ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
cosmos and then Ανφόππσ (Anthropos) through the power of Λόγόσ (The Word). The New Testament scholar can readily appreciate the apparent parallel with the opening verses of John. However, there is a radical difference: the chief reason why Gnostic Christianity was condemned as a heresy. Missing is the divine wrath, that is to say, God acting in and through history to work his will. This was the major thrust of Hebrew theology. Unlike Gnosticism, which is mythic, Judaism and Christianity assert the dynamic presence of God in history, in the real, embodied, sensible realm in which we live and have our being, in the cosmos which he created and which it is his purpose to redeem in the last days.
The Rise of Christianity
Much is now known about Palestinian Judaism at the time of Jesus because of the discovery of the aforementioned Dead Sea Scrolls. Subsequently, between 1947 and 1956, some 600 further scrolls and fragments were discovered by Bedouins and archaeologists in eleven caves in the same general area, the largest number in Cave IV. These finds included early texts in Hebrew and Aramaic. The latter was the language spoken by most Palestinian Jews during the time of Jesus. As mentioned previously, the discoveries included virtually all of the books of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, the Apocrypha, commentaries, rules, laws, prayers, hymns, and psalms. They dated from the late third century B.C.E. to 68 C.E., when the Qumran community was destroyed by the Romans.
In 1951, more scrolls were found at Wadi Murabba eighteen miles south of Qumran. These consisted of fragmentary biblical writings, legal documents in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek, and a Hebrew papyrus from the seventh century B.C.E. (carbon dating). It is the earliest collection yet discovered. These scrolls were left by fugitives of the army of Bar Kokhba, who led the revolt of the Jews against Roman rule in 132-133 C.E. Following the suppression of this revolt, the Palestinian Jewish community was almost completely exterminated.
The Dead Sea Scrolls from the Qumran Essene community have been particularly illuminating. The adherents of this sect withdrew from the main Jewish community in protest against the policies of Jonathan and Simon Maccabee, as did two other sects as well, the Saducees and Pharisees, both of which are prominently mentioned, very critically, in the Gospels. Suffering persecution by Simon, the Essenes fled into the wilderness and formed their community, distinguished by apocalyptic visions. They proclaimed the imminent coming of the Messiah, the “annointed one, who was to deliver Israel from her oppressors.”
The scrolls reveal the rich variety of Jewish religious movements, and, especially, the prevalence of apocalyptic expectations: visions of the end time or Judgment which they believed imminent. One of these movements was the Nazarenes, the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, who is believed to have been born in 4 B.C.E. and to have been crucified by the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, in or around 30 C. E. New Testament scholars have identified at least seven distinct factions of early Christians from critical studies of the Gospels,