In his essay “The Ten Temples in the Dead Sea Scrolls” (in John Day. Temple and Worship in Biblical Israel: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar. New York: T&T Clark, 2005), George J. Brooke describes ten different temples found within the documents of Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls).
The residents of the Qumran community studied the OT writings and found ten temples. Some of these are temples with which we are familiar such as Solomon’s temple and Herod’s temple. However, they also recognized the heavenly temple, the wilderness tabernacle, and their own location in Qumran as temples.
In their writings, there is one recognized temple and one expected temple that could be of interest to Christians. First, at Qumran, they recognized God’s people themselves as a temple. Brooke suggests that this understanding of the community as the temple development in three stages. He says the following about the third and final stage of their understanding:
While priests remain necessary, in a third stage there seems to have been a rediscovery of the Torahâ€™s equal insistence on the priesthood of the whole people of God (Exod. 19:6). (426)
Also, the Qumran community looked forward to an expected temple described by Brooke as “The Temple Not Made with Hands”. He says:
At different times the community looked to the establishment of a Temple by God himself so that there might be an ultimate remedy for all of Israelâ€™s failed attempts at providing a place for the whole of creation in microcosm to celebrate the sovereignty of God. (430)
These are very interesting ideas coming from a Jewish community of the first century and earlier. By studying their Hebrew Scriptures, they determined that the community is a temple of God – a dwelling place of God – and that each member of the community is a priest. Also, they expected another temple that God himself would create. This final temple would allow for “the whole creation” to worship God and would prefer the cure for human failures.
Do you realize that in Christ and through the Holy Spirit these two temples are combined in the church? We are the temple of God. We are a kingdom of priests who offer sacrifices of praise and good works. We are the temple “not made by human hands” but born from above. What an amazing thought that we are now the sanctuary of God.
What does it mean that the Qumran community was able to discern this from their Hebrew Scriptures?