Sectarian Parallels Qumran and Colosse -- By: Edwin M. Yamauchi

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 121:482 (Apr 1964)
Article: Sectarian Parallels Qumran and Colosse
Author: Edwin M. Yamauchi

Sectarian Parallels
Qumran and Colosse

Edwin Yamauchi

[Edwin Yamauchi, Graduate Fellow and Candidate for Ph.D. degree, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts.]

The three sites—Qumran in Palestine, Colosse in Asia Minor, and Chenoboskion (Nag-Hamadi) in Egypt—have produced literature which may be taken to illustrate the evolution of gnosticism. The Sectarians from Qumran1 , on the one hand, have been described by some scholars as representatives of a gnosticizing Judaism.2 The codices recovered from Chenoboskion, on the other hand, are shedding much light upon the nature of the gnostic heresies that flourished in the second century.3

Since the heresy which Paul confronted at Colosse may be characterized as a Judaistic gnosticism, we may hope to gain a better understanding of the affinities of the Colossian heresy by comparing any parallels to its features from these new sources.4 The comparison is complicated by several factors. (1) The Colossian heresy itself is hybrid in nature. (2) Our understanding of the heresy is derived in part from explicit negative statements about it and in part from implicit suggestions as to its nature which we may form from Paul’s positive emphases.

In our present study we shall be concerned primarily with the materials from Qumran. We shall do well not only to

compare parallels, but also to note where parallels are lacking to determine if we can assume any Sectarian influence.5 We shall examine the evidence for comparisons in the areas of practices, attitudes, and doctrines.


The evidence for parallels with Qumran is clearest in the Judaistic practices of the heresy. It is true that many of these could be illustrated by reference to normative Judaism. However, certain aspects seem especially congenial to the environment of Qumran. Paul in Colossians 2:16 warns: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of any holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.”

First of all, the Sectarians were vitally concerned with calendaric questions, since they followed a calendar which was different from the other Jews—one which was similar to that of the Book of Jubilees. Indeed, this difference may have been one of the factors in their original secession from Judaism at large.6

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