figures in the NT? For example, John 1:19-21 or Matthew 16:14?
    I believe we can see that the idea about the heroic figure has been developing through time in the jewish community. It’s apparently not a monolithic one, yet the craziest one is the one presented by Paul.

    Like

    • Yes, I realise it would be a difficult read. These papers were composed last year during the course of my MA. Therefore, I had to write in an academic manner, as best I could, abiding by strict guidelines. I recently decided to upload them and often find myself re-reading paragraphs to re-familiarise myself with some of the arguments :). Papers written for the general audience, however, will (hopefully) not be this difficult to follow.

      Nonetheless, you’ve understood the main point. We encounter diverse hopes for a future deliverer(s) and the interpretation of a number of key passages is disputed by scholars. Their ideas were developing, changing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just quickly –

      It’s good it’s written in academic language, this is a point that Prof. Mortimer J. Adler made, whose book I highly recommend, “How to Read a Book”. At the end of the day, we literally have to “stretch” our minds to a higher standard of literature and part of the purpose of Blogging Theology is to introduce slowly but surely, more academic work to the public in a drop by drop fashion. Part of learning is to struggle with the technical language before us, but in that process of struggling you really develop and improve your reading, grammatical and reasoning skills. So feel free to point out what phrases and terms are difficult, ask the author to clarify a paragraph or two, he’s here and willing inshaAllah!

      Regards,
      Br. Ijaz.

      Like

    • Ijaz,
      I fully agree with you that we need to work towards understanding a higher standard of literature and more technical terms. This can only help to improve Muslim apologetics and polemical arguments in the future.

      Personally, although I feel that I had much prior knowledge about both Islam and Christianity before finding this blog a few years ago, I can still say that my own understandings about theology, religion, comparative religion, Christianity, NT Historical Textual Criticism, have all been greatly expanded by this blog and all the contributing authors. The blog has also motivated me to do a lot of outside reading in NT historical criticism.

      I hope to continue learning with the bloggingtheology team as we go forward.

      Thanks to Paul Williams, Ijaz and the site administrators for giving us all a platform to share ideas, knowledge and extend our learning in a fun and enjoyable (usually) way!!

      Liked by 1 person

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