Teacher of Righteousness


by Ysmena Pentelow

Bearing in mind the difficulties faced in interpreting the material, we can make some suggestions about the role of the Teacher of Righteousness as a mediator figure.

Damascus Document:
The title appears at 1:11 & 20:32 and in a slightly different form at 6:11. The title “Unique Teacher”/”Teacher of the Community” is also understood to refer to the Teacher of Righteousness. From 1:11 & Col.20 the Teacher is seen possibly as the founder the community. The laws and covenant he established are the community’s means of vindication and remain effective after the Teacher’s death. Col.6 anticipates a figure “who will teach righteousness” in the end time. Is this figure in some way the re-appearance of the historical Teacher? Or is he an ideal or messianic figure, perhaps modelled on historical remembrances?

From the Pesharim a picture of the Teacher of Righteousness emerges: He is a priestly leader of a community; in this role he is seen to suffer, perhaps to face death. His interpretation of scripture is definitive for his community and may perhaps be understood as his legacy.

A Written Legacy?
Various texts have been attributed to the hand of the Teacher – the Temple Scroll, 4QMMT, and various passages in the Hodayoth. None of these mention the Teacher by name but texts such as 1QH 10 (=2):13 & 32 seem to reflect incidents recorded in the commentary on Habakkuk (1QHab5:8-11 or 11:1-8).

Identifying the Teacher of Righteousness?
The Teacher is generally identified as what his community considers to be the legitimate high priest. As a priestly figure the Teacher’s role as a mediator would be the maintenance of the community’s relationship with God, as his chosen people. It is possible that the title ‘Teacher of Righteousness’ refers not to one historical individual but to an office that is to be filled in the historical realm. Possibly the office itself is an expected ideal. Alternatively in CD 6 it is the historical Teacher who is awaited-in the consummation pattern, although whether the material allows for such an understanding is questionable. Possible background for this view may have been suggested by Abegg’s equation of the author of 4Q427 with the Teacher: “…as for me [my] office is among the gods…” If the Teacher is so exalted it might be reasonable to view his activity as extending beyond his earthly existence, and incorporating his return to the historical realm.

Jesus and the Teacher of Righteousness:
There are a number of similarities between the earthly roles of Jesus and the Teacher, interpretation of scripture, the establishment of a law which is the means of salvation; both suffer. After death the followers of both require further guidance. There are also differences, the Teacher does not appear to be worshipped, his community does not continue and expand after his death.

It is possible that the Teacher of Righteousness could be understood as a stage in the development of thought that led to the worship of an individual. The Teacher reveals the prophetic mysteries – of which Jesus is seen to be the fulfilment. Moreover in 1QHab8:1-3 faith in the Teacher himself, along with obedience, is a necessary means of salvation. In the NT Jesus is that means of Salvation.

(c) 1998
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

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