When the Dead Sea Scrolls first came to light, many scholars immediately jumped on a passage in the Rule of the Community (1QS) as a Pauline parallel. Some scholars even went so far as to claim that Paul derived his doctrine of justification from the Qumran sect. The verbal and conceptual parallels are indeed impressive. Verbally, both Qumran and Paul use the language of “the righteousness of God” in the context of “justification.” Conceptually, both Qumran and Paul have a deep consciousness of human sinfulness and the inability of humans to achieve righteousness before God, thus leading to a profound sense of trust in God's grace.
In this series of posts, I am going to attempt to deal with the challenge presented by this famous passage in the Dead Sea Scrolls. How does it affect our understanding of Paul's doctrine of justification? Was Paul influenced by the Qumran sect or by a Jewish tradition concerning justification that happens to have been preserved here? A secondary issue is: Was Paul guilty of misrepresenting Judaism when he characterized it as a legalistic religion of salvation by works?
But before I engage these issues, it is important to have the text before us. I am using the translation by Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook. Line numbers are given in brackets. I have highlighted the terms "justification" (mishpat) and "righteousness" (tsedaqah or tsedeq) as they occur, although one should note that the rendering of mishpat as "justification" is debated.
1QS XI, 2-17:
"As for me, my justification lies with God. In His hand are the perfection of my walk and the virtue of my heart.  By His righteousness is my transgression blotted out. For from the fount of His knowledge has my light shot forth; upon his wonders has my eye gazed – the light of my heart upon the mystery  of what shall be.
"He who is eternal is the staff of my right hand, upon the Mighty Rock do my steps tread; before nothing shall they retreat. For the truth of God –  that is the rock of my tread, and His mighty power, my right hand’s support. From His righteous fount comes my justification, the light of my heart from His wondrous mysteries.
"Upon the eternal  has my eye gazed – even that wisdom hidden from men, the knowledge, the wise prudence from humanity concealed. The source of righteousness, gathering  of power, and abode of glory are from fleshly counsel hidden.
"To them He has chosen all these has He given – an eternal possession. He has made them heirs in the legacy  of the Holy Ones; with the Angels has He united their assembly, a Yahad society. They are an assembly built up for holiness, an eternal Planting for all  ages to come.
"As for me, to evil humanity and the counsel of perverse flesh do I belong. My transgressions, evils, sins, and corrupt heart  belong to the counsel of wormy rot and those who walk in darkness.
"Surely a man’s way is not his own; neither can any person firm his own steps. Surely justification is of God; by His power  is the way made perfect. All that shall be, He foreknows, all that is, His plans establish; apart from Him is nothing done.
"As for me, if  I stumble, God’s loving-kindness forever shall save me. If through sin of the flesh I fall, my justification will be by the righteousness of God which endures for all time.
" Though my affliction break out, He shall draw my soul back from the Pit, and firm my steps on the way. Through His love He has brought me near; by His loving-kindness shall He provide  my justification.
"By His righteous truth has He justified me; and through His exceeding goodness shall He atone for all my sins. By His righteousness shall He cleanse me of human  defilement
"And the sin of humankind – to the end that I praise God for His righteousness, the Most High for His glory.
"Blessed are You, O my God, who has opened to knowledge  the mind of Your servant. Establish all of his works in righteousness; raise up the son of Your handmaiden – if it please You – to be among those chosen of humankind, to stand  before You forever.
"Surely apart from You the way cannot be perfected, nor can anything be done unless it please You."