Nephi's Psalm and the Community Rule Scroll

A Comparison Between Nephi's psalm in the Book of Mormon, and a psalm in the Community Rule manuscript from Cave 1 (1QS) of the Dead Sea Scrolls

 (CR) "At the beginning of the months of the (yearly) seasons and on the holy days appointed for remembrance, in their seasons I will bless Him with the offering of the lips according to the Precept engraved for ever: at the beginning of the years and at the end of their seasons when their appointed law is fulfilled, on the day decreed by Him that they should pass from one to the other - the season of early harvest to the summer time, the season of sowing to the season of grass, the seasons of years to their weeks (of years) - and at the beginning of their weeks for the season of Jubilee. All my life the engraved Precept shall be on my tongue as the fruit of praise and the portion of my lips."

 (CR) "I will sing with knowledge and all my music shall be for the glory of God. (My) lyre (and) my harp shall sound for His holy order and I will tune the pipe of my lips to His right measure. With the coming of day and night I will enter the Covenant of God, and when evening and morning depart I will recite His decrees. I will place in them my bounds without return. 
"I will declare His judgement concerning my sins, and my transgressions shall be before my eyes as an engraved Precept. I will say to God, 'My Righteousness' and 'Author of my Goodness' to the Most High, 'Fountain of Knowledge' and 'Source of Holiness', 'Summit of Glory' and 'Almighty Eternal Majesty'. I will choose that which He teaches me and will delight in His judgement of me."

 (CR) "Before I move my hands and feet I will bless His Name. I will praise Him before I go out or enter, or sit or rise, and whilst I lie on the couch of my bed. I will bless Him with the offering of that which proceeds from my lips from the midst of the ranks of men, and before I lift my hands to eat of the pleasant fruits of the earth. I will bless Him for His exceeding wonderful deeds at the beginning of fear and dread and in the abode of distress and desolation. I will meditate on His power and will lean on His mercies all day long. I know that judgement of all the living is in His hand, and that all His deeds are truth. I will praise Him when distress is unleashed and will magnify Him also because of His salvation.

 (CR) "I will pay to no man the reward of evil; I will pursue him with goodness. For judgement of all the living is with God and it is He who will render to man his reward. I will not envy in a spirit of wickedness, my soul shall not desire the riches of violence. I will not grapple with the men of perdition until the Day of Revenge, but my wrath shall not turn from the men of falsehood and I will not rejoice until judgement is made. I will bear no rancour against them that turn from transgression, but will have no pity on all who depart from the way. I will offer no comfort to the smitten until their way becomes perfect.

 (CR) "I will not keep Satan within my heart, and in my mouth shall be heard no folly or sinful deceit, no cunning or lies shall be found on my lips. The fruit of holiness shall be on my tongue and no abominations shall be found upon it. I will open my mouth in songs of thanksgiving, and my tongue shall always proclaim the goodness of God and the sin of men until their transgression ends. I will cause vanities to cease from my lips, uncleanness and crookedness from the knowledge of my heart."

 (CR) "I will impart/conceal knowledge with discretion and will prudently hedge it within a firm bound to preserve faith and strong judgement in accordance with the justice of God. I will distribute the Precept by the measuring-cord of the times, and...righteousness and loving kindness towards the oppressed, encouragement to the troubled heart and discernment to the erring spirit, teaching understanding to them that murmur that they may answer meekly before the haughty of spirit and humbly before men of injustice who point the finger and speak of iniquity and who are zealous for wealth.
"As for me, my justification is with God. In His hand are the perfection of my way and the uprightness of my heart. He will wipe out my transgression through His righteousness."

 (CR) "For my light has sprung from the source of His knowledge; and my eyes have beheld His marvellous deeds, and the light of my heart, the mystery to come. He that is everlasting is the support of my right hand; the way of my steps is over stout rock which nothing shall shake; for the rock of my steps is the truth of God and His might is the support of my right hand."

 My Comments:
Now that you've read a paragraph by paragraph selection, one can see that there are several close relationships within and between the two psalms. The Community Rule psalm continues on for 6 more paragraphs, basically reiterating what has already been stated, with themes of being unworthy of God ("I belong to wicked mankind"), receiving inspiration from above ("my eyes have gazed on that which is eternal"...hidden from the sons of men"), and God's mercies ("if I stumble, the mercies of God shall be my eternal salvation").

Both discussed the importance of the holy writings at the beginning of their psalms, whether called the 'scriptures' by Nephi, or the 'Engraved Precept' by the Qumran Community. From that beginning, common themes arise, generally in the same order: Seeing their weaknesses before God, praising Him for delivering them and for blessings, refusal to follow Satan and evil, putting trust and receiving justification from God, and God being a support.

I find certain comparisons above especially intriguing: like both calling God their 'rock', not once, but twice in a paragraph.

Although this quick comparison may mean little to some, it does suggest certain things: 1) The Book of Mormon is not necessarily an invention of 19th century America as some would claim-since it shows affinities to earlier works which were not available in Joseph Smith's day, and 2) The Community Rule's psalm and Nephi's psalm may have a common theme for one or two possible reasons: a) such themes were common in certain types of Semitic psalms (although I haven't yet found as close a tie with any of the Psalms in the Bible), and/or b) these two psalms have a basis in a common but now unknown psalm. Such could be the possibility due to the mentioning in the Book of Mormon of the prophets Zenos and Zenock, who prophecied prior to the Book of Mormon, and in the pre-Jeremiah days of the Bible. It is possible that one of them, or another prophet, known or unknown, may have passed down either an oral or written psalm, and was adapted by the authors of Community Rule and 2 Nephi.

Much more should be done, in comparing the Book of Mormon's literature to that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in order to determine not only the plausibility of the Book of Mormon's antiquity, but also the potential antiquity of the teachings in the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves. For if the Book of Mormon is historical and authentic, then such comparisons, as the one above not only evidences the validity of the Book of Mormon, but also suggests an early timeframe (pre-600 BC) for the original psalm in the Community Rule.

*The following is a comparison of a portion of a psalm in the Community Rule scroll and Nephi's Psalm found in 2 Nephi 4. For the Community Rule Psalm, I'm using Geza Vermes' translation in his book "The Dead Sea Scrolls In English", 3d edition, Penguin Books, 1987, pp76-78. 
CR=Community Rule, BoM=Book of Mormon.

(BoM) 2 Nephi 4:15-16
15 And upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass. For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.
16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.

(BoM) 2 Nephi 4:17-19
17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

(BoM) 2 Nephi 4:20-27
20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.
22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.
23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.
24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.
25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.
26 O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

(BoM) 2 Nephi 4:27
27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?
28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
29 Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

(BoM) 2 Nephi 4:30-32
30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
31 O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?
32 May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!

(BoM) 2 Nephi 4:33-34
33 O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way--but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.
34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

(BoM) 2 Nephi 4:35
35 Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.