National Geographic : 1958 Dec
NATIONALGEOGRAPHICPHOTOGRAPHERJ. BAYLORROBERTS Bedouin Herder and His Flock Drift Across Timeless Terrain As tribesmen traverse the wilderness, they search for more caves, more scrolls. Scholars believe some portions of the Qumran library turned up long before 1947. Origen, a 3d-century Christian theologian, reported discovery of a Hebrew book "in a jar near Jericho." And a letter written about A.D. 800 by Timotheus I. Patriarch of Seleucia. refers to "books. . .found ten years ago in a rock dwelling near Jericho." common. Both worshiped as a community, praying together, singing psalms, listening to the reading and exposition of Scripture. Both preserved the memory of their founders and diligently composed new literature which em bodied their beliefs. Both considered them selves the "true Israel," the community of the New Covenant. Both were persecuted minori ties. Both looked upon celibacy as preferable to marriage. Scholars of all faiths recognize these paral lels. They are facts. But, contrary to certain exaggerated interpretations, they do not sug gest that Christianity is only a latter-day "successful" Essenism. The reasons for the parallels are self evident. The early Christian community then thought of itself as a group within, not out side, Judaism. It therefore shared in the whole Jewish heritage, using the Hebrew Bible of the day and interpreting the role of Jesus in terms inherited from the past. In the same way, the organization of the early Christian community followed patterns al ready known in first-century Judaea. 808 In short, few theologians have ever con sidered Christianity to be unique in the sense that it had no precursors, no connections with the past, no affinities to Judaean thought patterns or modes of life. Jesus did not break with the past; he pointedly declared that he had not "come to destroy the law. .. but to fulfil." The Dead Sea Scrolls give us a new under standing of the religious climate into which Jesus was born. They provide us with new insight into the particular elements of Judaism that influenced Christian development. And, for the first time, the hitherto mysterious Essenes stand revealed to us. The story of their spiritual struggle swells out of the past like a mighty hymn. Khirbat Qumran, high on its blighted ter race, is now a dead ruin in a dead world. Nothing grows in the bitter marl; nothing stirs among the ancient stones. The sky yawns emptily over the counterfeit blue of the Dead Sea, and a lonely wind sighs through the rubble. But at Khirbat Qumran, a long time ago, men strove to find God.