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The Book of Mysteries

Do not all peoples loathe sin?
And yet, they all walk about under its influence.
Does not praise of truth come from the mouth of all nations?
And yet, is there perhaps one lip or one tongue which persists with it?
What people would wish to be oppressed by another more powerful than itself?
Who would wish to be sinfully looted of its wealth?
And yet, which is the people not to oppress its neighbor?
Where is the people which has not looted another of its wealth? 
(Col. I, 9-12)

This is an extremely interesting text – 1Q27 – which, after talking about the triumph of justice and light (Col. I, 1-8), focuses on considerations that concern those who don’t  belong to the community of Qumran. The peoples are those who haven’t joined the Essenes. The author of this mysterious text speaks about the human condition like Paul of Tarsus does in the Letter to the Romans (chap. 7:21-23): I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

More than a text announcing the future, it’s a text that approaches the sapiential genre, and I would also say the tragic genre. I have proposed it to your consideration because it says a profound existential truth: we commit wrong acts that we would not do

Of this text there are other copies found in the fourth cave of Qumran – 4Q299,300,301 – but unfortunately, they do not deal with this type of themes, because they speak about the final judgment and the triumph of justice.

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Simone Venturini

Writer and Researcher at Vatican Secret Archives, Professor of Bible at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross od Rome

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