Dead Sea Scrolls and the Identity of Jesus in the Isaiah Scrolls
The Dead Sea scrolls reference the ancient scrolls found in the Qumran caves by a shepherd named Mohammad adh-Dhib (Baigent 247). At the time of the discovery of the scrolls, and because of the way in which they had been handled after their discovery (for profit), there were many questions raised as to the authenticity, origin, and date of the scrolls (Shanks 9-10). The Isaiah scrolls were amongst those found in Cave 1, and the first scroll of the two Isaiah scrolls was in the best condition (Shanks 14). Because of its completeness, the first Isaiah is often referred to as "Isaiah A (Shanks 14)." Shanks says that the importance of the scrolls is not that they tell us something we didn't know, but they tell us much about what we did not know about the period during which they were written as a whole, about 300 B.C.E. To 300 C.E. (15). A comparison of the Dead Seas Isaiah and the 100 BCE Isaiah revealed that the copies were nearly identical, suggesting that the Dead Sea author had access to an earlier copy of the book (Zukeran 517).
From the perspective of community, Shanks says, they answer many questions (15). Isaiah A in its original form of authorship bridges arguments in scholarship about the nature of the Old Testament Isaiah as book of predictive prophecy (Zukeran 517). Thus, from the perspective of community, it is a prophetic work that speaks to the community about that which is to come and adherence to the new message or there will be dire consequences for the community.
Isaiah A, in its completeness, which gives us the best ancient perspective of Jesus from a source that is not identified by name, but by its relationship to the location and history of where the scrolls were found. Shanks says that the short version to question of what the Dead Seas Scrolls tell us about community is that it was a Jewish tradition with new message, and Isaiah A provides us with the Jewish context of Christianity before it was actually Christianity (16). This in part puts into context the prophetic nature of Isaiah. Through Isaiah we are not getting a fresh or new insight into Jesus the man, because Isaiah did not originate at Qumran. It was not the goal of the author at Qumran to alter the original Isaiah, but to copy it, because it prophesizes the coming of Christ. Motyer says that it is important to put timeline out of the equation when considering Isaiah as a work of prophecy (28). And since the Qumran Isaiah was comparatively close to the earliest Isaiah that we know of, we know that it was the goal of the Qumran copier to keep it true to its original form.
The Essenes religious sect are believed by most scholars to have lived in the Qumran from 150 BCE to 68 CE (Abegg, Flint and Ulrich xv). It is widely held by scholars and other researchers that it was the Essenes who secreted away the scrolls (Abegg, Flint, and Ulrich xv). Other researchers disagree, and hold that it probably was not the Essenes (Wise, Martin and Abegg 14). The question is not one of who secreted the scrolls, why. The answer remains unknown, although some believe it was to prevent them from being destroyed by Roman conquerors. The question arises as to why a religious group of a Jewish tradition and community would secret away texts that put their tradition at risk in the way that Isaiah does since Isaiah prophesizes the coming of the Messiah. The answer might be that the Essenes, or, if not the Essenes, the Sadducees (another religious sect who might have occupied Qumran) understood the texts from a sectarian perspective (Abegg, Flint, and Ulrich xv). This would mean that they considered themselves to be an evolutionary branch of Judaism, and one that embraced the new message that is prophesized in Isaiah. As Shanks mentioned, this is much more about community than it is about new information that might be contained in the scrolls (14).
The identity of Jesus is revealed as a new one in the Isaiah Scrolls. It is the same Jesus that comes to us from the Old Testament with which we are already familiar with. When it was found, it was open to Chapter 40, verse 3, which reads, "A voice cries out in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Shanks 14)." The passage is consistent with that which we find in the Synoptic Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke (Shanks 14). The end of the Qumran community was after the Crucifixion, and it was perhaps the intent of those who hid the scrolls in the cave to let the world know that they had indeed prepared a highway for God by securing the scrolls so that they might later be found and call the world's attention to Jesus and God in new way. Maybe even in a way that would renew faith. If they were indeed sectarian, and because their community had embraced the teachings of Jesus, then they would have believed that the Isaiah prophecy that foretold of the "star prophecy (Baigent 50)." They would have been aware that Jesus was the manifestation of the prophecy, and it might have been their intent to make sure that the knowledge held in the Isaiah text was preserved and passed on.
There are differing opinions as to the authorship of the Isaiah scrolls (Shanks 14). Some believe that it was more than one author, and if the work was copiously copied, it might well have taken many copiers to accomplish the full text. But Israel Knohl provides clues to how the writer(s) felt and saw his self (16). Knohl says:
"Again, we read of the "suffering servant": "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). Likewise, the writer of the hymn says of himself: [And who] compares to m[e in enduring] evil?
The hymn's author reaches the height of audacity when he says:
Who is like me among the angels (elim)?
The temerity of this expression becomes all the more evident when we realize that it is based on a verse in the Bible that refers to God: "Who is like thee, O Lord, among the gods (elim) (Exodous 15:11)? The author of the hymn takes praise given to God in the Bible and uses it to glorify himself! (Knohl 16-17)."
One might disagree with Kohl, and instead consider that the author instead believes that he is faithful and a true believer and performing the works of God. To perform the works of God is be next to God, and throughout the Bible Jesus frequently reminds His followers that those among them who believe without question and who are faithful in their hearts and minds shall, like Him, enter the Kingdom of Heaven. As the author was a man who devoted his life to faith and the preservation of the inspired Word, then it would not be unusual that he might perceive himself as doing divine service which brings about its own suffering, and, therefore, he is an angel of God. For Kohl to say that the author glorifies his self is a disregard of the suffering of the servants of God, which is how the religious men might have seen themselves in their work.
There is no end to the different interpretations that one might read into the Isaiah Scrolls about its authorship and prophecies. These questions remain unanswered and scholars continue to debate them today. As Shanks points out, it is about the community. The Isaiah Scrolls found…