The Community Rule (1QS) is an ethical treatise intended for the Dead Sea Scrolls sect’s teachers that offers instruction on the rules the community should follow such as liturgical ceremonies, organization and discipline structures, a penal code, and an outline of religious duties of the Master and his disciples. Scholars date the text’s origin to around 100BCE, making it one of the oldest to be found within the sect.
One of the interesting concepts developed in 1QS is the predestination of mankind into two categories – those of the “righteous” and the “wicked.” Theologians have struggled for centuries with the problem of evil: how could an all powerful, sole Creator God create pain and suffering along with the good? 1QS explains that while Good created both a Prince of Light and an Angel of Darkness, mankind is free to choose which to follow. But God warns that he hates the Angel of Darkness and those who follow him. At the same time, God appointed those who would follow the Prince of Light and the Angel of Darkness at the time of Creation, so whether someone would follow the Prince of Light or the Angel of Darkness was predetermined.
Overview of The Text
1QS 3:13-4:26 begins with a creation hymn declaring the sovereignty of God. God created humankind to rule over the earth. To aid them, He appointed two spirits for mankind so he would walk with them until his return. These spirits are those “of truth and injustice.” Those who ‘walk the path of light’ are associated with the ‘Prince of Light’, whereas those who ‘walk the path of darkness’ follow the ‘Angel of Darkness.’ Members of the sect are described as the ‘children of righteousness’ and are contrasted with the ‘children of injustice’.
He has created man to govern the world, and has appointed for him two spirits in which to walk until the time of His visitation: the spirits of truth and injustice. Those born of truth spring from a fountain of light, but those born of injustice spring from a source of darkness. All the children of righteousness are ruled by the Prince of Light and walk in the ways of light, but all the children of injustice are ruled by the Angel of Darkness and walk in the ways of darkness.
The Angel of Darkness leads all the children of righteousness astray, and until his end, all their sin, iniquities, wickedness, and all their unlawful deeds are caused by his dominion in accordance with the mysteries of God. Every one of their chastisements, and every one of the seasons of their distress, shall be brought about by the rule of his persecution; for all his allotted spirits seek the overthrow of the sons of light. – 1QS (3:18-24)
However, members of the sect sometimes stray from the ways of the light due to the Angel of Darkness. Despite this, God and the ‘angel of his truth’ will aid the sons of light and, though he created both spirits and ‘on them established all his deeds’, he loves one and hates the other.
But the God of Israel and His Angel of Truth will succour all the sons of light. For it is He who created the spirits of Light and Darkness and founded every action upon them and established every deed [upon] their [ways]. And He loves the one everlastingly and delights in its works for ever; but the counsel of the other He loathes and for ever hates its ways. – 1QS (3:25-4:1)
1QS 4:2-8 continues with an outline of the ethical and religious traits of the sons of truth. The rewards for those who walk in the ways of truth are peace and an abundance of blessings.
These are their ways in the world for the enlightenment of the heart of man, and so that all the paths of true righteousness may be made straight before him, and so that the fear of the laws of God may be instilled in his heart: a spirit of humility, patience, abundant charity, unending goodness, understanding, and intelligence; (a spirit of) mighty wisdom which trusts in all the deeds of God and leans on His great loving-?kindness; a spirit of discernment in every purpose, of zeal for just laws, of holy intent with steadfastness of heart, of great charity towards all the sons of truth, of admirable purity which detests all unclean idols, of humble conduct sprung from an understanding of all things, and of faithful concealment of the mysteries of truth. These are the counsels of the spirit to the sons of truth in this world.
And as for the visitation of all who walk in this spirit, it shall be healing, great peace in a long life, and fruitfulness, together with every everlasting blessing and eternal joy in life without end, a crown of glory and a garment of majesty in unending light. 1QS (4:2-8)
By contrast, the ‘spirit of deceit’ is associated with moral evil and those who walk in the ways of darkness will be punished by all the angels of destruction ‘for eternal damnation for the scorching wrath of the God of revenge, for permanent error and shame without end with the humiliation of destruction by fire of the dark regions’ (4:11-13) This will last for ‘all the ages of their generations’ (4:13) until they will be destroyed (4:14).
But the ways of the spirit of falsehood are these: greed, and slackness in the search for righteousness, wickedness and lies, haughtiness and pride, falseness and deceit, cruelty and abundant evil, ill-?temper and much folly and brazen insolence, abominable deeds (committed) in a spirit of lust, and ways of lewdness in the service of uncleanness, a blaspheming tongue, blindness of eye and dullness of ear, stiffness of neck and heaviness of heart, so that man walks in all the ways of darkness and guile.
And the visitation of all who walk in this spirit shall be a multitude of plagues by the hand of all the destroying angels, everlasting damnation by the avenging wrath of the fury of God, eternal torment and endless disgrace together with shameful extinction in the fire of the dark regions. The times of all their generations shall be spent in sorrowful mourning and in bitter misery and in calamities of darkness until they are destroyed without remnant or survivor. – 1QS (4:10-14)
The final section (1QS 4:15-26) indicates that the fierce animosity between these two groups will endure until the fixed time God has appointed when he will destroy the spirit of deceit and all things associated with him. At that time, some will be purified and allowed to enter into ‘all the glory of Adam’ (4:23).
This highlights one of the principle themes in IQS – that of the light-versus-darkness motif characterized by the conflicting forces of the ‘spirit of truth’ and the ‘spirit of deceit.’ These spirits remain on opposing sides of the light-versus-darkness paradigm. Light and darkness represent the origins and actions of the two spirits, and become synonymous with the names of the spirits (i.e. prince/spirit of light, angel/spirit of darkness) respectively. However, both sides are not equal opponents because God is able to intervene for the sons of light, in order to shift the balance in favor of the Prince of Light’s lot.
Ethics in IQS and Sirach
The ethical nature of the text is described primarily in 4:2-14. The text presents a list of righteous attitudes and moral deeds associated with the Prince of Light, while the ways of the Spirit of Darkness are described by a list of immoral deeds. Those that follow the ways of either spirit are divided among the two spirits and are associated with the spirit whose way they follow. Thus, men are classified not just in light/darkness terminology, but also by virtue or vices. This presentation of ethical ideology depicted in light/darkness terminology is shared with other post-exilic Jewish documents, and scholars have attributed its origin to the division of light and darkness in Gen 1:3-5. This is significant because the terminology has developed a highly sophisticated ethical dimension.
One scholarly theory argues that the ethical dualism in this passage may arise from influences in previous Biblical scripture. For example, in Proverbs 29:27 there is already an ethical dualism between the wise and the scoffer, or the righteous and the wicked.
An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked. – Proverbs 29:27
This ethical dualism is further developed in the Apocalyptic Book of Ben Sirach which is included in the Greek Septuagint. Sirach 33:7-15 states that the Lord has made men to walk in different paths.
Some of them God made high and great days, and some of them he put in the number of ordinary days. And all men are from the ground, and out of the earth, from whence Adam was created. With much knowledge the Lord hath divided them and diversified their ways. Some of them hath he blessed, and exalted: and some of them hath he sanctified, and set near himself: and some of them hath he cursed and brought low, and turned them from their station.
As the potter’s clay is in his hand, to fashion and order it: All his ways are according to his ordering: so man is in the hand of him that made him, and he will render to him according to his judgment. Good is set against evil, and life against death: so also is the sinner against a just man. And so look upon all the works of the most High. Two and two, and one against another. – Sirach 3:10-15
This does not necessarily mean that Ben Sira intended to suggest that God is responsible for sin, but may refer to the language of opposites stemming from Deuteronomy 27-28, and the terminology was used to imply that humankind will be judged according to his actions.
While Ben Sira teaches that the categories of sinners and the just have their place within the ‘opposite phenomena’ of creation (Sir 33:14), which category an individual belongs to is determined by his deeds. However, Ben Sira is ambiguous in his writings because he also emphasizes the omnipotence of God and insists that people are “clay in the hands of the potter” (Sir 33:13) thus implicating God as indirectly the origin of evil.
Thus, some scholars dub Sirach 33 as the predestined order of creation which is the ideological background of the ethical teaching of 1QS 3:13-4:26, although the author developed the idea considerably in 1QS. Others label the literary genre as typical wisdom genre, but see a mythical structure with eschatological implications as also being similar to apocalyptic writings such as Enoch and Daniel.
Predestination, Free Will and the Origin of Evil
The belief of an absolute determinism is related to the ethical dimension of the text. 1QS 3:15 states that God is the sole creator of all things, and that before they came into existence, He had ‘made all their plans,’ while 1QS 3:16 asserts that once things come into being, they will ‘execute all their works in compliance with his instructions…without altering anything.’ 1QS 4:24 states that men walk in the ways of truth or injustice, respectively, ‘in agreement with man’s birthright.’ These passages emphasize a strong belief in predestination with the implication that the ‘sons of light’ did not choose their way of life, but had been appointed by God at their creation. The righteous are righteous only because they have been chosen by God. Therefore, free will does not factor into whether or not an individual falls into the lot of the righteous or the wicked.
In other words, the author attributes all evil deeds to one spirit, the ‘Angel of Darkness.’ The association of all good deeds to the ‘Prince of Light’ and all bad deeds to the ‘Angel of Darkness,’ still presents a problem in origin of evil doctrine, though, because the author maintains that God created both spirits – one good and one evil (i.e. the evil spirit was created evil and therefore, did not choose his fate) – and both are inferior to Him. A consequence of this is that God is ultimately responsible for the creation of evil, and there is some tension between whether humankind is able to choose to side with one spirit or the other, or whether they are allotted to one side or the other from creation.
This doctrine is fundamentally different from the other origins of evil known during this time because it ultimately attributes evil to God. Evil is not ascribed to the rebellion of the Watchers in the Enoch tradition (1 Enoch 6:1-6;7:1;10:8-9, Jub 5:1-2), nor to Adam’s disobedience (Apoc. Abr 2:6), nor to the evil inclination of man (Midrash of Berakoth 9:5), but is conceived of as being instituted by God as part of creation.
It is possible that this concept of evil derives from Zoroastrian dualism, though it has been modified for a Jewish context. The oldest part of the Avesta, the Gathas, says that humanity has to choose between a holy spirit and a destroyer spirit. These two spirits were associated with light and darkness from an early time, which can be seen in Plutarch’s Isis and Osiris. However, whereas in the Zoroastrian texts, God begets the two spirits, in the Jewish texts, God creates both spirits and is transcendent above both light and darkness. Hence, God is ultimately responsible for the evil that exists in the world.
- G.Vermes’ (1995) The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated (4th Ed.)
- Charlesworth, J.H.(1990) John and the Dead Sea Scrolls
- J. Collins. (1997) Apocalypticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
- M.E. Stone’s (Ed.) Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period. Philadelphia: Fortress.
- Frey, Joerg “Different patterns of dualistic thought in the Qumran library : reflections on their background and history” Legal texts and legal issues. Leiden : E J Brill, 1997. (Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah ; 23).
- Argal, Randall. (1995) 1 Enoch and Sirach: A Comparative Literary and Conceptual Analysis of the Themes of Revelation, Creation, and Judgment. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press
- J. Duhaime, “Dualistic Reworking in the Scrolls from Qumran” CBQ 49 (1987) 32-56. and P.R. Davies “Eschatology at Qumran” JBL 104 (1985) 39-55.