the First Christians:
The Psalms in the New Testament
from the Dead Sea
We turn now from what is, for most present-day readers, unfamiliar material— the literature of the Jewish sect at the Dead Sea—to what is, for most readers, eminently familiar territory—the new Christian Scriptures. Already in chapter 7 we noted the seeming parallel between the two bodies of literature, the chain of proof texts in the Qumran Florilegium and the chain of proof texts in the first two chapters of the Letter to the Hebrews, and one possible link between the Dead Sea community and the New Testament as well, the figure of John the Baptist. And we find further links between the two communities, for the Qumran community, founded by the Teacher of Righteousness, saw itself as the true remnant of Judaism, whereas the Christian community, founded by Jesus of Nazareth, saw itself in the beginning as the true Israel of God (Gal. 6:16).1
The Hasmonean priest-kings continued to rule in Jerusalem, but the squabbles of their factions continued to involve Rome. As we have seen, in 63 B.C.E., during the reign of Hyrcanus II, the Roman general Pompey occupied Jerusalem and thereby integrated Palestine into the Roman Empire; but Rome continued to sponsor various rulers of the Hasmonean line. The last of this line, and the most powerful, was Herod the Great (37–4 B.C.E.), an Idumean (that is, an inhabitant of the territory of the old Edomites southeast of the Dead Sea) who came to power through his marriage to Hyrcanus’s granddaughter Mariamne. Though Herod was a powerful king, who enlarged and beautified the temple in Jerusalem, he remained a vassal to the Roman emperor Augustus throughout his reign. It is this Herod to whom Matt. 2:1 refers.
When Herod died in 4 B.C.E., Palestine was divided among his three sons; one of them, Archelaus, was given control of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. But in 6 C.E.