Not sure how to start this topic, there are so many things that haven't been told to us about the people of the 'Qumarn Community', that I haven't a clue where to begin. The following is one of the first things to understand about this community. They didn't believe like other Jews. I will be using different sources for this Topic, This one is from Geza Vermes' book, 'The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English'.
2 ELECTION AND HOLY LIFE IN THE
COMMUNITY OF THE COVENANT
In the ideology of the Old Testament, to be a member of the chosen people is synonymous with being party to the Covenant. Israel willingly accepts the yoke of the Law given on Sinai, and God in his turn acknowledges her as His ‘special possession’ (Exod. xix, 5):
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has
chosen you to be a people for His own possession, out of all the peoples
that are on the face of the earth ... You shall therefore be careful to do the
commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances which I command
you this day.
(Deut. vii, 6, 11)
Theoretically, there is no distinction between election de jure and election de facto: every Jew is chosen. But already in biblical times a deep gulf is in fact seen to divide righteous observers of the Covenant from the wicked of Israel. Though not deprived of their birthright, the unfaithful are viewed as burdened with guilt and as such excluded, provisionally at least, from the congregation of the children of God. The fully developed concept of election is summarized in the Palestinian Talmud by the third-century CE Galilean Rabbi Lazar. Expounding the words of Deuteronomy quoted above, he comments:
When the Israelites do the will of the Holy One, blessed be He, they are
called sons; but when they do not do His will, they are not called sons.
Inevitably, for the Qumran Essenes such a notion of Covenant membership was far too elastic. Consistent with their approach to legal matters, their attitude in regard to the Covenant was that only the initiates of their own ‘new Covenant’ were to be reckoned among God’s elect and, as such, united already on earth with the angels of
God has given them to His chosen ones
and has caused them to inherit the lot of the Holy Ones.
He has joined their assembly
to the Sons of Heaven, to be a Council of the Community,
a foundation of the Building of Holiness,
an eternal Plantation throughout all ages to come.
(1QS XI, 7-9)
They insisted, moreover, on the individual election of each sectary. The ordinary Jew envisaged entry into the congregation of the chosen primarily through birth, and secondly through the symbolical initiation of an eight-day-old male infant submitted to circumcision. An Essene became a member of either branch of his sect by virtue of the deliberate and personal adult commitment of himself. For this reason, as will be remembered, even children born to married members and brought up in their schools had to wait until their twentieth birthday before they were allowed to make their solemn vows of entry into the Covenant. Also, believing in divine foreknowledge, they considered their adherence to the ‘lot of God’ as the effect of grace, as having been planned for each of them in heaven from all eternity. They, the elect, were guided by the spirit of truth in the ways of light, while the unprivileged, Jew and Gentile alike, were doomed to wander along paths of darkness. The section of the
Community Rule known as the Instruction on the Two Spirits gives a fascinating description of these two human groups, the chosen and the unchosen.
The Master shall instruct all the sons of light and shall teach them the
nature of all the children of men according to the kind of spirit which
they possess ...
From the God of Knowledge comes all that is and shall be. Before
ever they existed He established their whole design, and when, as
ordained for them, they come into being, it is in accord with His
glorious design that they accomplish their task without change ...
He has created man to govern the world, and has appointed for him
two spirits in which to walk until the time of His visitation: the spirits of
truth and injustice. Those born of truth spring from a fountain of light,
but those born of injustice spring from a source of darkness. All the
children of righteousness are ruled by the Prince of Light and walk in
the ways of light, but all the children of injustice are ruled by the Angel
of Darkness and walk in the ways of darkness. The Angel of Darkness
leads all the children of righteousness astray, and until his end, all their
sins, iniquities, wickedness, and all their unlawful deeds are caused by
his dominion in accordance with the mysteries of God...
But the God of Israel and His Angel of Truth will succour all the sons
of light. For it is He who created the spirits of Light and Darkness and
founded every action upon them and established every deed [upon]
their [ways]. And He loves the one everlastingly and delights in its
works for ever; but the counsel of the other He loathes and for ever
hates its ways.
(IQS III, 13-IV I)
Clay and dust that I am,
what can I devise unless Thou wish it,
and what contrive unless Thou desire it?
What strength shall I have
unless Thou keep me upright
and how shall I understand
unless by (the spirit) which Thou hast shaped for me?
(IQH XVIII [formerly x], 5-7)
From the source of His righteousness
is my justification,
and from His marvellous mysteries
is the light in my heart.
My eyes have gazed
on that which is eternal,
on wisdom concealed from men,
on knowledge and wise design
(hidden) from the sons of men;
on a fountain of righteousness
and on a storehouse of power,
on a spring of glory
(hidden) from the assembly of flesh.
God has given them to His chosen ones
as an everlasting possession,
and has caused them to inherit
the lot of the Holy Ones.
(IQS XI, 5-
If you want to read this material for yourself a free download is available from the following source. I don't subscribe to this groups philosophy, but I did use their link for the free download.
In 1991 the world was astonished to hear that one of the unpublished scrolls included incredible references to a "Messiah" who suffered crucifixion for the sins of men. The scroll was translated by Dr. Robert Eisenman, Professor of Middle East Religions of California State University. He declared, "The text is of the most far-reaching significance because it shows that whatever group was responsible for these writings was operating in the same general scriptural and Messianic framework of early Christianity." Although the original scroll team still claimed that there was no evidence about early Christianity in the unpublished scrolls, this new scroll totally contradicted their statements. This single scroll is earth-shaking in its importance. As Dr. Norman Golb, Professor of Jewish History at the University of Chicago said, "It shows that contrary to what some of the editors said, there are lots of surprises in the scrolls, and this is one of them."
This remarkable five-line scroll contained fascinating information about the death of the Messiah. It referred to "the Prophet Isaiah" and his Messianic prophecy (Chapter 53) that identified the Messiah as one who will suffer for the sins of his people. This scroll provides an amazing parallel to the New Testament revelation that the Messiah would first suffer death before He would ultimately return to rule the nations. Many scholars believed that the Jews during the first century of our era believed that, when he finally came, the Messiah would rule forever without dying. The exciting discovery of this scroll reveals that the Essene writer of this scroll understood the dual role of the Messiah as Christians did. This scroll identified the Messiah as the "Shoot of Jesse" (King David's father) the "Branch of David," and declared that he was "pierced" and "wounded." The word "pierced" remind us of the Messianic prophecy in Psalms 22:16: "They pierced my hands and feet." The prophet Jeremiah (23:5) said, "I will raise unto David a righteous branch."
The scroll also describes the Messiah as a "leader of the community" who was "put to death." This reference pointing clearly to the historical Jesus of Nazareth is creating shock waves for liberal scholarship that previously assumed that the Gospel account about Jesus was a myth. Jesus is the only one who ever claimed to be the Messiah who was crucified. The genealogies recorded in both Matthew and Luke's Gospels, reveal that Jesus was the only one who could prove by the genealogical records kept in the Temple that He was the lineage of King David as the "Son of Jesse." Since the tragic destruction of the Temple and its records in A.D. 70 it would be impossible for anyone else to ever prove their claim to be the Messiah based on their genealogical descent from King David. Additionally, the scroll identified the Messiah as "the sceptre" which probably refers to the Genesis 49:10 prophecy, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." This scroll confirms the historical truthfulness of the New Testament record about Jesus and His crucifixion. The evidence from the scroll suggests that the Jewish Essene writer acknowledged that Jesus of Nazareth was the "suffering Messiah" who died for the sins of His people.
The "Son of God" Scroll
Another fascinating scroll discovered in Cave Four known as 4Q246 refers to the hope of a future Messiah figure. This is another of the scrolls that was unpublished until recently. Amazingly, the text in this scroll refers to the Messiah as "the son of God" and the "son of the Most High." These words are the exact wording recorded in the Gospel of Luke.
The Text of Scroll 4Q246 - the Son of God Scroll:
"He shall be called the son of God,
and they shall designate [call] him son of the Most High.
Like the appearance of comets, so shall be their kingdom.
For brief years they shall reign over the earth and shall trample on all;
one people shall trample on another and
one province on another until the people of God shall rise and all shall rest from the sword."
Compare the words in the scroll 4Q246 text to the inspired words found in Luke 1:32 and 35: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David... And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:32-35).
Anyone comparing these two first century texts will be startled by the amazing similarity of concept and wording describing the Messianic leader. One of the great differences between Christian and Jewish conceptions of the promised Messiah revolves around His relationship to God. While the Jews believe the Messiah will be a great man, such as Moses, with a Divine mission, the Christians believe that the Bible teaches that the Messiah would be uniquely "the Son of God." The Jewish view usually held that the concept of a "son of God" violated the primary truth of monotheism found in Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord." The Christians believed that Jesus' claim to be the Son of God was not a violation of Deuteronomy 6:4. Rather, Christians believe in the Trinity, the doctrine that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are revealed in the Bible to be One God, revealed in three personalities. As Christians, we do not believe in three separate gods. Therefore, Christians understand the statements about Jesus as the Son of God to be in complete conformity to the truth of monotheism - there is only one God. It is fascinating in this regard to consider the presence of these statements in this first century Jewish text: "He shall be called the son of God, and they shall designate [call] him son of the Most High."
The presence of these statements in the Dead Sea Scrolls suggests that some of the Essenes either accepted the Messianic claims of Jesus to be the Son of God or anticipated this concept. Either possibility opens up new areas for exploration. Another possibility that must be considered is this: Is it possible that this scroll 4Q246 is a direct quote from the writer hearing the words of the Gospel of Luke that was now widely circulating according to early Christian witnesses? Luke, the physician, claimed that he wrote the Gospel of Luke as an eyewitness of the events he personally observed. In Luke 1:1-3, he says: "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus."
The discovery of the virtually identical wording "the Son of God" from Luke 1:32 and 35 with the scroll found buried in a cave in A.D. 68 stands as a tremendous witness to the early existence and transmission of the Gospel records within thirty-five years of Christ. If the Gospels were written and distributed within thirty-five years of the events of the life of Jesus (as the Gospels claim) then they stand as the best eyewitness historical records we could ever hope to possess. It would be almost impossible to distribute the Gospel accounts to thousands of people in Israel within three and a half decades of the events unless they were true accounts. If the Gospel records were untrue, many witnesses would have stood up and denied their accuracy. However, the records of the first century reveal that no one denied the facts about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, all of these ancient historical records confirm the truth of the Gospels.
The above was taken from Grant R. Jeffrey Ministries. Please follow the link below for the full article.
Just wondering where you think the Ebionites (the 'poor') fit in? I've read they were the church of James.
Good question, I really don't know much about them. However, we do have some documents about them that have survived. I believe they could have made up a large number of the people that was the church of James. I believe this because James' following was so large. Some of them were most likely those that were referred to as the, 'Scarii', and most likely were the ones whom Eisenman is talking about in his book, 'James the Brother of Jesus'. I think they went on to become the Muslims of today as many of them did escape, with James. They were most likely, 'the poor', as you pointed out. That is where their name most likely comes from. It was to these that Paul probably preached to and converted. They were not just poor in name but actually poor, and unfortunately ignorant as well. I say this because of a remark made in the book, 'Fragments of a Faith Forgotten', by G.R.S. Mead. However, this book was written before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Mead was a member of the Theosophical Society. This must be taken into account when evaluating his information, however, he was a meticulous scholar and from what little I have read of him, he seems to have done his research.
The Ebionites were originally so called because they were "poor"; the later orthodox subsequently The Poor Men. added "in intelligence" or "in their ideas about Christ." And this may very well have been the case, and doubtless many grossly misunderstood the public teaching of Jesus, for it should not be forgotten that one of the main factors to be taken into account in reviewing the subsequent rapid progress of the new religion was the social revolution. In the minds of the most ignorant of the earliest followers of the public teaching, the greatest hope aroused may well have been the near approach of the day when the "poor" should be elevated above the "rich." But this was the view of the most ignorant only; though doubtless they were numerous enough.
If you buy into reincarnation, we could easily have been from the original Ebionites. I say this jokingly as Mead goes on to say;
Thus they naturally repudiated Paul and his new doctrine entirely; for them Paul was a deceiver and an apostate from the Law, they even denied that he was a Jew.
Why I say they were most likely what later became the Muslims, is because of their beliefs coupled with the fact that many of them left Jerusalem and migrated to those areas according to Eisenman. More from Mead;
How then did the original Ebionites view the person and teaching of Jesus? They regarded their leader as a wise man, a prophet, a Jonas, nay even a Solomon. Moreover, he was a manifestation of the Messiah, the Anointed, who was to come, but he had not yet appeared as the Messiah; that would only be at his second coming. In his birth as Jesus, he was a prophet simply. The New Dispensation was but the continuation of the Old Law; all was essentially Jewish. They therefore expected the coming of the Messiah as literally prophesied by their men of old. He was to come as king, and then all the nations would be subjected to the power of the Chosen People, and for a thousand years there would be peace and prosperity and plenty on earth.
Jesus was a man, born as all men, the human son of Joseph and Mary. It was only at his baptism, at thirty years of age, that the Spirit descended upon him and he became a prophet. They, therefore, guarded his Sayings as a precious deposit, handing them down by word of mouth. The Ebionites knew nothing of the pre-existence or divinity of their revered prophet. It is true that Jesus was "christ," but so also would all be who fulfilled the Law. Thus they naturally repudiated Paul and his new doctrine entirely; for them Paul was a deceiver and an apostate from the Law, they even denied that he was a Jew.
It was only later that they used The Gospel according to the Hebrews, which Jerome says was the same as The Gospel of the Twelve Apostles and The Gospel of the Nazarenes, that is to say, of the Nazoræans. It should be remembered that these Nazoræans knew nothing of the Nazareth legend, which was subsequently developed by the "in order that it might be fulfilled" school of historicizers.
The Ebionites did not return to Jerusalem when the emperor permitted the new colony of Ælia Capitolina to be established in 138, for no Jew was allowed to return. The new town was Gentile. Therefore, when we read of "the re-constitution of the mother church" at Ælia Colonia, in Church historians, little reliance can be placed upon such assertions. The "mother church," based on the public teaching, was Ebionite and remained Ebionite, the community at Ælia Colonia was Gentile and therefore Pauline.
Christianity, as understood by the Ebionites, being an essentially national doctrine, Paulinism was a necessity if any public attempt at universality was to be made; therefore it was that the true historical side of popular Christianity (the original Ebionite tradition) became more and more obscured, until finally it had so completely disappeared from the area of such tradition, that a new "history" could with safety be developed to suit the dogmatic evolution inaugurated by Paul.
The later forms of Ebionism, however, which survived for several centuries, were of a Gnostic nature, and reveal the contact of these outer communities of primitive Christendom based on the public teaching with an inner Jewish tradition, which evidently existed contemporaneously with Paul, and may have existed far earlier.