Tek-Gnostics Archives

Tek-Gnostics' Dead Sea Archives: Book of Mysteries (aka: the book of secrets)


The Book of Mysteries (also known as the Book of Secrets) is an ancient Essene text found in fragmentary form among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scroll fragments are given the alpha-numeric designations of 1Q27 and 4Q299-301. 

The Book of Mysteries is closely related to another unnamed wisdom book found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, variously called Sapiential Work or The Secret of the Way Things Are. In both texts, the term “raz” occurs frequently. “Raz” means “mystery” or “secret,” and is defined as a type of wisdom or knowledge that is known by God and can only be known by humans by divine revelation (Harrington 2000:588-589). This word often occurs in the phrase “raz nihyeh” which can be translated as “the secret of the way things are.” (Wise, Abegg, and Cook 2005:109). The assumption behind The Book of Mysteries is that revelation, not reason, is the key to wisdom. The book is authored by an unnamed teacher who claims to be the recipient of such a revelation and is passing it along to his students.

 As with many of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the question of who wrote the scrolls and when has no definite answer. We can make an estimate, however, as to when the manuscripts were copied. The copy of mystery text 1Q27 has been dated on paelographic grounds to the end of the first century BCE, so the book is at least that old (Larson 2000:587). Lawrence Schiffman believes that the ideology, orthography, and language of the texts show that it originates from the same circle as other sectarian works found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (Larson 2000:588).

The tone of the writing reflects an elite group which believes that it alone holds the correct understanding of YHWH's plan for the universe and how to please Him so as to be saved from the fate of the ignorant and hypocritical. Much of The Book of Mysteries appears to be a teaching of correction against those who do not live righteously in the author's eyes. They warn of the hypocrisy of nations, the false knowledge of magicians, and the wrath of God upon sinners. They especially warn against the fate of those who do not recognize the divine mysteries...

But they did not know the secret of the way things are nor did they understand the things of old and they did not know what would come upon them, so they did not rescue themselves by means of the secret of the way things are (1Q27; Wise, Abegg, and Cook 2005:110).

 The eschatology of the book is rather unusual. The end time described by the author does not manifest itself in the normal culmination of a battle, judgment, or catastrophe, but rather as “a steady increase of light, [through which] darkness is made to disappear or in which iniquity dissolves and just as the smoke rising into the air eventually dissipates” (Piper 1958:97). In this sense, wisdom is an inevitable force that needs to be yielded to by those who choose to accept it and are capable of understanding it. There is no mention of angels, or YHWH's wrath, or resurrection of the wise, or any of the typical Messianic language that we usually associate with Judeo-Christian eschatological texts. It simply argues for a change in focus from folly to wisdom, and therefore righteousness.   (source: Wikipedia)


The Book of Mysteries

1Q27, 4Q299-301

4Q301 F1

(...) I shall speak out freely, and I shall express my various sayings among you (...) (.. those who would understand parables and riddles, and those who would penetrate the origins of knowledge, along with those who hold fast to the wonderful mysteries ...) (...) those who walk in simplicity as well as those who are devious in every activity of the deeds of humanity ...) those with a stiff neck, a hard pate, and all the mass of the Gentiles, with (...)

4Q301 F2

the customs of the fool and the inheritance of the wise (...) Now what good is the riddle to you, you who search for the origins of knowledge? Why is the heart honored, for it is the dominion (...) a parable? Why is it splendid to you, for it is (...) Why is a prince (...) ruler? (...) without strength, and he dominates him with a whip that cost nothing. Who could say (...) who among you seeks the presence of Light and Illumination (...) the plan of memory without (...) (...) by the angels of (...) (...) those who praise (...)

4Q300 F3

so that they would know the difference between good and evil .....)

1Q27 col 1

secrets of sin (...) but they did not know the secret of the way things are nor did they understand the things of old and they did not know what would come upon them, so they did not rescue themselves without the secret of the way things are. This shall be the sign that this shall come to pass : when the sources of evil are shut up and wickedness is banished in the presence of righteousness, as darkness in the presence of light, or as smoke vanishes and is no more, in the same way wickedness will vanish forever and righteousness will be manifest like the sun. The world will be made firm and all the adherents of the secrets of sin shall be no more. True knowledge shall fill the world and there will never be any more folly. This is all ready to happen, it is a true oracle, and by this it shall be known to you that it cannot be averted.

It is true that all the peoples reject evil, yet it advances in all of them. It is true that truth is esteemed in the utterances of all the nations - yet is there  any tongue or language that grasp it? What nation wants to be oppressed by another that is stronger? Or who wants his money to be stolen by a wicked man? Yet what nation is there that has not oppressed its neighbor? Where is the people that has not robbed the wealth of another ...

4Q299 F2 (+ 4Q300 F5) Col 2

what should we call a man who ... his) deeds (...) but every deed of the righteous has been judged impure. And what shall we call man who (... call no one on earth) wise or righteous, for it is not a human possession (...) and not (...) (...wisdom is hidden) except for the wisdom of cunning evil, and the schemes of Belial ...) a thing that ought never to be done again, except (...) the command of his Maker ; and what shall a man do and live? ... he who) has violated the command of his Maker shall have his name erased from the mouth of all (...) (...) So listen, you who hold fast to the wonderful secrets ...) of eternity , and the plots behind every did, and the purpose of  .... He knows) every secret and stands behind very thought. He does every (... the Lord of all) is He, from long ago He established it, and forever (...) (...) the purpose of the origins he opened up to (...) (...) for he tests His son, and gives as an inheritance (...) (...) every secret, and he limits of every deed; and what (...) (...) the Gentiles, for He created them and their deeds (...)

4Q300 F1 Col 2

Consider the soothsayers, those teachers of sin. Say the parable, declare the riddle before we speak ; then you will know if  you have understood. (...) your foolishness, for the vision is sealed up from you, and you have not properly understood the eternal mysteries and you have not become wise in understanding (...) (...) for you
have not properly understood the origin of Wisdom; but if you should unseal the vision (...) (...) all your wisdom, for to you (...) Hear now what wisdom is.

4Q299 F5

(...light)s of the stars for a memorial of His name ...)(...hidden) things of the mysteries of Light and the ways of Darkness (...) (...) the times of heat with the periods (of cold....) (... the breaking of day) and the coming of night (...) (...) the origins of things (...).

4Q299 F8

(...) How can a man understand without knowledge or hearing? (...) (...) He created insight for His children, by much wisdom He uncovered our ears tat we may h(ear...) (...) He created insight for all those who pursue true knowledge and (...) (...) all wisdom is from eternity; it may not be changed (...) (...) He locked up behind the waters , so that not (...) (...) the heaven above heaven (...)

4Q301 F3

(...) and He is well known for His patience, and might in His great anger, and splendid (...) He in His numerous acts of mercy, and terrible  in His wrathful purposes, and honored (...) (...) and over the land He made him a ruler, and God is honored among His Holy people, and splendid among His chosen, yes , splendid (...) holy, great in the blessing of (...) (...) their splendor and (...) when the Era of Wickedness is at an end, and evil doing (...)



Note: Further inquiries into the controversy surrounding the fate of the Dead Sea Scrolls may be found here.
Information on subsequent publication of non-biblical portions of the scrolls can be found

Translations of other fragments can be found here.

A virtual tour of the Qumran archaeological site can be found here.