1. The topic of my research is the coexistence and dualism of determinism and free will or, natural evil and moral evil, within the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I am interested in this subject because I was intrigued by the debate it sparked among scholars and scientists alike. When applied to a religious backdrop it seems to be an especially complicated puzzle which can’t be easily solved rationally or scientifically. As I am determined to know what made ancient people tick, this subject falls near the center of my personal interests.
I noted that the authors of the Biblical texts seem also to make no attempt at harmonizing their implications of the importance of human choice with their unwavering belief that all things were pre-planned by God and therefore unchangeable by any human choice or lack thereof. In my research I discovered a few instances where a given scholar mentions this similarity between the Dead Sea scrolls and the Bible then ends the discussion post haste, as if it cannot be rationalized in the scrolls if it was not rationalized in most other aspects of Judaism or Christianity. Other scholars content themselves with the very obvious overtones of determinism or predestination within the scrolls, specifically The Community Rule (1QS), and fail to see any dualism beyond that point. I was even more interested after I resolved to understand the terms “determinism” and “free will” then discovered that perhaps our understanding of those terms can’t be applied to ancient texts, or the minds that created them, as we would like them to be.
2. Vanderkam, in 1994, Baker, in 2004, Vermes, in 2004, Alexander, in 2006, and Timmer, in 2009, agree that predestination is given the central position in Essene theology. The discourse of the two spirits is considered by these authors to be locus classicus in the Qumranite thought and lifestyle, and locus classicus for the modern study of the Qumran groups’ ideals concerning determinism and free will. In the Community Rule, several passages such as “Before ever they existed He established their whole design, and when, as ordained for them, they came into being, it is in accord with His glorious design that they accomplish their task without change” (1QS 3.15-16), lend themselves to the position of these authors. 1QS allows these authors to place considerable weight in its author(s) belief in divine foreknowledge. It is obvious in the text that they considered themselves to be in the “lot of the Holy Ones” (1QS 11.7-9) and that this was the effect of grace, as having been pre-planned for each of them. They attempted to adhere to the spirit of truth in the ways of light as it is described in the Instruction of the Two Spirits within the Community Rule, while all others were assumed to be doomed to falsehood in the path of darkness.
Noted, but not focused on among these five authors, are the more subtle references to freedom of the will of human agents within the predestined...