Friday, September 26, 2008

John 10, A Qumranic Connection|Carl's Blogged Bible Study

One small tidbit today...

Over the past few chapters, John has carefully woven the text to clearly demonstrate that John is not JUST a messiah. An anticipated Jewish Messiah in the minds of the Jews in Palestine and those displaced by the diaspora would have been coming to overthrow the oppressive imperialism of Rome. According to John, Jesus was no political figure (Jesus shunned politics!); rather, he was God-become-flesh, sent by himself (so to speak...the father) to redeem mankind from their iniquity.

John, unique from the other synoptic writers(Mathew, Mark, Luke), masterfully accomplishes this task. What is so different about John? What does he do that the others do not? I would say, John's approach is clearly philosophical; if anything it is clearly intellectual.

Without going into a history of the author (the resources are plentiful, just go to any university and search their online library of works) I presume we stop thinking of the gospel of John as inspired scripture (which it is), and think about it as work of literature (which it is), penned by a unique author with a bias, with subjectivity, with background, with a leaning towards certain philosophical ideals.

All too often the Christian assumes that writers of scripture were consumed in a trance and the Holy Spirit guided their pen grasped hand and wrote the words. Not the case. Just look at Paul's work...the Greek is easily recognizable as Pauline in characteristic. Thus said, while scripture IS the inspired word of God, it was written by many different humans, all of whom expressed their personality in the text.

So look at John 10:40-42. This little tidbit is not found in the other synoptics. To me, this screams, "Look at me...John wrote me!"

What is so interesting, is that Jesus stayed for a while with his baptizer, who according to more than a few scholars and historians, may have been a Qumranic member--an Essene (you know, the guys who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls). Whether or not John the Baptist was an Essene makes little difference to me, all I know is that he fits the description of one in his dress, his methodology, and his ideals.

The Essenes were extremely mystical, and extremely philosophical. I suggest picking up a copy of the dead sea scrolls. The Essenes were looking for a Messiah. In fact, splinter groups thought he had come and gone.

Here is my point...could Jesus, and more notably, JOHN the gospel writer, spent time with this group, or at least remnants of the gropu known as the Essenes. This string of verses highly suggests it as a possibility. But cherry picking verses to support a supposition is never a good idea, so consider the overall language of John. Ideas key to John (truth/error, light/dark, living water, predestination, eschatological struggle, the two spirits) are all found in the chapters of the Dead Sea Scrolls, sometimes word for word.

Te whole point of this post is not to point out the similarites between John and Qumran, nor is it it to suggest that the gospel writer plagiarized from a group of dessert mystics. The point is that the gospel writer WAS ifluenced by these people. Maybe he never camped out in the cliffs with them, but he was clearly familiar with their philosophy and used it to communicate the word of God--the life, teachings, and meaning of Christ. God allowed him to use his own personal flavor of communication, and I am sure that many who read his gospel in those early days who were familiar with qumranic ideaology understood the message a lot easier!


darla said...

I have often wondered if John is so different in his approach due to he was so young when beginning his journey with Christ, the childlike faith that just kept growing?

For most of us, we work to get back to the childlike faith, and John seemed to have it mastered, even in his times of being a boy of thunder. I always loved Luke, but John is closer to the heart sometimes, intellectual, yet brings it this is it!

Anonymous said...

Brother... I am tired and headed to bed.

I promise to comeback tomorrow and read this for comprehension.

Danny said...

good post. I really think it is important as well to read all of the authors of the NT coherently and as a whole. They wrote from their own life experiences.

This also makes reading them a bit difficult because they are so far removed from our context.

I just wrote something similar realizing that the students I am teaching James too don't seem to have the tools to think historically about the community that James was writing to. Part of this has to do with the fact that they are taught only to really understand the Bible in terms of themselves and making it "apply" to today. Sometimes we make it so applicable that we lose the context.

Anonymous said...

Much like us... Each writer learned about Christ in different way, and expressed his relationship with Christ in his own style.

I agree John is very philosophical in nature.

Nate thank you for this. It was d a different angle of attack for the blogged bible study.

I will use this as a future reference as I continue to study John.

Thanks Brother.

nate said...

@Darla...I have always loved Luke too. He had such an inclusive approach. That is interesting that you pointed out his age. It seems young people are more mystical, in the sense that they have that childlike faith, but they also seem to dig into their faith makes sense for JOhn.

@Danny...I agree, totally. Application is necessary, but in so many cases, the application is in the mind of the pastor theologian, before the text is even approached. I used to do the same thing when I first started preaching. I came up with a topic and then combed scripture for a text to support it. Man...what a disservice I was doing to the text and original author's intent.

@Carl...thanks! I love the fact that each of the writers had their own experience with Christ, and that experience is represented in their words.

nate said...

when i got a new computer I lost all my feeds, including yours. I found most the blogs I subscribed to but can't remember your URL. could you post it or email it to me?

my email is


annie said...

I really liked this take you had on it. John is notably different from the other 3 ... I like what Darla said. And what you said. I like that God being God can work a perfect work through an imperfect man. He doesn't do something like 'sigh in exasperation and say 'move over, let me do it; I can do it better,'' He really works within what He has created to show Himself perfect. Fantastic!

Michelle said...

Hey, Nate. Thanks for this. It caused me to go off and study the Essenes a bit, but in the process, I forgot to comment. :oops:

It's a bit of a stretch for me. Maybe I'm not understanding completely what I've read, but it does seem there is a strong link between the Essenes and Zoroastrianism. That whole "mystical" religion doesn't match up in my mind with Jesus' teaching. Of course, it's a bit speculative, but the Kabbalah also seems to link Essenes with Hassidism...if I read correctly. That's a further point of concern.

Interesting study and thanks for helping me to try and track it all down again.

nate said...

Thanks Michelle.
You are right zoroastrianism may have influenced those at Qumran. I am not suggesting that Jesus went and studied to be an Essene (although John the Baptist may have). What I am suggesting, which is irrefutable if one compares The Gospel of John and the dead sea scrolls, is that John was familiar with qumranic ideologies...maybe rubbed shoulders with a few of its members...and borrowed some of their terminology that was floating around palestine to communicate the gospel.

This is nothing new, nor heretical...just contextualization. Christianity is the most contextualized religion in history (in my opinion). For example...the term "GOD" is borrowed (Just like John borrowed "light" from qumran) is borrowed from Anglo-Saxon pagan religion...a word called "gott" which meant "the one invoked; the one sacrificed to." (early missionaries decided on using the already existing word than confusing the goths with the Latin word for GOD")

So every time we say "GOD" we are actually saying the name of a pagan God (etymologically speaking)but we understand that we are really referring to a member of the Judeo Christian trinity.

I actually wrote a lengthy paper that explains much of what I said in detail (30 or 40 pages)...I'll email to you if you'd like.

Michelle said...

Thanks, Nate. I would love for you to email that paper, if it's no trouble.


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