Scholarly Questions and Comments

Replies: © 2005,2006,2007,2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Dr. Barbara Thiering

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Origin of Masonic symbols in Essenism
John Geiger, of Oklahoma USA asks:
Q. Does anyone know the origin of Masonic symbolism?
A. There is a clear answer in CD 4:19-20. "The builders of the wall who have followed after Saw,- Saw was a spouter of whom it is written 'They shall surely spout' shall be caught in fornication twice by taking a second wife while the first is alive.." The words are an attack on Jesus by the pro-eastern writers of the Damascus Document.

When the Essenes were exiled to Qumran in the 2nd century BC they continued the study of astronomy that had always been practiced there because of the sunshine casting clear shadows. They also wanted a substitute for the Jerusalem temple which they believed to have been defiled by the Hasmoneans. They chose loc 111, west of the round well,an uncovered courtyard with a dirt floor, as both their substitute temple and their place for astronomical studies. On the dirt floor they drew a circle to follow the trajectory of the sun. Their distinctive solar calendar was based on the solar year.

They set out on a mission to convert the whole world to their way of thinking. The world was visualised as a square, with NSE and W directions. For them, Antioch was its northern limit, Babylon the eastern, Egypt the southern and Greece-Rome the western. Their geometric patterns thus were a circle and a square. They drew them, using a pair of compasses for the circle and a setsquare for the angle of the square. These toolls became symbols of their missionaries. They called themselves Builders of the Wall from their missionary project of building a new temple containing the whole world.

Jesus became a heretic from their eastern point of view, and he was condemned in CD 4:19-20. He had married twice, as is shown in the pesher. The easteren writers of the Damascus Dcument continued their world mission while condemning Jesus and his Christian version. The word Saw, translated "precept" by Vermes, is, rather, an initial, the letter Sadhe, the first letter of the word Saddiq, the Righteous One, a title for Jesus in Acts 3:14.

The eastern Wall-builders continued as Masons,Builders, their symbols the tools used for their geometrical drawings, the circle and the square.

Thus the DSS can be seen as giving historical information of the greatest interest.
Jesus and Paul
Colin Martin, of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, asks two related questions:
Q. I have 2 questions about the letters of Paul.

The first concerns Romans which you consider to be actually the work of Jesus. But the letter does not read as if it is Jesus’ work even with Paul’s additions. It seems to be very much Pauline and I would like to understand this better.

The second is from the end of 1st Corinthians where the writer is explaining resurrection teaching. Paul knows that Jesus is alive and that the literal resurrection is not true but says
(ch15)[14] And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Is the writer being completely untruthful in this chapter? How are we to understand this?
Thanks for all your research. Your work is an exceedingly great treasure.
A. Thank you for your appreciation and for your well informed questions.
Romans was indeed the work of Jesus. He had been reflecting on what he had suffered at the crucifixion. He had been educated in the doctrine of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, a doctrine that the Qumran sectarians applied to themselves, as is shown in 1QS 8:1-4. They aimed to “atone for sin … by suffering the sorrow of affliction”. They suffered social and physical deprivation from their exile to Qumran, and justified it by saying that their suffering atoned for the sins if others, as did that of the Suffering Servant, who was “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities ; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole”.(Isaiah 53:5). Jesus at his crucifixion endured severe physical suffering, and remained wounded for the rest of his life. As he reflected on it, he saw that the “yoke should be easy and the burden light”. The self-imposed suffering of the sectarians, which they deliberately intensified, was a form of masochism. The cure for it was in a new doctrine, that Jesus’ suffering gave a once-for-all atonement, replacing the repeated rite of atonement that was performed every year by Jews. In Romans 8:1 he wrote “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”. The new doctrine meant nothing less than a new religion, the implications of which were worked through in Romans 1-12. Paul, accepting it whole-heartedly from Jesus, with whom he was in constant contact, added his messages at the end at the time he was preparing for a visit to Rome in the 50’s AD.

As for 1 Corinthians 15, Paul did write that, and he was being a missionary who had to adapt to his congregation. He deliberately allowed a circular argument. By the 50’s AD it was known to the Christian leaders that Jesus, whom they met with frequently, had survived the crucifixion. But the idea of resurrection was immensely powerful, as Simon Magus had known. Simon had brought about the revival of Jesus from poisoning in the burial cave by his knowledge of medicine, the purgative aloes and the soothing ingredient myrrh (John 19:39). He worked alone, with no witnesses. At his first opportunity he instructed his mistress Helena to spread the news that he had brought about a miracle, the physical resurrection of Jesus. As he knew, it meant that he, Simon, would be swept into the position of Pope. The idea of resurrection, widely held in the Hellenistic world, was comforting to the “babes”, the numerous uneducated members of the world-wide mission. Paul and Peter had to keep affirming it even after the breach with Simon Magus. They defined membership in two classes, uneducated and educated (1 Corinthians 3:1-3), and gave to the “babes” the teaching of a physical resurrection because it was a step in their educational process. It was not untruthful, merely what a teacher of elementary classes, and a parent of young children, does.
The 153 Fish of John 21:11
Q. Dr Edward Bliss of Lower Brynaman, Wales asks: "In John 21:11 Jesus miraculously helps his disciples land a large catch of fish; precisely 153 fish. I am mindful that Porphyry records this specific feat being performed by Pythagoras, in which Pythagoras predicted beforehand the exact number of fish (153) that would be caught. Moreover, I have read about sacred geometry and that 153 was a sacred number in at least two major ways that I can think of. Therefore, given the significance of precise numbers in the pesher, I would be interested to know the underlying derivation and significance of 153 fish in John 21:11."
A. The number was indeed fascinating for Pythagoreans, who tried to equate numbers with space. 153 was a triangular number.

They arranged numbers in shapes. The easiest example is the number 4, a square number, which could be drawn to form a tetragon



Other numbers were drawn as triangles, eg 3, 6, 10







The number 153 formed a triangle with 17 lines.



Such numbers, they believed, were a sign of divine control of events.

Further, there was another system. It was applied to the “fish”, that is Gentiles who had adopted the Essene celibate way of life. They had been “caught” (converted) by the Noah mission, which plied the Mediterrnaean. It must surely have been the case, they reasoned, that those on Noah’s ark fed on fish caught from the sea. When they succeeded in recruiting a Gentile, they hauled him up in a fishing net to the deck of the ship, where he was received by the “Noah”. As a monastic, he was also received there by “God”, the Annas priest. “Fish” became the emblem of Christians. (Full details will be found in my book Jesus the Man)

Celibate Gentiles formed monasteries with the same structure as Essene monasteries. Each one contained 100 celibates, 50 novices, and 3 main leaders. The 3 were responsible for the 3 nations of the world that survived the Flood, Shem, Ham and Japheth (Genesis 10). They totalled 153, a sacred number, “proving” the divine origin of the monastic system.

Concerning your comment about Porphyry. He was a 3rd century AD Neo-Platonic Greek philosopher. He wrote a treatise against the Christian religion, a book that is lost. He would be trying to prove that Pythagoras knew about the number 153 that John’s gospel claimed for itself.

For us, the number is a proof of the Pythagoreanism of Essenes that Josephus described in (Josephus, Antiquities 15, 371) . It is a direct sign of the Essene origins of Christianity, illustrated in very many ways, as this site and my books make clear.
Question on Luke 4:29
Q. Robert Evans of Nantwich England UK asks: "In Luke 4:29 we see a certain group of people, who I assume are Nazarenes, who are so incensed by what he says, that they are about to throw him down a cliff. This is somewhat curious, for though there is sufficient there to lead him to the cliff, there does not seem to be sufficient there to throw him off; Rather he manages to merely turn and walk right through them. This is not a logical conclusion. It appears to me, considering your teaching, that there is something else happening which is not at first apparent, considering that the Nazarenes, as I understand, are a married group of Essenes, and if so, they are against violence. Rather than continue further with any such possibilities of my own, I will leave it with you in the hope of enlightenment."
A. You are quite right that something else was happening. It was not supernatural, but political.

The setting was at Mar Saba,
Photo W

Photo W. The Mar Saba monastery. From Picturesque Palestine, 1880.

Figure 7a
Figure 7b
Distances in hours from the settlements in the Wilderness of Judea
2000 cubits = 5 stadia = 1 kilometer = 1 hour's walk

FIGURE 7. Map of the Wilderness of Judea and Diagram of the Scribe's Pen.

Also: Photos X, Photos Y, Photos Z, Photos BB.

Mar Saba was built on a series of rock shelves down the face of a cliff, rebuilt on the same plan in the 19th century. The clifftop is reached by road from Jerusalem via Bethlehem. (I remember Mar Saba vividly because of the notice on its iron door, in Greek, NO WOMEN ! Photo AA) Its base, far down from the clifftop, was at the wady Kidron, the river running from Jerusalem past the Mar Saba cliff until it reaches the Dead Sea further east. Pilgrims coming to Qumran from Jerusalem walked along the wady Kidron to their intermediate place at the base of the Mar Saba cliff, then turned east across low hills until they ascended to the height of Mird-Hyrcania (Mird Major in Figure 7), which lay halfway between Jerusalem and Qumran. After camping overnight they went on the next day to Qumran near the Dead Sea.

These pilgrims were Essene married men leaving their homes in Galilee to come down the west side of Jordan. Connected with married men were Essene Nazirites, who were married men who left their families for a period of spiritual retreat spent in solitary prayer.The periods ranged from 40 to 100 days. Some spent their prayer retreats in caves in the cliffside opposite Mar Saba, across the wady. It was for that reason that the area was called Nazara in Luke 4:16. An Essene synagogue was one of the buildings on the rock shelves opposite, visited by the solitaries on the sabbath and other significant dates.

In September 29 AD Jesus gave a sermon in the Mar Saba synagogue, in which he announced that the fulfilment of the predicted 3920 Restoration had come (Luke 4:16-21). It was at the date adjusted from the non-fulfilment of 21 BC, by adding a zero jubilee of 49 years to 21 BC. Jesus' announcement concerned both pro-Romans such as Antipas Herod I - a friend of the emperor Tiberius - and anti-Roman miltants led by Simon Magus. If the Restoration had come, it should give political power to one or other of the political parties. Antipas Herod I and Simon Magus were both present in the Mar Saba synagogue on this significant date.

It was politic for Antipas to remain a friend of Tiberius, for whom he had named Tiberias the capital of Galilee. But Pontius Pilate the current governor representing Rome was causing offence to everyone by his insults to Jewish religion. Antipas and Simon Magus agreed that the Qumran monastery and its outpost at Ain Feshkha should remain a secret meeting place for guerilla action against Pilate. So Antipas sent Simon down from the Mar Saba cliff to the wady. Simon would cross the wady and follow the pilgrim route to Mird-Hycania and from there to Qumran. Confident of political power because of the Restoration date, Simon would intensify the plotting at Qumran. In March 33 AD, 3 1/2 years later, the plotting would come to a head and cause the crucifixions.

The Rule of the Last Referent(RLR) makes a big difference to the meaning of Luke 4:29, as it always does. "Him", auton, the 4th word in v. 29, refers back, not to Jesus, but to Naaman the Syrian in v. 27. It was the last masculine singular 3rd person word. Naaman the Syrian, a leper (2 Kings 5:1) was one of the many pseudonyms of Simon Magus the "leper" (Mark 1: 40-45, Mark 14:3, and as Lazarus). It was Simon who was sent down the cliff in v.29. The one who sent him was Antipas, the "pantes" of v. 28, a term always meaning the 3rd Herod, a married man. Antipas was acting in a double role, both "full of Wrath", in favor of the emperor Tiberius, in v. 28, and against Pilate, so allied with Simon Magus in v.29.

In v.30 the word autos in the nominatve means a new subject, Jesus. He went "through the midst of them"- worshipping with Antipas in the synagogue - and "traveled" (eporeueto), remained a traveling missionary to the Diaspora, as Simon was. He endorsed the action of both of them, pro-Rome but anti-Pilate. Pilate, as I have argued, was "the Young Lion of Wrath" of 4QpNah 1:5-7 (See the pesher on Nahum in "THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS AND CHRISTIANITY" in Section 1)

Luke's gospel, with Jesus advising him in the 40's AD, is always the most informative of the gospels. Both men went on to produce Acts, covering the history from 33 AD for the next 30 years.
Request for Pesher Matthew 26:15
Q. Dr Edward Bliss of Lower Brynaman, Wales asks for the pesher of Matthew 26:15
A. See Reader Requests for Pesher
Pesher and Theater
Q. Stuart Weinberg, of Cambridge, Mass, USA, writes
On the surface the gospels are literary, theatrical, performance oriented; history interwoven with fantasy.
The depth the pesher provides displays precision and accuracy; a detailed history of a religious aristocracy within a complex political framework. As one moves to this level through the pesher the supernatural aspects evaporate.
Was the theatrical and supernatural nature of the surface narrative geared to expand the appeal to the diaspora audiences?
Was there a sort of ratings competition between different missions: vineyards and fig trees for example?
Was there an issue of political cover in the fact/fiction disparity?

On another track; if the parallels are lined up in Greek there are, in many cases, subtle variations from Gospel to Gospel which range from word order to variant terms. Did literary considerations for the performance orientation of these works play any role in these variations?
A. You have opened up a fact of the greatest interest.

A writer in a previous generation asserted: “There was no such thing as Jewish art”. He thought that all of the arts, music, painting theatre, were rejected by Jews as idolatrous, because they put into human hands the revelatory power that belonged to divinity. He had not researched very far into the cultural revolution that hellenized Jews were going through in the Diaspora, from at least the 3rd century BC.

At the bottom of the hill on which the Parthenon stands in Athens there is still to be seen an open air theatre dating from Roman times. The seats were carved from stone(they must have brought cushions with them!). On each of them is engraved the name of a civic leader whose social status required him to cultivate the arts. There the audience, in serried rows behind, sat fascinated by the plays of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles . The plays exposed and dramatized the dilemmas of the human condition, without offering easy answers.

In the Book of Revelation, chapter 11, there is an account of the world’s first Passion play. The chapter is dated exactly, like all parts of Revelation, by means of the solar calendar. The play was performed on Friday March 20, 44 AD, exactly 11 years after Good Friday. Jesus was present, going through the same actions as on God Friday. When Revelation 11:8 reads “their Lord was crucified” the meaning is that on the Qumran esplanade, on the row where three gibbets were erected, Jesus again stood, to have the T-shaped punishment board pointed at him, so being cursed preparatory to being placed on the gibbet for an audience to watch. (see John 19:17-18 pesher and parallels for the original event) But this time it was only a play. Simon Magus was also present, to be put on the central gibbet, as well as a substitute for Judas Iscariot, who on Good Friday night had been killed by his colleagues for his treachery.

Passion plays have been enacted ever since. There is no doubt that the events of Good Friday supplied all the elements of a tragic performance. A good man within a militant political party, struggling against their ideal of martyrdom for their religion in the face of the evil Roman Sons of Darkness. Crucifixion was the most cruel method of execution because it took days or even weeks to die. Jesus was of slight build, not strong physically, while Simon and Judas were strong men, fighters. A plot was hatched while they hung on the gibbets for 6 hours, carried out for them by Antipas Herod. The plot required telling Pilate, who was already in trouble with Rome for insensitivity to Jewish religious prejudices, that he would be in more trouble if he broke the sabbath by letting the men hang overnight. Pilate was to be persuaded of an alternative method of execution . Down from the south end of the esplanade, within the sabbath walking distance, out from the side of the cliff , were a pair of caves, of which one was used as a sabbath latrine and sick bay, the other one as a dungeon. Pilate should put the men in the dungeon, break their legs so they could not climb up out of it, block it at the top, and leave them there to suffocate. The penalty for revolt against Rome would thus be carried out.

Next came a more subtle opponent of Jesus, Jonathan Annas, whose priestly pomposity had been derided by Jesus. Full of apparent compassion , he gave Jesus a drink of poison mixed with a strong sedative, so that he could commit suicide to avoid the intolerable suffering. A neat way of disposing of a rival while maintaining Jonathan’s credit. Jesus lapsed into unconsciousness. As a test for death, his side was pierced with a medical lancet. Blood came out, showing John Mark the Beloved Disciple near him that he was not dead. It was easy to distract Pilate and persuade him that Jesus was dead.

Aloes, a kind of cactus plant, act as a purgative when the juice is given in large quantities. The friends of Jesus had him put into the western cave, the sick bay. They left a large jar there with enough aloes to expel the stomach contents. All the men involved were medical practitioners, called Therapeuts. They left the aloes and the soothing ingredient myrrh beside the bed on which Jesus would be laid. The two guards were both sympathetic with Jesus . During the night they carried Simon Magus from his dungeon cave into that of Jesus. Using his medical knowledge Simon performed resuscitation and administered the aloe juice. A cunning political manipulator, he realized while he was doing it that this was his way to fame, for having performed a miracle.

After some hours Jesus, who had intended to die by drinking the poison, found himself struggling into consciousness in the dark of the cave. His friends helped him escape. His legs had not been broken, and they helped him to walk down to a building on the plain below where his mother and Mary Magdalene stayed. Over the next few days, gradually recovering, he visited the meetings of his friends in other buildings in the Wilderness of Judea, and in Jerusalem itself.

Simon Magus, through his mistress Helena, spread the story that he had worked a miracle, a resurrection. The dramatic aspects of what had happened were not lost. They provided a story of loss of hope and recovery of hope for a new start in life.

They were men of genuine religious commitment, which meant telling the truth. Simon Magus had lied. Jesus saw that he must tell the truth. The pesher format provided him with just the vehicle he needed. He could give a perfectly accurate account of what really had happened, while constructing a surface drama that would have enduring value. While he lay recovering from his ordeal he began to compose John’s gospel. His hands were permanently damaged by the nails driven through them. But in the Qumran building where he lay there was a scriptorium, and he found helpers to record as he composed. When he later moved to Caesarea he continued the project.

Each gospel was telling the same story through the special meanings of words, understood by insiders, constituting a Lexicon. Variations between the gospels were because each was bringing out different facts from the crowded history, facts that were of greater interest for their own theological perspective. For example, Mark’s gospel, of which Peter was the actual author (as stated by later Christian writers), was for less educated married men. Its “healings” were promotions to a higher grade of ministry. Its most unbelievable miracles, for example the Feeding of the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, illustrated Jesus taking men of the most “unclean” class, married men and uncircumcised Gentiles, and ordaining them as ministers, as presbyters and bishops. Mark’s gospel is getting on with the job of giving the history of the institution rather than of Jesus himself. Similarly the Book of Acts and the Book of Revelation deal with the political history But John’s gospel is about the human potential for divinisation through suffering , as Jesus himself had experienced it.

I have gone rather far beyond your questions,because your point about theatre is so essential. Briefly, you ask:
Was the theatrical and supernatural nature of the surface narrative geared to expand the appeal to the diaspora audiences?

I would say that the missionaries were already teaching miracles to the “babes”, and studying the pesher in gnostic schools. The written form supplied a textbook that they could work with if they had the inclination and ability.

You ask: Was there a sort of ratings competition between different missions: vineyards and fig trees for example?

In a way. The Figtree were the gnostics who included Eden departments for monastic Gentiles. They produced the gnostic gospels in which -as far as we can tell from the Coptic translations - dealt more in mystic themes than in exact word-for-word pesher to supply a history.

You ask: Was there an issue of political cover in the fact/fiction disparity?

I would say that there was always an intention of political cover. They were an underground political movement, dealing in passwords and codes. Compare the early stages of Marxism in Russia.

Thanks for your close interest in the subject.
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James in Spain
Q. Mr H. Middlecrest, of Toronto, Canada, writes:
I have tried to find any references in your work to information I have read about James the Apostle spreading his ministry to Spain before he died in about AD 46.
A. This question opens up some historical matters that are of the greatest interest. Thank you.

In the original pre-Christian organization under Herod the Great, Spain, Gaul and Britain were well known to exist, because Julius Caesar had gone there in the 1st century BC. Herod (37 to 4 BC) set out to establish a worldwide Jewish kingdom, a New Israel, under a new Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The “Abraham” (Hillel) in the center, in Jerusalem, was the Father, a word that became Pope. Under him were two patriarchs, the “Isaac” (Menahem)in the east ,and the “Jacob” in the west. The “Jacob” was also responsible for Gentiles who wanted to join the project.

The “Jacob” was a man named Heli, a descendant of the David kings. He was the grandfather of Jesus. The Jacob had to have 12 “sons” to head the 12 ascetic orders that were now established. His favorite and most adventurous son, according to Genesis, was Joseph. So the son of Jacob-Heli bore the title Joseph. The titles were to go on through the generations, like the title Caesar. While the Jacob was alive,his son was called Joseph, but after his death the son became the Jacob and his son Joseph.

The first Joseph, the son of Jacob-Heli, was the father of Jesus, and Jesus should have continued the titles (among his other titles) . But because of the unintended complication that Jesus was conceived out of wedlock, his next brother became the Joseph, and subsequently he became the Jacob. We know him as James (Jacob) the brother of Jesus. In the course of arguments about whether Jesus was legitimate or not (he had been conceived after his parents’ binding betrothal) James could be put down to being the Joseph while he held the position of heir of the legitimate Jesus, until Jesus had a son of his own. That did not happen until 37 AD. So in 33 AD at the crucifixion Brother James was only the Joseph. He was Joseph of Arimathea of John 19:38. He was also Joseph Barsabbas Justus of Acts 1:23, who was up for election as a replacement for Judas Iscariot, although he did not make it. There was a lifelong animosity between Jesus and Brother James.

In the geographical division of territory under Herod the Great, the vast West began at Ephesus, the gateway to Greece and Rome. These countries were well known and civilized, but the countries of Spain, Gaul and Britain were for barbarians. The Jacob of each generation was the patriarch to the civilized West, but it was for his son or heir Joseph to be patriarch to the barbarians. He was too important to go there himself, but he was responsible for the missionary organization in the area. The apostle Paul, a man of lesser status, went to Spain, as he planned in Romans 15:24 and as is confirmed in the apocryphal book Acts of Peter*. To go to these areas was to go to the”uttermost parts of the earth”, according to the ideal set out in Acts 1:8.

Each patriarch was deemed to be present in spirit in the far places. A “tomb” was established for him there. In Compostella in Spain brother James-Joseph was honored with a tomb, and it remained a place of pilgrimage. But he would never have gone there himself, only a man as lowly as Paul served there, and he only stayed for a year.

Nor did Joseph of Arimathea go to Britain. The Grail legend was saying that the Grail came to England, in the form of the Christian communion with holy wine for which a reproduction of the original cup was used. But it does mean that Christianity came to England very much earlier than has been supposed, as we have argued here.

Incidentally, Brother James did not die in 46 AD. A full account of his murder in 62 AD on the orders of the high priest Ananus the Younger is given in Josephus, Antiquities 20, 200.

*You will find the account of Paul going to Spain in the Acts of Peter, in E. Hennecke New Testament Apocrypha Vol II, pp.279-282.
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Acceptance of the Pesher
C. John Gutermuth of Atlanta, Georgia, USA, sends a comment about the acceptance of the pesher: The rules of "pesher" are clear and specific (e.g., plural "Jerusalems" = "New Jerusalem" = Qumran). The "Word for Word" literal interpretations of the pesher are 100% consistent. The pesher interpretations eliminate most, if not all, impossibilities, conflicts, and other idiocies in the surface words of the applicable six NT books. The pesher accounts make far more logical, rational, and common sense than do the surface stories and their apologetic interpretations. The pesher is clearly historical while the surface is mostly mystical fodder to be read to the illiterate converts of the Biblical times. There are many other positive facets and features of the pesher which others may choose point out here.

I am, therefore, flabberghasted, gobsmacked, and dumbfounded that all of the "recognized" Christian theologians have completely rejected the work of Dr. Thiering - most often for the reason that no other theologian of note has accepted it. I have speculated the following possible causes for this universal, "orthodox", "Establishment" rejection:
  • They are too intellectually lazy or conceptually disadvantaged to comprehend the pesher method;
  • They are afraid of becoming the laughing stock of and shunned by their peers were they to find merit in the pesher;
  • They cannot admit - even to themselves - that they have wasted their entire careers on the histories of, the translations of, and the interpretations of the surfaces of the commonly accepted and studied, "original" Greek manuscripts and the many, many translated versions thereof.
  • While individual theologians may have lost their "faith" in the divinity of Jesus and/or the existence of "God", they cannot publicly admit that they personally and their ancestors had the wool pulled over their eyes;
  • Given the value they personally place upon the teachings of Jesus - all other considerations aside - they will not support truth which endangers the Christian Establishment;
  • There are other possible causes which others may wish to add.

For any or all of these and other "reasons", the individual theologian is too timid or fearful of the consequences to give serious, public consideration of the Thiering pesher. I find their public rationalizations for not doing so to be utterly unprofessional, anti-academic, and disgusting.
A. Many thanks for the encouragement. I have found that the actual situation is not quite that bad. I have received warm support from individuals in a wide range of countries – from British humanists, from Germany, Japan, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Rumania, Spain, Portugal,Italy, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa. In Australia, my own country, I have received great and continuing support, because I am among the majority who reject the biblical fundamentalism that has overtaken the Anglican church in recent generations.

In USA there has been the particular problem of the ideological commitment of the country to an Americanised version of Christianity. It was nobly fought by the Jesus Seminar under Robert Funk, who saw that the discovery of the Nag Hammadi codices showed Jesus in a different light, that of a real historical figure in the past. I was invited to become a Fellow of their society. Since Robert’s death their scholarly members have been working with historical asumptions, on the edges of what I say. From them there is mostly just silence about my research.

I have long faced the fact that it is very hard work indeed to follow the detail of the pesher. It took me an academic lifetime to work out. The best of scholars cannot affirm confidently that it is right by scholarly standards, until they have fully mastered it. Some who have rejected it have not always acted honestly. It has been affirmed that carbondating and paleography are against my dating, when in fact they confirm it.

But of course the main impediment is that its demonstrations that the miracles amounted to a hoax, including the virgin birth and the resurrection, look like an end for popular Christianity. Such apparent finalities have happened in religious history before. They bring reformations, but not an end to the human religious sensitivity. If you would read my essay, Theological Reflections, in the right column of the website, you would see why I think it is not the end.
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From Jerusalem To Jerusalem?
C. Dylan Stephens, our webmaster, sends a comment on a matter that has concerned generations of scholars: I have noticed a footnote to Acts 12:25 in my book of New Testament versions stating that some versions have "from Jerusalem" instead of "to Jerusalem". Many scholars saw the problem that since Saul and Barnabas were already in Jerusalem that it would be impossible to return to Jerusalem so in their wisdom, they changed εἰς (into) which is in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus to ἐξ or ἐκ (out of) such as Textus Receptus and others resulting in mistranslations into English such as King James, Rheims, new American Standard and the Latin Vulgate (ab- from). Thus it goes to show that those Christians who believe that the New Testament is the word of God should be careful of their sources. And here again in the above much appreciated Sinaiticus scanned document site, they have mistranslated "to" as "from"! (Granted they are working on getting the translation to correspond in the future.)
A. To encapsulate the problem:
In Acts 11:27 the Christians in Antioch received a message from Jerusalem. In response to the message, Paul and Barnabas traveled south.
In Acts 12 a great many events happened in the south.
In Acts 12:25 Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem.
So they went from Jerusalem to Jerusalem? That doesn’t make sense.

All the major texts, including Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, read “to Jerusalem” in Acts 12:25, using the Greek preposition eis. The scholarly Nestle-Aland NT reads eis . But because of the apparent problem other versions have changed the preposition “ to” to “out of” or “from”. They have thus made Paul and Barnabas go from Jerusalem to Antioch. But the verdict of the best texts and modern scholarship is against them.

The pesher of Acts and the gospels gives the answer to this and a host of NT problems. When the Greek is read, it is at once apparent that there are two different forms of the word Jerusalem. One is plural, Hierosolyma. The other is singular, Jerusalem. The difference is observable in many places. especially Luke-Acts. For traditional scholars that was no problem because the Hebrew has two different forms corresponding to these, and the Greek simply reproduces them.

But when the new factor of pesher comes into it, the answer is evident. The correct text with “to” does make sense. The pesharists were writing a true record of their history which was meant to conceal from outsiders the real facts, using the device of special meanings of words. They had set up a “New Jerusalem” when they were exiled to Qumran at the shore of the Dead Sea. For those who understood special hidden meanings, the plural form of the name meant Qumran. The singular form of the name meant the literal Jerusalem, more specifically the Cenacle building on the slopes of Mt Zion, which the Essenes also held.

In Acts 11:27 the plural form of the word Jerusalem is used. It means Qumran. Paul and Barnabas received a message from Qumran and traveled south, to Qumran.

In Acts 12:25 the singular form of the word Jerusalem is used. After the events in chapter 12 Paul and Barnabas traveled from Quman to the literal Jerusalem, then from there they returned to Antioch, where they were found in chapter 13.

This example shows what a revolutionary difference the Dead Sea Scrolls have made. They define pesher, and it has been my privilege to apply it to the New Testament.
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The 12 gates and 12 jewels
Q. Dylan Stephens our webmaster writes: My logic goes like this. The jewels are similar to Aaron's breastplate and therefore like them are related to the twelve tribes and to the gates. There have been attempts to reconcile the jewels on the internet, but clearly, because the gates have been readjusted by the Temple Scroll and by Revelation, these efforts on the internet have come to nothing. It would seem to me to be interesting to associate the jewels with gates and also with apostles in Revelation 21:14 (although you have used the pesher on 21:14, it would appear that the surface meaning implies a relationship with apostles thus substitution i.e. Paul for Benjamin the 12th and substituted for Judas. So there must be a correspondence: jewels=gates=apostles).
A. ANSWER The 12 gates of the Temple Scroll are not the same as the 12 jewels. Since the numbers 12 and 7 were the key to all reality for the Pythagorean Essenes (if only reality was as simple as that!) there are quite a few sets of 12, each one independent.

In Revelation 21:14, using the rule for numbers in the cardinal form(1,2,3) not the ordinal(1st, 2nd, 3rd) , the persons numbered 12 are Foundation 12, Name 12, Apostle 12. The Lamb of the verse is undoubtedly the descendant of Jesus, his grandson Jesus III at this time, in 113 AD. In the pesher of the gospels, Apostle 12 always means John Mark, a celibate monastic Gentile who acted as the “eunuch” to the David during his dynastic marriage. In January 113 AD he was a later man holding the same office. He was not a successor of Paul, who calls himself an apostle in his epistles, but the term in the gospels does not refer to him.

The term Foundation (themelios) refers to the members of the congregation, married men earning their living, who supplied the money on which the abbeys and monasteries depended. With ordinal numbers, 1st 2nd 3rd etc, they were the 12 representative men of the congregation, symbolised as jewels.because they formed the treasury of these institutions. See their seating arrangement below.

Originally there was no connection between the gates of the Temple Scroll and the ordinal 12 jewels of the congregation. The gates of the DSS Temple Scroll are placed in a square,3 to each wall, with the superior one in the center. Although the numbers are not stated in the Temple Scroll itself, the pesher shows that they are to be numbered from the east wall, next the south wall, next the west wall, next the north wall for the “unclean” class of married men and Gentiles, who at the north were visualised as down under the throne.

11 Dan 10 Naphtali 12 Asher
8 Gad 1 Simeon
7 Zebulun 0 Levi
9 Issachar 2 Judah
5 Benjamin 3, 6 Eph-Manasseh 4 Reuben

Dan and Asher were Gentiles, the former celibate, the latter married. Gate 12(pylōnes dōdeka, Revelation 21:12) always means the order of Asher, which included circumcised proselytes and uncircumcised Nazirite Gentiles, such as the authors of Revelation.

Foundation 12, using the cardinal number, (Revelation 21:14) meant the chief villager, who in the common table in his own home sat as a host on the equivalent of row 13 of the abbey. He was the man who in the list of graded ministers in the monastery was number 12. In the monastery itself the numbers only went to 11, as they included a 0, the leading priest. Number 12, actually a 13th, was always the excluded one. Beside him could be Apostle 12, the celibate Gentile such as John Mark who represented him. When the David was outside in the world as a Suffering Servant, he could be called the Lamb, from Isaiah 53: 4, 7. Thus in the seat of the village host Jesus III could be called both the Lamb and Foundation 12, as in Revelation 21:14.

The order of Asher had at first been headed by a non-Christian proselyte, Thomas Herod in the period of Acts, and also by a woman, at first Helena the mistress of Simon Magus, subsequently Bernice the twin sister of Agrippa II, the Scarlet Woman. Bernice was defined as the queen to her brother. By 113 AD the Christians had fully separated from Jews, so that the David king also was given the role of head of Asher, but only for the uncircumcised members, who had been the first to use the name “Christian”. So as the Lamb and Foundation 12, Jesus III also represented Gate 12, Asher.

There could be other village hosts, not the David, at different times. In Revelation 21:19 the word All is used with Foundations, meaning that he was a Herod, in the succession of Antipas Herod a married man. He sat in row 13, while the 12 heads of congregation, the “jewels”, with ordinal numbers, sat south of him. They are named in Revelation 21:19 and 20.

In the north-south space in all monasteries and abbeys there were 2 rooms, reproductions of the Qumran vestry. Its plan is shown in Figure 1, The Qumran Buildings. The northern room, loc 101, was for the clergy. It is on a raised dais going down to row 13. The south room, loc 102, was for the congregation, seated in rows that we call pews, looking humbly up to the north room for teaching and moral direction.

At the main abbey there were 12 leading married men, with their wives or a partner with similar status, making 24 congregation members present, sitting in 4 rows, with 3 men in each row, their wives or partners beside them. Each man was symbolised by a jewel, for the money they supplied formed the financial treasure of the abbey. At the main monastery or abbey there were 12 leading men of the congregation.

The first row of pews corresponded to row 15 of the south vestry. The arrangement of the pews placed the superior man in the center, the next in grade to the east, and the third one to the west.

The arrangement of the pews was:
R15 3rd agate 1st jasper 2nd sapphire
R18 6th carnelian 4th emerald 5th onyx
R21 9th topaz 7th chrysolite 8th beryl
R24 12th amethyst 10th chrysoprase 11th jacinth

The wooden seats were 1 cubit wide. There were 2 cubits between each set of rows, to give 1 cubit for a kneeler and 1 cubit for a further space.

Thus a great deal of history is given through the precise meaning of numbered terms. To analyse it all is hard work, intended for the literate schoolmen. Even the apparently visionary writers of Revelation were very down to earth historians, but only for those with ears to hear.
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Did Simon Magus substitute for Jesus
Q. Rico H , of Aue, Saxony, Germany, writes:
I read about a theory, saying that Jesus had been substituted on the cross by Simon (Simon the Zealot or Simon of Cyrene), who then survived the crucifixion, while Jesus could flee. Sources for this theory are the Nag Hammadi scriptures ("Second Treatise of the Great Seth") and also the canonical gospels. Is there any indication in the pesher for the role of Simon or for a substitution?
A. This idea is not found in the canonical gospels, but it is indeed in the gnostic document "The Second Treatise of the Great Seth", one of the Nag Hammadi documents found in a jar in Egypt in 1945. The Sethian gnostic literature held docetic views, that is they believed that Jesus was so divine that he could not suffer physically, he only appeared to suffer. The crucifxion did not happen to Jesus, because he was too superior to allow it. The passage reads:

"And the plan which they (the enemies of Jesus) devised about me (Jesus) to release their error and their senselessness - I did not succumb to them as they had planned. But I was not afflicted at all. Those who were there punished me. And I did not die in reality but in appearance, lest I be put to shame by them because these are my kinsfolk. I removed the shame from me and I did not become fainthearted in the face of what happened to me at their hands. I was about to succumb to fear, and I suffered according to their sight and thought, in order that they may never find any word to speak about them. For my death which they think happened, happened to them in their error and blindness, since they nailed their man to their death....It was another, their father, who drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. It was another upon whom they placed the crown of thorns. But I was rejoicing in the height above all the wealth of the archons and the offspring of their error, of their empty glory. And I was laughing at their ignorance." (vii, 2, 55: 10- 56:19).

Even before the Nag Hammadi discovery, doceticism was classed as a Christian heresy, for it denied what was held to be a central Christian doctrine, that Jesus' suffering on the cross was a final act of atonement, removing the necessity of an annual sacrifice of an animal for the removal of the guilt of sin. The pesher shows where the ideas in this passage came from. Simon Magus did indeed suffer on a cross- the central cross beside the western one of Jesus and the eastern one of Judas Iscariot. Jesus was only the third man of the three who were crucified for being militants against Roman rule. But for Christians he had been put there unjustly, as an act of treachery by his associates, substituted for Barabbas-Theudas who had actually been the third militant. For Christians, moreover, Jesus should have been on the central cross, for he was the supreme one, both a priest and king. So Simon, in this sense, substituted for Jesus on the central cross.

If you would see the pesher of John 19:17 (Look in the Index of verses in the Word for Word Index for this verse and in the left column of this site) you would see that the pesher shows that Simon carried his own T-shaped discipline board. The Sethian passage picks this up, but with its own distortion of the facts. The pesher of Mark 15:23 shows that when the crucifixions began both Simon and Jesus were offered a sedative mixed with wine, but Jesus did not accept it. In Matthew 27:34 it is added that the drink offered to Jesus contained poison (gall), in case he wanted to suicide at the outset, but he did not accept it at this stage. John 19:29 shows that Jesus was offered a drink of vinegar at 3 pm on the cross, and he drank it. It is the Gospel of Peter (See the Gospel of Peter in "The Other Gospels" in Section 4) that clearly says that it was mixed with gall. Simon Magus did not drink it, although he had been offered it at the outset. At 3 pm he was still alive, and his legs were broken in order to prevent him from escaping from the cave where he would be placed.

The pesher does show what really happened, and is a useful corrective to the imaginations of the devout, both in the past and now.
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Satan Revisited
Q. James Brayshaw of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada asks: I am looking for some insight on the testing of Yeshua (Jesus) in the wilderness.(Mat4) I have a very vague understanding of the rabbinic style of testing that was used to test a candidate who was a possible Messianic figure.
Do you have any resources you might be able to lead me to? I am working on volume 2 of Satan, Christianity's Other God (see if you are interested) and am hoping to supply the reader with a little more historical insight than the vagueness already contained in the draft of this 2nd volume.
My understanding of the testing is that there was a group of religious leaders who made it their job to run a Messianic candidate through a battery of tests. Tests such as being able to turn stones to bread and throwing oneself off a high building without suffering harm were a part of these tests. Hence, the account in the gospels of the testing of Jesus lands squarely on the hands of influential men as the responsible "devils".
Are you able to assist me in this plight to add information to vagueness?
A. While I understand the theological direction of your book, and the interest it would have for present theological controversies, I have to offer something much more prosaic. "Satan" was a real person in a political organization, as human as we are. There is no supernatural Satan, just as there are no supernatural beings in the sense that believers affirm.

Jesus was "tempted" by "Satan" in the "wilderness" (Mark 1:13) because he was going through a process required for ascetics of the second order of Essenes. He was coming out of a monastery where men of the great dynastic lines lived until they reached the age of 36. They then had to marry in order to continue the dynasties of the Zadoks and Davids, who had once been in power in the Jerusalem temple. Having been expelled from it, they were supported by Essenes in the hope of a Restoration to the temple. In the meantime they had to continue their hereditary lines through the process of dynastic marriage, while also valuing celibacy as the highest mode of life. The dynastic process applied to other men beside Jesus.

At the age for marriage they came out from the enclosed monastic life into the "world", kosmos, as Jesus was said to do in John 1:93. They went through several stages, living like the Therapeuts rather than the Essenes, related groups who both kept the distinctive solar calendar. Therapeuts formed institutions called abbeys, schools in which their members studied, but were free to leave for marriage, unlike permanent monastics who could never leave.

Therapeuts, as described by Philo in Contemplative Life, began as hermits, the name derived from the Greek erēmos, "wilderness". They went to an isolated place and lived alone in simple dwellings, with very few possessions, spending their days in solitary study of learned books. Jesus like all dynasts, including John the Baptist the heir of the Zadoks , took up this mode of life for a short time in order to adjust from the ordered monastic community to the complex society of the outside world. John, who was 6 months older than Jesus, is also introduced in the Wilderness, a hermitage, in Mark 1:4.

They were prepared by being "tempted" by the Chief Therapeut in the role of a "Satan", which simply means an Examiner. His task was to make sure that the candidate was morally strong enough to keep the ascetic rules for marriage, which meant limiting sex to the purpose of procreation only. He was given a trial period up to three years. If during that time his wife - who was also an ascetic, previously a nun - became pregnant, he waited for 3 months in case of miscarriage, then if all was well he underwent the binding marriage ceremony. After the child was born, preferably a son, he returned to the monastery, but only if he had proved that he could resist further temptations of the flesh, turning away from sex until the time came for a return from the monastery for a further conception. These were the rules for the second order of Essenes, described by Josephus in Wars of the Jews 2, 160-161.

"Satan" was the name given to the Chief Therapeut in the role of Examiner applying the standards of the Therapeuts. In the literary drama of the book of Job, the Satan was permitted by the Lord to test Job, to see if he would withstand the pressures of tortured flesh. In the abbeys of the Therapeuts, the schools they went up to after the hermit stage, there was a developed hierarchical system. Under the leading priest there were two deputies, a levite whose job was to ensure that the dynast returned to the monastery, and a "Satan" who tested him for ascetic discipline while he was outside. In the hierarchy of the gospel period the levite was Judas Iscariot, and the "Satan" was Theudas the Chief Therapeut.

This is made clear in John's gospel, which has a special interest in the ascetic rules. At the Last Supper, at the time Judas Iscariot left, "Satan entered into Judas Iscariot" (John 13:26-27). Thereafter, at the following discussion during the evening, there was present a "Judas not Iscariot" (John 14: 22). In the list of 11 apostles without Judas Iscariot in Acts 1:13 there is included a "Judas of James (Jacob)". In Luke 6:15-16 the list of 12 apostles at their first appointment included both Judas Iscariot and Judas of James. Comparing this list with the ones in Mark 3:17-19 and Matthew 10:2-4 it is seen that this man was also called Thaddeus, that is, Theudas. As "Satan" who entered the position of the departed Judas Iscariot, he adopted his name Judas, but a different Judas. The Chief Therapeut as a Judas is also found in Damascus, in Acts 9:11.

The Book of Revelation presents an even more down-to-earth Satan. In Revelation 2:13 a letter is addressed to Pergamum, a city in the Roman province of Asia, north of Ephesus. A Satan lives there, occupying a throne, and he dwells there with Antipas, a title of a married Herod.

The Essene monasteries were for gnostics, men who spent their time in learning. Under Pythagorean influence they had developed astronomy and mathematics well beyond what was known by ordinary people. It was secret knowledge, not to be revealed to anyone who had not studied for years with them. Elaborate imagery, pseodonyms and codes concealed the detail of their organization. But when their pesher conundrums are solved, it is found that they were simply very intelligent people, who gave to the world many of the elements of western culture.
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Was Jesus physically present for years after the crucifixion
C. Senator John Siddons, retired from the Federal Parliament of Australia, has a special interest in Christianity and politics. He follows up his recent comment with what seems like a problem for the history:
"The fact that Jesus is not portrayed as being active in the Acts or the Epistles has always been a stumbling block for many active Christians to believe that Christ went to Rome"
A. Let's have another look at it. In Corinth, according to 1 Corinthians 1:12, there were 4 factions: one for Paul, one for Apollos, one for Cephas (Peter), and one for Christ. What did the Christ faction do, since this was in the 50"s AD and he was supposed to be dead? Paul should surely have explained why he presented them as all equal. In that same city, according to Acts 18:9, Jesus spoke to Paul one night with some very local advice when Paul was having trouble with Jews: "Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one shall attack you or harm you, for I have many people in this city". It was said to be in a "vision" (orama), a word from the verb "to see". But Jesus did not talk broad spiritual generalities as a vision might do; rather, down-to-earth facts about a particular city, and what he said was no different from what the head of a faction such as a bishop might say.

In the same Epistle to Corinthians, in chapter 7, Paul was giving Christian rules for marriage. He came to the subject of divorce in verses 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. Without mentioning a vision, he gave two varying opinions, emphasising that one was his, and the other that of the Lord, about whether divorce should be permitted. The Lord said there should not be divorce, although with some concessions. Paul said in verses 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 that the matter depended on whether one partner was a Christian, a believer, and the other not. The viewpoints could be reconciled, but why did Paul say so plainly that one was from the Lord and one from himself, giving himself equal authority with the Lord? It was just as if the two had been having a recent discussion about it at a table, as two bishops might. That would fit the fact that there were four equal factions in Corinth, but not the fact, which is not stated, that Jesus was dead and speaking from heaven.

In Acts 23:22, in Jerusalem in the late 50's, Paul was again in trouble. "The following night the Lord stood by him and said, 'Take courage, for as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome"'. No indication of a vision is given, simply of a secret meeting at night, when Jesus acting like a ruling bishop told Paul of his intention that Paul should leave Judea and continue his work in Rome.

From the time that Paul and his party boarded the ship to go to Rome, the narrative of Acts 27 changes from the normal 3rd person "they" to the 1st person "we". Modern scholars, convinced that the gospels and Acts are the product of many different sources, have defined the "we-sections" as coming from a different source written in the 1st person by a participant. That is to assume disunity, but that assumption is being weakened by the mass of new documents that have come to light. An alternative would be to assume unity, and that something else is being conveyed by the word "we". Jesus was in a situation where he needed someone to represent him. He stayed in seclusion , while another who knew his mind spoke for him as "we". That someone was Luke, the author of Luke-Acts, who as the "beloved physician" was very close to the man who had suffered injury at an aborted crucifixion many years before. It was Luke who accompanied Jesus to Rome. Jesus stayed in Rome for years after their arrival, until he died and was buried in Rome.

All of this is what a reasonable thinking person might suppose when he or she considered what Acts and the Epistles say. It does not draw on the pesher technique which has been learned from the Dead Sea Scrolls and gives a great deal more, fully confirming these observations.

The pesher technique does say something significant about other occasions in Acts which do look like visions, with Jesus speaking from above to Paul and Peter. In Joppa, in Acts 10: 9-16, Peter went up on to a roof to pray at noon. From above a voice spoke to him, and a cloth was let down full of all kinds of unclean animals, three times. The voice gave direction that Peter should give up his dislike of the "unclean", that is he should dine with Gentiles. The well-tested assumption of the pesher, which always works, is that it was a natural event . Peter was in a building with two storeys.

He went up on to the roof of the first storey. The second storey was set a little further back. Jesus was on the top of this storey, and he let down a tablecloth that woud be used at the noon sacred meal. It was embroidered with images of animals in the fashion of Gentiles. The meaning was plain, that Peter, an exclusive Jew, should use a Gentile cloth and dine with Gentiles.

In Damascus Paul had had a similar experience (Acts 9:1-9). It was 40 AD, years after the crucifixion and "resurrection". The Damascus monastery was a meeting place for the Way, a name for proselytes to Judaism. The roof of the building was a platform for priests to pray at noon, among them Jesus, who was attending a council in Damascus. Paul arrived on the ground floor further forward than the prayer platform, full of hostility to Jesus' pro-Gentile attitudes. Jesus saw him and spoke with him, bringing about a conversion by Paul to his point of view. Thus Jesus "appeared to him in the Way" - translated road - to Damascus.
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The Flood Story
Q. M.J. Davies, of Canberra, Australia, asks
Is there a pesher interpretation of the flood story?Does the pesher technique apply to the Jewish history/Old Testament, or does it only apply to that history/literature as it relates to the Qumran community?
A. Your question allows me to clarify the use of pesher, and also to give historical information about the Flood story.

No book of the Old Testament was set up for a pesher. Only certain books in the New Testament were set up for it - the gospels, Acts and Revelation. They were intended as a new scripture, composed by people who believed that scripture ought to contain an exact pesher available to learned people with an insider's special knowledge.

Nevertheless, the Flood story of Genesis 6:11-7:22 has been a satisfying study for scholars ever since the discovery of cuneiform tablets in Mesoptamia in the 19th century. Among the discoveries was the Gilgamesh Epic. Its column 11 gives a Flood story that is closely parallel to the biblical one, but its hero is a man called Utnapishtim, and the flood was brought about by pagan gods and goddesses. Here are some extracts from it:

"...Their heart led the great gods to produce the flood... 'Tear down the house, build a ship! Aboard the ship take the seed of all living things. The ship that you will build, her dimensions shall be to measure...'. I provided her with six decks, dividing her into seven parts. Her floor plan I divided into nine parts...On the seventh day the ship was completed...All my famiy and kin I made go aboard the ship. The beasts of the field, the wild creatures of the field, all the craftsmen I made go aboard...Six days and six nights blows the flood wind...When the seventh day arrived, the sea grew quiet, the tempest was still, the flood ceased...On Mount Nisir the ship came to a halt...A fifth, a sixth day Mount Nisir held the ship fast...When the seventh day arrived, I sent forth and set free a dove...Then I sent forth and set free a swallow...Then I sent forth and set free a raven..Then I offered a sacrifice...The gods smelled the savor, the gods smelled the sweet savor, the gods crowded like flies about the sacrificer..."
In James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, Princeton University Press.

The parallels with the biblical story gave reason for what is now a settled conclusion, that there really had been an unusually devastating flood between the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia. An enterprising man built a boat and sailed it to a mountain top , where some survivors with their animals could settle and start their agricultural civilisation again. Their rescue gave religious significance to what had happened, and the mountain became a shrine where the story was preserved. The boat-builder became their prophet. In the course of time their salvation history underwent accretions of all kinds, including adjustment to an early form of calendar. It remained among the records of the area, with differing theological interpretations. As in the case of the Creation story - which was also found among the tablets- it was believed that when a particular tribal group gained an independent identity, that was the beginning of universal history at the moment of the creation of the world.

The Noah story became the subject of a pesher artificially imposed on it by the pesharists of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in 4Q252. As may be seen from the gospels, the story was used as the theme of an acted drama of initiation in the 1st centuries BC and AD. Gentiles were "saved" from a coming world catastrophe by becoming initiates of the Qumran community, which developed into the Christian church. They were made to wade through sea water like "fish" and brought up on board a fishing boat, which sailed up a water channel until it let them out on to the dry land of salvation. The missionaries who instructed them likened themselves to the dove and the raven which had been sent out by Noah. John 21 gives the best information about the method it. In our "Miracles" section, see the item on "walking on water".

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