They Sought Smooth Things – The Dead Sea Scrolls and Hebrew Matthew
By James Scott Trimm
Yesterday while I was preparing a teaching on the Damascus Document (from the Dead Sea Scrolls) I found a very interesting connection between the Damascus Document and the DuTillet Hebrew version of Matthew.
I was dealing with a portion of the Damascus Document which appears to be criticizing the Pharisees, saying:
(18)…For they sought smooth things and chose illusions, looked for (19) breaches (i.e. loopholes), and chose the fairest neck (i.e. the easiest way), and they justified the wicked and condemned as wicked, the righteous, (20) and they transgressed the Covenant and broke the statute…
(Damascus Document 1, 18-20)
The passage is referencing Isaiah 30:10-13:
10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not to us right things, speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions:
11 Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
12 Wherefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, Because you despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking comes suddenly at an instant.
The Hebrew for the phrase “they sought smooth things” is דרשו בחלקות D’rashu B’Khalakot which seems to be a wordplay for Midrash Halachah. Some of the earliest Midrashim were the Halachic Midrashim which related halachah, nit under the categories of the tractates of the Mishna, but as midrashic commentary to the Torah.
What is even more interesting is that this passage connects nicely with a passage in the DuTillet Hebrew version of Matthew. The passage in question is Matthew 11:7-10 which reads in the KJV:
7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
(Matthew 11:7-10 KJV)
In the DuTillet Hebrew text of Matthew 11:8 the phrase for “soft clothing” is literally “clothed in smooth things” and the Hebrew is לבוש בחלקות!
When we add to this the many connections between Yochanan and Qumran (see my blog John the Baptist and Qumran) and that Yochanan called the Pharisees and Sadducees that came to be immersed by him “generation of vipers” (Matt. 3:7; Lk. 3:7) just as the Damascus Document states of the “Wall Builders” (Pharisees):
Also they have corrupted their Holy Spirit, and with blasphemous language they have reviled the statutes of Elohim’s covenant, saying, “They are not well-founded.” They continually speak abhorrent things against them. “All of them are kindlers and lighters of brands” (Isa. 50:11); “the webs of a spider are their webs and the eggs of a viper are their eggs” (Isa. 59:5) Whoever touches them shall not be clean.
(Dam. Doc. 5, 13-14)
…about whom Elohim said: “Their wine is the venom of vipers, and the cruel poison of asps” (Deut. 32:33)
(Dam. Doc. 8, 9-10)
The agreement here between the Hebrew of the Damascus Document from the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Hebrew of the DuTillet Hebrew version of Matthew is beyond any reasonable argument of coincidence. The DuTillet Hebrew version of Matthew here has clearly preserved the original Hebrew of Matthew for this word, which originally paralleled the language of the Hebrew of the Damascus Document!
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