Book: LDS Perspectives on the Dead Sea Scrolls

Chapter 5, Section 8.4, Three "Messiahs": the Eschatological Prophet

In commenting on the key text 1QS IX 11, we left in suspense the third figure who appeared there together with the "Messiahs of Aaron and of Israel" and is simply called "the Prophet": "until the prophet comes and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel." It is obvious from his juxtaposition to the two "Messiah" figures that this person is an eschatological person. It is less evident that he is a true "messianic" figure, since unlike the other two he is not termed "anointed" here. And yet I think that even so he must be considered as a true "messianic" figure.

In essence, my reasoning is as follows. 4QTestimonia, a collection of texts which the community interprets messianically, and corresponds to the three figures of 1QS IX 11, begins by quoting Deuteronomy 18:18–19 as the base text which is the foundation for hope in the "Prophet like Moses," "the Prophet" awaited at the end of time. Then comes Numbers 24:15–17, which is the foundation for the hope in the "Messiah-king." Then Deuteronomy 33:8–11, which is the foundation for hope in the "Messiah-priest." The three quotations are at the same level and in complete parallelism, and therefore must refer to similar figures. This figure of the "Prophet" is identical with the figures which the other texts denote as the "Interpreter of the Law," who "teaches justice at the end of times" and the "messenger"-figures which have a clear prophetic character and are considered as messianic figures. Like them, then, the "Prophet" must be considered as a "messianic" figure. About the last of these figures, "the messenger," we are told expressly in 11QMelch II 18 that he is "anointed by the spirit." In other words, the technical term which in 1QS IX 11 is applied to the other two "messianic" figures is applied to him, in the singular. Accordingly, it seems justifiable to consider this "Prophet," whose coming is expected at the same time as the "Messiahs of Aaron and of Israel," as a true "messianic" figure.

The first item in my argument is obvious and needs no explanation. Perhaps, though, it might be useful to note that "anointed" can be applied to the first of the three figures referred to by the biblical texts of this collection of testimonia, as well as to the other two. The choice of Deuteronomy 18:18–19 shows that the expected "Prophet" is a "Prophet like Moses." At Qumran, both Moses and the Prophets are called "anointed ones," a title which seems to be based on the parallel between "anointed ones" and "prophets" in Psalm 105:15 and in the Old Testament allusions to the "anointing" of prophets. The parallel with "seers" and the function of announcing and teaching which is attributed to them in the following two texts make it clear that the "anointed ones" spoken about are none other than the prophets. 1QM XI 7 runs: "By the hand of your anointed ones, seers of decrees, you taught us the times of the wars of your hands." And CD II 12: "And he taught them by the hands of his anointed ones71 through his holy spirit and through seers of the truth." This allows CD VI 1 to be interpreted in the same way, where those who lead Israel astray rise against Moses but also against "the holy anointed ones." And in a still unpublished fragment of a pseudoMosaic composition, to be published by D. Dimant, can be read "through the mouth of Moses, his anointed one."72 This seems to be nothing else than a description of Moses as a prophet.

It will be useful, perhaps, to quote the biblical text with which hope in his coming is justified, since it makes it clear that this expected prophet like Moses is portrayed in the biblical text as a true interpreter of the Law:

5 "I would raise up for them a prophet from among their brothers, like you, and place my words 6 in his mouth, and he would tell them all that I command them. And it will happen that the man 7 who does not listen to my words, that the prophet will speak in my name, I 8 shall require a reckoning from him." Blank (4Q175 5–8; DSST, 137).73

The second element is the most complex and implies examining the texts in which these figures occur. We have already quoted CD VII 18–21 and 4QFlorilegium col. I 11–12, which portray the figure of the "Interpreter of the Law." But there is another text from the Damascus Document in which the same expression, "Interpreter of the Law," occurs again. It is CD VI 7, where the "staff" of Numbers 21:18 is identified as the "Interpreter of the Law," to whom the text of Isaiah 54:16 is applied. In this case, the wording and context of the text are sufficient proof that he is a person from the past. Most scholars identify him as the historical Teacher of Righteousness, also a person from the past.74 One of the great merits of van der Woude’s work is his convincing proof that both epithets "Interpreter of the Law" and "Teacher of Righteousness" are used as titles in CD. They are used to denote a person from the past and also an eschatological person whose coming is expected in the future. This enabled him to resolve the problem posed by the reference to an "Interpreter of the Law" in CD VI 7 as a figure from the past. He was also able to solve the problem posed by the text immediately after (in CD VI 11) which mentions a clearly eschatological figure from the future, given a title identical to that of "Teacher of Righteousness": "until there arises he who teaches justice at the end of days."

Van der Woude assembled the main arguments provided by the text proving that the historical figure referred to as "Teacher of Righteousness" and "Interpreter of the Law" was seen as a true "prophet." This allowed him to conclude that this historical figure had been perceived as a "Prophet like Moses," whose coming is expected in 1QS IX 11. In my view, this conclusion is wrong. A text such as CD XIX 35–XX 1 proves that the period of existence of the "unique Teacher" (or of the Teacher of the community) is seen as clearly different from the future coming of the "Messiahs" with whom the coming of the "Prophet" is associated.75 However, his arguments to prove the prophetic character of the person are completely correct. And they prove that the figure called "Interpreter of the Law" or "he who teaches justice at the end of days" must be identified with this "Prophet," expected together with the "Messiahs of Aaron and of Israel." Precisely because the historical "Teacher of Righteousness" was perceived as a true prophet like Moses it was possible to use the titles "he who teaches justice" or "Interpreter of the Law" for this figure expected for the end of time and also described as a "Prophet" like Moses.

The fundamental difference between my way of seeing and van der Woude’s is that for him the "Prophet" is not a "messianic" figure, but a forerunner of the Messiahs. I, on the other hand, believe that the eschatological "Prophet" is a "messianic" figure. He can only be identified with a historical person from the past if this person is considered as redivivus. His character of "messianic" figure is not an obstacle to his character of "forerunner." This appears to be proved by the third figure: the "messenger" whom 11QMelch describes together with the heavenly "Messiah," whose coming is expected in the final jubilee of history, and in the manuscript is called not only prophet but also "anointed by the spirit."

To complete this presentation of the texts it is necessary to include three references, one published and the other two from still unpublished manuscripts, which mention one or more "anointed ones." Unfortunately, the phrases lack a context which would allow their meaning to be determined. Yet, everything indicates that the first two refer not to a "Messiah" but to one or more "prophets." The person to whom the third reference applies cannot be determined.

The first reference occurs in 1Q30 fragment 1,276 and the reading is very uncertain: "[an]ointed of holiness." The parallelism with the expression of CD VI 1 and the possible reference of line 4 to "the five books" suggest that it applies to a prophet.

The second reference is in the last line of a column, the only line preserved in fragment 10 of 4Q287.77 The work from which it comes is a collection of blessings and curses of which several copies have been found and from which Milik had published a few lines.78 According to the transcription of the line in question in the Preliminary Concordance, the phrase should be translated "the holy spirit [res]ted upon his anointed one." However, the reading is uncertain. In fact, the photograph allows reading the plural "his anointed ones," and the parallel in CD II 12 requires the translation: "upon the anointed ones of the spirit of holiness," i.e., the prophets.

We cannot conclude anything either from another recently published text in which the phrase "anointed with the oil of kingship"79 occurs. This is because we do not know to whom it refers. In the fragment where it occurs (frag. 2 of 4Q45880) someone destroys someone else and devours the uncircumcised, so that the phrase could have been applied to the expected "king-Messiah." However, all that can be concluded is that it expresses the royal anointing of the person to whom it refers, whoever that person might be.

The simple presentation of the "messianic" texts has turned out to be too lengthy to allow us now to try and summarise the data they provide as a form of conclusion. In addition, I am not certain that a summary like J. Starcky’s famous summary,81 in which he discovered four stages of development in the Qumran community, would be possible today. The famous omission of the messianic passage 1QS IX 11 from the oldest copy, palaeographically speaking, of the Rule, if not due to accidental causes, suggests a certain development. And the palaeographically late date (1st century ce) of the two texts which mention the heavenly "Messiah" could indicate that this form of messianic hope is a later development. However, these simple facts do not allow a summary to be attempted. Even, for example, a summary which, starting with the clear biblical antecedents of the idea of a davidic Messiah, and going on to a priestly Messiah, double messianism, the multiplication of expected messianic figures (whether called "Messiah" or not) culminates in the hope for a heavenly "Messiah."

I am not even convinced that it would be possible to fit all these texts into G. Scholem’s scheme of a "restorative messianism" versus a "utopian messianism" as Talmon and Schiffman do.82 This does not necessarily imply the conclusion that for the Qumran community "messianic" ideas were a private matter, in which different and even conflicting opinions could co-exist in harmony because ultimately they lack importance,83 or because in "messianology" consistency is impossible.84 The large number of references inserted in every kind of literary context, including legal contexts, testifies to its importance for the Qumran community. And the hope in many and varied "messianic" figures cannot be considered as itself "inconsistent." Ultimately, in the 1st century the Jewish group whom we know through the New Testament was to merge the hope in a "Messiah king," a "Messiah-priest," a "Prophet like Moses," a "Suffering Servant" and even a "heavenly Messiah" into one historical person from the past whose return is expected in the eschatological future.