…the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the glad tidings preached to them
Those Jews who believed in resurrection apparently thought that it was something God, not the Messiah, would do. For example, in a prayer still recited in synagogues, some portions of which antedate the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. (the Shemone Esrai, or 18 Benedictions), we read (in the second benediction):
Lord, you are almighty forever, who makes the dead to live … and keeps your word faithfully to them who sleep in the dust … And you are faithful to make the dead alive. Blessed are you, Lord, who makes the dead alive.
This passage clearly regards resurrection as a divine action. It is God who will resurrect the dead. In our Dead Sea Scroll text, the author presumably would have agreed that power over life and death ultimately comes from God, but he would insert God’s Messiah as the mediator of resurrection. Here the Dead Sea Scroll text stands with earliest Christianity, rather than what emerged as rabbinic Judaism.
The line of our text (line 12) relating to the resurrection of the dead is remarkable for another reason: It contains one of the closest, most direct linguistic parallels to a New Testament text that has ever been discovered in the scrolls. The line reads:
Then he will heal the sick, resurrect the dead, and to the poor [he will] announce glad tidings.
In Matthew and Luke we read that while John the Baptist is in prison, he sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the coming one, or do we look for another?” In inquiring about Jesus’ messianic identity, John’s disciples want to know what the signs of the true Messiah will be. Jesus answers:
Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the glad tidings preached to them (Matthew 11:4–5; Luke 7:22–23).
These then are the “signs of the messiah.”
The language of our Dead Sea Scroll text is virtually identical to that in Matthew and Luke. The Christian signs of the messiah were, as it were, foreshadowed in the Jewish literature from Qumran.
The fact that parallels to our Dead Sea Scroll text appears in both Matthew and Luke almost word for word indicates that the passage from the Gospels comes from a very early Christian tradition that scholars call “Q” (from the German word Quelle, meaning “source”). Q is a hypothetical collection of the “Sayings of Jesus” compiled in the middle of the first century, before the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) were written. Q accounts for the many virtually identical sayings in Matthew and Luke; Matthew and Luke both used Q as their source.
We may go one step further: The passage from Matthew/Luke is clearly connected with the movement of John the Baptist. It is he who sends the query to Jesus from his prison cell. The tradition we are dealing with here was shared by the community of John the Baptist and the early followers of Jesus. The strong connections between John the Baptist and the Dead Sea Scroll movement have often been noted.12 With our new text, we are in a better position to speak of the common expectations of a variety of interrelated apocalyptic and baptist groups that fled to the “wilderness” to prepare the “Way of the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3; Luke 3:4; 1QS 8.9 [though this last passage seems to be allegorical]). They appear to have shared a specific set of expectations, and they draw in strikingly similar ways upon a common core of prophetic texts from the Hebrew Bible. This new Dead Sea Scroll text provides a direct and very significant example of a common messianic hope among the followers of John the Baptist, Jesus and (so it appears) the Dead Sea Scrolls’ Teacher of Righteousness.The Messiah at Qumran By Michael O. Wise, James D. Tabor in the BAR Library, December, 1992.
Parallels between Luke 7:21–22 and 4Q521 and the parts of Isaiah from which they come.
SON OF GOD. When the angel Gabriel appears to Mary in Luke 1, he says that her son will be called the “Son of the Most High” and “Son of God.” Similarly, in the Apocryphon of Daniel—a Dead Sea Scroll copied 100 years before the Book of Luke was written—the Daniel-like narrator says that a future ruler will be called “son of God” and “son of the Most High.” This connection, and the fact that both say the messiah character will be “great,” is an instance where the scrolls and the New Testament share distinctive features.