4. Circling around (qyf)


If we combine the psalms of the Qumran scroll called Hodayot with the information given us by Philo of Alexandria of a nightly vigil celebrated by the Essene community (by Philo called the “Therapists”), the result is a very interesting ritual celebrating the Exodus from Egypt. The ritual was celebrated on a certain night after 7 times 7 days. (Perhaps the Jewish Pentecost, celebrated 7 weeks after Easter). After eating together, the night was spent singing psalms, first the male choir and the female choir standing apart from each other answering each other, but then at the end of the night, the two choirs mingled, and even danced wheeling in big circles, all this in a dramatic re-enactment of the flight from Pharaoh and death in Egypt, the walk through the waters rising in mighty walls on each side of the fleeing people, and finally the song of Miriam standing on the highland (Philo uses the Greek word, meteora = “high in the air”) on the other shore. And after this they would all go out of the dining hall to greet the sunrise, and they would stand turned to the east with hands uplifted to the rising sun, “standing together with the Father” (Greek: systathenton, de cont. vit. 90). Now we know from some of the followers of John the Baptist that God was called the “Standing One”, the one who transcends death and is eternally standing. (Dositheos had to hail Simon Magus, the first disciple of John, as “The Standing One”, and the only document we have from the hand of the Magus is Apophasis Megale, a description of God as the one “who stood, stands and will stand”).

At this ritual the Essene singer was planted on his feet among the eternally standing ones (the angels, in the Bible called “the sons of God”), forming the council of God, where God makes his plans known to angels and prophets. The prophets were already in the Old Testament seen as those who had access to God's council, and the Essene community was certainly trying to be God's holy council, receiving direct information about his holy will and plans, and many of them were looked upon as prophets knowing the future in advance. (“For all the men of your council and in common lot with the angels before your face, and there is no mediator”, 1.QH VI,13. “…I have listened to your wonderful counselling by your Holy Spirit” XII,12f.).

Now the Hodayot are psalms of thanksgiving, with the typical phrase: I thank you Lord ... And the salvation thanked for is a salvation from many chaotic waters and death in Sheol. And salvation itself is mostly described in the following way: “I was exposed to... But my feet are set on firm ground...You raised me to eternal height, I will walk on smooth land” (II,29.III,20). Salvation is coming to the highland of the Lord standing on his firm rock (“on a place of standing you have set me”, “…so that it (the heart) can stand ... eternal abode in a perfect light for ever” (XVIII,28f.), where nobody should be shaken and brought to fall, standing by an “eternal well” of “living waters” among “trees of life” (VIII,4-9). The sinner was cleansed so that he could stand “in the standing-place” of the angels (III,21f.), safe from the great flood, the streams of Belial (29-33,15-18) “By your grace is my standing” and it will survive the attacks of mighty streams of water (II,25-29). “I... shall wander on the roads of glory and peace without end and finish, forever” (VII,14f.). “Eternal foundations serve as my basis” (VII,8f.). “To stand before your face in eternity” (VII,31).

Since the dawn of our culture man has believed that if he could travel in the route of the sun, he would finally reach through the eternal night to paradise, where the sun is resting during the night, and renewed so that it can rise and shine with renewed strength every morning. The travel through the night and the chaotic waters, the wheeling round and round in the dance of the chorus is being one with the sun and its long journey through the darkness to the sunrise, even to paradise with the firm, everlasting mountain, the tree of life, and the well of life. After the vigil the Qumran people felt that their steps were now guided by God on a “road made even”, the “royal highway” of the sun, travelling with light and life through the wildernesses of this world. In the gospel John the Baptist is hailed as the one preparing this road, making it even. He is the Christian version of the sun warrior.

Moses´s life is finished by his ascension on Mt. Abarim (“transitors”). The sun hero finishes his travels by climbing the mythical mountain. The name of the mountain is hinting at this passing through the universe, a parallel to the transitus of Mithras, so also A. Jeremias [1].


[1] p.761.