We know that the Essenes interpreted messianic ideas in the Old Testament allegorically–wresting passages from their context. Isn't that exactly what the gospel writers did to make Jesus appear to be the Messiah?
One of the benefits of reading Essene interpretations of Scripture
written 100/200 years before the Gospels, is that it enables one to see
how religious Jews of the period would happily wrest any passage of
Scripture from its clear ancient context and apply it allegorically either
to the present or the future. The evangelists clearly carried on this
practice in their desire to apply passages, previously used to apply to a
coming Davidic Messiah or an eschatological end time, to Jesus.
I disagree in the strongest terms with this accusation against Jesus and
the apostles. It was not allegorical that Jonah was in the belly of the
big fish and Jesus was in the heart of the earth for three days. It is
not allegorical that God was to be sold for thirty pieces of silver
(Zechariah 11:12-13) and that Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of
silver. It is not allegorical that they were to gamble over his clothing
(Psalms 22:18) or that they gambled over Jesus? clothing. It was
allegorical when David prophetically declared that “they will pierce my
hands and my feet, nor was it allegorical when they crucified Jesus. It
was not allegorical that the messiah was to be born in Bethlehem(Micah
5:2), nor is it allegorical that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. It was not
allegorical that the Messiah was to be pierced for our transgressions
(Isaiah 53:5, Zechariah 12:10). Jesus was not allegorically pierced.
This claim that the gospel writers interpreted the messianic prophecies
allegorically is nonsense. It is a spurious argument. It is the position
of a person who is trying to hide behind a fine-sounding argument which
has nothing to do with the evidence.
The difference between the messianic ideas of the Essenes and that of the
1st century Christians is that the church had a real person who really
healed the deaf and the blind and who really was crucified (Psalm 22), and
really was raised from the dead. There is no allegory there. It is true
from what we can read of the Essenes that they did a lot of speculating on
the nature of the Messiah. Not having an actual Messiah, they allowed
their preconceptions of what a Messiah ought to be to influence their
interpretation of the messianic passages. This is not surprising.
However, when the actual Messiah came?the one who quite literally
“fulfilled all that was written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets
and the Psalms.” then all the discussion became moot. Allegory has
nothing to do with it. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, such
academic discussions and speculative allegorical interpretations of
messianic expectations became unnecessary. One either accepts the true
Messiah or one does not.
John Oakes, PhD