Themes Of Darkness And Light: Is There Connection With Qumran Community? (gospel Of John 1:4-5)

4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

To the author of the Gospel, the Word of God was both distinct from God and yet at the same time was in some way truly God. This Word of God (Logos/Memra) played an exclusive rule in the creation of the world, as we read in the verses above. Moreover, according to John, the life force that makes any of God’s creation breathe, move, and exist was intricately connected with and depended upon that very Word of God. In this section, the author of the Gospel compares this Word with light shining in the darkness, stating resolutely that the power of darkness was not successful in overcoming it.

The remainder of this Gospel, including the imagery of light and darkness, was initially, and for many years, attributed by theologians to Greek Platonic influence on the author and therefore upon the composition of this Gospel. However, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948 and their later availability for scholarship-at-large few decades later, a wholly different picture has eventually emerged. The themes of light and darkness among other similar themes abound in Dead Sea Scrolls Collection (1QS 3.13-4.26).

Scholarly debate about the nature of the community that preserved, and in many cases authored the scrolls, found by accident by a Bedouin boy, is still far from being settled. Was the Qumran Community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, a marginal Jewish monastic group with almost no connection to the Jewish world-at-large, or was it a spiritual and learning center of sorts for a much larger Essene movement active throughout Roman Palestine and the Jewish Diaspora? If Josephus Flavius[1] is to be believed (much of recent study has confirmed such an optimism), in his first century report, this community almost equaled the number of members of pharisaic Judaism and therefore its influence in the Jewish world. In any case, while it is difficult, if not impossible, to speak of the direct influence of the Qumran Community upon this Gospel; this archeological discovery has particularly placed this Gospel finally and firmly in the native conceptual thought world of pre-Christian Judaisms.[2]

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© By Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Ph.D.

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[1] Josephus, The Antiquity of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1

[2] An important point needs to be made clear. Since in their writings the pre-Christian Jewish Qumran sect referred to itself as a New Covenant fellowship; and since they seem to have coined the technical term “The Holy Spirit” freely used in the Gospels, does this automatically mean that the community influenced the composition of the Gospel? Not necessarily. What it does mean, however, is that the Qumran community, and some manuscripts that were either associated or authored there, was part of the theological and biblical “air” that everyone else breathed. The Gospel of John and its author was no exception to this.

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  1. Ray Luff

    I have spent four years making the New Testament KJV version more literal and closer to todays vernacular. I welcome anyone to try out a sample of the Gospel of John.

    And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness does not apprehend it. (SKJV)

    The verse that says the darkness did not comprehend it reflects one of two possible meanings of the Greek word “Katalambo” which means to understand or overcome. The KJV used a term “Comprehend” that only reflects one of the two possible meanings. Some newer Bibles say “Overcome” again giving only one of the two meanings. I and my advisory board chose “apprehend” as the American Standard Bible also chose as this is the only english word we could find that reflects both meanings of Katalambo.

    Sometimes it is better in translation to leave something a bit more ambiguous so that we are forced to reflect on the possible meanings rather than forcing an interpretation on Gods word.

    Oh yah. Jesus and also he Bible itself is also called Gods word. (That’s another thought to add to the discussion.)

    The link for the gospel of John I was referring to is

  2. Iosi Arreola

    Es interesante el contenido y claro tendremos que profundizar en la investigación para encontrar respuesta a cada interrogante de no ser asi tal vez nada valdria la pena, es confiable el optimismo de Flavio Josefo.

  3. Eric Rodríguez

    In first place,חיים, the life mentioned here, is of course, the everlasting life, “The Life”, this “natural” life we have, is a shadow of that which is kept in the אור גנוז The hiden life in the kingdom of the Heavens. Psalm 36:10 says: כִּי-עִמְּךָ, מְקוֹר חַיִּים; בְּאוֹרְךָ, נִרְאֶה-אוֹר. which plays with Psalm 49:20 : תָּבוֹא, עַד-דּוֹר אֲבוֹתָיו; עַד-נֵצַח, לֹא יִרְאוּ-אוֹר
    So, Everlasting Life and Light are interchangeable in John.

    1. Eric Rodríguez

      I’m sorry because the quotes were taken from Hebrew Bible, maybe is Psalm 36:9 and 49:19

    2. Eric Rodríguez

      On other hand, as was said by Dr. Eli, there is some exhortation/comfrontation to/before the Essenian – Qumram Community for they considered themselves as Light (Cf. Mt 5:14 more clear to them) but this statement in John says: That TRUE Light came to the world!!! You, Essenian, “light” aren’t TRUE Light! Light is not dominated nor hiden by Obscurity or darkness!!

  4. Stacy

    Hold on, I thought James and John were the sons of Zebedee a fisherman??

  5. Margaret Comstock

    Interestingly enough, the original King James version renders verse 5 as “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” which gives a different ‘feel’ than the version you quoted. But I don’t think that it is significant – just interesting. It just seems to personify light and darkness.
    Or more importance to speculation is the idea that James and John spent time in Jerusalem when their father fulfilled his duty as a Levitical priest. They probably participated in theological discussions which , again probably, included ideas from Qumram. Their education would explain their prominence in the ministry of Jesus,

    Have you encountered such ideas?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes, but… if we see Qumran as connected in some way with a much larger Essene movement that those issues would be familiar to many others too. Including Jesus. Read my Sabbath in Qumran here.

      1. Chris

        I would like to say I have drawn a similar connection. For instance the book of John mentions chapter 12v36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light or sons of light.We also know that the Essenes group was not just located at Qumran. Pleny the Elder tells us that they are all over the place when he mentions them in his book.

        1. Chris

          John is also the only Gospel to say that Salvation comes from the Jews. Which is in connection with Qumran. Qumran shares a lot of the similar terminology and Symbolism. Just saying there is a symmetry that these texts share.