The First Christians in Their Social Worlds: Social-Scientific Approaches to New Testament Interpretation

By Philip F. Esler | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

Introverted sectarianism at Qumran and in the Johannine community

THE DUALISM OF THE COMMUNITY RULE FROM QUMRAN AND THE FOURTH GOSPEL

The Community Rule, one of the most significant of the Dead Sea scrolls, and the Gospel of John exhibit an outlook which is noticeably dualistic. The Community Rule (referred to as ‘1QS’), for example, describes at one point how God, having created human beings to rule the world, assigned two spirits to them until the appointed time of his visitation, a spirit of truth and a spirit of injustice. The passage continues:

From a spring of light come the generations of truth, and from a well of darkness the generations of injustice. Control over all the sons of righteousness lies in the hand of the prince of lights, and they walk in the ways of light; complete control over the sons of injustice lies in the hand of the angel of darkness, and they walk in the ways of darkness. It is through the angel of darkness that all the sons of righteousness go astray. All their afflictions and their times of distress are brought about by his rule of hatred, and all the spirits of his lot make the sons of light to stumble.

(1QS III. 19-24; Knibb 1987:95)

After this the text recounts the particular types of behaviour which characterise those who are led by either spirit (1QS IV. 2-11) and the fate destined for each group (1QS IV. 15-26). Similarly, in John’s Gospel we find a pronounced dualism between the world above and the world below, between the force of the world above (represented by Christ) and the force of the one below (represented especially by the Jews), and between light and dark-

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