Jorg Frey (Munchen)
While Kuhn had only claimed to have detected the "mother soil" of Johannine thought in Palestinian Judaism of a non-orthodox - he thought even 'Gnostic' - type , other scholars such as Frank Cross or William Albright went even further and drew consequences regarding the authenticity and historical reliability of the Fourth Gospel. Whereas the historical value of the Fourth Gospel had been heavily disputed by critical scholarship since the 19th century , the parallels in the Scrolls now appeared as a prove of "authentic historical material which first took form in an Aramaic or Hebrew milieu" . The Scrolls were taken as a confirmation that the Fourth Gospel contained nothing else than "the memories of the Apostle John" .
Historical speculations grew even further. Scholars tried to utilize the Qumran calendar to bridge the gap between the Synoptic and the Johannine chronologies of Jesus' death or even speculated about the identity of the Beloved Disciple as an Essene priest who had hosted the Jesus group for the Last Supper in the Essene Quarter in Jerusalem . It was often suggested that the Evangelist himself was a former member of the Essene sect, so that he had read the sectarian documents or memorized the Essene teaching . Others conjectured that he was a former disciple of John the Baptizer , so that the Baptizer became the mediator between Qumranian and Johannine teaching. Some scholars also drew conclusions towards the intended audience of the Johannine literature and interpreted the Fourth Gospel as a Christian teaching for Essenes or the first Epistle as addressing former Essenes who had become Christians .
The most elaborate hypothesis was put forward recently by Jim Charlesworth. Based on his earlier articles on the Qumranian background of Johannine dualism, he even speculates about the exact date of a hypothetical 'first edition' of the Gospel. According to him, this edition was composed "between June 68 and June 70", i. e. in the period after the Essenes had fled Qumran for Jerusalem and eventually joined the Johannine community there, but before the circumvallation of Jerusalem could have prohibited that community to flee Jerusalem .
There is no need to discuss this hypothesis in detail here. I would rather like to hint to the fact that in recent scholarship, the idea of a Qumran background of the Johannine language and thought was subject to severe and growing criticism. The call for revision of the widespread theories was uttered, e. g., by Richard Bauckham , David Aune , and myself . In the present paper I would like to give a critical survey of the earlier comparisons (1), give some reasons for a revision of the overall picture (2), add a brief analysis of the dualistic elements in the Johannine literature together with some reflections on their possible background (3) and end with a sober conclusion (4).
1. A fresh look at earlier comparisons
The textual basis of the far-reaching speculations mentioned above is rather limited. It is the observation of a number of parallels in language and thought between the Johannine Gospel and Epistles and some passages from Qumran. This was really sensational in the context of scholarship 50 years ago, when the leading scholars such as Charles H. Dodd and Rudolf Bultmann interpreted the Fourth Gospel almost completely against a Hellenistic or even Gnostic background. In that situation, the scholarly and public excitement about unexpected language parallels from a Palestinian Jewish milieu is easily to comprehend. In retrospect, we can see now that the Qumran discoveries caused a major "shift in Johannine scholarship towards recognizing the thoroughly Jewish character of Johannine theology" . But, as Bauckham aptly comments, "this appears to have been a case of drawing the correct conclusion from the wrong evidence" , because the Qumran parallels are not the only evidence for the Jewish character of the Fourth Gospel, and they cannot prove a peculiar Qumranian but only a broader Palestinian Jewish background.
Since the beginning of the discussion in the early Fifties the comparisons between the Johannine literature and the Dead Sea Scrolls have collected a wealth of more or less compelling parallels. They can be roughly classified into three groups:
(a) At first, there are some general convictions, which are shared by both, e. g. parallels regarding Scriptural interpretation, but these observations can only demonstrate that the Johannine literature draws on a background which is shaped by Biblical and Early Jewish tradition.
(b) Secondly, there are parallels regarding peculiar motifs, such as the call for communal love, but even such a similarity may be explained by sociological analogies, but cannot prove a historical or traditio-historical relation.
(c) Evidence for a peculiar historical or traditio-historical relation between Qumran and the Johannine literature can only be adduced from precise linguistic and terminological parallels . Consequently, those parallels were in focus when Raymond Brown and Jim Charlesworth wanted to prove Qumranian influence on Johannine language and thought.
At first glance, the number of Johannine terms paralleled from Qumran is quite impressive . It includes the peculiar terms regarding the Spirit-Paraclete such as 'Spirit of Truth' and 'Holy Spirit' and, chiefly, expressions within a dualistic framework, such as 'Sons of Light', 'the Light of Life', 'to walk in the darkness', or 'to walk in the truth', 'to witness for the truth', 'to do the truth', 'works of God' and 'evil works', the notion of God's 'wrath', 'full of grace' and 'eternal life'. Since many of the terms and phrases mentioned occur within the so-called 'Doctrine of the Two Spirits' in 1QS, this passage has often been the starting point for the evaluation of Qumran dualism and its impact on the dualism of the Fourth Gospel .
But even in view of linguistic parallels, precise distinctions are necessary: Is the parallel formed by a single word or a word combination, or of a shared peculiar notion? Is the occurence of the parallel confined to the Dead Sea Scrolls or can we also find it in other contexts? Is the assumed parallel confined to 'sectarian' documents, or does it also occur in other, 'non-sectarian' texts from the Qumran library ? Can we detect an internal development of terms or ideas within the documents from Qumran? And if there are different patterns of an idea within the library, which is the one that comes closest to the New Testament parallels? Only upon questions like that, we can decide whether the alleged parallels do hint to a literary or traditio-historical relation or not.
If we begin to ask this way, the impressive picture drawn by the advocates of the Qumran thesis, begins to loose its force. Most of the parallels mentioned above are not exclusively Qumranian. They are not confined to the Qumran library, let alone the Qumran 'sectarian' texts.
This is totally clear for the term 'eternal life' which has its most important background in Daniel 12:3 but can also be found in the Books of Enoch , in the Psalms of Solomon, Joseph and Asenath, the Second and Fourth Book of Maccabees , in Early Christianity and in Rabbinic texts , so that the parallel in 1QS IV,7 cannot be used as an argument for a peculiar relation with the Johannine literaure. Moreover, one should not forget that the idea of 'life' is not as central in Qumran as it is in John.
Another example is the phrase 'light of life' which is not only Qumranian, but even more Biblical . The Johannine passage on the remaining wrath of God (Jn 3:36) has its closest parallel in the Wisdom of Solomon , not in Qumran. The expression 'to do the truth' can be found already in the LXX of Isaiah , in Tobit , and in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs . 'Works of God' and the related phrase 'works of the Lord' can also be found in the Bible , so there is no reason to interpret the Johannine phrase e[rga tou` qeou` (Jn 6:28; 9:3) against the background of Qumran. 'To walk in truth' is also paralleled in the LXX , similarly the expressions 'to walk in the light' or 'in the darkness' .
Most interesting are the observations regarding the term 'sons of light' (uiJoi; fwtov~) in Jn 12:36 which is unparalleled in the Hebrew Bible but frequent in Qumran texts as a self-designation of the community . But considered that the term can be found already in Paul (1 Thes 5:5) and in the Synoptic tradition (Luke 16:8) , and in both cases it is equally opposed to the notion of darkness, the idea of an immediate Qumranian influence on John becomes implausible. If we see, then, that the term is already used in 'non-Sectarian' or 'pre-Essene' texts such as the Vision of Amram , we can conclude that the term did not originate within the Essene community but in some kind of precursor group so that it might have been transmitted not only by the Essene or 'sectarian' tradition but also apart from the Qumran group. The (single) occurence of 'sons of light' in John is by no means a proof for a Qumranian influence on John. A similar argument can be adduced regarding the term 'spirit of truth' . There is not only a remarkable difference between the usage in the Doctrine of the Two Spirits and in the Fourth Gospel. The term can also be found in the Testament of Benjamin (20:1ff) and - probably independent from John - in the Shepherd of Hermas (Mand 3:4). Therefore even the peculiar desigation of the Holy Spirit in John cannot be explained exclusively from Qumran usage .
A closer look at the Qumran parallels adduced by Brown, Charlesworth and others leads to the conclusion that most of the parallels are not exclusively Qumranic. But if the phrases occur elsewhere, in the Hebrew Bible or the Septuagint, in non-Essene Jewish texts or in other documents of Early Christianity, the linguistic argument for a Qumran influence on Johannine language and thought is devaluated.
The most impressive argument, however, for such an influence, was not taken from single linguistic parallels, but from a more general view of structural similarity between the dualism in Qumran texts (especially the Doctrine of the Two Spirits) and in John. Especially in the Fifties, when John was interpreted in Gnostic terms by many interpreters, the Qumran documents provided the revolutionary evidence of a Jewish kind of dualism which was obviously much closer to the Johannine view than the Mandaean and Manichaean texts adduced in Bultmann's commentary. So, many scholars saw the Qumran discoveries as a decisive argument to reject the views of Bultmann and his followers. Consequently, in the religio-historical interpretation of John, the foil of Gnosticism was simply replaced by that of Qumran dualism . This was even easier, if the common structure of Qumranian and Johannine dualism could be traced back to Iranian roots .
In his influential article, Brown wanted to demonstrate that, despite the differences in detail, Johannine and Qumran dualism have a very similar structure. Unlike Gnostic dualism, they share an eschatological and ethical orientation. In his discussion of common aspects (creation; two opposed spirits; combat-motiv; the role of human beings; "sons of light"), Brown is well aware of the differences, for instance that John does not use the name "Belial" or that John distinguishes between Christ as "the light of the world" and the "spirit of truth" whereas in the 1QS III-IV "prince of light" and " spirit of truth" characterize one single figure. Summing up, he states, that the basic difference between the two theologies is Christ himself. Even though he rejects the theory that Chistianity is a kind of Essenism, he finally concludes that the background of Johannine thought is the language and thought of Qumran.
Charlesworth, in his basic article , provides an even more detailed analysis. It is totally focussed on the Treatise on the Two Spirits (1QS III,13 - IV,26) which is seen as "representative of the dualism found elswhere in the Scrolls" . Here, Charlesworth finds a relative, cosmic and eschatological dualims which is structurally paralleled in the Fourth Gospel. As the Treatise, the Johannine author knows of two worlds, characterized by the notions of 'above' and 'below' or 'light' and 'darkness'. The observation that the language parallels mentioned above are densely concentrated in the Treatise proves, in Charlesworth's view, that the Johannine thought is textually dependent on that passage. From the fact that another phrase 'to do the truth' (tma h?[) does not occur within 1QS III,13 - IV,26, but in the passages that precede and follow in 1QS , he even conjectures, that the Evangelist must have read the text within its present context in the manuscript 1QS (or another exact copy of its text) .
As mentioned above, the analyses by Brown, Charlesworth and others have been criticised in recent scholarship. According to Richard Bauckham, the views sketched above "arose from a natural enthusiasm" in the first period of Qumran research, "but the parallels in this case have not been assessed with sufficient methodological rigor" . This is correct, especially in view of the more recent developments in Qumran research. The analyses mentioned above were based on the state of publication in the Fifties and Sixties. They are not yet aware of the need to distinguish between 'sectarian' and 'non-sectarian' texts. Without disregard for the analyses of earlier Qumran research, but consider most of the Qumran documents part of a unified 'theology of Qumran'. The pattern of Qumran dualism was usually taken from the Treatise on the Two Spirits, and the differences between this text and, e. g., the War Rule were considered unimportant. But according to more recent research, the picture is much more complicated.
2. Six reasons for revision
The ongoing research on the Qumran texts, and especially the publication of the vast majority of fragments within the Nineties, has brought a number of insights that call for a revision of the views sketched above. Without going into detail, I will briefly mention some of the reasons.
a) 'Sectarian' and 'non-Sectarian' Texts
As mentioned above, we have to distinguish more carefully than before between the texts which originate within the yachad itself and other documents which were probably composed outside of it or before its constitution.
There is a terminological problem here. The terms 'sectarian' and 'non-sectarian' are somewhat misleading, because some precursor groups of the yachad might also be characterized as 'sects' . The categories 'Essene' and 'non-Essene' are even more disputed, since not only the identification of the yachad with the Essenes is disputed , but on the other hand the designation 'Essene' is used in a sense that is much broader than the yachad . As for me, I use the term 'Essene' precisely for the yachad as it is visible in the community rules from Qumran .
But in any case, if we don't want to speak more generally of Enochic or apocalyptic traditions, but precisely of the community described by the rule-texts in S and D, we have to apply criteria for identifying the texts which do express the ideas of this community . And even though the criteria are open to discussion, there is at least a growing consensus that Enochic literature, Jubilees, the Temple Scroll, most of the Sapiential Documents and presumably all of the Aramaic texts do not originate in the yachad. But the 'sectarian' origin of texts like the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, the War Rule or the Treatise on the Two Spirits is also heavily disputed. If the terminological criteria are used with some methodological rigor, the latter should be seen as a traditional text from the time before the constitution of the yachad , and even the War Rule might be based on older traditions from outside the community .
b) Variety within the 'sectarian' documents
A second distinction should be made. Even if we take the 'sectually explicit' literature as a body from which we may reconstruct the theological views of the yachad, it seems impossible to get a coherent and unified picture from all those texts. There are notable differences between the rules in Serekh ha-Yachad and the Damascus Document, and there is an open discussion whether these differences may be due to historical developments or whether different instruction may also be applied to different sub-groups of the yachad or the Essene movement . Since the publication of Cave 4 fragments, things became much more complicated. Now it seems to be almost impossible to reconstruct any fixed or unified position of the 'sectarian' documents, neither regarding the organizational structure nor regarding peculiar instructions. If the same applies also to the aspects of the Qumranian world-view, it is also problematic to describe a general type of Qumran dualism in which the differences between the single documents are downplayed or harmonized. without considering the differences between the documents. Unlike earlier research which often harmonized the differences between, e. g. the War Rule and the Treatise on the Two Spirits, we should now see more precisely the peculiarities of the terminology and world view of the two documents which are both part of historical processes and do not represent fixed kind of group ideology. The assumption uttered by Charlesworth and others that the Treatise on the Two Spirits formed some kind of 'basic ideology' of the Essenes which every member of the group had to memorize is, in my view, mistaken. Assumptions like that seem to be rather a result of the Qumran publication history than an insight drawn from the literary history of the documents.
c) 1QS as a collective manuscript
The reason for this comes from the more recent insights into the character and development of 1QS and the Serekh material . From the comparison with the 4QS-manuscripts, it is obvious that 1QS is a collective manuscript which encompasses at least five different literary units . In the 4QS parallels, some of them are missing. This applies also to the Treatise on the Two Spirits which was not part of two of the 4QS documents (4QSd.e). One of them (4QSd) was copied even later than the comprehensive manuscript 1QS. This shows that the Qumranites have copied shorter and earlier forms of the Serekh material even at a time when the longer collection had already been composed . The consequence is that "there never existed a single, legitimate and up-to-date version of the Community Rule." These observations lead to further consequences regarding the evaluation of the manuscript 1QS. Contrary to the views of earlier research, the text of the Community Rule not work as a definitive version of the rule material, nor can its sub-texts be seen as a definitive version of the community ideology.
d) The Treatise on the Two Spirits as an instruction from the time before the yachad
What does this mean for the interpretation of the Treatise on the Two Spirits? At first, it should be read as a unit of itself, not only as a part of the Community Rule or on the background of the liturgy of the covenant from the first columns of 1QS (I,16 - III,13), from which is differs remarkably in terminology and thought structure.
Moreover, the issue of its origin and its real relevance for the community must be launched again. When 1QS was composed at about 100 BCE, the passage was adopted as an appendix to the liturgy of the covenant .This means that the doctrine was probably considered a traditional text at that time . This may hint to a rather early date of the composition. If we see, then, that the passage lacks the peculiar community terminology , that it does not use the term 'Belial' and that, unlike the yachad, it shares a view of the 'covenant' as to be established only in the future, the consequence seems unavoidable that the teaching must have been composed before the constitution of the yachad. It is, therefore, a pre-Essene teaching , deeply rooted in the tradition of the pre-Essene sapiential texts such as Instruction or Mysteries .
Of course, this does not mean that the text was not important for the community. As a traditional teaching, it was adopted and cited in texts from the yachad (and possibly even in a text from outside the community ). But the question is whether its world view, and its peculiar type of dualism, was thereby adopted exactly or only in some of its elements and with considerable modification.
e) The Essene adoption of the Treatise and the 'sectarian' modification of its dualism
Looking more closely at the passages where the doctrine is quoted or alluded to , we can see that the peculiarities of its dualism are not adopted.
The element that is adopted most frequently, is the notion of eternal election (1QS IV,22.26). But the idea of the 'Two Spirits' occurs nowhere else in the Scrolls - its only echo can be found in the Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs (TestJuda 20:1-2). When 'sectarian' texts convey the notion of opposed angelic leaders, they use other names than those conveyed in the Tretise on the Two Spirits. "Belial", the usual name of the opposed angelic leader, is notably missing in the Treatise. And even if we can assume that the Qumran readers of 1QS identified the "spirit of wickedness" with "Belial" who is often mentioned in the preceding passage, we should not continue this reading in historical-critical scholarship.
In the 'sectarian' documents, there is also no further trace of the idea that the struggle between the two spirits takes place even within the heart of every human being (1QS IV,23) and that in the end, the heart of the elected ones shall be purified by God's Holy Spirit (1QS IV,21). There is a marked contrast between this psychological dimension which is peculiar to the dualism in the Treatise on the Two Spirits, and the type of sheer cosmic dualism which is most prominent in the Essene 'sectarian' texts. In those, the borderline between light and darkness is not within the heart of every human being, but most clearly between the members of the community and those outside. And in every passage where the Treatise on the Two Spirits is adopted in other 'sectarian' texts, its dualism is changed towards the sectarian pattern in which the basic opposition is between the members of the community (together with the angels) and those who remain outside, facing eternal destruction .
The notion of an internal struggle within the heart of the pious ones would hardly be acceptable for the 'sectarian' world view. Therefore, the peculiar combination of cosmic, ethical and psychological elements of dualistic oppositions appears only in the Treatise, but nowhere else in the Scrolls. Instead, where the doctrine is adopted, its ethical opposition of the good and the wicked seems to be rigidified and firmly applied to the socialogically defined opposition between the members of the community and those who refused to enter.
Qumran 'sectarian' dualism is, therefore, far from being identical with the peculiar type of dualism in the Treatise on the Two Spirits. It is rather a sheer cosmic dualism characterized by a strictly predestined division of humanity along the borderline of the community and dominated by opposing angelic figures. Such a pattern can be found in CD II,2-13, in the liturgy of 1QS I,16 - III,13, or in the curses of Berakhot or - with slight modifications - in the War Rule.
f) How could Early Christian authors have adopted Essene dualism?
If we ask, then, for the possible influence of Essene 'sectarian' dualism on Early Christian thought or texts, we should rather think of such a type of sheer cosmic dualism with 'Belial' as the leader of the evil powers. If an Early Christian author had been influenced by the dualism of contemporary Essenism, he would probably have adopted the structure and language of such a type of dualistic thought, not the language of a traditional doctrine which the Essenes themselves had adopted only partially and with considerable modification. Essene influence might be considered, e. g., where the name 'Belial' is used extensively . The use of the light-darkness paradigm, however, is no sufficient evidence for an Essene influence, because such a paradigm can be formed and and adopted in very different contexts.
The reasons mentioned above call for a revision of the assumptions of 'close relations' between the Johannine literature and Essenism. The language parallels between the Johannine texts and some Qumran documents, especially the Treatise on the Two Spirits, cannot prove such an exclusive traditio-historical relation. The closer analysis of the Qumran texts has made obvious that 1QS III-IV and the dualism expressed within that text is not representative of the views of the community, most probably not of the views shared by the Essenes in the late phase of their existence.
3. 'Dualism' in the Johannine Corpus
But in order to deconstruct the idea of Qumranian influence on John we should also look afresh on the peculiarities of Johannine 'dualism', its unity and alleged structure, its terminological peculiarities, and its function.
a) The problem of the unity of Johannine dualism
Here, a short look at the history of interpretation is important. It is only since the interpretation of Rudolf Bultmann that dualism was considered a distinctive element of the Johannine world view and, consequently, as a major theme of Johannine interpretaion . Earlier scholars from the History-of-Religions School such as Heitm?ller or Bousset had only identified some dualistic elements in John, but considered them to be an effect of the Hellenization of the Gospel or of some syncretistic influence or simply as elements caused by the opposition with the synagogue. Only on the background of the idea that John was deeply influenced by the Iranian myth of the redeemer , dualism - as a well-known feature of Iranian religion - was reagarded to be the basic world view from which every single term of the Johannine language had to be understood. In Bultmann's construction, Iranian or Gnostic dualism provided even the key to see Johannine thought as unity . So, any attempt to explain peculiar terms from the Bible, others from Ancient Judaism, others from a more Hellenistic background, was fiercely rejected by Bultmann . According to him and his followers, only an interpretation could be regarded as sufficient that could explain all terms of the Johannine language in a coherent system and against a coherent religio-historical background .
So it is conceivable why the Qumranian background could so easily replace the Gnostic one in Johannine scholarship. The Qumran-thesis provided a dualistic framework which was as coherent as the Gnostic one but structurally more similar to Johannine thought. So it seemed to give a better explanation of the Johannine language without questioning its structural unity.
But the unity of Johannine dualism was a fiction of Bultmann's interpretation. In other words, it was the result of Bultmann's systematic interpretation according to which a dualistic world-view is the condition of 'revelation' . Therefore, in terms of its religio-historical background, the unity of Johannine dualism is by no means certain. It became problematic, e. g. in the interpretation by J?rgen Becker, a former student of Karl Georg Kuhn , who found different types of dualistic opposition in the Fourth Gospel and used them to reconstruct a history of Johannine thought along the line of its 'dualisms' - from a Qumran-like dualism (e. g. in John 3:19-21) in an early phase of the community to the Gnosticizing dualism of the Evangelist and, finally, some kind of 'ecclesiastical' dualism in the later strata of the Gospel (e. g. John 15-17) and in the Epistles . Even if such an analysis provokes a great number of methodological questions , it has demonstrated that Johannine dualism - if we can call it aptly 'dualism' - is not a religio-historical unity. Of course, the different textual elements may function together as a unity for the Johannine readers, but regarding the origin of the single textual elements we cannot presuppose any more that they all come from one coherent background.
b) The names of opposed eschatological figures:
A significant point in religio-historical argument are the names of the eschatological opponents. As already mentioned, the name "Belial" which is typical for Qumran 'sectarian' texts is not mentioned in the Johannine literature. Instead, the chief of the evil powers is named 'Satan' , 'Devil' , 'the evil one' , or - with a peculiar Johannine term - the 'prince of this world' (oJ a[rcwn tou` kovsmou touvtou) .
Satana`~ (as transcription of 8å†ån) represents a concept which was developped in late Biblical and Early Jewish Apocalyptic tradition and adopted likewise by Jesus , Paul and the Synoptics. Diavbolo~ is simply the LXX rendering of, 8å†ån, and oJ ponhrov~ can also be used to replace the term 'Satan' . But in New Testament usage there is some kind of development: The Hebrew loan-word Satana`~ is predominant in Paul and Mark, whereas diavbolo~ is not used in these ealier documents but becomes the predominant term in later New Testament texts and in the Johannine literature . The 'evil one' (oJ ponhrov~) is used once in Paul and then later in Matthew and in the Johannine literature. These obervations may indicate that John represents a later stage of Early Christian tradition. It adopts the terms used in earlier traditions, but the Hebrew loan-word Satana`~ is used only once, but normally replaced by its Greek equivalents.
With 'prince of the world' , John also shapes a term that is rooted in Jewish Apocalypticism but unparalleled in earlier Christian tradition . It represents a concept of an apocalyptic world view in which the dominion of that ruler is temporally restricted to 'this world' in contrast to 'the coming world'. In this sense, the apocalyptic tradition of the fall of Satan is adopted in John 12:31 and linked with the 'hour' of Jesus' exaltation. So, peculiar aspects of the Johannine view are expressed by use of terms from Jewish or Early Christian apocalyptic traditions .
It is obvious that all the names of eschatologically opposed figures draw on traditions and concepts of Jewish and Early Christian apocalypticism, but do not show any peculiar affinity with the names used Dead Sea Scrolls, neither in the 'sectarian' texts nor 1QS III - IV.
On the other hand, whereas in 1QS III - IV the term 'spirit of truth' is used for the angelic leader of the lot of light, its Johannine adoption as a 'title' of the Holy Spirit is not within a dualistic framework . Therefore, an influence of the Qumran term on Johannine language is quite implausible. The Johannine use might rather be explained as combination of the traditional notion of the 'spirit' (pneu`ma) with the peculiar Johannine idea of Christ himself and Christ's revelation as 'the truth' .
c) The 'basic structure' of 'above' and 'below'
Within Johannine 'dualism' the opposition between 'above' and 'below' is so prominent that some even call it "the basic structure of Johannine dualism" . The opponents are 'from below' or 'from this world' , whereas the 'Son' or 'Son of Man' is 'from above' , 'from Heaven' , and those who believe in him are 'born' from above (John 3:3) or from God (John 1:13). Such an opposition is paralleled in the cosmological concepts of Jewish apocalypticism but is has also analogies in hellenistic texts, where as there is no real analogy in Qumran texts. "For the distinctively Johannine use of 'the world' and 'this world' in a pejorative sense, and the distinctively Johannine contrast of 'from above' and 'from below', the Quman texts provide no parallel at all". Therefore, Richard Bauckham correctly states: "This in itself makes implausible the view that Johannine dualism as such derives from Qumran dualism."
d) The all-encompassing opposition of life and death
When we look at the second major opposition within Johannine dualism, it is certainly the opposition between 'life' and 'death' which encompasses all the other oppositions contained in the Gospel. 'Life' the most prominent term for salvation in John. It belongs to God the creator and to the Logos , the Son 'has' life in himself , he gives and even 'is' life . Eternal life is given to those who believe in him, so that they have been transferred from death to life and will not 'taste death' but live, even if they die . Since 'life' is a motif in many Jewish and Pagan texts, it is not easy to discern the religio-historical background of John's language of life . In my view, the term 'eternal life' (zwh; aijwvnio~) clearly points to a Palestinian Jewish tradition which was, then, adopted in earlier Christianity and developped in the Johannine school. A Qumran background is quite implausible here, since the dualistic opposition between death and life has almost no analogies in the Qumran texts. For the great Johannine scholar Rudolf Schnackenburg this was the strongest argument that the language of Johannine dualism could not be adopted from Qumran .
e) The opposition of 'truth' and 'lie' or 'deceit' and its christological focus
There are also important differences regarding the opposition between 'truth' and 'lie' or 'deceit'. This opposition is quite frequent in 1 John , so that one may assume that the opposition became especially important within the crisis of the community . But we should not ignore that the opposition is not at all balanced. In Johannine literature, terms related with 'truth' (ajlhvqeia) are much more frequent than terms of 'lie' or'deceit'. Since 'truth' is closely related with Christ himself and he is even called 'the truth' incarnate, it is an open question whether the Johannine notion of 'the truth' can be considered an element of dualistic thought. Only a small part of the Johannine passages on 'truth' are within a dualistic opposition. When the truth is proclaimed, and people are expected to follow the witness, hear and believe, this is clearly an expression of Johannine theology which can hardly be explained from a non-Christian context. Moreover, in Qumran, the opposition is not between 'truth' and 'lie' or 'deceit' but between 'truth' and 'wickedness' ([?p) which is unparalleled in the Johannine literature.
f) The opposition of 'light' and 'darkness' and the differences from Qumran usage
The only element of dualistic language that has clear parallels in Qumran is the opposition of light and darkness. But, in Johannine literature, the contrast of darkness and light is less prominent than that of 'below' and 'above' or that of death and life. And, similar with the contrast between truth and lie, it is not balanced but focussed on the christological idea that Christ is the light or that the light has come and shines into the darkness so that the people do not remain in darkness but become 'children of the light' (John 12:36).
Here we find - only once in John - the term which is used as a self-designation of the Qumran 'sectarian' group (rwa ynb). But as mentioned already, the term already occurs in earlier Christianity, in Paul, then in Luke and - slightly modified - in Ephesians , so that an immediate Qumran influence cannot be assumed. Moreover, with0in the Qumran library the term is not only used as a self-designation of the members of the yachad. It can be found already in a pre-Essene document, the Visions of Amram, so that we may assume that it was more widespread among the traditions and groups within Ancient Judaism . A Qumran influence on John is also made implausible by the fact that John never uses the term 'sons of darkness' which he should have used if he was influenced by contemporary Essene language and ideas. Therefore, Richard Bauckham correctly states: "It is hardly credible that if the Qumran use of the light / darkness imagery influenced John, the highly distinctive terminology which virtually constitutes the Qumran use of the light / darkness imagery should have left such minimal traces in John."
On the other hand, "expressions which characterize the Johannine use of the light / darkness imagery, have no parallels in the Qumran texts." As examples, Bauckham mentions the phrases 'the true light' , 'the light of the world' , to 'come to the light' or to 'remain in the darkness' and also the contrast of day and night .
The most obvious differences can be seen regarding the function of the light-darkness terminology. Within the Qumran world view the struggle of angelic leaders and their lots will remain until God finally destroys the powers of evil. But at present, there is a strong hostility between the two realms, and people belong to the one or the other by God's eternal predestination. A transfer from the realm of darkness to the reign of light is hardly conceivable within this deterministic world view. But this is just what the Fourth Gospel aims at. There, the light metaphor is used with the implication that light shines into the darkness and 'enlightens' it. So, any kind of fixed dualism is broken.
4. Whence Johannine Dualism?
If these observations are taken seriously, we should definitely dismiss the idea that Johannine dualism, or even the light-darkness motif was formed under the influence of Qumran texts or contemporary Essene thought. But where does it come from, then? Or where do its basic elements come from, so that the Johannine school or the Evangelist could develop its distinctive language? In recent scholarship, Richard Bauckham and David Aune have made different suggestions, but, in my view, the aspects mentioned by them can be combined.
a) Bauckham's first suggestion is that the light / darkness metaphor in John is inspired from the tradition of Jewish exegesis of the creation narrative . He suggests to see the roots of the Johannine idea of the "great light coming into the world" and "giving light to all people" in the exegesis of the light of the first day (Gen 1:3-5). Such a starting point is recommended by the Johannine prologue which obviously draws on the Genesis creation account. The passage on the primordial light was often taken as a basis of further speculation and as a metaphor for the communication of spiritual goods such as truth or life. Among a large number of other texts, Bauckham mentions the Asenath's prayer from Joseph and Asenath 8:9 where God is addressed as the one "who gave life to all (things) and called (them) from the darkness to the light, and from the error to the truth, and from the death to the life" . This demonstrates that the contrast of light and darkness could be linked easily with the notions of life and death, truth and error or good and evil, and that such an interpretation was not necessarily influenced by Qumran.
b) Related with this, Bauckham mentions a second aspect: The image of the light shining into the world which is primary for the Johannine use of the light / darkness metaphor, has some more sources in the Hebrew Bible and in Post-Biblical Judaism. It is applied to "the image of a prophet or teacher as a light who by his teaching of truth gives light" , a motif that may be adopted, though in a pejorative sense, to John the Baptist as a 'shining lamp' in John 5:35. Much more important and comprehensive is the second motif mentioned by Bauckham, the image of the Torah or the word of God as a light for the people so that they can walk in it. The ethical implications of the light metaphor are quite obvious, here. The motif of the Torah as light can be found in numerous passages in the Hebrew Bible, in the Psalms, the Wisdom Literature or the Prophets , and it seems to be peculiarly prominent in Jewish texts which are roughly contemporary with the Fourth Gospel, e. g. the Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum , 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch . Especially 2 Baruch makes extensive use of the imagery of light and darkness in their reference to good and evil or truth and error, or finally salvation and punishment . According 2 Bar. 59:2 the "lamp of the eternal law ... illuminated those who sat in darkness", and LAB 11:1 characterizes the law in its universal function as a "light to the world", a term that refers back to prophetic characterization of the law as "light of the nations" (Isa 51:4; cf. Wisd. 18:4). Bauckham correctly observes that these phrases are "remarkably close to that the Fourth Gospel says about Jesus Christ as the light of the world" . The dominant feature of the Gospel's use of the light / darkness paradigm is much better paralleled by these passages than by the Qumran texts.
c) A third observation mentioned by Bauckham is that the Johannine use of the light / darkness paradigm is a kind of "messianic exegesis of passages in Isaiah" , as, e. g. Isa 9:1-2; 42:6-7; 49:6 or 60:1ff. The prophecies from Isaiah have influenced the Fourth Gospel in many ways, and the passages mentioned could be easily linked with the idea of the Torah as light. So, the light metaphor could be adopted as a symbol of the soteriological and eschatological significance of Jesus' coming. On the other hand, the Isaianic passages have no relevance for the use of the light / darkness motif in Qumran. So, in the combination of the three aspects of the primordial light, the law as light and the Messiah as a "light to the nations" (Isa 42:6), the Johannine use of the paradigm is explained much better than by the Qumran parallels.
d) David Aune, in his recent article, has added an additional aspect . He refers to the language of conversion in Ancient Judaism and in Early Christianity, in which light and darkness are repeatedly used as metaphors which might be combined with Bauckham's view. In some passages this is a peculiar adoption of the creation narrative (Gen 1:3-5). In Acts 26:18, the conversion of the Gentiles from the power of Satan to the true God appears as an opening of the eyes, as the transfer "from the darkness to the light". The imagery is used in numerous Jewish passages on repentance or conversion , most strikingly in Joseph's prayer for Asenath quoted above where the transfer "from the darkness to the light, and from the error to the truth, and from the death to the life" is explicitly mentioned within a conversion context. A similar metaphorical use of the terms is visible, e. g., when Paul describes his conversion using the terminology of creation and of light and darkness (2 Cor 4:6). Other examples are Col 1:12-13, Eph 5:8, 1 Peter 2.9 and 1 Clement 59:2: The converts are called "from darkness into light" . In other passages, such as 1 Thes 5:4-8 and Rom 13:12-14, the paradigm is adopted to a parenetic framework .
The observation adduced by Aune seems helpful to explain how the light / darkness metaphor could be adopted in the Johannine school. Without disregard of the influence of Scriptural passages on the creation, the law or the messianic hope, we can see that the light / darkness metaphor was already adopted within earliest Christianity, most probably on the basis of the conversation language developped within Judaism and adopted by Early Christian authors.
Taken together, the observations of Bauckham and Aune might explain the different aspects of the Johannine use of the light / darkness imagery. In 1 John, the imagery is used in a parenetic manner which can only be explained from the context of the crisis of the community and on the background of the parenetic use of the light / darkness motif in earlier Christianity. On the other hand, the christological and soteriological focus of the use of the light / darkness metaphor in the Gospel is better explained by the references quoted by Bauckham, chiefly the use of the imagery for aspects of the eschatological salvation and, basically, for the Torah which is now represented or even replaced by Jesus himself as 'the light of the world'.
So there is no need to conjecture any Qumran influence on the Johannine use of the light / darkness terminology. The peculiarities of Johannine use are explained better by other strands of Biblical and Early Jewish tradition and their adoption and development in earlier, pre-Johannine Christianity. The other dualistic elements within Johannine language and thought, the oppositions of life and death, truth and deceit, above and below, do not provide any further support for the idea that Johannine dualism, as a whole, could be influenced by Qumran dualism. Similar to the use of light metaphor, the Johannine use of the motifs of life and truth is strongly focussed on the person of Christ so that it can only be explained as a result of Johannine christological reflection. The names used for eschatologically opposed figures hint to a reception of different traditions of Jewish and Early Christian apocalyptic thought but definitely not to an adaption of Qumran sectarian peculiarities.
5. No light from the Caves?
As a consequence, the view that Johannine dualism, as a whole, or in parts, is influenced by Qumran dualism, should be abandoned. There is neither a conclusive support in the textual parallels adduced nor in the peculiar structure of the respective dualistic language. It is true, compared with the structure of Gnostic dualism, Qumran thought could appear as a relatively close parallel. And certainly, the Qumran discoveries helped to rediscover the Jewish character of the traditions behind the Fourth Gospel. But there are a great number of Jewish parallels from other literary contexts, and some of them provide much closer analogies to the Johannine terms and phrases and, moreover, to the structure and function of Johannine 'dualism'. Moreover, Johannine dualism is not a unity in the sense that it only could be explained from a single tradition or religio-historical background. The Johannine author and his school seem to be rather eclectic, adopting and developing motifs and phrases from different contexts into their own compositions.
A final question should be considered. If Johannine dualism cannot support the idea of a Qumran sectarian influence on the Johannine literature, and if the language parallels discussed are, in most instances, far from being exclusive, is there any other relevance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for Johannine interpretation? Is there no light from the Caves on John and his tradition?
I do not think that this should be the consequence. The Qumran parallels adduced are in fact imporatant parallels for the understanding of the Johannine language. But they are parallels as part of a broader Jewish heritage which is adopted in Early Christianity and also in John. More recent Qumran research has demonstrated that the library of Qumran is far more than only the heritage of a hidden sect. The documents rather represent a broad variety of Palestinian Jewish literary production, and even the peculiar 'sectarian' texts are also a witness to the variety of traditions and ideas from which they were developed themselves. Seen in such a wider context, the parallels regarding Scriptural interpretation, Messianism, the Spirit-Paraclete, and other items are in fact important - not as proves of a direct literary or personal relation but as references to the variegated Palestinian Jewish context in which the Early Christian tradition is rooted.