JAMES, the Brother of JESUS
Even before the discovery of the Scrolls in 1948 by some Bedouin in the caves
near the archaeological ruins of Qumran by the Dead Sea, one of them had already
been well know for many years.
The Damascus Document (CD, 4Q266-73, 5Q12, 6Q15) had been found by a Jewish
scholar, Solomon Shechter in a Geniza ( store room for discarded manuscripts) of
the Ezra Synagogue in Cairo in 1896.
The Damascus Document
"And in the age of wrath, three hundred and ninety years after He had
given them into the hand of the King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, 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 many 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 them a Teacher of Righteousness to guide them in the way of His
Thus begins the document and the start of the controversy.
We know the date of Nebuchadnezzar very well, it should therefore be quite
simple to identify this "Teacher of Righteousness" and the other characters that
occupy the documents associated with the find.
They should be found in the time period of the Hasmoneans (The Maccabees)
around 197-177 BC.
From various separate documents we find this group of enigmatic characters:
1) The Teacher of Righteousness or the Righteous Teacher
2) The Wicked Priest
3) The Liar, Spouter of Lying, Scoffer/Comedian
4) The Traitors
5) The Violent Ones or the Violent Ones of the Gentiles
6) The Simple Ones of Judah doing Torah
7) Seekers after Smooth Things
8) Simple of Ephraim
9) The Kittim.
With the date established and the history of the Hasmoneans quite well known,
it should be quite simple to identify each of these characters.
In fact according to Professor James C. Vanderkam a leading expert on the
scrolls and one of the international team presently translating the scrolls
"The honest answer is that no one knows. It seems most likely, given the
archaeological levels at Qumran that the Wicked Priest was either Jonathan the
Maccabee or his brother Simon"
He gives no identification for the Teacher.
Even as early as the 1960s there were major scholars who cast doubt on this
interpretation of a pre-Christian date for the scrolls. Both Cecil Roth, the
editor-in-chief of the Encyclopaedia Judaica and a reader in Jewish Studies at
Oxford University, and Godfrey Driver also a Professor of Hebrew and Semitic
Philology at Oxford advocated the position that the Scrolls should be dated to
the post-Christian era, more specifically at around the time of the Judean
revolt between 66-74 AD.
They were quickly silenced by the official team at that time under the
leadership of Father Roland de Vaux the director of the Dominican-sponsored
Ecole Biblique. For some inexplicable reason he was placed in charge of a
translation team that consisted of not one Israeli and in fact not one Jewish
scholar to translate the Hebrew and Aramaic scrolls.
Such was the position until Professor Robert Eisenman came along in the
mid-eighties. His credits were substantial. Professor of Middle Eastern
Religions and Director of the Institute for the Study of Judeo-Christian Origins
at California State University, Long Beach. He was National Endowment for the
Humanities Fellow at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in
Jerusalem and is a visiting senior Fellow at Oxford University. His Ph.D. was
from Columbia University and he was a Senior Fellow at the Oxford Centre for
He was the primary mover for the release of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the
grip of the cabal controlling them for so many years and was the consultant to
the Huntington Library who finally released its photographic archive of all the
scrolls thus allowing scholars around the world, free access to what had been a
closely held monopoly.
No lightweight, a man not easily dismissed either for his tenacity or for his
Having accomplished one of his goals, that of making the scrolls available
for all scholars to study, he set about attacking the commonly held view that
Qumran was a monastery inhabited by an Essene sect well before the time of
His masterwork on the subject is 1,000 pages of academic argument which is
too involved to go into at this point.
What he argues is that the internal evidence of the documents themselves just
doesn't fit a pre-Christian Hasmonean setting. Part of his argument is that in
that time frame it is impossible to identify all the players without stretching
the arguments. If the time frame were correct he argues there would be no doubt
as to the identification of "Righteous Teacher" and "The Wicked Priest". That is
certainly not the case today when there are as many theories as to their
identification as there are theorists.
He dismisses the date suggested by the Damascus document (as do many scholars
who still maintain the Hasmonean date) as being a fiction. However I have
suggested that if the Talmudic Chronology (as defined by Rabbi Yossi a disciple
of the great Rabbi Akiva) was accepted when that document was written then the
date suggested by the document would be approx. 225 years or so later in
In meticulous detail Robert Eisenman shows that The Righteous Teacher was
James the brother of Jesus, The Wicked Priest was the High Priest Ananas and the
Spouter of Lies was none other than Paul. This of course seen from the
perspective of the writer of the sectarian scrolls at Qumran.
All that would be controversial enough and it certainly was when the 1,000
page book came out and largely ignored by his fellow scholars in the field. It
was just too complicated to argue against.
I, however, tried to pursue the matter because the origins and purpose of the
Dead Sea Scrolls still remains one of the great mysteries.
My question was a simple one, which nobody else seemed to have asked. If The
Righteous Teacher was James, the Brother of Jesus, and St. Paul was the liar,
then who was Jesus in the sectarian documents. He must be there as a player at
least as important as the others. I could see absolutely no mention of Jesus in
any of Eisenman's works regarding this topic. Some other scholars had identified
him as The Righteous Teacher, but that had been widely discounted.
An Australian Professor Barbara Thiering had proposed that "The Teacher of
Righteousness" was John the Baptist and The Wicked Priest and The Spouter of
Lies were the same person, Jesus. Her book "Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea
Scrolls" and documentary brought forth howls of protests from around the world
and quickly dismissed and forgotten.
This outcry must have chilled the publisher of Eisenman's book and even
Eisenman himself because he made the calculated decision NOT to identify Jesus
in his theory.
I was not to be denied. I sent him fax after fax asking him the simple
question. If James the Brother of Jesus is the Righteous Teacher, who was Jesus,
I couldn't find a character in the scrolls that would fit the picture.
He never answered the faxes until one day his assistant called and everything
was made crystal clear. There was no mention of Jesus in the Dead Sea Scrolls
because Jesus as a living historical figure, in their theory, did not exist.
They could not state that publicly because of the fear of an outcry, but that
was the situation.
Now there had been so-called minimalists, foremost amongst who is G.A. Wells,
who has written extensively propounding this theory but who even academics in
the field dismiss completely.
The more accepted academic position as exemplified by the work of John P.
Meier in his "A Marginal Jew, Rethinking the Historical Jesus" which is part of
the Anchor Bible Series, questions much of the validity of the New Testament
without for a moment doubting the actual historical existence of Jesus.
No wonder then that a scholar of the eminence of Professor Eisenman and a
publisher of the respectability of Viking Press, a subsidiary of Penguin Books
should attempt to keep the most explosive conclusions of the work, a closely
We will see how this all ties into the conspiracy theory that the Vatican
assisted in suppressing the release of the Dead Sea Scrolls and suggesting that
they were pre-Christian, because early on they had discovered the "truth"
subsequently found by Eisenman. All this published in 1991 by Simon and Schuster
as "The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception" by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh.
If all this sounds like the script of an Indiana Jones Movie, stay tuned, the
story gets even more fantastic.
In the meantime we will start a discussion on the net to search for the
1) Is there persuasive evidence to refute Eisenman's theses that James was
the Teacher of Righteousness?
2) If Eisenman is correct is there a character mentioned in the Dead Sea
Scrolls that can be identified with Jesus?
3) If not, and Eisenman is correct, is there another reason why Jesus is not
mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls?
Michael S. Sanders
Irvine, Easter 1998
James the Brother of Jesus by Robert Eisenman (ISBN:
The Dead Sea Scrolls Today by James C. VanderKam (ISBN:
The best popular book on the Dead Sea Scrolls available. A very good
The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Michael Baigent & Richard Leigh
An Introduction to Eisenman and the conspiracy theories
Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Barbara Thiering
Very controversial and difficult to follow.
The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians (ISBN:
His early papers on James
The Jesus Legend by G. A. Wells (ISBN: 0812693345)
The minimalist approach.
A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus by John P. Meier
The consensus academic viewpoint which will surprise and frighten people of
Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls by Lawrence H. Schiffman
A very comprehensive survey of The Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English by Geza Vermes
The best and most comprehensive translations of the Scrolls.
The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Hershel Shanks