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The Secret of the Way Things Are

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The Secret of the Way Things Are (also called the Sapiential Work
Scroll) is considered a wisdom scroll among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is
authored by a spiritual expert, directed towards a beginner. The author
addresses how to deal with business and money issues in a godly
manner, public affairs, leadership, marriage, children, and family, and
how to live life righteously among a secular society.
The scrolls were found in Qumran caves one and four, and date
approximately from the first century BCE and early first century CE.
Parts of six copies were discovered, indicating popularity and
importance, especially to the supposed sect at Qumran. All of the
Sapiential manuscripts are in Hebrew, which is deemed the original
language of the text (Harrington 2000: 825). The actual ancient title is
unknown, but the frequent use of raz nihyeh, translating to "the mystery
of existence," "approaching mystery," or "the way things are" gave
reason to title the work "The Secret of the Way Things are" (Davies,
Brooke, and Callaway 2002: 140). A well-accepted theory is that the
Sapiential Work was a pre-Qumranic text. In other words, it was not
written for an isolated sect, but it was directed toward a specific
audience (Elgvin 1996: 129). Many scholars assume the text to either
have existed before the formation of the sect, or to have been a
precursor to sect involvement (Harrington 2000: 826).
Although the text itself is not considered apocalyptic, and does not
reflect the developed philosophical dualism of the War Scroll or the
Community Rule (1Qs), the text does reflect motifs of the end times,
judgment, and a predestined division of good and evil. The overall
ideas and form of the text are comparable to Proverbs, Jesus'
instructions and parables in the New Testament gospels, the book of
James, and especially the book of Daniel.
[citation needed]
Although there is no literal dependence between Daniel and the
Sapiential Works, it is likely that they emerged from the same, or
similar, scribal circles. Many phrases and ideas from Daniel pertaining
to wisdom, revelation, and the elect recur in "The Secret of the Way
Things Are." Similarly, both books reflect scribal activity with "a quest
for divine communication," and "neither are concerned with the
sacrificial cult of the Temple" (Elgvin 1996 : 131). The Work is also
analogous to New Testament scripture, with recurring similarities found
in Proverbs and the Gospel of Matthew. Although the terminology is
not consistently parallel, the ideas and themes are
[citation needed]
An unusual aspect of this particular text is that it addresses women,
which is very uncommon for an ancient Jewish text. 4Q413 appears to
give advice to a woman, presumably the wife of the beginner being
instructed (Harrington 2000: 826). This particular section uses feminine
verbal forms, rather than the singular forms used throughout the rest of
the instruction (Harrington 1996: 57).
Davies, Brooke, and Callaway, The Complete World of the Dead
Sea Scrolls, New York, NY: Thames and Hudsom Inc, 2002.
Wise, Abegg, and Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New
Translation, San Francisco: Harper, 2005.
Elgvin, T. Early Essene Eschatology: Judgment and Salvation
According to Sapiential Work A, Current Research and
Technological Developments on the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1996.
Harrington, Daniel J., Wisdom Texts From Qumran, New York,
Routledge, 1996.
Harrington, Daniel J., Sapiential Work, Encyclopedia of the Dead
Sea Scrolls, Ed. Lawrence H. Shiffman and James C. Vanderkam,
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000
Men's Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan
Publishing House, 1997.
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Categories: Dead Sea scrolls Essene texts Wisdom literature
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