Was the Teacher of Righteousness Considered to Be a Messiah?

John Collins rightly argues that the possibility of a positive answer to this question depends heavily on what one means by משיח (messiah) (“A Messiah before Jesus?” 15–35). Most notably, messianic language at Qumran refers to the so-called “Davidic” and “priestly” messiahs (1QS 9:11; 4Q161 3:22–29; 4Q174 3:7–13; 4Q252 5:1–7; 4Q266 f2i:11; f10i:12; 4Q285 f7:1–6; 4Q479 f1:4; 11Q14 f1i:5–15; CD 12:23–13:1; 14:19; 19:10–11; 20:1; cf. 4Q504 f1-2Riv:6–8),1 but some Qumran texts also use messianic language about prophets (28). For example, one may cite the following texts (cf. 28):

  • ויודיעם ביד משיחי רוח קדשו וחוזי אמת (and he taught them by the hand of the ones anointed by his holy spirit and the seers of truth; CD 2:12–13)
  • דברו סרה על מצות אל ביד משה וגם במשיחי הקודש (they spoke rebellion against the commands of God by the hand of Moses and also by the holy anointed ones; CD 5:21–6:1; cf. 4Q266 f3ii:9–10; 4Q267 f2:6; 6Q15 f3:4)
  • וביד משיחיכה חוזי תעודות הגדתה לנו קצי מלחמות ידיכה (and by the hand of your anointed ones, seers of decrees, you told to us the times of the wars of your hands; 1QM 11:7–8)

4Q521; 11Q13 2:18 may also arguably fall under this category (28–29), and if the Teacher is to be assigned to the category of ‘messiah’, he should be so assigned under the rubric of this third, prophetic type of messiah (32–33). Yet, nowhere do the “Teacher Hymns” claim any anointing for their author (30, 33), even though there is ample reason to affirm that the Teacher saw himself as a prophet (32). Thus, in a loose sense by which anointing and prophetic vocation were held together, the Teacher might be termed a messiah, but Collins thinks that “it is misleading to speak of him as the eschatological prophet or as a messiah, in the definitive eschatological sense” (33).

This point is well taken, and the desire that Collins consistently expresses throughout his essay to describe the Teacher, messiahship, and Jesus on their own individual terms is both appropriate and commendable. Still, texts like CD 1–2; 1QpHab 2:1–10 may well set up for the Teacher a “definitive eschatological” role that also differs distinctly at certain points from the “definitive eschatological” role that the early Christian community assigned to Jesus (cf. 29). Perhaps most obviously given Qumran’s likely witness to Davidic and Aaronic messiahs as well, the Teacher does not constitute the sole person in whom יהוה’s purposes for his people ultimately come to fruition. Rather, taken as a whole, the sectarian manuscripts may be understood as divvying out to several parties what the New Testament assigns collectively to Jesus (e.g., 2 Cor 1:20; Gal 1–2; Heb 6:19–7:28; Rev 5). Thus, the exclusivity of influence for the Teacher’s “definitive eschatological” role may be comparatively smaller and otherwise expressed for the Qumran community than it was for the role that Jesus exercised on the early Christian community, but because the Teacher was יהוה’s appointed guide (e.g., CD 1:1–11), there seems to be good reason to suppose that the Teacher’s eschatological definitiveness would have been quite strong within its own designated sphere.

Despite this qualification, “A Messiah before Jesus?” offers concise summary of and engagement with the theses that André Dupont-Sommer advanced early in the history of Qumran scholarship and that others (e.g., Michael Wise, Israel Knohl) have more recently revisited. Particularly, Collins’ conclusion helpfully draws attention to some key points of difference between Jesus and the Teacher that those who have taken the Dupont-Sommer line may have insufficiently appreciated (33–35). This essay and its sister (Collins, “An Essene Messiah?” 37–44) are generally both judicious and informative, and the rest of the volume promises to be quite engaging also.

1 The reference system adopted here follows the conventions of Martin Abegg, Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts.

In this post:

Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts
Martin Abegg Jr.

Christian Beginnings and the Dead Sea Scrolls
John Collins and Craig Evans


The following poem, “Epi-strauss-ium,” by Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861) playfully draws attention to D. F. Strauss’s then recently published Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet (Life of Jesus Critically Examined; NAEL 2:1452 n. 1).

Matthew and Mark and Luke and holy John
Evanished all and gone!
Yea, he that erst, his dusky curtains quitting,
Through Eastern pictured panes his level beams transmitting,
With gorgeous portraits blent,
On them his glories intercepted spent,
Southwestering now, through windows plainly glassed,
On the inside face his radiance keen hath cast,
And in the luster lost, invisible, and gone,
Are, say you, Matthew, Mark, and Luke and holy John?
Lost, is it? lost, to be recovered never?
The place of worship the meantime with light
Is, if less richly, more sincerely bright,
And in blue skies the Orb is manifest to sight.

This assessment generally seems quite apropos and its language quite arresting, though one might well be grateful for how more recent scholarship has arguably provided some means for brightening the “place of worship” both “[more] richly” and “more sincerely” (e.g., Bauckham; Dunn; Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God; Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God).

In this post:

Norton Anthology of English Literature (7th ed; Volume 2)
M. H. Abrams et al.
Richard Bauckham
Richard Bauckham
James Dunn
James Dunn

N. T. Wright
N. T. Wright

N. T. Wright
N. T. Wright

“Blessed Be the Ties that Bind”

Cynthia Westfall has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “Blessed Be the Ties that Bind: Semantic Domains and Cohesive Chains in Hebrews 1.1–2.4 and 12.5–8.” Based on her investigation, Westfall concludes,

[A]n analysis of semantic domains provides a vital lens through which we can view every text. At times, it seems that the [Louw-Nida] lexicon does not do enough, and it is easy to find what appear to be shortcomings in the failure to place some words in certain semantic domains. For instance, the truncated classification of προφήτης under ‘Religious Activities’ does not remotely begin to describe the features that ‘prophet’ shares with other lexical items. In this case, the authors did not follow one of their guiding principles that a derivative (e.g. προφήτης) should be placed as close as possible to its semantic basis (e.g. προφητεύω). However, when the theory is understood, the reader realizes that the entries and glosses are suggestive, and the referential (meaning) range of any lexical unit can only be determined by a careful and, above all, a coherent reading of the surrounding context (216).

RBL Newsletter (December 31, 2009)

The latest, New Year’s Eve, reviews from the Review of Biblical Literature include the following:

New Testament and Cognate Fields

Hermeneutics and Translation

Jewish Scripture and Cognate Fields

Normal Science and Rules

While normal science does not necessarily require a full set of rules to function (Kuhn 44), normal scientific investigation can continue without rules “only so long as the relevant scientific community accepts without question the particular problem-solutions already achieved. Rules . . . therefore become important and the characteristic unconcern about them . . . vanish[es] whenever paradigms or models are felt to be insecure” (Kuhn 47). Debates about rules frequently occur in the pre-paradigm period, but they also typically recur when reigning paradigms come under attack from suggested inadequacies and proposed changes (Kuhn 47–48). When a paradigm reigns unchallenged, however, the scientific community that it constitutes need not attempt to rationalize the paradigm (Kuhn 49). Moreover, any apparent difficulties with the paradigm that cannot be resolved are typically held to result from the inadequacy of the research conducted rather than the inadequacy of the paradigm that suggests the difficulties (Kuhn 80).

In this post:

Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn

Independent Biblioblog Ranking Compilation (December 2009)

With the Biblioblog Top 50 moving to a semi-annual cycle, Joseph Kelly over at כל־האדם has independently compiled a chart of December’s individual Alexa rankings to finish out 2009. Jim West (a.k.a. Zwinglius Redivivus) continues to fill the top slot, and the big movers among the top 50 this month include John Hobbins (Ancient Hebrew Poetry, up 15 spaces to number 16); Jason (εις δοξαν, up 18 spaces to number 40); Michael Barber, Brant Pitre, and John Bergsma (The Sacred Page, up 25 spaces to number 48); and Joel Hoffman (God Didn’t Say That: Bible Translations and Mistranslations, up 33 spaces to number 49). New Testament Interpretation stands this month at number 213.

“Understanding ΚΛΗΣΙΣ in the New Testament”

Lois Dow has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “Understanding κλῆσις in the New Testament.” In this article, Dow argues that:

First, the meaning position or condition in the sense of life situation or occupation for κλῆσις in the New Testament is unwarranted. Secondly, the meaning often includes the result of the call as well as the action of calling. It can mean a status of being a called person, with its concomitant responsibilities, privileges and expectations. In this use it is linked through passages about being called (named) by new appellations or designations to the idea of having a new identity or name (198; italics original).

Paradigms and Rules

Assuming a paradigm’s community desires consistency, their general paradigm will dictate specific rules for the community’s research (i.e., means for investigation and standards for evaluation; Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 43, 48, 94; cf. Achinstein 413; Thiselton 711). Yet, these rules do not themselves provide coherence to a given tradition of normal science (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 44). Rather, these rules are interpretations of an antecedent paradigm that causes a given, normal-scientific tradition to cohere (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 43–44, 46).1

Yet, Kuhn elsewhere argues that “[e]xplicit rules, when they exist, are usually common to a very broad scientific group, but paradigms need not be” (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 49; italics added), which might seem to suggest a different derivational order than the one just mentioned. Still, Kuhn makes the assertion just quoted explicitly to support his contention that paradigms logically precede rules (Kuhn, Scientific Revolutions 49). The rules common to broad, scientific groups, therefore, appear to be rules dictated by the more general “macro-paradigm” to which “science” and “scientists” hold, although these categories themselves contain substantial variegation. For instance, as currently practiced, “modern science” generally presupposes as valuable things like “accuracy, consistency, scope, simplicity, fruitfulness, explanatory power, and plausibility” (Achinstein 413; cf. Kuhn, Essential Tension 321–22). Consequently, when Kuhn speaks of rules that characterize a broader group than do paradigms, he apparently intends to designate slightly different referents for these key terms than he does at other points in his argument. That is, the more globally acknowledged rules derive from the broader scientific community’s shared (macro-)paradigm, which Kuhn leaves in silent opposition to the narrower paradigms, which he explicitly mentions, and which characterize individual, normal-scientific communities.

1 Upon receiving numerous critiques about apparent imprecision in his use of the term “paradigm,” Kuhn subsequently clarifies the concept’s nuances in precisely this fashion. No one, exhaustive paradigm exists. Rather, the scientific community as a whole shares a certain paradigm with a minimal set of characteristics, and various scientific sub-communities hold paradigms that contain additional characteristics and that compete with the paradigms of other groups (Kuhn, Essential Tension 294).

In this post:

Science Rules
Peter Achinstein
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Thiselton on Hermeneutics
Anthony Thiselton

“Normal” Science

Within a given, normal-scientific tradition, the reigning paradigm directs research by suggesting which experiments and data are relevant to resolving a given problem and which are irrelevant (Kuhn 18, 24, 34). The paradigm also guides new and more specific theory articulation, and the paradigm permits practitioners in a given field to dispense with rearticulating the field’s foundations in each new work they produce (Kuhn 18–20, 23, 34). Thus, a paradigm entails promises about problems that it will resolve and new achievements that it will enable, and normal science, the process in which most scientists work for most of their careers, demonstrates how these promises actually operate (Kuhn 23–24, 30, 35–42). In all cases, however, the paradigm of a given, normal-scientific tradition definitively determines the research that is performed within that paradigm—“to desert the paradigm is to cease practicing the science it defines” (Kuhn 34, 46). Yet, a paradigm is susceptible to various articulations as long as these diversions self-confessedly work from and toward what the paradigm’s community considers to be sufficient common ground (Kuhn 46–47, 73; cf. Hung 62–70; see also Carson 88–89).

In this post:

D. A. Carson
D. A. Carson
Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn
Beyond Kuhn
Edwin Hung

“Heavenly Mindedness and Earthly Good”

Craig Keener has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “Heavenly Mindedness and Earthly Good: Contemplating Matters Above in Colossians 3.1–2.”

This article traces in turn ancient philosophy’s contemplation of heavenly matters; evocations of such language in other early Jewish and Christian sources; the significance of our author’s christocentric [sic] focus in his adaptation of the language in 3.1; the behavioral implications the author draws from this christocentric [sic] focus; the intelligibility of those implications in light of ancient philosophy; and how the immediate context shapes eschatological implications in the author’s evocation of heaven. [The] focus and primary contribution [is] elaborating how ancient hearers would have received the passage, especially in view of ancient philosophy. [That is, f]or philosophers, the pure and heavenly deity was abstract and transcendent; for Colossians, the heavenly focus is Christ, fitting the christocentric [sic] emphasis of this letter. For Colossians, contemplating Christ also leads naturally to Christlike character, in contrast to the pursuit of earthly passions (175, 190).