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orion When the Eschaton is delayed - Collins and the Expectation of the End
From: Marcus Wood <M.E.M.Wood@durham.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 24 Jun 1998 10:09:20 +0100
I have been reading John Collins' article "The Expectation of the End in the Dead Sea Scrolls" in Evans/Flint (eds.) Eschatology, Messianism and the DSS. Much of Collins' discussion centres on the pesharim and their belief in the 'last days' (esp. 1QpHab) and the claim that this could be calculated - roughly forty years after the death of the Teacher of Righteousness. Collins suggests that the pesharim could have been composed within this period of limbo and thus look forward to this event. However, as he continues, these forty years came and went and nothing happened. Collins notes the possible earthquake in 31BCE and the evacuation of the site (also the fire in 9/8BCE) but concludes that this is not related to the eschatological expectation. My question then is what happened within the community when the eschaon failed to arrive? Collins broaches the problem but has no real answers.
Common sense suggests two possible course of action in such a situation. Either the community basically falls apart (as is the case in several modern apocalyptic sects), or the community undergoes a fundamental change in its ideology so as to incorporate the latest beliefs. The latter seems to have been the case in the early church where the second coming failed to materialise within the lives of the first Christians and the Church incorporated an extended period between the two comings of Christ.
How does this projected course of action affect the Qumran community? Other than the earthquake and fire noted by Collins there is no evidence of any disruption within the community (at least in the latter stages of its history) - and in any case the community reformed afterwards. Is there then any sign of a fundamental change of ideology observable in the DSS, particularly those originating in the first century AD? This would be particularly illuminated in the case of multiple copies of texts which may have undergone changes to reflect current beliefs.
On a different note: Eschatology, Messianism and the DSS is cited as the first in a new series: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature. Would it be forwad of me to inquire what further volumes are in press or awaiting publication? I know there is at least one member of the discussion group with a vested interest! Apologies if this is a terrible breach of etiquette.
Marcus Wood BA MA
Department of Theology Tel: UK (0)191 374 3254
University of Durham E-Mail: M.E.M.Wood@durham.ac.uk
Durham DH1 3RS