Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Essenes = Part II

Historical Facts on Essene Culture

the esseneEssene image courtsey:

Most of the available sources contain very little information of a historical nature.The Qumran documents are full of historical allusions, but they are notoriously ambiguous. Moreover, the history of the Qumran community may not accurately reflect the history of Essenism as a whole. By using a combination of sources, however, scholars have developed the following tentative outline of Essene history. The Essenes seem to have arisen after the Maccabean revolt (167-160 B.C.). Sometime between 152 and 110 B.C. at least some of the Essenes, perhaps only the leaders, retreated to Qumran, on the shores of the Dead Sea. There they stayed until the Parthian invasion of 40 B.C. or the earthquake of 31 B.C. forced them to leave. At that time they settled in the regions around Jerusalem. Soon after Herod the Great's death (4 B.C.) at least some of the Essenes returned to Qumran. Some seventy years later Essenes were involved in the revolt against the Romans. The survival and persistence of the Essenes as a separate group after A.D. 70 is still debated.

Many scholars have found traces of Essenism within such later sects as the Ebionites, the Mandaeans, and the Karaites. Also still undecided is the importance and influence of Essenism within pre-A.D. 70 Judaism and early Christianity. It has often been dismissed as a peripheral Jewish sect or hailed as the very seedbed of the Christian faith. Both of these positions are too extreme. It is more likely that the Essenes were one expression of a widespread pietistic reaction to the pragmatic and tepid spirit of the official Judaism. From the ranks of such a reaction the early church would have drawn heavily. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1945, yet it took 50 years for the information to leak out about these extraordinary people. What was so shocking to the scholars who examined the ancient documents was that there was a community of people practicing Christianity, or something very close to it, for at least 200 years before the time of Christ. Both the practice of baptism and of the sharing of the wine are recorded as part of their practices long before Jesus and John the Baptist popularized them.

map of qumranLocation of Qumran - Qumran Map image courtsey:

As you leave Jerusalem and go to the south and to the east, toward the Dead Sea, the terrain changes rapidly and starkly. You move off gradually from [the] ... rolling hillside, through the ravines, and it becomes stark and desolate. It's dry. It's arid. It's rocky, and it's rough. And all of a sudden, within a span of only about thirteen miles, the entire terrain drops out in front of you as you go from roughly 3400 feet above sea level at Jerusalem, to nearly 1400 feet below sea level at the surface of the Dead Sea. It is in that rugged cliff face, on the banks of the Dead Sea, in this arid, desolate climate, that the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered at the site known as Khirbet Qumran. The Scrolls were discovered, according to the story that, now, many people know, of a shepherd boy wandering along with his flocks and, as boys tend to do, throwing rocks in a cave. So the story goes that he heard a crack in one, went in to investigate and found a ceramic pot with what appeared to be pages inside. Those were then taken out and eventually found their way onto the market, and were only later rediscovered and deciphered as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Subsequent to that first discovery, eleven different caves have been found at Qumran. And new discoveries are expected even now. Among the caves were found, then, thousand of fragments of manuscripts and quite a number of whole, or mostly complete, manuscripts in scrolls stored in these jars. Among the cache of scrolls that we now call the Dead Sea Scrolls, are three distinct types of material. First, we have a collection of copies of the actual books of the Hebrew scriptures.These people were copyists. They were preserving the texts of the Bible itself. Secondly, there were commentaries on these biblical texts. But these commentaries also show their own interpretation of what would happen. This is where we begin to get some of the insights into the way the Essenes at Qumran believed, because of the way they interpret the prophecies of Isaiah, or the prophesies of Habakkuk as well as the way they read the Torah, itself. So among the scrolls, then, we have a complete set of almost all the biblical books, and commentaries on many of them. "The Isaiah Scroll" is one of the most famous of the biblical manuscripts. And the commentaries on Isaiah is also very important for our understanding of Jewish interpretation of Scripture in this period.

dead sea scrollsDead Sea Scrolls image courtsey:

The third major type of material found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, though, in some ways is the most interesting insight into the life of the community that lived there, because this material includes their own sectarian writings, that is, their rules of life ... their prayer book. Included then, is the book of the rule of the community or sometimes called ‘ The Manual of Discipline’ which talks about how one goes about getting into the community. The rules for someone who wants to be pure and a part of the elect community. We also have something called ‘ The War Scroll”and the War Scroll seems to be their own battle plan for the war that will occur at the end of the present evil age. And so this is something that really is real in their mind ... that this coming end of the age will be a cataclysmic event in their view. Also was found something called "The Copper Scroll". Quite literally, with the letters incised, in Hebrew, into soft, burnished copper. And the contents of the Copper Scroll are still a source of great interest among many people, because people think it may be a treasure map of their own holdings.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception is a book that details the explosive contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls and how the Church conspired to suppress them.Another startling fact was that the type of society that the Essenes had practiced for 200 years was very similiar to early Christianity recorded in the book of Acts. This important scriptural document shows that the early christian sect lived in communities and encouraged its members to hold all of its possesions in common, just like the Essenes did for the previous two

Another amazing discovery was made in 1923. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely was able to discover Essene documents in the secret archives of the Vatican. In his book The Discovery of the Essene Gospel of Peace, he tells the story of how two chess players helped him meet the renowned Monseigneur Angelo Mercati, Prefect of the Vatican Archives. He told the Prefect of his desire to learn all he could of the Saint called Francis. He was allowed to research the vast 25 miles of bookshelves containing scrolls, parchments, paper manuscripts and codices. Within the labyrinth he found an aramaic translation of The Essene Gospel of Peace as well as the The Essene Book of Revelation. His research led him to seek out the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino. He was allowed, because of a letter of Monseigneur had written granting access to the large vitrines in the Scriptorium. There he found the original Hebrew codices of The Essene Gospel of Peace, the source for the Aramaic version found at the secret Vatican Archives.

The Essenes were a third religious sect during the time of Christ that lived away from the towns. Instead they lived in simple communities. The Essenes practiced the seventh day sabbath, believed in reincarnation, non-violence to all living creatures and the sharing of all material possesions. They were uninvolved in the politics of the Sadducees and Pharisees and shunned publicity. Because of the discovery of dead sea scroll material, this ancient sect and their teachings are back alive. The dead sea scrolls were hidden by this ancient people long ago in the caves of Qumram. Josephus writing around 80 A.D. said that the Essenes were Jews by birth but seemed to have a greater affection for one another than they did for the Pharisees and Sadducees. Their piety toward God was extraordinary. They wore hand woven garments. They used no profanity. They were ministers of peace and they spent a great deal of time studying the writings of the ancients.

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Anonymous said...

Some very interesting posts here. I psrticularly like the one on the Great Wall of China.

poof said...

Very interesting. I've read that Jesus and his disciples most likely had their last Passover meal together in the Essene quarters. The custom was for women to carry water, not men, but the Essenes apparently carried their own water as they lived in a separate community and were celebate. This is why it was unusual for Jesus to tell his disciples to look for a man carrying water...

13And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.

14And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?

15And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.

(Mark 14)

By the way, I have read The Copper Scroll by Joel Rosenberg and it is a fantastic book (although I would recommend reading The Ezekiel Option first)! They are political fiction thrillers about the endtimes and the Middle East.

Fr Richard Aladics said...

Although not historical, Anne Catherine Emmerich, in her visions of the Life of Christ, wrote about the Essenes - and what she says is very interesting. Worth a look. Fr Richard Aladics (

Yewtree said...

The Essenes sound a bit like Quakers :)

Fr. V said...

Very interesting. What I like in particular is your balanced treatment of the subject, not jumping into extremes but doing your best to discern truth.

One note however, as you did this with Essenes, I wish you had not bought into the whole "Secret Vatican Archives" deal. I will admit you that access is limited to only reputable scholars with a mission (for obvious reasons) and that at times they are woefully slow at cataloguing and opening collections to the general community, but it is hardly an evil empire hiding information to keep the world uninformed - and if they are, as you point out here and as happens over and over again, they are really, really bad at it.

Thanks for the invitation to visit and comment!

O said...

Thanks for your comment. It's great to have input from another culture! Good info on the Essenes too. In regards to your final paragraph, many consider the Zealots another sect (the fourth) during the time of Jesus. Sons of Thunder, probably were part of it.

Seb said...

Excellent. The Essenes are of great interest to me, also. My research has focused on the authorship of canonical Jewish and Christian works, but I have also dabbled in the philology of "The Book." I suspect there is something in my library that can help you - as we unpack it (we recently recovered from a flood; call me Utnapishtim), I will let you know what I find.

thomas ... said...

Jesus and his family were essenes and
this was the foundation of His teachings which were enhanced by His
travels to India, Tibet, Egypt, and Greece... Most of His teachings were
influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism....His travels are documented from
the Akashic Record and transcribed into the book, "the Aquarian Gospel
of Jesus the Christ"............the essenes were Mystics that practiced
the continuous energy of Love, thus becoming the first
Christians............................namaste, thomas
visit my blog at for more knowledge about Mystics.....

James Mercedo said...

What was so shocking to the scholars who examined the ancient documents was that there was a community of people practicing Christianity, or something very close to it, for at least 200 years before the time of Christ. Both the practice of baptism and of the sharing of the wine are recorded as part of their practices long before Jesus and John the Baptist popularized them.
Nothing comes out of nothing. Christianity was not the exception.

wellis68 said...

Good Stuff,
I enjoyed the comment on my blog, I'll be sure to check in here and there with you. Very interesting posts!

wellis68 said...

Good stuff! you have some very interesting material I'll be sure to check in from time to time.

Rennie Gabriel said...

Thanks for your comments on my trip to Israel that I posted on July 12. I enjoyed reading what you had to say about the Essenes culture that created the Dead Sea Scrolls. Rennie

SadButTrue said...

This is a very nice post on an issue that has been thoroughly and deliberately obfuscated by pious Christians whose objective was to hide rather than reveal. Nice job of separating the wheat from the chaff! My only objection is that you should have put a link at the top of the post so readers could find The Essenes, Part I.

The other posts I encountered on this blog were also very intriguing, both intellectually and aesthetically.


Knowing GOD said...

Biby thank you for commenting on my site and directing me to yours. What a great article and very well researched and written. GOD bless and please keep in touch...JB from

rosemaryann said...

thank you for your kind comments about my blog. as soon as i am ready, i will definately share what i learn about the essenes-thank you again.

rose said...

my blog is, or if anyone would like to check it out..