Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Non-Apocalyptic Jesus

From the Gospel According to Saint Matthew chapters 16 and 17:

"From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. The Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, "Get up, and do not be afraid." And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead." And His disciples asked Him, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" And He answered and said, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist."

The above passage I have always found interesting. I have commented on this in my blog before. A friend of mine has read some material that suggested that the main image of Jesus is of an apocalyptic prophetic messiah. This is a view that both fundamentalist and liberal scholars seem to agree upon. The issue is that there is a verse embedded in this passage and in similar passages in the synoptic gospels that suggests that Jesus expected to return within the lifetime of the generation of people present around him. Fundamentalist scholarship kind of does a time stretch on this verse, like a day for god is like a thousand years, and skips over the literalness of "some of you standing here will not taste death". All the people of this time period, with the exception of possible humans who attained physical immortality, have long since passed on, and yet the "second coming of Jesus" has not yet happened. Liberals assume that Jesus made a prophetic mistake.

My own understanding is that there was a document called the Q document and that the Greek Matthew Gospel was compiled by some scholar and editor who synthesized the Q document with as Aramaic Matthew, and, quite probably, other documents. Later on, paragraph breaks were placed in the manuscript that would tell the narrative according to an orthodox Christian interpretation that was becoming dominant over time. But the dividing the narrative between chapter 16 and 17, I feel, was a mistake, that the answer to the "some of you standing here will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming into his kingdom" is present in the next chapter, in the event called in later Christian tradition by "the transfiguration". This is where Jesus turns his physical body into a light body. In New Age spirituality, this has been called a "light episode". It is an evolutionary forerunner to a state of being and consciousness that will eventually be more permanent to us. Life tends to not drop a new state of being upon us all at once. Everything in nature grows and evolves, step by step, and Jesus is no different.

He would often go up to the mountains to "pray". It is clear to me that this is a code word for a meditation process. Theistically oriented religions tend to use "prayer" rather than "meditation", but it is clear that they are similar. Jesus talks about going into an "inner closet" and to "not use many words". I do feel that it was a breathing process. One verse talks of "praying continually in the breath (pneuma)" and I Thessalonians 5:16-17 to "rejoice always, pray without ceasing". With the Aramaic word for god, "Abwoon" being a breathing mantra ("Ah" on the inhale and "Bwoon" on the exhale as a whisper chant riding the breath), there is a method that is described that is very quick and powerful to attain a result. Swami Yogananda felt that this verse did refer to something akin to Kriya Kundalini Pranayama, especially because it leads to "rejoicing always".

One book that I read talked about the desert mountains being bio-electrically charged, having lots of ionized plasma. This would explain the "burning bush" that Moses saw and why it would be wise to "take off sandals" (to ground oneself) and why the bush did not actually burn (being a plasma glow rather than a real fire). It would be ideal to absorb highly charged prana for evolutionary prayer, though any circumstance would work. The disciples ask Jesus how to pray. Conventional Christian and Jewish prayer has been mainly about throwing words up at god and they observe Jesus doing something different. It is likely that they noticed his breathing changing and his body undergoing first relaxation and then cellular change. It is clear that conventional prayer is not what he was doing and that whatever he did was visibly different. It is also clear that whatever he was doing needed some teaching to learn. Throwing up words to god does not really need any kind of educational process.

When the body of Jesus turns into light, he meets and talks with Moses and Elijah. It used to puzzle me why they would appear, but it seems that Moses used Egyptian Alchemy to attain his light body and that the "manna from heaven" was part of this process. Elijah used a "merkabah" meditation to do the same. Jesus is adding a third method using "the holy breath". This shows that Judaism has within itself valid transformational methods. The methods are a little esoteric and not commonly known, but they are represented in this meeting on the mount of transfiguration.

What the passage shows is that the "kingdom of god" is a kingdom of light. The "son of man" is the next mutation in the human species. The word "son" being the offspring of the present generation. It is a valid evolutionary term given the language of the time. There is no evolutionary biological science and terminology to reference and so it is a decent metaphor given the choices. Jesus shows the mutation to show it is not merely an idea, but something verifiable. It is a kind of science.

The fear that the disciples feel is understandable. It is a primate attachment to a solid world. When the entire physical world is seen as a creation from a cloud of luminous intelligent quantum energy it is usually a little terrifying. There is nothing to fear, but it is an unknown when the shift first happens. Even friends who have meditated for a while and who have felt a light episode or felt a higher being appear before them, fear sometimes arises. Part of meditation is learning to release this primate reflex. In the Heart Sutra of the Buddha, the teaching of "emptiness" is given. It has to do with opening up a Quantum vision of the universe, both outwardly and physically, and internally and psychologically. It has to do with seeing everything being nonsubstantial, nongraspable, and nonseparate.

From this view, the crucifixion of Jesus is a scientific process of showing how this quantum vision can overcome conventional death. It is why Saint Paul talks about the resurrection as being the key to Christianity. If the atonement theory is correct, then the crucifixion pays the price and the resurrection is less necessary. But if victory over death is key, then the resurrection is the key. The beauty of this kind of interpretation is that it becomes a scientific demonstration that the "holy breath" can heal everything. The event does not need to have any exotic interpretations involving angry gods, sin, wrath, and human sacrifices. Jesus has confidence in his prayer process, because of the transfiguration, and can envision surviving death itself. It would make sense if he was feeling the very cells of his body transform in this experience.

The phrase "come after me" is interesting in the above passage, because it suggests that we are meant to follow the mutation process, to crucify the old self and resurrect into a new being. It is also clear that the new being sees life differently, that ordinary human concerns are no longer relevant, especially the usual fear of death and how to guard one's life. Peter is rebuked for not understanding the immensity of what wants to happen. There is talk of "losing one's life to find it". The process of "losing" and "finding" is outlined in the example of Jesus who does lose his conventional life to find a resurrected one. In other words, the mutation process is pointed to in all these metaphors. In I Corinthians Chapter 15, there is a clear hint of cellular transformation. If you take in what has been shared above and look at the passage, you can see how I am feeling confirmed:

I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE. Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God I speak this to your shame. But someone will say, "How are rthe dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL " The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, will also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.Behold I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."

The above passage is sometimes related to the second coming, but the context that I am sharing is a little different. There is a talk of some kind of cellular change (flesh). Different kinds of flesh differ in "glory" (energy, radiance). The ordinary physical body undergoes change from perishable to imperishable. It becomes a light (heavenly) body.

There are a lot of other passages I could quote that fit into this framework, like Jesus being "the first fruit of those raised from the dead" with the expectation of more to come and a mass mutation to the next evolutionary step ("the second coming"). What I would suggest is to try to go back to this time period and see what it would mean to try to speak of a quantum biological mutation in our species, beyond aging and death as we know it, that involves a breathing pranayama prayer. You do not have the language of evolutionary biology to draw from, no Quantum physics, and no biofeedback machines to register what the cellular change is about. You do the best that you can. You demonstrate the mutation in your own body, more than once. You do feel it is "soon" in biological time and geological time, because you feel this process working inside yourself and wanting to happen in others. But you do not know "the time or the hour" of the actual transformation. But you do predict that "some of you will not taste death" before they see you demonstrating "entering the kingdom" by turning your body into light.

I want to add one more point here which is beyond scholarship. The reason why I do feel that this interpretation is probably true is because my own body has undergone many light shifts. They have happened when I have been in meditation. They fit the teachings that I have discerned inside the New Testament, though much has come from Buddhism and Zen meditation. For instance, in meditation, "the holy breath" will call to remembrance everyone and anyone with whom we hold resentment towards. We are meant to forgive very deeply everyone until we truly learn to "love our enemies" and "resist not evil". This process is far deeper than I think people realize and is enough to create some light body shifts inside us. It burns away a massive amount of karma. It is why the "Lord's prayer" is so integral to transformation. It deeply emphasizes forgiveness as a karma eraser. Jesus also gives the evolutionary key to forgiveness in one of the lines he says from the cross, "Abwoon, forgive them for they know not what they do." This short verse has a lot of levels of meaning. It is the only verse in the entire Bible that explains "why forgive". It locates the cause of sin, not in willful disobedience, but in unconscious ignorance (like the Buddha). It also shows that the desire for vengeance is very strong in humans, so much that Jesus, who normally just forgives, must ask the holy breath to forgive for him. This is psychologically brilliant. What this means is that forgiveness realigns us with unconditional love, which does not need any wrath, sacrifice, and atonement to forgive anyone for anything. You simply release the condemnation. You see that people do not know what they are doing, that they are innocent and unconscious, and therefore can be accepted and forgiven. It fits with Jesus quoting the OT a few times and saying, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice". The phrase about forgiving unconscious ignorance, too, is something I meditator would need to know at a certain part of their process. Our own anger is crucifying us all the time and this is the way out.

In terms of scholarship, I do not have a massive stake in any view being right. What I can share is the Jesus the healer and light being is what I see and read in the verses. This Jesus has been a guide for me in my own process and I have found a lot of stories and passages very relevant to my own transformation, and that I have experienced light episodes a number of times, and even had a few of them witnessed by others. I can make them happen through intention to a certain extent, but I am not, as yet, masterful enough to simply surge my face like the sun as Jesus and Moses did. When I tried to show my right hand turning into light to a friend who needed a demonstration, I was successful, but I found I had a blood sugar crash shortly afterwards and needed to eat a lot of crackers to recover from it. There is a biological side to this process that I am understanding better over time. I do feel that it requires us to at least be vegetarian and that Jesus was vegetarian. He may have eaten some fish early in his process, but in his later process even this was probably abandoned. He does not eat the Passover Lamb and he opposes animal sacrifices happening in the temple. It seems that certain herbs and essential oils were helpful to his process.

To me, I can and do accept that the Bible is a kind of scrap book with lots of stuff. Some of it is inspirational and some of it has to do with tedious lists, historical records of wars, many contradictions between different human authors, and other things. I wish for scholarship to keep evolving and sorting all this out, to discern what is most reliable historically. But I wonder if something might be easier for a meditator to understand and put together. There is a Jesus who taught a wonderful level of love in the Sermon on the Mount and who seems to have undergone a wonderful mutation into a light being. I would like to feel that this has some historical accuracy behind the mish mash process of historical records, compilations, rewritings, and overlays.


  1. In the saying, "Shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man come in power" [Mark's version] I doubt that "the transfiguration" was meant as it took place merely three days later. No one was expecting anyone to die in those three days.

    Also, the term "to come in power" is used in other apocalyptic works to denote a transformation of the earth, God coming down, judging the nations, ends of days, etc.

    Moreover, the whole Jewish defiance of the Romans in the first century was linked, as Josephus himself pointed out, to the book of Daniel. People reading Daniel believed there was going to be a final battle between the sons of light and darkness in the first century. It's part of what added to anti-Roman sentiment and Jewish enthusiasm for revolt.

    The Dead Sea Scroll also speak in apocalyptic language and predicted a final battle within a generation between the sons of light and the sons of darkness, centering round Jerusalem. They also contain the phrase, "this generation shall not pass away," interpreting it as their own. Jesus and his followers appear to have picked up on the same midrashic interpretation of Hosea and used it just as the Dead Sea Scroll authors had done before them: "This generation shall not pass away until. . ."

    For the latest explication of the apocalyptic Jesus (by a theologian who fully accepts the possibility of miracles, and even a possible "light body" interpretation of the transfiguration) see Dale Allison's work,

  2. I asked my friend Ed to write something of the scholarship related to the apocalyptic Jesus. The above post is his honoring this request.

  3. Some related verse references:

    2. Matthew 24:30
    "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.
    Matthew 24:29-31 (in Context) Matthew 24 (Whole Chapter)
    3. Matthew 26:64
    Jesus said to him, " You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN."
    Matthew 26:63-65 (in Context) Matthew 26 (Whole Chapter)
    4. Mark 13:26
    "Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory.
    Mark 13:25-27 (in Context) Mark 13 (Whole Chapter)
    5. Mark 14:62
    Mark 14:61-63 (in Context) Mark 14 (Whole Chapter)
    6. Luke 21:27
    " Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory.
    Luke 21:26-28 (in Context) Luke 21 (Whole Chapter)
    7. Luke 22:69
    " But from now on THE SON OF MAN WILL BE SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND of the power OF GOD."
    Luke 22:68-70 (in Context) Luke 22 (Whole Chapter)

  4. Another relevant verse:

    Mark 9:1 And Jesus was saying to them, "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power."

    2 Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them;

    3 and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.

    [What I find interesting about this verse set is that the chapter breaks do not split the prediction from the transfiguration, unlike Matthew.]

  5. In the above passage (Mark 9:1-3), verse 2 is linked to verse 1 by the Greek word "kai" which is usually translated as "and". My understanding of "kai" is that it is a stronger conjunction than the word "and" in English. "Kai" links the two greatest commandments (Love god with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself) so that they form a unity and together answer the question of the scribe, "What is the greatest commandment?". In any case, it shows the prediction and the transfiguration linked together. This does fit my understanding of the "kingdom of light" well.

    What is interesting is that the apocalyptic verses and the transfiguration verses is that a "cloud" theme is in both of them. With the apocalyptic vision of Jesus coming in a cloud for final judgment and with Jesus turning into light, seeing Moses, Elijah, and a voice speaking out of a cloud (of light?).

  6. Luke 17:20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;

    21 nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst."

    I did a commentary on this particular chapter (Luke 17) in an earlier blog entry:

    A very large number of the "kingdom" statements of Jesus are in the present tense. In the above passage, the "kingdom of god" is considered "in your midst" and "within you" (the Aramaic word meaning both). It is "not coming with signs to be observed". This passage may be in contradiction to the more external future oriented apocalyptic view, though the language of the chapter has similarities with the apocalyptic language.

    It is clear the Christianity did focus on an external second coming with Jesus coming in clouds with heavenly hosts, to judge the world and rule it. The question is whether there might be an inner interpretation related to a kingdom of light and something found "within" and "in your midst".

    It is interesting, because when I read "some of you standing will not taste death until they see", I focus on the word "some" and that really only three of them see the transfiguration (six days later) and therefore it is before they die.

  7. I wanted to footnote the ascension passage:

    Acts 1:9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

    10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them.

    11 They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."

    The cloud theme appears here as well. I am wondering if the phrase "in power" refers to the power of the light body after the resurrection.

    In any case, as I am compiling this material I am realizing that there is probably a lot more to sift through to form a full picture of all the sides of this (and probably some extrabiblical historical study).

  8. Repost from an email from Ed:
    Major works on the subject containing the most up to date into include:

    1) Thom Stark's chapter on Jesus' mistake in The Human Faces of God is very new and includes some of the latest apocalyptic Jesus data and arguments.
    2) Edward Adams's The Stars Will Fall From Heaven surveys apocalyptic literature, pointing out the parallels with what is found in NT writings.
    3) Dale Allison's Constructing Jesus is a leading book in the field of apocalyptic Jesus research and arguments, new this year, like Stark's. Allison is a very well known and respected Jesus scholar, and his arguments continue to impress may fellow theologians.
    4) Craig C. Hill's work is the easiest to grasp, being a moderate Evangelical book written for everyone that highlights much of the basic data of canonical and noncanonical apocalyptic literature from around the first century.

  9. Repost from an email from Ed:
    To "come in power" is an expression that has special importance for the apocalyptists, like the authors of Daniel, the Apocalypse of John, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch. It denotes a total alteration of time and the earth, and an end to normal history. -- James H. Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism, Anchor Bible Reference Library (New York: Doubleday, 1988), p. 19.

    The kingdom of God is "among you" is an alternative translation, it has come among you.

    The Essenes may or may not have been the authors of the collection of Scrolls called the Dead Sea Scrolls. Perhaps some of them are Essenic, some could be taken from Jerusalem to be stored in an out of the way place for safe keeping.

    There are numerous expectations of the coming of the son of man in final judgment throughout the NT, in all the books/letters.

    And since the Baptist certainly seems to have been a member of an end times cult, and since the NT letter writers also make such predictions, and since Jesus is sandwiched in between the Baptist and NT letters writers, it would appear there's little to argue about concerning Jesus' own expectations.

    I also mentioned the expectations of the DSS writers that lived prior to John the Baptist, whose works included predictions of the end coming within a generation.


    DEAD SEA SCROLL 1QpHab = 1 Qumran pesher [interpretive commentary] on the Book of Habakkuk, Pre-Christian

    1QpHab is one of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1947. Its 13 columns of well-preserved Hebrew text contain a pesher [interpretive commentary] on Habakkuk 1 and 2. The handwriting style dates to 30-1 B.C.E.; the parchment was radiocarbon-dated to 120-5 B.C.E. 1QpHab 9:7 apparently refers to the Romans [=”Kittim”=Westerners] taking the wealth of the priests, and also to incense being offered to banners [a Roman practice]. The scroll probably originated near 54 B.C.E., when the Romans plundered the Temple.

    1QpHab illustrates the pesher method of biblical interpretation, in which ancient verses are reinterpreted as having specific meanings related to people and events close to the day and close to the heart of the Dead Sea sect. The ancient Hebrew prophet, Habakkuk, did not understand everything God inspired him to write for the “last days,” but the Dead Sea sect believed that God had made known to their “Teacher of Righteousness” "all the mysteries of the words of His servants the Prophets" (7:5). The Teache r was given the true interpretation "from the mouth of God" (2:2). Apparently the Dead Sea sect did not write any commentaries on the prophets in the last 100 years of their existence [from 70 B.C.E. to 70 C.E.] By that time the “Teacher of Righteousness” had been dead a long time, and the end still had not come. Interest in “last generation” prophecies in that sect may have waned, but another burgeoning religion in Israel would re-ignite such interest, viz., the “last generation” prophecies of Christianity. [Edited by E.T.B.]

  10. Repost from an email by Ed:

    By Marcus Wood, MA, Department of Theology, University of Durham: "In John Joseph Collins' article 'The Expectation of the End in the Dead Sea Scrolls' in Evans/Flint (eds.) Eschatology, Messianism and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), much of Collins' discussion centers on the pesharim [interpreters] and their belief in the 'last days' (esp. 1QpHab) and the claim that this could be calculated--roughly forty years [or a 'generation'] after the death of the Teacher of Righteousness. [Such a belief later reappeared in the Gospels: 'This generation shall not pass away till all these things take place'--Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21] However, the forty years came and went [in the Dead Sea community] and nothing happened. Collins notes the possible earthquake in 31 B.C.E. and the evacuation of the site (also the fire in 9/8 B.C.E.) but concludes that neither is related to the eschatological expectation. My question is 'What happened within the community when the eschaton failed to arrive ?' Common sense suggests two possible courses of action in such a situation. Either the community falls apart, or it undergoes a change in its ideology. The latter seems to have been the case in the early church where the second coming failed to materialize within the lives of the first Christians and the Church incorporated an extended period between the two comings of Christ."

  11. Repost from an email by Ed:
    DEAD SEA SCROLL 1QpHab (Portions)

    (Column 1) ”’Look, traitors, and see, and be shocked--amazed--for the Lord is doing something in your time that you would not believe it if…” [Continued at top of next Column 2]

    (Column 2) “…told’ (Hab. 1:5) This passage refers to the traitors along with the Man of the Lie, because they have not obeyed the words of the Teacher of Righteousness from the mouth of God…Finally, it refers to the traitors in the Last Days.”

    [The “Last Days” is a theme that goes way back in Hebrew history, however it grew to be of major interest to the Dead Sea sect whose writings included apocalyptic interpretations of the Old Testament, and whose “Teacher” apparently made predictions concerning his generation being the “last.” Secondly, note that “The Last Days” always seem to have their “traitors,” or in the cases of 2nd Peter and Jude, their “mockers/scoffers.”--E.T.B.]

    (Column 2, Continued) “They are the cruel Israelites who will not believe when they hear everything that is to come upon the latter generation that will be spoken by the Priest in whose heart God has put the ability to explain all the words of His servants the prophets, through whom God has foretold everything that is to come upon His people and His land…”

    (Column 7) “Then God told Habakkuk to write down what is going to happen to the generation to come; but when that period would be complete He did not make known to him. When it says, ‘so that with ease someone can read it,’ this refers to the Teacher of Righteousness to whom God made known all the mysterious revelations of his servants the prophets. ‘For a prophecy testifies of a specific period; it speaks of that time and does not deceive.’ (Hab.2:3a). This means that the Last Days will be long, much longer than the prophets had said; for God’s revelations are truly mysterious. ‘If it tarries, be pati ent, it will surely come true and not be delayed’ (Hab. 2:3b)…”

    [This verse from Habakkuk was cited by the Dead Sea Scroll community as a way of dealing with the apparent failure or delay of their own prophetic schemes to develop (1QpHab 7:1-8). It was used later, in the New Testament by the writer of Hebrews, much to the same end (10:37-39).--James D. Tabor]

    (Column 7, Continue) ”…This [verse in Habakkuk] refers to those loyal ones, obedient to the Law, whose hands will not cease from loyal service even when the Last Days seems long to them, for all the times fixed by God will come about in due course as He ordained that they should by His inscrutable insight…”

    (Column 11) “This [verse in Habakkuk] refers to the Wicked Priest, who pursued the Teacher of Righteousness to destroy him in the heat of his anger at his place of exile.”

    Translation from The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr. & Edward Cook (New York, N.Y.: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996)

  12. Repost from an email by Ed:
    By Dr. James D. Tabor (Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte): “The anticipation of the arrival of the Prophet as reflected in the Damascus Document, the early copies of which I take to be written before such a Teacher had arrived (in contrast to Text A, Col 1, that looks back on his career, as does the fragment of Text B), appears to base its hopes for this "coming one" on the texts of Scripture. Numbers 21:18 and 24:17 are both understood to predict the arrival of an Interpreter (Doresh) of the Torah, who will "teach righteousness in the last days" (CD, Text A Col 6:2 -11; 7:17-19), and Deuteronomy 18:18 is directly cited in 4Q175. It seems clear to me that in CD Text B, the Community Rule, and the Habakkuk Pesher, he has not only appeared but has been killed, fueling the certainty of the community that there were indeed living in the last generation (final 40 year period, see CD Text B Col. 20:1; 4Q171). Indeed, the Habakkuk Pesher appears to focus primarily on the crisis of faith sparked by the failure of the End to arrive. The text promises a reward to those who hold steady in their faith in the Teacher of Righteousness, which means in context, not abandoning the authenticity of his mission in both predicting and bringing about the End (1QpHab 6-7).”

    ”The Damascus Document (CD) is absolutely crucial in this regard. Two manuscripts (A & B) found in the Cairo Geniza by S. Schechter in 1897 were also found in extensive fragments in Caves 4, 5, and 6 at Qumran. The introductory lines of Col I clearly refer to the appearance of the Teacher 390 years after the Babylonian Exile (586 BCE) and twenty years after the origin of the New Covenant movement [of the Dead Sea Scroll Community]:

    ’He visited them and He caused a plant root to spring from Israel and Aaron to inherit His Land and to prosper on the good things of His earth. And they perceived their iniquity and recognized that they were guilty men, yet for twenty years they were like blind men groping for the way. And God observed their deeds, that they sought Him with a whole heart, and He raised up for them a Teacher of Righteousness to guide them in the way of His heart.’

    ”What I find rather striking is that in CD manuscript A, other than in this introduction, there is no direct reference to the arrival and career of thisTeacher. Indeed, in Col VII we find reference to the ‘Star and Scepter’ promise of Numbers 24 with a decidedly ‘future’ cast to it--as if neither figure had appeared. And in Col VI we read: ‘He raised up from Aaron men of discernment and from Israel men of wisdom. until he comes who shall teach righteousness at the end of days.’

    ”In the important fragment we call manuscript B we have two additional references to the community holding fast to its mission ‘until the coming of the Messiah of Aaron and Israel.’ And, in contrast to manuscript A, we find direct references to the ‘gathering in’ (i.e., death) of the Teacher of the Community:

    Col B19: ‘From the day of the gathering in of the Teacher of the Community until the end of all the men of war who deserted to the Liar, there shall pass about forty years.’

    Col B 20: ‘None of the men who enter the New Covenant in the land of Damascus and who again betray it and depart from the fountain of living waters, shall be reckoned with the Council of the people or inscribed in its Book, from the day of gathering in of the Teacher of the Community until the comings of the Messiah out of Aaron and Israel.’

  13. Repost from an email by Ed;
    “What is even more striking is that CD manuscript B recasts manuscript A (Col VII) and quotes Zech 13:7: ‘Awake O Sword against my Shepherd, against the man who is my fellow, says God--smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered, and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.’ This ‘smiting’ of the Shepherd, whom I take here to be the Teacher, appears parallel in this fragment to his ‘gathering in.’ At this very point in the text, fragment B edits out the reference in A to the Numbers 24 ‘Star and Scepter’ prophecy--obviously seeing it as in the past. Here we find a period of ‘about 40 years’ tied to the demise of the Teacher. There is a fragment from Cave 4 (4Q171) that refers to the same period:

    ‘A little while and the wicked shall be no more; I will look towards his place but he shall not be there’ (Psa 37:10). Interpreted, this concerns all the wicked. At the end of the forty years they shall be blotted out and not an man shall be found on earth.’

    “Here things get a bit prophetically complicated, unless one is steeped in the chronological schemes of the book of Daniel (and Ezekiel)--particularly the ‘70 weeks’ prophecy of Daniel 9. It essentially sets forth a 490-year period, which the Dead Sea Scroll community understood neatly as Ten Jubilees, 49 years each. We then find references in various fragments (11QMelch; 4Q390) that attempt to fit the history of the community within this time scheme. The Teacher himself is to arise, as one would expect, ‘in the first week of the Jubilee that follows the nine Jubilees’ (11QMelch), or just over 40 years from the End.

    ”In the Dead Sea Scroll commentary on Habakkuk (1QpHab) we find that the community has obviously lived through this past this 40 years ‘countdown’ period with the Teacher long gone and the apocalyptic expectations of the arrival of the Kingdom of God anything but fulfilled. The Romans have by now invaded the country and propped up the puppet priests that the community despised as utterly corrupt (Hyrcanus II). Col I interprets the cry of the prophet Habakkuk of ‘How long?’ as referring to the ‘beginning of the final generation.’ Col VI/VII is critical:

    ’Write down the vision and make it plain upon the tablets, that he who reads may read it, and I will take my stand to watch, and I will station myself upon my fortress speedily [Hab 2:1-2]. [VII] And God told Habakkuk to write down that which would happen to the final generation, but He did not make known to him when time would come to an end. As for that which He said, That he who reads may read it speedily: interpreted, this concerns the Teacher of Righteousness, to whom God made known all the mysteries of the words of His servants the Prophets. For there shall be yet another vision concerning the appointed time. It shall tell of the end and shall not lie. Interpreted, this means that the final age shall be prolonged, and shall exceed all that the Prophets have said; for the mysteries of God are astounding. If it tarries, wait for it, for it shall surely come and shall not be late. Interpreted, this concerns the men of truth who keep the Torah, whose hands shall not slacked in the service of truth when th e final age is prolonged. For all the ages of God reach their appointed end as he determines for them in the mysteries of His wisdom. Behold, his soul is puffed up and is not upright. Interpreted, this means that the wicked shall double their guilt upon themselves and it shall not be forgiven when they are judged. But the righteous shall live by his faith. Interpreted, this concerns all those who observe the Torah in the House of Judah, whom God will deliver from the House of Judgment because of their suff ering and because of their faith in the Teacher of Righteousness.’

  14. Repost from an email by Ed:
    “I think the evidence is strong, both internally and externally (dating of the texts--paleography/C-14), that the crisis of belief that this text reflects had come to a climax in the mid-first century B.C.E. In other words, surely by the time of the Roman invasion of Palestine (63 B.C.E.) and the reign of Herod the Great (37 BCE), such hopes and expectations had been severely tried and found wanting. I do not think the more general movement completely perished--that is what Boccaccini refers to as "Enochia n Judaism" or as I would prefer: the Messianic movement in Palestine--from the Maccabees to Masada. It might well be the case, however, that as a specific party or school of thinking (the Yachad), the strict adherents to the figure of the Teacher of Righteousness were dispersed or largely faded away.

    ”Based on this model of the demise/departure of the Teacher, we can see the same kind of apocalyptic hope and disappointment reflected in our early Gospel materials; this is especially evident in Mark, which seems to cluster traditions from the 70 CE period of the 1st Jewish Roman revolt. It is clear that the community of Jesus followers expect his return within a generation (40 years?), so the decade of the 70's CE must have brought on a real crisis:

    Mark 13:14ff, ‘But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be.great suffering [Dan 12], Son of Man coming in the clouds, gathering the elect.’ (Verses 28-31): ‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he/it is near, even at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place . Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’

  15. Repost from an email by Ed:
    “Paul, in the mid decade of the 50's CE, writes that ‘the appointed time’ has grown very short, an obvious reference to the material in Daniel 11-12, and he advises his followers to defer marriage and other social changes in view of the ‘impending distress’ (1 Corinthians 7:25-31).

    ”The followers of the apostle Paul in the late 60s C.E., judging from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-11 (and likely Paul himself a decade earlier), anticipated a repeat of Caligula's aborted attempt to set his own statue in the Temple at Jerusalem, perhaps by the emperor Nero, thus fulfilling Daniel 11:31-36:

    ‘Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate . . . And the king shall do according to his will; he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is determined shall be done.’
    “The early followers of Jesus interpreted the first Jewish-Roman Revolt in the light of the same texts. Indeed "the sign" of the End was to be the dreaded "desolating sacrilege" set up by the "king of the North" in the holy place of the Herodian Temple:

    ’But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be [Matthew's gloss: "spoken of by Daniel the prophet," 24:15], then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains . . . for in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be’ (Mark 13:14, 19).

    ”This imminent apocalyptic expectation of Mark, which was repeated in a relatively intact form by Matthew (chapter 24) a decade or so later (80s C.E.), is recast by Luke into a decidedly non-apocalyptic form. Rather than the expected "desolating sacrilege" leading to the final events of the End, Luke interprets the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 C.E., as well as the further dispersion of the Jewish people from Palestine, as the signs of a new dispensation that he views most positively, namely, the "times of the Gentiles" in which the Gospel of "repentance and forgiveness of sins" would be proclaimed to all nations (Luke 21:20-24; 24:47). Following the disaster of the second Jewish Revolt (132-135 C.E.), and Hadrian's rebuilding of Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina, the hopes and expectations that had been fueled for more than two centuries by these prophecies in Daniel largely waned. After all, with neither Jewish Temple nor Judean State, the land of Palestine could hardly serve as an arena for the literal fulfillment of texts such as Daniel11:29-39. In this regard the words of the post-Exilic prophet Habakkuk offered a perennial comfort to both Jews and Christians:

    ‘For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the End-it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith’ (2:3-4).

    ”The apocalyptic systems that we can subsequently trace, particularly among Christians, found it necessary to develop more allegorical and symbolic ways of reading texts such as Daniel and Revelation.”

    See, The Jewish Roman World of Jesus website of Dr. James D. Tabor (Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte), his own translations in his articles at

  16. Repost from an email by Ed:

    Dead Sea Scroll 1Q33 (1QM) = 1Q War Scroll
    [Pre-Christian; A scroll that predicts a “twenty-nine year” long “war” in which God’s army, the “sons of light,” defeat the world’s armies, the “sons of darkness.” After which the Hebrew’s “eternal redemption” is fulfilled. -- E.T.B.]

    (Column 1) “The first attack by the sons of light will be launched against the sons of darkness, against the army of Belial [Belial = supernatural evil figure]… The sons of Levi, the sons of Judah and the sons of Benjamin [in other words, “The Hebrews”], will wage war against them [the sons of darkness]… against all their bands… And there will be no escape for any of the sons of darkness… And the sons of justice shall shine to all the edges of the earth, they shall go on shining…

    “There will be a battle, and savage destruction before the God of Israel, for this will be the day determined by Him since ancient times for the war of extermination against the sons of darkness… It will be a time of suffering for all the nation [the nation of Israel] redeemed by God. Of all their sufferings, none will be like this, hastening till eternal redemption is fulfilled… The army of Belial will gird themselves in order to force the army of light to retreat. There will be infantry battalions [so la rge as to] melt the heart [at their sight], but God’s might will strengthen the heart of the sons of light… And God’s great hand will subdue Belial and all the [evil] angels of His dominion and all the [evil] men of his lot… He [God] will [show Himself] to assist the truth, for the destruction of the sons of darkness…

    (Column 2) [The author of this pre-Christian apocalyptic prophecy describes how the Hebrew “sons of light” will gather together in Israel and prepare for battle against the rest of the world, the “sons of darkness.” It even predicts in what order the various peoples of the world will be attacked and subdued by the “sons of light.” But keep in mind it’s not the world you and I know, in which you’d have to cross oceans to reach your foes. It’s the ancient world, a flat circle of the earth (see references to the earth’s flat shape in the earliest portions of the Book of Enoch that also were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls). Moreover, it was a world filled only with the descendants of the three sons of Noah--see the final passages below. -- E.T.B.]

  17. Repost from an email by Ed:
    “…Fathers of the congregation… shall arrange the chiefs of the priests behind the High Priest and, twelve chiefs [one for each tribe of Israel] to serve [in the army of the sons of light]. They shall arrange all these during the appointed time of the year of release… From all the tribes of Israel they shall equip themselves intrepid men, in order to go out on campaign according to the directives of war, year after year… The war will be prepared during six years; and all the congregation together will prepare it. And the war of the divisions (will take place) during the remaining twenty-nine years. During the first year they shall wage war against Aram-Naharaim; during the second, against the sons of Lud; during the third they shall wage war against the remnant of the sons of Aram [etc.]… during the sixth and seventh they shall wage war against all the sons of Assyria and Persia, and the eastern nations up to the great desert [etc.]… during the ninth they shall wage war against the sons of Ishmael [etc.]… and during the following ten years the war will be divided against all the sons of Ham [“Ham” being one of Noah’s three sons that Genesis says populated the earth with their descendants after the Flood -- E.T.B.], according to their clans, in their dwellings; and duri ng the remaining ten years the war will be divided against all the sons of Japhet [another of Noah’s three sons], in their dwellings.”

    [The third remaining son of Noah, “Shem,” was of course not mentioned above, because the Hebrews themselves claimed descent from that particular son of Noah. So they couldn’t attack all of “Shem” which would include attacking themselves. Hence they broke down the descendants of “Shem” into lesser peoples, such as the “sons of Ishmael,” etc., above. So, the battle prophecy called for attacking all of one’s nearest relatives first, before conquering the descendants of Noah’s other two sons. Reading the above , you can see it was predicted and evidently believed by the members of the community that prized this prophecy, that in a span of less than forty years (less than a “generation”), the Hebrew “sons of light,” with God’s help, were going to defeat all the armies of the world, and usher in “eternal redemption.” Though the author, or a later editor, was canny enough not to disclose the exact year when the “final generation” battles would begin, except to call it “the appointed time of the year of release.” Th ough I bet the “Teacher” (who lived back then) at least acted like he knew when the “appointed time” was, and acted like it was pretty “near” too. Because that’s exactly how apocalyptic prophets gain followers. *smile* -- E.T.B.]

    Translation from The Dead Sea Scrolls: Study Edition, Eds., Florentino Garcia Martinez & Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, Vol. One, 1Q1-4Q273, Vol. Two, 4Q274-11Q31 (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.: First published 1997 (Vol. 1), 1998 (Vol. 2).

  18. I wanted to repost the information that Ed summarized in his emails, because I did not want such good sharing to be blipped out by a mere delete in my inbox. It seemed worth putting the information into relative permanence here.

  19. If we form two theories of what Jesus was teaching, we could put them into "apocalytic" and "non-apocalyptic", though just two theories may be over simplifying it. The theories can be further broken down into "apocalyptic within the generation that Jesus had taught to" and "ambiguous apocalypse which will eventually happen at some future point in time". The information that Ed is sharing is showing how much the NT, early Christian writings, and Jewish writings from that time period were expecting the something immediate and within their generation.

    I found some writings online that suggested that the Book of Revelations was derived from four Jewish apocalyptic writings and was probably written by a Jewish Christian who was anti-paul. This would fit the basic climate that Ed feels much scholarship is showing up.

  20. There is another picture of Jesus that is about the kingdom of god being within oneself and/or all about you, as mentioned in Luke 17 above. The parables that Jesus teaches about the kingdom are always in the present tense and suggest that they point to an inwardly felt reality. The Gospel according to Saint Thomas seems to have a more mystical and gnostic picture of Jesus and many do feel that it has equal historical validity to the gospels that eventually became part of the Nicene Canon. The Gospel according to Saint John is also considered by many to be a gnostic work, but verses were added to this in order to make the messages in this gospel more acceptable to conventional Christianity.

    I do feel that Jesus did actually manifest a light body during the transfiguration event and eventually matured the light body through the process of the resurrection. Whether there is an apocalyptic spin on this or not, it seems tied into some vision of the "son of man" which I take to be the next species, homo telepathicus, emerging from homo sapiens. I do get that these events somehow do fit into the vision and are sometimes mentioned alongside of the Christian version.

    If there is a failed apocalypse behind the scholarship that is being revealed and uncovered, then the question is how integral is this to the message of Jesus and what is relevant to us now, if anything.

    For me, there is a message about a prayer process called the "holy breath", there is a message about unconditional love and forgiveness, and of the power of the divine grace to heal everything and burn away all karma, even the karma of aging and death. This understanding fits within a Buddhist context for me, but does also seem to validate some essential message of Jesus.


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