Jesus the Man, a New Interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Barbara Thiering, Doubleday, 1992.

Reviewed by John Maindonald, SOF NZ Newsletter #6, March 1994

Thiering claims astonishing and extravagant connections between the Essene Community and Christianity. She argues that if one makes her identifications, then the whole jigsaw fits together. Much of the book reads like a series of bald assertions.

The Teacher of Righteousness was John the Baptist. The Wicked Priest was Jesus. Jesus was married twice, first to Mary Magdalene (which ended in divorce) and subsequently to Lydia. There were three children from the first marriage.

Thiering's hypothesis depends on the use of the pesher method of interpretation to provide the crucial key to the understanding of the Gospels and Acts. By finding the necessary codes and giving the interpretation to which this leads, statements, words and events that are otherwise mysterious come together, she claims, into a coherent story.

One must ask: "Are her tests sufficiently rigorous? Has she written the rules for testing her hypothesis so that anyone with sufficient inventiveness, could provide an interpretation along the lines that she gives?"

If Thiering is right, mainstream scholarly views on the literary origins of the Gospels and Acts are turned upside down. Barbara Thiering requires a first century date for the Scrolls that mention the Teacher of Righteousness. Most scholars have preferred an earlier date.