Did Qumran Expect Two Messiahs? -- By: L. D. Hurst

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 09:1 (NA 1999)
Article: Did Qumran Expect Two Messiahs?
Author: L. D. Hurst

Did Qumran Expect Two Messiahs?

L. D. Hurst

University Of California, Davis

It has long been held that the Qumran community expected not one but two Messiahs. This assumption has often been accompanied by the act of translating the Hebrew term māšîaḥ in Qumran literature as “Messiah” (with or without the capital “m”) rather than as “anointed.” The Qumran texts themselves do not necessarily support this viewpoint. A careful examination of the most important literature reveals that the multiple messiahship of Qumran is a creation of modern scholars, not a fact required by the texts themselves.

Key words: Messiahs, anointed, Damascus Document, diarchy

I. Introduction

To students of Judaism and early Christianity there is probably no more familiar concept than that of “the Messiah.” The “messianic” beliefs of what was once called “normative Judaism”1 and of Christianity, furthermore, are usually viewed as relatively clear in their definitions. Both Jews and Christians looked forward to the coming of a deliverer, a Messiah from the line of David, who would right all wrongs and introduce the final age of human history. The two movements, Judaism and Christianity, then parted ways largely on the basis of identifying who that figure was.

Then the situation radically changed. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, our “clear” picture of Second Temple Judaism—not to mention of first-century Jewish Christianity—began significantly to blur. Scholars of Judaism now spoke of Second Temple Judaism, for instance, not as a monolithic block, but as something more like a kaleidoscope. “Judaisms”2 gradually became the more characteristic

way of speaking of the religious situation into which Jesus would have been born.

Also, for the first time, it was said, there was clear evidence of at least one Jewish group that expected not one but two future figures—two “Messiahs.” This belief was subsequently said to provide a clearer picture of the concepts with which the early Christians were working when they made their revolutionary claims for Jesus of Nazareth. Accordingly, he fulfilled the twofold ancient expectation of the Messiah—king and priest. Thus was born the thesis that the Qumran community had a dual expectation of a “Messiah of Aaron” and a “Messiah of Israel,” a thesis that continues to be the view most widely accepted by scholars working on the Dead Sea materials.

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