Can a Lie be Big Enough to Break a Camel’s Back?

(Article originally published in 2023)

When digging up mysteries that are thousands of years old, new discoveries are only part of the process. Often, we must unlearn what we thought to be true before we can discover hidden gems that were in front of us all along. It turns out that lies can be connected in unforeseeable ways.

Let us consider two falsehoods that were imposed upon us more than seven-hundred years apart. The most recent was published in 1956 and has been often repeated since. But it may have been less deceptive but for another one that can be traced back to the end of the eleventh century. We will examine the second one shortly. It highlights (or helps to obscure) a most likely connection between Jesus’ followers and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The first one began with a passage in the New Testament that troubled Christian theologians. Jesus is quoted as saying it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24.

Jesus was quoted as making similar statements defining his followers as “the poor” in other places. See Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20. But this was different. This statement also condemned the rich and excluded them from the kingdom of God.

For context, we should note that scribes were highly trained and writing materials were extremely expensive in the first few centuries. The scribes who were recording these sayings were quite rich – or at least working for someone who was. This statement needed to be explained away.

And so, a legend with absolutely no basis in historical fact was born. It sounded so good, it has since been repeated as though it were a verifiable fact of history in the commentaries in various Christian Bibles for years. The story which, as near as we can determine, came directly from (the rectum of) Anselm of Canterbury sometime near the twelfth century goes like this:

There was a gate in first century Jerusalem known as the “needle’s eye that was so small a camel could only pass through by dropping its load and bending at the knees.

Yes. This is told to this day by people who represent themselves as scholars of the New Testament. For a good refutation and explanation of where this most likely came from see Andrew M. Henry’s You Tube Video at Religion for Breakfast.

By changing the story, they made what Jesus had said was impossible seem like it might just be possible, though difficult. It did not solve the problem. But in their minds, it helped. Hopefully, you, I, and the rest of the peasants would not notice the remaining problem.

But how, you may ask, does this attempt to hide the obvious meaning of the original statement relate to the second lie about the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Soon after the discovery of the extensive trove of documents hidden in caves near Qumran, some from the religious establishment went into a panic. What if these documents, composed at the same time as the events described in the New Testament contradict the New Testament stories?

In typical fashion, the religious establishment swooped in to protect whatever factual evidence that may contradict their official legends from seeing the light of day. In their meticulously documented book, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh tell us, the scrolls were kept under lock and key from everyone except a small handful of almost exclusively Catholic insiders who refused to share the material with scholars around the world.

They managed to keep the rest of us in the dark until the photographic plates were released without their permission in 1991.

Before the contents of the documents were known to the rest of us, we were misled about their contents.

We were told that there was “nothing to see here, keep moving along.” Soon after the Scrolls were discovered, Theodore Gaster assured us that the members of the Qumran community “were in no sense Christians and held none of the fundamental theological doctrines of the Christian faith.”[i]

Before I began digging into them myself, and reading scholars such as Robert Eisenman, I took experts such as Gaster at their word. As it turned out, that statement was technically true. But it was incredibly misleading.

By “fundamental theological doctrines”, he was referring to the Pauline, Greek, version of the Jesus story that was officially adopted in the fourth century by the Catholic Church.[ii]

I would eventually discover that neither Jesus, his followers, or his brother, James who actually lived at that time, shared any of those “fundamental theological doctrines.”[iii]

Dr. Gaster was referring to the basic teachings of Paul, which eventually became the official doctrines of Christianity. But the Jerusalem congregation never accepted the teachings of Paul as “fundamental theological doctrines.” Their beliefs were strikingly similar to those of the community at Qumran.

Like the community at Qumran, the early followers of Jesus became poor as a prerequisite of joining the group. According to the account in the book of Acts, the first step toward acceptance was to divest oneself of everything. The prospective followers sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. Acts 2:45.

We are further told that there were not any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. Acts 4:34-35.

This divesting of absolutely everything was not optional. The New Testament later recounts the story of a gentleman named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira who sold everything, but held back some of the proceeds. According to the book of Acts, God struck them both dead on the spot. Acts 5:1-10.

Later Church historians such as Eusebius, would mock these early believers (the Ebionites) for their poverty and for their relinquishment of all earthly possessions. See Ecclesiastical History Book 3, Chapter 27. They called themselves the אביונים (ebionim) (the “poor”). This was exactly the term the Dead Sea Scrolls used to designate the righteous. See for example 1QM Col.13.14. They also spoke of the עדת האביונים (“congregation of the poor”) who will endure the time of distress and be rescued. Col. ii (frags. 1 ii + 2 + 4Q183 3).

Another term the followers of Jesus were known by was the עניי רוח (“poor in spirit”). Matthew 5:3. This too, as Robert Eisenman points out, is a designation found in the War Scroll and in the Community Rule. See Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise, Penguin Books, New York. 1992. p. 233. Also see 1QM Col. X.14.7.

Since at least the fourth century when Eusebius wrote his Christian History, the Church has strained to distance itself from the designation the folks who actually knew Jesus wore as a badge of honor. That badge is to be found among the many designations in the Dead Sea Scrolls that suggest a commonality between the two groups – or perhaps even, that they were the same.

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[i] See Gaster, Theodor H. Trans. The Dead Sea Scriptures in English Translation. New York, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1956. pp.15-19.

[ii] Gaster clarifies this statement by defining the “basic doctrine” of Christianity as the belief that Jesus was God incarnate who died to expiate the sins of mankind. Ibid. p.19.

[iii] For a more complete explanation see my book, The Second Crucifixion of Jesus. Books published by the same author may be found at the author’s blog.


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