Jesus: God, Man, or Party Label? The Dead Sea Scrolls’ Messiah Code by Chris Albert Wells

Jesus:  God, Man or Party LabelReviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Was Jesus Christ a man, the Son of God, or a convenient party label? That is the main question that author Chris Albert Wells investigates in his book, Jesus: God, Man, or Party Label? (The Dead Sea Scrolls’ Messiah Code). To what extent (if any) did the beliefs of sects like the Essenes and the written record of their beliefs found in the Dead Sea Scrolls have on the New Testament and the beliefs of Christianity? Have Christians mistakenly been taken in by taking literally what was meant to be symbolic, confusing a political symbol for an actual Messiah?

Chris Albert Wells, in a well-researched look at these important issues, comes to the conclusion that the Jesus Christ of the New Testament was never meant to be taken as being a literal flesh- and-blood Messiah, the Son of God, nor even an actual historical person, but just a representation of a political party, much as the donkey is to the Democrats or the elephant is to the Republicans. I am a Christian, so I admit I have a bias towards thinking that Jesus was an actual historical person, and was the Son of God, but I like to read about many different viewpoints, and to keep an open mind. Therefore, I tried to ignore my bias and concentrate not on if I believed the argument the author was making, but rather on how well he builds and backs up his argument.

The author cites a number of sources and authorities, but I couldn’t help but to think he was promoting some sort of agenda, like Christopher Hitchens does with God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, or Richard Dawkins does, with his book The God Delusion. Of course, the same could be said of people who write books arguing in the other direction, that there is a God, and that Jesus Christ was an actual living person, and was the Son of God. Two examples that come most immediately to my mind are The Case for God by Karen Armstrong and perhaps the most famous one of all, Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis.

The trouble I had with the arguments and the conclusion that the author draws from them that Jesus Christ was meant to only serve as a party label is that I believe that he takes diverse facts and then jumps to conclusions based upon them that are not the ones that many others would, given the same facts. This review is meant to be just that, a review and not a refutation. I could mention examples on practically every page of the author taking facts and arriving at conclusions that I don’t think are justified nor accurate, but to mention all of them and to refute them would take up at least as many pages as the 305 (numbered ones) that Mr. Wells uses to establish his case. I will give a couple of examples, though, to give you a taste for what I’m talking about.

I’m a fan of books like The Gnostic Gospels, and I have a copy of The Dead Sea Scrolls. I am fairly familiar with the Essenes, and their beliefs. While I believe that they had some similar beliefs, ideas, and philosophies as Christians do, though, and that there might have been an exchange of inspirations between the two groups, that is not enough to warrant drawing the conclusion that the Messiah(s) mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls is the same one (Jesus Christ) that is the cornerstone of the New Testament. To say that he is the same, and then to write an entire book based on the notion that by saying that he is the Messiah the Essenes were writing about, as if the argument was a proven and established fact, instead of many opinions derived from unrelated facts, is not a way to establish a good argument, nor an accurate way to arrive at the truth.

An excerpt from the book’s introduction follows:

Revealing how the early Gospel writers identified their group as forward-looking activists militating against others, will take many by surprise. As a result, readers receptive to the trick cards ancient Essene writers had up their sleeves will be rewarded, as though the ingenuity of a magician’s masterpiece delusion had been successfully disclosed to them.

Where to start on what I believe to be erroneous conclusions in this one paragraph alone? The Gospels in English derives from godspel, meaning “good news,” so I highly doubt that the writers of the Gospels meant to fool anyone, only to get the word out to a wider audience about the Good News of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. I also don’t think that the analogy of the ancient Essene writers as being magicians doing card tricks is an apt one, or the conclusion that they were trying to delude anyone has any basis in reality. Why should they try to delude anyone? They had a well-thought out belief system, whether or not one agrees with it, and I am sure that their intention was never to “delude” anyone.

On the very next page, the author writes:

After painstaking restoration and translation by eminent scholars, they revealed striking affinities between the Essene Scroll community and the early Christians in terms of dogma, organization, and wording, indicating a same family of thought.

The scholars’ names are not mentioned by Mr. Wells, but I am guessing that some scholars who are “eminent” have shown many such “affinities” do exist. That’s because they do exist; but that is not, I would say (it’s my opinion–I will freely admit that this whole review is basically just an opinion) that admitting this does not mean that both have “a same school of thought.” That’s because there are also many, many differences between the two, between the Gospels and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and just because two different belief systems have several “affinities” is no proof that they have “a same school of thought.”

Jesus: God, Man, or Party Label? (The Dead Sea Scrolls’ Messiah Code) is a book that will definitely stir up a lot of controversy and debate, and anyone who enjoys the writings of authors like Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins will likely find much that they agree with in Chris Albert Wells’ book. Though I personally don’t believe the conclusions the author draws from his arguments and his extensive research are the only possible ones to be drawn, I would say that many people who question the reality of God and Jesus Christ as being an historical man or the Son of God will find themselves nodding their heads as they read, in agreement with the author’s arguments. If you are a fan of the writing of authors like Hitchens or Dawkins, I would recommend this book to you.

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