Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

John Calvin

Doctrine of Election Dead Sea Scrolls Damascus Document

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I found this interesting when reading through my Dead Sea Scrolls documents. This is a section from the Damascus document. Specifically, it is the exhortation portion. The image at the bottom of the post is the highlight of my quote. The doctrine of election was clearly held by those in the Essene Community.


“God loves knowledge. Wisdom and understanding He has set before Him, and prudence and knowledge serve Him. Patience and much forgiveness are with Him towards those who turn from transgression; but power, might, and great flaming wrath by the hand of all the Angels of Destruction towards those who depart from the way and abhor the Precept. They shall have no remnant or survivor. For from the beginning God chose them not; He knew their deeds before ever they were created and He hated their generations, and He hid His face from the Land until they were consumed. For He knew the years of their coming and the length and exact duration of their times for all ages to come and throughout eternity. He knew the happenings of their times throughout all the everlasting years. And in all of them He raised for Himself men called by name, that a remnant might be left to the Land, and that the face of the earth might be filled with their seed. And He made known His Holy Spirit to them by the hand of His anointed ones, and He proclaimed the truth (to them). But those whom He hated He led astray.”

Vermes, G. (1995). The Dead Sea scrolls in English (Revised and extended 4th ed., p. 98). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.


“The title ‘Damascus Document’ derives from the references in the Exhortation to the ‘New Covenant’ made ‘in the land of Damascus’. The significance of this phrase is discussed in Chapter II together with the chronological data included in the manuscript. They suggest that the document was written in about 100 BCE and this hypothesis is indirectly supported by the absence of any mention in the historical passages of the Kittim (Romans) whose invasion of the Orient did not take place until after 70 BCE.
The work is divided into an Exhortation and a list of Statutes. In the Exhortation, the preacher—probably a Guardian of the Community—addresses his ‘sons’ on the themes of the sect’s teaching, many of which appear also in the Community Rule. His aim is to encourage the sectaries to remain faithful, and with this end in view he sets out to demonstrate from the history of Israel and the Community that fidelity is always rewarded and apostasy chastised.

During the course of his argument, the author of the Damascus Document frequently interprets biblical passages in a most unexpected way. I have mentioned one of these commentaries on the marriage laws in Chapter III (p. 44), but there is another involved exposition of Amos 5:26–7 on p. 103 which may not be easy to understand.

In the Bible these verses convey a divine threat: the Israelites were to take themselves and their idols into exile. ‘You shall take up Sakkuth your king and Kaiwan your star-god, your images which you made for yourselves, for I will take you into exile beyond Damascus.’ But the Damascus Document transforms this threat into a promise of salvation; by changing certain words in the biblical text and omitting others its version read: ‘I will exile the tabernacle of your king and the bases of your statues from my tent to Damascus.’

In this new text, the three key phrases are interpreted symbolically as follows: ‘tabernacle’ = ‘Books of the Law’; ‘king’ = ‘congregation’; ‘bases of statues’ = ‘Books of the Prophets’. Thus: ‘The Books of the Law are the tabernacle of the king; as God said, I will raise up the tabernacle of David which is fallen (Amos 9:11). The king is the congregation; and the bases of the statues are the Books of the Prophets whose sayings Israel despised.’

The omission of any reference to the ‘star-god’ is made good by introducing a very different ‘Star’, the messianic ‘Interpreter of the Law’ with his companion the ‘Prince of the congregation’. ‘The star is the Interpreter of the Law who shall come to Damascus; as it is written, A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel (Num. 24:17). The sceptre is the Prince of the whole congregation …’”

Vermes, G. (1995). The Dead Sea scrolls in English (Revised and extended 4th ed., pp. 95–96). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.