The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth

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The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian myth
Dead Sea Scrolls Before Unraveled.jpg
AuthorJohn M. Allegro
CountryUnited Kingdom
SubjectLanguage, Fertility cults, Christianity, Dead Sea Scrolls
PublisherWest bridge Books (a division of David & Charles)
Publication date
Media typeprint (paperback)
Pages252pp (second revised edition)

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian myth is a 1979 book about the Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes and early Christianity that proposes the non-existence of Jesus Christ. It was written by John Marco Allegro (1922–1988).[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]


The book was written nine years after Allegro's forced resignation from academia due to publishing The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross. It is an imaginative look at what life would have been like at Qumran, West Bank at the time when Jesus was supposed to have lived in the 1st century CE.[8]

The book's aim was to show the logical progression of Jewish history through the writings and archaeology of Qumran, as opposed to the (unique) revelation of traditional Christianity.[9] Allegro suggested that traditional Christianity developed through a literal mis-interpretation of symbolic narratives found in the scrolls by writers who did not understand the minds of the Essenes. He further argued that Gnostic Christianity developed directly from the Essenes and that Jesus Christ was a fictional character based on a real person, who had helped established the Essene movement (or "Way") and lived in the 1st century BCE, around one hundred years before the traditional period of New Testament events.[1] In a chapter entitled "Will the real Jesus Christ please stand up", Allegro referred to this man as the Teacher of Righteousness.[3][7]

Allegro argued that the word Essenes signified "healers". They had inherited a lore of healing with plants and stones that had been passed down from the "fallen angels" that arrived on Mount Hermon mentioned in the Book of Enoch. He presumed their establishment of Qumran complex by the Dead Sea was related to the interpretation and anticipation of a prophecy about the Teacher of Righteousness, a "man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze, with a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand" (Ezekiel 40:3) who was to somehow create lifegiving waters to flow into the Dead Sea from a temple in some northern location (Ezekiel 47:1-12).[2]


There was a lot of excitement in Jerusalem when Allegro published the book.[10] Numerous rebuttals were published,[11] and other members of the team pointed out the problems with Allegro's arguments.[9] Despite this, Allegro's ideas were promoted thanks to efforts of essayist Edmund Wilson, supported by scholar David Flusser.[9] Wilson wrote both a magazine article[12] and a book on the subject.[13] The press widely publicized Allegro's claims of connections with Christian origins, which have influenced the entire shape and focus of reporting on the subject of the scrolls ever since.[9][14] Randall Price called Allegro "the father of scroll sensationalists" for his interpretations of the scrolls.[15] Allegro believed that there was a conspiracy to prevent publication of the scrolls because they could damage the image of Jesus, this was later repeated by conspiracy theory writers such as Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent in their book The Dead Sea Scrolls Deceptions.[1]

While Allegro made several contributions, such as spreading awareness of the scrolls and convincing everyone that they were relevant to an understanding of Christianity, his theories about the relationship of the scrolls to Jesus led to his downfall.[1]

Allegro previously published The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross in 1970, with even more theories about Jesus. Allegro was heavily criticized by many scholars, including his own mentor at Oxford, and the publisher had to issue an apology.[1] Allegro's scholarly reputation was destroyed, and he had to resign from his academic position.[1]

The book also spawned a CBS documentary film in 1985 entitled Healers of the Dead Sea, which Allegro narrated and produced with Douglas Edwards.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Peter Flint; James VanderKam (10 July 2005). The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance For Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 324–. ISBN 978-0-567-08468-2. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Joan E. Taylor (15 November 2012). The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea. Oxford University Press. pp. 305–. ISBN 978-0-19-955448-5. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b John Marco Allegro (June 1992). The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian myth. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-0-87975-757-1. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  4. ^ CONTROVERSY OVER SCROLLS ROLLS ON IN PRINT, Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT) - November 21, 1992.
  5. ^ Todd, Douglas, Turning the spotlight on Jesus of Nazareth Greed, scandal, mystery surround Dead Sea Scrolls, Waterloo Record - Kitchener, Ontario, (Weekend Edition), 7 March 1992.
  6. ^ 'Enhanced Interrogation' and Faith, Scariato, Albert., The Washington Post, May 28, 2009.
  7. ^ a b Judith Anne Brown (2005). John Marco Allegro: The Maverick Of The Dead Sea Scrolls. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 265–. ISBN 978-0-8028-2849-1. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  8. ^ Mary L. Coloe; Tom Thatcher (16 June 2011). John, Qumran, and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Sixty Years of Discovery and Debate. Society of Biblical Lit. pp. 19–. ISBN 978-1-58983-546-7. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d Lawrence H. Schiffman (8 March 2010). Qumran and Jerusalem: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 414–. ISBN 978-0-8028-4976-2. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  10. ^ Judit Targarona Borrás; Ángel Sáenz-Badillos (1999). Biblical, Rabbinical, and Medieval Studies. BRILL. pp. 241–. ISBN 978-90-04-11554-5. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  11. ^ Joseph M. Baumgarten; Moshe J. Bernstein; Florentino García Martínez; John Kampen (1997). Legal Texts and Legal Issues: Proceedings of the Second Meeting of the International Organization for Qumran Studies, Cambridge, 1995 : Published in Honour of Joseph M. Baumgarten. BRILL. pp. 19–. ISBN 978-90-04-10829-5. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  12. ^ E. Wilson (14 May 1955), "A Reporter at Large: The Dead Sea Scrolls", New Yorker (31/12), pp. 45–121
  13. ^ Edmund Wilson (1955), The Scrolls of the Dead Sea, Oxford University Press
  14. ^ Schiffman, Lawrence H., Inverting Reality: The Dead Sea Scrolls in the Popular Media - Dead Sea Discoveries, 2005.
  15. ^ Randall Price (1996). Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Harvest House Publishers. pp. 360–. ISBN 978-1-56507-454-5. Retrieved 6 November 2012.

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