Igor Tantlevskij, DSc in Philosophy, Professor; St Petersburg State University (Saint Petersburg, Russia), Head of Department

Qumran scepticism and ways to overcome it

The leader of the Judaean Qumran community, who appears in the sources as the “Teacher of Righteousness” and the “Wise Master” (probably lived in the 2nd century B.C.E.), repeatedly expresses deep pessimism about the essence of man and is extremely sceptical about the possibility of his salvation without obtaining Divine grace. In the so-called Thanksgiving Hymns of the Teacher (1QHa 10–18) he describes himself as “a creation made of clay”, “mixed with water”, whose “foundation is the nakedness of shame”; “the foundation of uncleanness, the seat of sin and the foundation of guilt”, being “in sin from the womb to his grey hair”, etc. A similar scepticism is expressed in the Rule of Discipline of the Qumran community by the “Wise Teacher” (perhaps these words were recited by all the full members of the community at their meetings): “I belong to an unholy humanity, to a community of sinful flesh. My transgressions, my sins, my guilt, together with the corruption of my heart, belong to the congregation of worms and (other creatures) that move in the darkness (of the earth) <...> I stumble because of the guilt of the flesh” (1QS 11:9–10). “The original sin (פשע ראשון)” of the flesh prefigures the original tendency of all men to vice: ʼāḏām (this term corresponds with ʼăḏāmāh, “soil”, “earth” [originally only reddish, from the root ʼdm, “to be red”; cf. Lat. homo, “man” — humus, “soil”]), i. e., “man”, eo nomine prone to uncleanness and transgression. Man, even the most righteous, cannot find salvation on his own — he can only hope in the “goodness” and “mercy” of God in order to be “justified” in the Judgment of God. At a certain point in the history of the Qumran community, the idea of the “atonement” of sin by a Priestly Messiah sent by God into the world appears in its theology. In the process of posthumous “messianization” of the figure of the “Teacher of Righteousness” among the members of the Qumran community also emerges the idea of “salvation from the House of Judgement” for “faith in the Teacher of Righteousness” (1QpHab 8:1–3; probably the first quarter of the 1st century B.C.E.).

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
StatePublished - 2021
Duration: 24 Jun 202125 Jun 2021



    Research areas

  • Keywords: overcoming scepticism in the Qumran community, Qumran soteriology, the Teacher of Righteousness of the Qumran community

ID: 88141523