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Sons of Light


SONS OF LIGHT (Heb. בְּנֵי אוֹר, benei or), phrase used specially in the *Dead Sea Scrolls denoting the godly, by contrast with the phrase "sons of darkness" (Heb. בְּנֵי חֹשֶׁךְ, benei ḥoshekh) denoting the ungodly. It is so used, notably in the *War Scroll, where "the sons of light put forth their hands to make a beginning against the lot of the sons of darkness" (1qm 1:1). The "sons of light" are here particularized as "the sons of Levi, the sons of Judah, the sons of Benjamin, the dispersion of the wilderness"; the "sons of darkness" as the hosts of Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, Philistia, and the Kittim, aided by those who transgress the covenant. In the event described, the sons of light annihilate the sons of darkness. From the viewpoint of the Qumran community, the sons of light are members of the community and their sympathizers. On entry into membership the candidate swears "to love all the sons of light, each according to his lot in the council of God, and to hate the sons of darkness, each according to his guilt in the vengeance of God" (1qs 1:9–11). The apostate is to be "cut off from the midst of the sons of light" (1qs 2:16). The sons of light are so chosen through God's predestinating decree. When God created man, He appointed two spirits to govern him: "dominion over all the sons of righteousness is in the hand of the Prince of Lights, and they walk in the ways of light; all dominion over the sons of perversity is in the hand of the Angel of Darkness, and they walk in the ways of darkness" (1qs 3:20ff.). The Angel of Darkness, indeed, makes even the sons of light go astray, but they can count on the aid of "the God of Israel and the angel of His truth" (1qs 3:24ff.). The designation "sons of light" is one of the links between the Qumran texts and the New Testament; in the latter it is found on the lips of Jesus (Luke 16:8, where it is opposed to the "sons of this age", John 12:36) and in the Pauline writings (Eph. 5:8; I Thess. 5:5). In both bodies of literature the ultimate background is the separation made by God in the beginning when He called light into being as the first of His creative works and separated it from the darkness (Gen. 1:3ff).


A.R.C. Leaney, Rule of Qumran and Its Meaning (1966), 79ff., passim.

[Frederick Fyvie Bruce]

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