Welcome Logo

Animated Bible flipping pages

Current Lecture Button

Home Button

Lecture Button

Library Button

Announcement Button

Who Is MSS  Button

Book Shop Button

Amazon Books Button

Press Button

Expedition Button

Site Index

  JAMES, the Brother of JESUS

Even before the discovery of the Scrolls in 1948 by some Bedouin in the caves near the archaeological ruins of Qumran by the Dead Sea, one of them had already been well know for many years.

Qumran by the Dead Sea The Damascus Document (CD, 4Q266-73, 5Q12, 6Q15) had been found by a Jewish scholar, Solomon Shechter in a Geniza ( store room for discarded manuscripts) of the Ezra Synagogue in Cairo in 1896.

The Damascus Document
The Damascus Document

"And in the age of wrath, three hundred and ninety years after He had given them into the hand of the King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, He visited them, and he caused a plant root to spring from Israel and Aaron to inherit His land and to prosper on the good things of His earth. And they perceived their iniquity and recognized that they were guilty men, yet for many years they were like blind men groping for the way.

"And God observed their deeds, that they sought Him with a whole heart, and He raised them a Teacher of Righteousness to guide them in the way of His heart."

Thus begins the document and the start of the controversy.

We know the date of Nebuchadnezzar very well, it should therefore be quite simple to identify this "Teacher of Righteousness" and the other characters that occupy the documents associated with the find.

They should be found in the time period of the Hasmoneans (The Maccabees) around 197-177 BC.

From various separate documents we find this group of enigmatic characters:

1) The Teacher of Righteousness or the Righteous Teacher

2) The Wicked Priest

3) The Liar, Spouter of Lying, Scoffer/Comedian

4) The Traitors

5) The Violent Ones or the Violent Ones of the Gentiles

6) The Simple Ones of Judah doing Torah

7) Seekers after Smooth Things

8) Simple of Ephraim

9) The Kittim.

With the date established and the history of the Hasmoneans quite well known, it should be quite simple to identify each of these characters.

In fact according to Professor James C. Vanderkam a leading expert on the scrolls and one of the international team presently translating the scrolls

"The honest answer is that no one knows. It seems most likely, given the archaeological levels at Qumran that the Wicked Priest was either Jonathan the Maccabee or his brother Simon"

He gives no identification for the Teacher.

Even as early as the 1960s there were major scholars who cast doubt on this interpretation of a pre-Christian date for the scrolls. Both Cecil Roth, the editor-in-chief of the Encyclopaedia Judaica and a reader in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and Godfrey Driver also a Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Philology at Oxford advocated the position that the Scrolls should be dated to the post-Christian era, more specifically at around the time of the Judean revolt between 66-74 AD.

They were quickly silenced by the official team at that time under the leadership of Father Roland de Vaux the director of the Dominican-sponsored Ecole Biblique. For some inexplicable reason he was placed in charge of a translation team that consisted of not one Israeli and in fact not one Jewish scholar to translate the Hebrew and Aramaic scrolls.

Such was the position until Professor Robert Eisenman came along in the mid-eighties. His credits were substantial. Professor of Middle Eastern Religions and Director of the Institute for the Study of Judeo-Christian Origins at California State University, Long Beach. He was National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem and is a visiting senior Fellow at Oxford University. His Ph.D. was from Columbia University and he was a Senior Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Studies.

He was the primary mover for the release of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the grip of the cabal controlling them for so many years and was the consultant to the Huntington Library who finally released its photographic archive of all the scrolls thus allowing scholars around the world, free access to what had been a closely held monopoly.

No lightweight, a man not easily dismissed either for his tenacity or for his scholarship.

Having accomplished one of his goals, that of making the scrolls available for all scholars to study, he set about attacking the commonly held view that Qumran was a monastery inhabited by an Essene sect well before the time of Christianity.

His masterwork on the subject is 1,000 pages of academic argument which is too involved to go into at this point.

What he argues is that the internal evidence of the documents themselves just doesn't fit a pre-Christian Hasmonean setting. Part of his argument is that in that time frame it is impossible to identify all the players without stretching the arguments. If the time frame were correct he argues there would be no doubt as to the identification of "Righteous Teacher" and "The Wicked Priest". That is certainly not the case today when there are as many theories as to their identification as there are theorists.

He dismisses the date suggested by the Damascus document (as do many scholars who still maintain the Hasmonean date) as being a fiction. However I have suggested that if the Talmudic Chronology (as defined by Rabbi Yossi a disciple of the great Rabbi Akiva) was accepted when that document was written then the date suggested by the document would be approx. 225 years or so later in Herodian Times.

In meticulous detail Robert Eisenman shows that The Righteous Teacher was James the brother of Jesus, The Wicked Priest was the High Priest Ananas and the Spouter of Lies was none other than Paul. This of course seen from the perspective of the writer of the sectarian scrolls at Qumran.

All that would be controversial enough and it certainly was when the 1,000 page book came out and largely ignored by his fellow scholars in the field. It was just too complicated to argue against.

I, however, tried to pursue the matter because the origins and purpose of the Dead Sea Scrolls still remains one of the great mysteries.

My question was a simple one, which nobody else seemed to have asked. If The Righteous Teacher was James, the Brother of Jesus, and St. Paul was the liar, then who was Jesus in the sectarian documents. He must be there as a player at least as important as the others. I could see absolutely no mention of Jesus in any of Eisenman's works regarding this topic. Some other scholars had identified him as The Righteous Teacher, but that had been widely discounted.

An Australian Professor Barbara Thiering had proposed that "The Teacher of Righteousness" was John the Baptist and The Wicked Priest and The Spouter of Lies were the same person, Jesus. Her book "Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls" and documentary brought forth howls of protests from around the world and quickly dismissed and forgotten.

This outcry must have chilled the publisher of Eisenman's book and even Eisenman himself because he made the calculated decision NOT to identify Jesus in his theory.

I was not to be denied. I sent him fax after fax asking him the simple question. If James the Brother of Jesus is the Righteous Teacher, who was Jesus, I couldn't find a character in the scrolls that would fit the picture.

He never answered the faxes until one day his assistant called and everything was made crystal clear. There was no mention of Jesus in the Dead Sea Scrolls because Jesus as a living historical figure, in their theory, did not exist. They could not state that publicly because of the fear of an outcry, but that was the situation.

Now there had been so-called minimalists, foremost amongst who is G.A. Wells, who has written extensively propounding this theory but who even academics in the field dismiss completely.

The more accepted academic position as exemplified by the work of John P. Meier in his "A Marginal Jew, Rethinking the Historical Jesus" which is part of the Anchor Bible Series, questions much of the validity of the New Testament without for a moment doubting the actual historical existence of Jesus.

No wonder then that a scholar of the eminence of Professor Eisenman and a publisher of the respectability of Viking Press, a subsidiary of Penguin Books should attempt to keep the most explosive conclusions of the work, a closely guarded secret.

We will see how this all ties into the conspiracy theory that the Vatican assisted in suppressing the release of the Dead Sea Scrolls and suggesting that they were pre-Christian, because early on they had discovered the "truth" subsequently found by Eisenman. All this published in 1991 by Simon and Schuster as "The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception" by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh.

If all this sounds like the script of an Indiana Jones Movie, stay tuned, the story gets even more fantastic.

In the meantime we will start a discussion on the net to search for the following answers.

1) Is there persuasive evidence to refute Eisenman's theses that James was the Teacher of Righteousness?

2) If Eisenman is correct is there a character mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls that can be identified with Jesus?

3) If not, and Eisenman is correct, is there another reason why Jesus is not mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Michael S. Sanders

Irvine, Easter 1998


  1. James the Brother of Jesus by Robert Eisenman (ISBN: 0670869325)
  2. The Dead Sea Scrolls Today by James C. VanderKam (ISBN: 0802807364)
    The best popular book on the Dead Sea Scrolls available. A very good introduction.
  3. The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Michael Baigent & Richard Leigh (ISBN: 0671734547)
    An Introduction to Eisenman and the conspiracy theories
  4. Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Barbara Thiering (ISBN: 0060682868)
    Very controversial and difficult to follow.
  5. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians (ISBN: 1852307854)
    His early papers on James
  6. The Jesus Legend by G. A. Wells (ISBN: 0812693345)
    The minimalist approach. 
  7. A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus by John P. Meier (ISBN: 0385469926)
    The consensus academic viewpoint which will surprise and frighten people of faith.
  8. Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls by Lawrence H. Schiffman (ISBN: 0385481217)
    A very comprehensive survey of The Dead Sea Scrolls.
  9. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English by Geza Vermes (ISBN: 0713991313)
    The best and most comprehensive translations of the Scrolls.
  10. The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Hershel Shanks (ISBN: 0679457577)

Vision Video Associate

Vision Video Associate

Send your comments or suggestions to Michael S. Sanders
© 1999 - 2009 Michael S. Sanders.  All Rights Reserved.