The Qumran scrolls and early Christian writings have been particularly susceptible to parallelomania. Sometimes similarities between the scrolls and early Christian practices and texts have been mistakenly thought to indicate identity or a genetic relationship between the groups represented by them. While in most cases scholars have not been convinced of direct connections and contacts between the earliest Jesus movement and the Qumran community, it is clear that the scrolls provide what Joseph Fitzmyer (1974) has called “an intelligible Palestinian matrix for many of the practices and tenets of the early Church.” The relationship between the scrolls and non- and post-New Testament Christian literature, however, has been much less studied than that between the scrolls and the New Testament.

Early Christian Fathers and the Greek Prophets Scroll.

Dominique Barthélemy's study of the Greek Minor Prophets Scroll discovered at Naḥal Ḥever (8Ḥev 1) demonstrated that this translation, designated kaige for the unique manner in which the word ve-gam (“and also”) was rendered, attempts to bring the Greek into closer agreement with the developing Hebrew text of the scriptures. [See Minor Prophets.] Several Christian writers knew and used this translation. Justin Martyr's citations of the Minor Prophets, most prominently a quote of Micah 4.3–7 in Dialogue with Trypho 109, agree with the text of the Greek Minor Prophets scroll. Origen's Quinta text of the Minor Prophets, Jerome's citations in his commentaries on these prophets, the “hébraïsmes” of Codex Washingtonensis and the Coptic versions of the Minor Prophets all reflect this textual tradition. [See Origen.]

Parallel Ideas in Early Christian Writings and the Judean Desert Corpus.

One must distinguish between those places where early Christian literature shows contact with the Qumran scrolls and those where the scrolls and early Christian texts simply demonstrate parallel ideas. Evidence suggesting the former is scarce before approximately 800 ce when a Christian bishop named Timotheos writes about manuscript discoveries made near the Dead Sea. The parallels between the scrolls and early Christian literature, however, help to elucidate Christian practices and ideas, and they most likely represent religious impulses or options in Judaism that early Christians and the Qumran sectarians independently exercised.

Many of these common ideas and practices, such as eschatological expectation, attitudes toward the Temple, a communal meal, the place of Jesus as compared with the Teacher of Righteousness, and theological dualism, pervade earliest Christianity and indicate the continuity of the earliest followers of Jesus with Judaism. In the second century CE and following, Ebionite Jewish-Christian writings evidence some of the closest parallels to practices found in the Judean Desert corpus, so close in fact that J. L. Teicher (1951) identified the two, and Oscar Cullmann (1954) proposed that the Qumran sectarians joined the Ebionites after the First Jewish Revolt. [See Ebionites; Jewish Christians.] Fitzmyer concludes that although some similarities do exist, the differences between the Ebionites and the Qumran sectarians make Teicher's and Cullmann's positions untenable. The Ebionite criticism of the Hebrew scriptures noted by Epiphanius (Panarion 30.18) and the Ebionite rejection of animal sacrifice are especially noteworthy in this regard. The Pseudo-Clementine literature contains the closest similarities to the Qumran scrolls, but other Christian texts, like the Apostolic Constitutions, that use Jewish sources may also bear examination. [See Apostolic Constitutions; Pseudo-Clementine Literature.] Some of the most important points of possible contact are:


For the Qumran community, lustrations, which were performed frequently, served the purposes of spiritual regeneration (Rule of the Community from Cave 1 at Qumran [hereafter, 1QRule of the Community] 1QS iii.9) and purification (1QS iii.4–5, 9, iv.20–21). The Pseudo-Clementine literature is also evidence of repeated lustrations. In Homilies 11.27–30 (from the Kerygmata Petrou, a basic Jewish-Christian source of the Pseudo-Clementine literature), an initiatory baptism is followed by repeated washings that remove ritual uncleanness, like that contracted through sexual intercourse.

Communal meal.

The Qumran sectarians observed a communal meal restricted to members only (1QS vi.3–6), which is given eschatological importance in that the Messiah of Israel will celebrate the meal with the community (Rule of the Congregation 1Q28a ii.11–22). The Pseudo-Clementine literature prohibits eating with unbaptized nonmembers (Homilies 3.4; Recognitions 2.71) and indicates the practice of a communal meal, which is apparently not the Eucharist and at which people are seated according to rank (Recognitions 4:37). It is not, however, given an eschatological interpretation. The messianic meal mentioned in Recognitions 4.35 is not the same as the communal meal and reflects the eschatological banquet that appears in several New Testament books.

Dualism/two ways.

There is at least a surface similarity between the dualism evident in Qumran texts like 1QRule of the Community, the War Scroll (1QM), and Hodayota (hereafter, 1QHodayota; 1QHa) from Cave 1 at Qumran, and the Pseudo-Clementine literature. [See Hodayot; Rule of the Community; War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness.] The idea in Homilies 7.6–7 of the two paths governed by belief and unbelief compares with the two spirits of truth and perversity in 1QRule of the Community (1QS iii.18–26). The doctrine of the syzygies (that created things exist in paired opposites) found in Pseudo-Clementine literature, however, has a physical aspect grounded in the created order not found in the Qumran texts. The two paths/two spirits idea also finds a clear parallel in The Shepherd of Hermas 36, Epistle of Barnabas 18–21, and the Didache 1–6. [See Didache; Dualism.]

Biblical interpretation and eschatology.

Much has been written about the common aspects of interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures at Qumran and the New Testament, especially as it pertains to the pesher method. Both Qumran exegesis and some early Christian texts regard the biblical texts as a code that must be cracked to reveal the mysteries of the eschaton, which for the Qumran community and some early Christians was their own generation, but for many Christians still remained in the future. God revealed to the prophets secrets whose unraveling could only be done in the “present” time. The most prominent example at Qumran is Pesher Habakkuk (1QpHab) vi.15–7.5 in which the claim is made that it was only to the Teacher of Righteousness that God revealed the “mysteries of the words of his servants the prophets.” [See Pesher Habakkuk.] Irenaeus of Lyons (Against the Heresies 5.34.2), to cite one Christian example, evidences a similar attitude in a comment about Daniel 7.27: “And lest the promise named should be understood as referring to this time [i.e., the time of Daniel], it was declared by the prophet, ‘Come and stand in your lot at the consummation of the days,’” a clear reference to the prophecy's expected fulfillment in Irenaeus's own day. In this vein also see Barnabas 4.3–6, a section that cites the book of Enoch and Daniel and that begins, “The final scandal is at hand concerning which it has been written.”

Prayer and liturgy.

Book 7 of the Apostolic Constitutions contains a form of the Seven Benedictions, probably adapted from Jewish synagogue prayers (Fiensy, 1985). 1QRule of the Community x.16, part of the “order of benedictions” identified by Shemaryahu Talmon (1959–1960), may represent an early form of the benediction in the Apostolic Constitutions 7.33–38. Research into the Qumran prayers and liturgical texts and early Christian literature would appear to be an area of great promise.

Christian Use of Jewish Texts Found at Qumran.

Though clear similarities exist between some ideas in early Christian texts and the Qumran scrolls, early Christian writings contain no clear example of citation from any of the Qumran sectarian texts (i.e., 1QRule of the Community, the War Scroll, the pesharim), and it is unclear whether early Christian writers knew any of them. The “two ways” material in the Didache, Shepherd of Hermas, and Epistle of Barnabas, however, may bear examination in this regard. Scholarly understanding of some Jewish apocrypha and pseudepigrapha known primarily through Christian transmission (like 1 Enoch, Jubilees, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs) has been enhanced by their discovery among the Qumran scrolls. One of the more prominent examples is the Book of the Luminaries (1 En. 72–82) whose Qumran version is longer and more detailed than the version transmitted in Ethiopic Christianity, where 1 Enoch is part of the biblical canon. [See Enoch, Books of.]

Church fathers, however, knew and used nonsectarian Jewish apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, the existence of which was otherwise unknown until the Judean Desert discoveries. For instance, among the Cave 4 finds were several copies of a previously known Jewish pseudepigraphal work, Pseudo-Ezekiela–e? (4Q385, 386–387, 388, 391). [See Ezekiel, Book of.] This work, framed as a dialogue between Ezekiel and God and based largely on the biblical book of Ezekiel, was known to the author of Barnabas (Kister, 1990) and the Apocalypse of Peter (Bauckham, 1992). It may perhaps have some relationship to the Greek Apocryphon of Ezekiel cited by several church fathers (Mueller and Robinson, 1983). In another case, Yiphtah Zur (1993) has posited a relationship between the Syriac Acts of Thomas 6–7, the “Hymn of the Bride,” and the Wiles of the Wicked Woman (4Q184).

It may be as well that some citations in the works of Christian authors whose source is unknown originated in texts found at Qumran. One citation in 1 Clement 50.4 may reflect the text of Pseudo-Ezekiela (4Q385 12; Wright, 1997). Possible relationships between anonymous citations in Christian literature and the Judean Desert corpus constitute another potentially fruitful avenue for research.

Christian Gnosticism.

Birger Pearson (1984) has shown the extensive use of Jewish traditions by Christian Gnostics, several of which are parallel to material found in the Qumran scrolls. For example, the Apocryphon of John (NH II.26.15–22) contains a discussion of the Spirit of Life and the “opposing spirit” that resembles closely the two spirits of 1QRule of the Community. Also Melchizedek, an important figure at Qumran (Kobelski, 1981), is the subject of a fragmentary Nag Hammadi Codex tractate that shows the use of “pre-Christian Jewish Melchizedek material” (Pearson). [See Melchizedek.] The Enochic Book of Giants now known from Aramaic fragments at Qumran was used as a source by Mani for his Book of Giants (Pearson; Milik, 1976). [See Giants, Book of; Gnosticism.]


  • Bauckham, Richard. “A Quotation from 4Q Second Ezekiel in the Apocalypse of Peter.” Revue de Qumrân 15 (1992), 437–445.
    Argues that the reference to the dry bones vision in Apocalypse of Peter 4.7–9 is a citation of Pseudo-Ezekiel from Cave 4 at Qumran not the biblical Ezekiel.
  • Barthélemy, Dominique. Les Devanciers d'Aquila. Leiden, 1963.
  • Cullmann, Oscar. “Die neuentdeckten Qumrantexte und das Judenchristentum der Pseudoklementinin.” Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 21 (1954), 35–51.
  • Daniélou, Jean. The Dead Sea Scrolls and Primitive Christianity. Baltimore, 1958.
    The text of three lectures by Daniélou that explore the possible relationships between the Qumran scrolls, the Essene sect, and early Christianity. He argues, for instance, that Dositheos, a Christian Gnostic, was an Essene and that the author of the Shepherd of Hermas was a converted Essene
  • Daniélou, Jean. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. The Development of Christian Doctrine before the Council of Nicaea, 1. Chicago, 1964.
    Daniélou's magnum opus on Jewish Christianity in which he frequently draws parallels between his understanding of Jewish-Christian theology and the Qumran scrolls
  • Fiensy, David A. Prayers Alleged to Be Jewish: An Examination of the Constitutiones Apostolorum. Brown Judaic Studies, 65. Chico, Calif., 1985.
    A study of the prayers in Apostolic Constitutions 7 and 8 and their presumed Jewish derivation
  • Fitzmyer, Joseph. “The Qumran Scrolls, the Ebionites and Their Literature.” Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament. Missoula, Mont., 1974.
  • Kister, Menahem. “Barnabas 12.1–3 and 4QSecond Ezekiel.” Revue de Qumrân 13 (1990), 63–67.
    Argues that these two passages in Barnabas are citations of Pseudo-Ezekiel from Cave 4 at Qumran. The text in Barnabas 12.1 is more likely to be from the Qumran pseudepigraphal text than that in 4.3
  • Kobelski, Paul J. Melchizedek and Melchires̆ac. Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series, 10. Washington, D.C., 1981.
    Examines the texts from Qumran that treat Melchizedek and Melchireshac and looks at the roles attached to these figures in Judaism
  • Kraft, Robert. “Review of Dominique Barthélemy, Les Devanciers d'Aquila.” Gnomon 37 (1965), 474–483.
    Detailed review of Barthélemy's work on 8ḤevXIIgr the Greek Minor Prophets (8Ḥev 1) and its implications for the study of the Jewish-Greek scriptures
  • Milik, J. T. The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumrân Cave 4. Oxford, 1976.
    Study of the Enoch fragments from Qumran that includes the Book of Giants. Milik's arguments for the existence of an Enochic Pentateuch at Qumran have not been generally accepted
  • Mueller, James R., and William Robinson. “The Apocryphon of Ezekiel.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1, edited by James H. Charlesworth, pp. 487–495. Garden City, N.Y., 1983.
    Gives an English translation of the Greek Apocryphon of Ezekiel that may be related to Pseudo-Ezekiel from Cave 4 at Qumran. The translation appeared before the publication of any of the Qumran fragments
  • Pearson, Birger. “Jewish Sources in Gnostic Literature.” In Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period, edited by Michael E. Stone. Compendia rerum ludaicarum ad novum Testamentum, 2.2. Philadelphia, 1984.
  • Talmon, Shemaryahu. “The ‘Manual of Benedictions’ of the Sect of the Judaean Desert.” Revue de Qumrân 2 (1959–1960), 474–500.
  • Teicher, J. L. “The Dead Sea Scrolls: Documents of a Jewish Christian Sect of Ebionites.” Journal of Jewish Studies 2 (1951), 67–99.
  • Wright, Benjamin. “Qumran Pseudepigrapha in Early Christianity: Is 1 Clement 50:4 a Citation of 4QPseudo-Ezekiel?” Paper presented to the Orion Center Symposium on Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Jerusalem, January 12–14, 1997.
    Argues that 1 Clement contains a citation of the Jewish work Pseudo-Ezekiela 12
  • Zur, Yiphtah. “Parallels between Acts of Thomas 6–7 and 4Q184.” Revue de Qumrân 16 (1993), 103–107.

Benjamin G. Wright III