Is This The Ossuary of Mary Magdalene?

The Ossuary Of Mariamene, Who Is (Also Called) Mara

The first of the six ossuaries that were inscribed was numbered IAA 80-500. Rahmani numbered the same ossuary as 701 in his catalogue of ossuaries in the possession of the State of Israel. This ossuary was decorated and had the name “Mariamene, who is (also called) Mara” inscribed in Greek (See fig. 2).

New Testament scholar James Tabor and his associates try to explain away the fact that this ossuary was alone inscribed in Greek by claiming that the small Jewish town of Migdal/Magdala/Tarichaea on the Sea of Galilee (Mary Magdalene’s hometown “an important trading center” Greek was the common language of communication. This contention, some claim is incorrect, since in those days, only the upper classes were familiar with Greek, whereas the common people used only Aramaic (1).

Ancient Magdala

Amos Kloner commented that “The name Mariamene [is] a variant of the name (Miriam, Maryam) and (Marya). [This name] is inscribed on more than twenty ossuaries in the Israel State Collections.” These names “are the most common feminine names of the Second Temple period.” Kloner and Rahmani translate the inscription on this ossuary as “Mariamne, (who is also called) Mara” (2). Tal Ilan also endorsed the commonness of this name saying that Mariam is used 80 times. Mara, an abbreviation of Martha, is used as a second name. She goes on the say that this name too “is common in the Jewish feminine onomasticon.” Mara is recorded eight times in the onomasticon of names (3).

ossuary of Mary Magdalene

Ossuary said to be that of Mary Magdalene (Fig. 2)

Of the two Marys whose ossuaries were recovered from the tomb, it may be reasonable to assume that one of them is the mother of Jesus and the other Mariamene is not his sister.

Not everyone agrees that this is the ossuary of Mary Magdalene. Tabor and his associates interpret the word “Mara” on the ossuary they claim is that of Mary Magdalene, as the Aramaic for “master” elevating her to the status of “teacher” and “leader”. They conclude that the inscription on the ossuary actually denotes “The Honored Teacher Mariamne” (4).

Stephen J. Pfann, President of the Board of Directors of the University of the Holy Land, cites lexical problems and “elements of the signum formula” to argue that the Talpiot ossuary cannot be that of Mary Magdalene. “A signum is a term used for an added second personal name, like a middle name or alias.” He claims that the “KAI” on this ossuary is used to connect two different names i.e Mariame and Mara, with the “KA” being used as the equivalent of “AND”. He cites the example of ossuary CJO 490 where KAI is used to do just this.

Pfann argues that the first part of the inscription “Mariame” was written in “the common Greek documentary script of the period” when the bones of the first woman were interred and whereas the second and third part show cursive elements that are not there in the first part. This he claims is the proof that the “Mariame” and the Kai Mara” parts of the inscription were written by two different scribes at different times (5).

Some have indeed interpreted the Mara (Ma/ra) as an abbreviated form for Martha, this fact being borne out by similar inscriptions on other ossuaries. Given that the Greek form of Mariamne (Mariamh/nou) is in the genitive case (of the dimunitive form Mariamh/non), the inscription could be interpreted “Mariamne’s (daughter) Mara (or Martha).” Kloner and Rahmani interpret the inscription on this ossuary to mean “Mariamne, (who is also called) Mara.” Besides this some scholars think that because of her knowledge of the Greek language Mary Magdalene could have possibly been the teacher of Hellenist Jews. However other scholars contend that if she was indeed the wife of Jesus her ossuary would have also been inscribed in Hebrew just as the Ossuary of Jesus. Because of this, these scholars believe that the Talpiot tomb was the resting place of probably unrelated individuals of different ethnicity (6).

Mary Magdalene Was Disliked By The Other Disciples After Jesus Departed

Extra-biblical sources suggest that Mary Magdalene was disliked by the other disciples after Jesus departed. One example of this aversion toward her can be found in Section 114 of the Gospel of Thomas, where Peter says “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of the Life”. The Gospel of Mary also depicts friction between her and Peter. All of this suggests that Peter may have led an attempt to drive her out of the original group of believers. Some scholars believe that this compelled Mary Magdalene to lead her own Greek speaking group. If this is correct, it would explain the Greek inscription on her ossuary.

Based on the special relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, and the prominence given to her in extra biblical texts, the makers of the documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” concluded that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.

Jesus and Mary Magdalene

Based on the work of Prof. François Bovon of Harvard University relating to the Acts of Philip, the makers of the documentary state that Mary Magdalene’s name in the Acts was “Mariamne” and that this is the correct name of the historical Mary Magdalene of the fisrt century.

Prof. François Bovon of Harvard University reasoned that there could be a link between Mary Magdalene and the Mariamne inscription on the Talpiot ossuary because the name Mariamne was used in the apocryphal Acts of Philip. However the Acts of Philip is not unequivocal about this. Subsequently Prof. Bovon has stated that he is not sure that the Mariamne in the Acts of Philip is Mary Magdalene. (7). In addition to this, Prof. Bovon in a letter to the Society of Biblical Literature stated that his comments were misused (8).

However, according to other sources, based on the Acts of Philip, Professor Bovon is said to have stated that “I do not believe that Mariamne is the real name of Mary of Magdalene. Mariamne is, besides Maria or Mariam, a possible Greek equivalent, attested by Josephus, Origen, and the Acts of Philip, for the Semitic Myriam.”

Professor Bovon was also of the opinion that Mariamne of the Acts was presented as the sister of both Philip of Bethsaida and Martha of Bethany and that this Mariamne later evolved as the Gnostic sage and evangelist who was represented as Mary of Magdala in the Manichean Psalms, the Gospel of Mary, and the Pistis Sofia. It is these apocryphal stories that allude to a close liaison between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, and which give her importance in the nascent church. Although Professor Bovon did not categorically state that Mariamne of the Acts is the historical character of the first century, the makers of the documentary concluded that Mariamne of the Acts of Philip and Mary Magdalene of the first century are one and the same. It was also on the basis of apocryphal sources that they concluded that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and even produced a family (9).

In addition to this, the Acts of Phillip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, depict Mary Magdalene as an apostle, a teacher and a master “in her own right”. Some interpret the Greek inscription on her ossuary as “Mary, known as the master” (10).

Some Scholars Claim That Two Names Were Inscribed On The Ossuary

Some scholars claim that the two names inscribed on the ossuary should not be read together as “Mariamne Mara” but instead as “Mariamne and Mara”. This claim they say is supported by “similar even identical, forms in Greek papyri (for example, P.Oslo 2.47; P.Oxy. 2.399; 4.745; P.Columbia 18a; and, from Palestine, 5/6Hev 12; 5/6Hev 16; and XHev/Seiyal 63 and 69). And, in fact, there is another ossuary, at Dominus Flevit, in which the names “Martha and Mary” are inscribed, thus providing an example where the names of two women are given” (11).

As for the claim that Mara means “Master” or “Teacher” these scholars refute this saying that there is no other example where the word Mara is used to denote a title. It is also claimed that “Mariamne Mara” actually refers to the names of two different women indicating that this particular ossuary contained the bones of two women as was sometimes the practice. Besides, there is no other corroborative artifact where “Mara” is used to refer to a title. Even the Aramaic Mara is normally used in the masculine (12).

Craig A Evans of Acadia Divinity College is of the opinion “given that the Greek form of Mariamne (Mariamh/nou) is in the genitive case (of the diminutive form Mariamh/non), the inscription could be interpreted “Mariamne’s (daughter) Mara (or Martha).” Kloner and Rahmani translate the inscription on the ossuary as: Mariamne, (who is also called) Mara” (13).

Please also read my blogs:

The Talpiot Tomb – An Accidental Discovery at

Jesus And Mary His Mother – Are These Their Ossuaries? at

Judah – Was He The Son Of Jesus And Mary Magdalene? at

(1) Magness, Jodi. (2007). Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered? Retrieved 2011, from

(2) Freeman, David Noel. (2007). Burning Issues: Ya•aqov Ossuary. Retrieved 2011, from,

(3) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb. Retrieved 2011, from

(4) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu. (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from

(5) Pfann, Stephen J. (2007). Mary Magdalene Is Now Missing:, A Corrected Reading of Rahmani Ossuary 701, Retrieved 2011, from

(6) Magness, Jodi. (2007). Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered? Retrieved 2011, from

(7) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu. (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from


(9) Pfann, Stephen J. (n.d.). Mary Magdalene Is Now Missing: A Corrected Reading of Ossuaries Cjo 701 and CJO 108*. Retrieved 2012, from

(10) Younker, Randall W. (2007). The Jesus Tomb. Retrieved 2011, from

(11) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu. (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from

(12) Evans, Craig & Feldman, Steven. (2007). The Tomb of Jesus? Wrong on Every Count. Retrieved 2011, from

(13) Evans, Dr. Craig. A. (n.d). The Tomb of Jesus and Family? Second Thoughts. Retrieved 2011, from

Picture Credits:
(Fig 1) The ancient town of Magdala

(Fig 2) The Magdalene ossuary

(Fig 3) Were Jesus and Mary Magdalene married?…2260.11797.0.29293.….0…1ac.1j2.64.img..3.0.0.eRLbK4761_Q#hl=en&tbm=isch&q=Jesus+and+Mary+Magdalene+were+husband+and+wife&imgrc=OwTPH21DbRP1SM%3A


The Talpiot Tomb – An Accidental Discovery

Discovery of the Talpiot Tomb

In March 1980 a bulldozer while working at a new construction site on Dov Gruner Street, located in the south of the Old City of Jerusalem, in the vicinity of East Talpiot, uncovered part of a burial cave belonging to the Second Temple period. While some such accidental discoveries may have gone unreported, luckily one of the neighbors informed the Department of Antiquities about this discovery and a formal excavation was conducted. Yosef Gath together with Amos Kloner and Eliot Braun excavated the double-chambered loculi and acrosolia tomb. Shimon Gibson charted the architectural plan of the tomb.

The excavation went on for over two weeks because of a meter thick terra rosa soil inside the tomb. Some believe that the terra rosa soil in the tomb was the consequence of a break-in or a collapse of a portion of the roof sometime in the distant past, as a result exposed the tomb’s interior to the elements for almost two centuries. According to some accounts the reddish soil had also poured in through the entrance and filled the central chamber and portions of the individual chambers.

The Talpiot tomb was about 3 x 3 meters and about 2 meters high. It was a modest tomb hewn into the rock. It was obvious that this was a tomb that was neither indicative of “high status or wealth”. The tombs of the rich and powerful were located near the Old City. However the tombs, as one moved south of “Akeldama, around the Mount of Offense, and south into Talpiot, are often more modest in form and size” (1).

Considering all that was found in the tomb, Amos Kloner clarifies that the tomb can be dated to around the end of the first century BCE to about 70 CE.

The Tomb Is In The Vicinity Of The Second Temple

The tomb was found some 2.5 kms south of the Second Temple in the Old City of Jerusalem. A portion of the tomb’s vestibule was damaged as a result of blasting during construction work. On the exterior of the fascia of the tomb’s entrance was carved in relief, a circle below an upward pointing gable. Inside, on each of the other three walls were two kokhim – making a total of six. Each of the kokhim was approximately 1.6 m long and almost .5 m wide – large enough to hold two or three ossuaries. Carved into the walls of the tomb were two arcosolia – shelves on which bodies were meant to be laid out. There was no golal – blocking stone – found, indicating that the tomb had been accessed.

The Contents Of The Tomb

The tomb contained notably ten ossuaries and some pottery from the Herodian period (BCE. 30—70 CE). However what is not know is whether the tomb also contained ointment vessels that one would normally find in such burial caves or even if there were shards of pottery from that period. It was subsequently recorded by the Israel Antiquities Authority that ten ossuaries of “no particular significance” were taken from the tomb to an old factory in one of the by lanes of Romemma, a dilapidated suburb of Jerusalem. They were numbered (IAA) 80-500 to (IAA) 80-509 (2).

It was the practice of the Israel Antiquities Authority to store ossuaries that were plain in open courtyards since they did not have place indoors for all the ossuaries that were excavated. This was the case with the ten ossuaries that were removed from the Talpiot tomb. However when the time came to catalogue the ossuaries from Talpiot, they found that one of them was missing. The remaining nine ossuaries were renumbered by Israeli archeologist Levi Yitzkhaq Rahmani (701-709) and catalogued (3). Six of the nine ossuaries were found to be inscribed (See fig. 15). These were numbered 701 – 706.

“The inscribed names for the East Talpiyot cache, as given in the 1994 Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries (ed, LY Rahmani), and item: A Tomb with Inscribed Ossuaries in East Talpiyot, Jerusalem (by Amos Kloner), Atiqot, vol 19, 1996, are:

701 (80.500): Mariamene e Mara (inscribed in Greek) [equiv. meaning ‘Miriam or Martha’]

702 (80.501): Yehuda bar Yehoshua (inscribed in Hebrew) [equiv. ‘Judas son of Joshua’]

703 (80.502): Matya (inscribed in Hebrew) [equiv. ‘Matityahu’ or ‘Matthew’]

704 (80.503): Yehoshua bar Yehosef (inscribed in Aramaic) [equiv. ‘Joshua son of Joseph’]*

705 (80.504): Yose (inscribed in Hebrew) [equiv. ‘Joses’]

706 (80.505): Marya (inscribed in Hebrew) [equiv. contraction of ‘Maryam’]**

* The name Jesus, as given in the New Testament gospels, is the Greek form of the Jewish name Joshua.
** The name Mary, as in the gospels, is a Greco-Egyptian variation of the Jewish name Miriam.”

The inscriptions on the ossuaries from the Talpiot Tomb (Fig. 1)
Please also read my blogs:

Judah – Was He The Son Of Jesus And Mary Magdalene? at

Is This The Ossuary of Mary Magdalene? at

Jesus And Mary His Mother – Are These Their Ossuaries? at

(1)Ben-David, Yirmәyahu . (2008). Talpiot Tomb Disputations. Retrieved 2013, from

(2) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu .(2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from

(3) Ben-David, Yirmәyahu .(2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from

Picture Credits:
The inscriptions on the ossuaries from the Talpiot Tomb

The Missing Years – Where Was Jesus Between 12 And 30?

It is because of the several similarities between the teachings of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the bible that many scholars believe that both John the Baptist and Jesus were in fact Essenes. They claim that the teachings of both reflected Essene beliefs and that the two in fact lived among the community during their growing years. As proof they point the life styles of both John the Baptist and Jesus. They say this accounts for the missing years of Jesus- total absence of any information about him between the age of twelve and till the time he began his ministry. During his childhood, John the Baptist we know was raised not far from the Essene monastery. There are other reasons why some scholars believe that John the Baptist was an Essene.

John the Baptist

The Essenes considered themselves as a group that belonged to a “covenant of repentance.” John the Baptist too preached repentance: “Repent,” he sermonized “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As in the case of John the Baptist, little is known about Jesus from twelve to thirty. Based on the fact that Jewish tradition required that a student must be thirty before he qualifies as a rabbi it is believed that both John the Baptist and Jesus who was only a few months younger than his cousin spent time in the wilderness until they qualified. It was John who began to preach first. Jesus soon followed. This also explains why the gospels are silent about Jesus between the ages of twelve and thirty

John The Baptist Was In The Desert From Boyhood Until The Day Of His Showing In Jerusalem

According to the gospels, John the Baptist was in the desert from boyhood until the day of his showing in Jerusalem. The gospels are also silent about Jesus’ life from the age of twelve to thirty. Both Jesus and his relative John were about the same age. John, a few months older than Jesus, was the first to preach. Jesus followed shortly thereafter.

Both Mark and Matthew (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6), say that John the Baptist adhered to a diet of ‘locusts and wild honey’. He probably followed the Dead Sea Scroll instructions on how to prepare locusts, which said that the creatures had to be baptized with fire or with water. “This is the typical diet of a vegetarian who took seriously the injunction in Genesis that God had originally created the plants of the earth as man’s food, and had only reluctantly permitted him later to kill animals for meat. (Genesis 1:29, 9:3) Jesus’ first disciples came from John the Baptist (John 1:35-51; Acts 1:21-22)”.

John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, close to the Jordan River, not far from where the Essenes lived. This a phrase that John the Baptist was often found to use: “I baptize you with water… but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire!” The reason for this could have been his familiarity with the Dead Sea Scroll instructions. He was a vegetarian probably because the Essenes were vegetarian. One of their earliest scriptural texts, the Zadokite Document proclaims: “Let not a man make himself abominable with any living creature or creeping thing by eating them.”

Based on extensive research some scholars have come to the conclusion that Jesus was the chosen one of the Essenes. They say that the Dead Sea Scrolls even describe Jesus (1).

The Essenes abstained from animal sacrifice. Jesus shared a similar view regarding this subject. In The Gospel of the Ebionites, also known as The Gospel of the Hebrews he is reported to have said: “If you do not stop sacrificing, wrath against you will never abate.” This is a sentiment that his brother James shared. And like John the Baptist and Jesus, James too secluded himself in the desert for a while; a behavior common with the Essenes.

Both Jesus And The Essences Accepted Enoch And The Jubilees As Scripture

The Essenes accepted Enoch and the Jubilees as scripture. Scholars say that Jesus also accepted Enoch and the Jubilees as scripture because of his Essene association. Another reason to suspect that Jesus was an Essene is his criticism of two sects of Judaism: the Sadducees and the Pharisees. But he never criticized the Essenes. Another hint that Jesus was an Essene is that he preferred to be baptized by one who was thought to be Essene: his cousin John the Baptist.

In addition, the Resurrection Scroll – a part of the Dead Scroll – states that a messiah will “Liberate captives, make the blind see, make the crippled stand straight… heal the injured, raise up the dead, and preach good news to the poor”. Jesus’ messianic expectations are comparable to this. Consider the incident when men from John the Baptist asked Jesus “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus answered, “Go tell John what you see and hear: The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news preached to them.” By quoting from the Dead Sea Scrolls Jesus made it apparent that he was familiar with Essene scriptures.

Another indication of Jesus’ familiarity with the Dead Sea Scrolls is the similarity between the War Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls and his End of Times prophecies. The War Scroll states “The congress of gods and the armies of men will battle. They will cause a large amount of destruction… and there will be a time of great tribulation for those whom God will save”. Jesus’ End of Times prophecy states “Then they will deliver you up to be persecuted, and they will kill you… And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies… Then there will be great tribulation.”


The Essenes looked forward to the battle between Good and Evil, a final reckoning. It appears that every single day they fought such a battle before they moved to the desert and wanted all those who sought selfish pleasures to be punished in the final Armageddon. This was foretold in the War Scrolls.

While some scholars believe that both Jesus and John the Baptist were contenders for the title of Righteous Teacher, the similarity between the two and the characteristics of the Righteous Teacher described in the Dead Sea Scrolls are overshadowed by the differences (2).

It will not be unreasonable to say that the Dead Sea Scrolls give some substance that the “community of Jewish Christians” who gathered around James was from the community that had earlier settled in Qumran. This belief is further supported by the writing of Hegesippus, an early Christian writer, that because of his exceeding virtue, ‘James was named the Righteous’ and when the scribes wanted him to speak to the group that would gather for the Passover, they addressed him as ‘Thou Righteous One, to whom we are all bound to listen’ (3).

Eisenman has put together proof that the Dead Sea Scrolls are the work of the community of James. In his James the Just in the Habakkuk Pesher, written 25 years ago he has shown minute similarity between the Pesher’s description of the destruction of its hero – The Righteous Teacher – and the murder of James as described by Josephus (4).

Some say that it was because of Jesus’ connection with the Essenes that James his brother also became associated with the community and it is because of this that the early Christians were from this community.

Another piece of evidence that links James the brother of Jesus to the Essenes is found at the conclusion of the apocryphal nativity gospel called Protevangelion – also know as the apocryphal nativity gospel – which tells us that James the brother of Jesus secluded himself in the desert – a behavior all too commonly associated with the Essenes.

Although the Essene movement began during the pre-Hasmonean times there was much in common between James the brother of Jesus and his early Christian followers who were predominantly from the community. The followers of James readily accepted the end-of-the-world theory of Jesus and a brand new Utopian world that would emerge thereafter. During the early stages of Christianity James was a leader in his own right and was not eclipsed by the importance of Jesus. Hegesippus and the other early writers were of this view.

It is reasonable to conclude that both Jesus and James were themselves Essenes or at the least influenced by the Essenes. Like Jesus and James, the Essenes were against the Sadducees. There is also considerable similarity between the teachings of Jesus and James and the Essenes. For several reasons it appears that James was the Righteous Teacher of the sect and the first Christians were from this sect. They were without doubt at the forefront of the early Christian movement and the revolt that followed the death of James that in 69 CE almost all of them were killed by the Romans.

From what we have seen it is not unreasonable to say that Jesus and James were leaders of the Qumran sect. Therefore it is quite likely that they were involved in the burial of both Jesus and James.



(2) Baigent, Michael. (2000.). The Essenes And The Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2011, from

(3) Gaster, Theodor H. (1976). The Dead Sea Scriptures. Doubleday. New York.

(4) Eisenman, Robert.(n.d.). “New Testament Code” retrieved 2011, from

Picture Credits:
(Fig 1) John the Baptist

(Fig 2) The War Scrolls….0…1ac.1.64.img..0.10.986.aIZDCe0WsSw#imgrc=xKOuYWD1oaGqlM%3A

Did Early Christians Copy The Essenes?

There Is Similarity Between Early Christians And The Essenes

Although there is no historical evidence that there was a relationship between the Essenes and early Christians there is undeniably a significant similarity between the two.


An example of the similarity between the Dead Sea Scrolls and some of the Gospels
This is the complete Isaiah Scroll which was found in Cave 1 by the Bedouin and is known as Isaiah A. It is open to Chapter 40, verse 3, which states, “A voice cries out in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord: make straight the desert a highway for our God.” This passage is quoted in all three Synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke.

In fact it is difficult to distinguish between the language and thinking of the followers of James and that of the Essenes. Because of this similarity some scholars think that the early Christians were from the Essenes or at the least that early Christianity was influenced by Essenism. It is also possible that the two sects had their roots in a common past. Both Eisenman and Burton Mack agree that Jesus was as yet not central to early Christianity which began as a form of Essenism. Scholars have observed that in fact Essenism itself splintered into factional groups – those loyal to Jesus became the Ebionites, those loyal to John the Baptist became the Mandaean sect and those loyal to James the Just became the Qumran sect (1).

Josephus who actually spent time in an Essene monastery studying their doctrines and way of life came to the conclusion that the principles and lifestyle of the early Christians were quite similar. While the Gospels and the book of Acts state that the Pharisees and Sadducees were against the early Christian movement, there is no talk about of the Essenes being hostile to the new movement probably because Christianity itself evolved from “Essenism”.

Both the Essenes and the earliest Christians called themselves “the poor in the world,” “the sons of light” and “the chosen of God who shall judge the nations at the end of time.” The earliest Christians called themselves “the saints,” “the brethren,” “the elect,” “the believers,” “those in Messiah,” “those of the Lord,” “the sons of peace,” “the disciples” and “the poor.” The word most used to refer to Christians in the New Testament is “brethren.” The Manual of Discipline and other Essene texts, found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, indicate that they spoke of each other as “brethren.” The similarity between the early Christians and the Essenes was not limited to the titles used in the communities. The similarity also existed in their teachings.

The Essenes were vegetarians. The Zadokite Document, one of their earliest scriptural texts, states: “Let not a man make himself abominable with any living creature or creeping thing by eating them.” They were also pacifists: “As for darts, javelins, daggers, or the helmet, breastplate or shield, you could not find a single manufacturer of them nor, in general, any person making weapons or engines or plying any industry concerned with war; nor, indeed, any of the peaceful kind which easily lapse into vice.” noted Philo. Josephus noted that they faced death peacefully at the hands of the Romans.

The Essenes referred to the “truth of God” as “the Light”. Compare this to John 1:1-9 “(John) came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light … There was the true light, which lighteth every man, coming into the world” and John 8.12: “I am the light of the world.”

Learned members of the community referred to themselves as “Sons of Light”. Contrast this with John 12.36 “While ye have the light, believe on the light, that ye may become sons of light” and Ephesians 5.8 “Walk as children of light”.

The spiritual teacher of the Essenes was referred to as “the teacher” or “the right-teacher”. Jesus is often referred to as the teacher and some scholars claim that he is indeed the “righteous Teacher” referred to by the community.

In the Essene Manual of Discipline it has been explained that the community will be the “temple of God, a true holy of holies” if it abided by the set laws. Compare this to I Corinthians 3.16-17: “Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroy the temple of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are”.

Christianity Borrowed Ideas And Doctrines From The Dead Sea Scrolls

Not only did Christianity borrow “ideas and doctrines” from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the early church also structured itself along the same lines as the Essene community. Many of the names used to denote the constituents of the primitive church were used earlier by the Essene organization, which in turn seems to have borrowed these terms from the Old Testament.

The Essenes referred to themselves as “Edah” a term the early Christians used to refer to the church. Similarly the term the Essenes used to refer to their lawmaking council is the same term the Christians used to refer to the council of the early Christian church. Besides this the Essenes had twelve men who served as general guides for their community. So too the Christians; they had twelve men in the form of twelve apostles who were expected to propagate the teachings. These men had three superiors who were designated as the pillars of the community. The early Christians too had three pillars in the form of John, Peter and James. Further both Essenes and Christians were referred to by same or similar names. Early Christians used to refer to each other as “brethren”. We know from Essene texts such as “The Manual of Discipline” that Essenes referred to each other as “brethren” (2).

In addition to this, the community is often referred to as “God’s plantation”. Compare this to1 Timothy 3.6 a learner is referred to as a “neophyte” which literally means “newly planted”. In addition to the above there are several “parallels”, “literary devices”, “stereotyped catalog”, “verbal analogues” and exactly same metaphors exist in the New Testament borrowed from the scrolls.

Consider the fact that the Essenes referred to themselves as the ‘the elect’ or ‘the elect of God’. Compare this to Titus 1.1 “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect” and to Peter 1.1: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion”.

There are other similarities between the Essene scriptures and Christian writing.

However not everything that was written about the Essenes is strictly correct. For instance in “The Jewish Wars” Josephus says that the Essenes were normally celibate although he mentions one sect that did marry. Pliny and Philo also thought the Essenes were celibate. However excavations at Qumran revealed graves of women and children. Besides, the Community Rule of the Dead Sea Scrolls lists the regulations relating to marriage and the raising of children.


(1) Baigent, Michael. (2000.). The Essenes And The Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2011, from

(2) Baigent, Michael. (2000.). The Essenes And The Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2011, from

Picture Credits:
(Fig 1) The Isaiah Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls Archives – Biblical Archaeology Society

The Essenes And Christianity

Did Jesus Base His Teachings On Essenes Practices?

A study of the Essenes may at first seem superfluous, but to understand the relationship of Jesus and James with the community, an understanding of the sect is absolutely essential. This will help us to decide if this sect had any role in the crucifixion and burial of Jesus and then the burial of James. The following explains the peculiarities of this sect and the likely similarities in their teachings and the teachings of Jesus and James after him.

Who Were the Essenes?

The name Essene derives from the Greek word Essenoi or Essaioi meaning “holy ones.” They were a Jewish sect that broke away from mainstream Judaism because of a dispute over who was qualified to be high priest. After the Maccabean revolt, the Hasmoneans claimed the office of high priest as part of the spoils of war. Some argued that the Maccabees could not be priests because they did not come from the tribe of Levi. Some of these critics joined a group called the Hasideans which, it is thought, became the Essenes. The Essenes grew into a community over two centuries preceding the Christian era beginning in the pre-Hasmonean times. References to the Essenes can be seen in the writings of Josephus, Philo, Eusebius, and Pliny the Edler (1).

The Essenes praying

Josephus states that the Essenes lived as small communities spread throughout Palestine. They chose to live in the wilderness cutting themselves off from impure influences and purified themselves for the future. One such community was said to have occupied a place called Qumran just off the northwest coast of the Dead Sea. Some think that this may have been their principal location, but there is no proof of this (2).

The Essenes chose to live in the wilderness as self contained communities far from all that they thought was impure. Christian monks that followed established what appear to be communities based on the Essene way of life. Josephus describes them as simple people who lived strictly by the law. According to him property was communally owned and the group focused on ritual purity.

At the core the Essenes were an apocalyptic movement within Judaism.” Having endured Greek domination and being faced with whom they considered false priests who offered sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem, it is of little surprise that they looked forward to the End of the World. Each community of Essenes was administered by one person who was the priest and guardian (3).

The word “Essene” appears only in the writing of Pliny, Philo and Josephus. Since the majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written in Aramaic and Hebrew and if indeed they were written by the Essenes then the word must have been a “translation or transliteration of a term of self-determination” from one of these two languages. However no apparent equivalent for the term seems to exist in either language. Moreover not everyone is in agreement regarding the origin of the term. In the opinion of Philo the word derives from the Greek word oseeos meaning “holy”.

Dead Sea Scrolls

Thus the Essenes were the “Holy Ones”. However Dr. Geza Vermes an Oxford scholar states that the term derives from the Aramaic assayya, meaning ‘healers’. Although this interpretation found some popularity there is no mention of the word in the Dead Sea Scrolls (which according to many scholars was authored by the Essenes), nor is any reference made to the healing or medical work of this community (4).

A later writer, the Christian Father Epiphanius mentions a Judaic sect that at one time is said to have lived in the vicinity of the Dead Sea. This sect was called ‘Ossenes’. It would appear rational to consider the Essenes of Pliny, Philo and Josephus, the Ossenes of Epiphanius and the Osim of Qumran as the same. We may come to the conclusion that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the product of the Essenes but not the community as defined Pliny, Philo or Josephus. In brief it is better to consider this community as the messianic Zaddikim (‘Righteous Ones’) (5).

Notwithstanding any of this Professor Robert Eisenman of California State University, Long Beach, explained that this community did not refer to itself by any one specific name. Rather they referred to themselves by a “variety of self-descriptions. The community’s overall self-concept rested on the all-important “Covenant” – an oath of absolute obedience to the Law of Moses. Consequently, such terms of self-description as ‘The Keepers of the Covenant’, ‘The Perfect of the Way’, ‘The Way of Perfect Righteousness’ and several equivalents, seemed to apply to them. Eisenman also stated that in one element of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Habakkuk Commentary a name applied to the community was ‘The Doers of the Law’ (6).

The Essenes also referred to themselves as Zadokites and the Hasidim, meaning pious. In addition to following the canonical books of the Old Testament they created their “own scriptures, commentaries and prophecies” between 170 and 60 BCE (7). These scriptures were discovered by modern archeology in their monastery at Khirbet Qumran in the vicinity of the Dead Sea.

The community living in the vicinity of Qumran called itself the “keepers of the Covenant” which in Hebrew is Nozrei ha-Brit. And Nozrim, the term that was given to the group that eventually evolved into the first Christians, was derived form Nozrei. This, some scholars say is proof that Christians came from this Judaic sect. Even today Christians are referred to as Nasrani in Arabic. It is likely that this term also derived from Nozrim. It is also worth noting that early Christians were referred to as the “followers of the way” a term also used in the Qumran community. It may be reasonable to conclude therefore that the first followers of James the brother of Jesus were the same people who lived in Qumran (8).

Essenes Were Landless And Moneyless By Design

According to Philo the Essenes were landless and moneyless by design. They did not hoard gold or silver, but merely provided the necessities of life. They observed the Sabbath. Philo states: “They are trained in piety, holiness, justice, domestic and civil conduct, knowledge of what is good through the love of God, love of virtue, and love of men. Their love of God they show by a multitude of proofs: by religious purity constant and unbroken throughout their lives, by abstinence from oaths, by veracity…by their freedom from the love of either money or reputation or pleasure; by self-mastery and endurance; again by frugality, simple living, contentment, humility, respect for the law; steadiness and all similar qualities.” The Essenes accepted Enoch and Jubilees as scriptures.

Josephus states that the Essenes maintained genial relations with King Herod the Great who, according to him had high regard for the Essenes. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls show that the Essenes held “a militant antagonism and unremitting hostility towards non-Judaic authority generally and, according to the Temple Scroll, towards the Herodian dynasty specifically”.

The classical writers state that the Essenes were pacifists. Philo expressly states that the sect had no weapons makers. Josephus highlights the difference between the non-violent Essenes and the violent, militant, and messianic, Zealots. However, the ruins of Qumran disclose a defensive tower and what looks like a forge. Furthermore arrows were found in the ruins. Besides this the War Scroll (a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls) reveals the sect’s aggressive and military nature.

The classical writers are of the opinion that Judaism was divided into three major groups: the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. However there is no mention of the word ‘Essene’ anywhere in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Essenes were the only Jewish sect that followed celibate priesthood and practice baptism. They are said to have followed Isaiah 40:3 which says “go to the wilderness to prepare there the way…make level in the desert a path for the Lord.” It is important to note that John the Baptist was raised not far from there.

In the Essene monastery communal meals took place in a large upper room, in which only men participated (Mark 14:15). The meal was presided over by the leader of the group who blessed both the bread and the drink. Anyone who is familiar with the rituals of the last supper cannot miss the similarity between the Last Supper and the Essene communal meal.

Philo wrote that the Essenes unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees did not indulge in animal sacrifice. However this is not correct as the Temple Scroll gives precise instructions relating to animal sacrifice. Not only that, excavations have revealed buried pots containing what are presumably the sacrificial remains of animal bones.

Although the Essenes were referred to in the works of the three classical writers Pliny (23 -79 CE), Philo (c.15 BCE- c.45 CE) and Josephus (c.37 CE- c.100 CE) not only is their description of the community inconsistent, but the portrait they paint of them is not in agreement with the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the ruins of Qumran.

The Essenes thrived until 69 CE when almost all of them were killed by the Romans.

The Dead Sea Scrolls – Similarity With What Later Christian Authors Wrote

Jars of scrolls were discovered in a cave near Qumran off the Dead Sea (See fig. 13). These scrolls were eventually labeled the Dead Sea Scrolls. The text of these scrolls gives scholars an insight into religious developments within Judaism before the beginning of Christianity. There are some remarkable parallels between what is contained in the scrolls and what later Christian authors wrote (9).

Qumran caves

It is generally acknowledged that the Essenes were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls not only reveal the Essene way of life, but also show how Judaism evolved in the period that immediately preceded the Christian movement. In fact scholars have shown the resemblance between the Dead Seas Scrolls and the Christian writing that followed. This is especially so in the case of the “messianic expectations” (10).

This resemblance made scholars wonder if the Dead Sea Scrolls are the forerunner of Christianity. The Scrolls definitely give an insight into the “religious and cultural climate in which John the Baptist conducted his mission and in which Jesus was initially reared”. They also give us the background from which John the Baptist and Jesus developed their concepts and from which they themselves built their own religious ideas which eventually served as “the seedbed of the New Testament”. The early church seemingly adopted the organizational elements of the Essene community. However it must be said that the Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain any of the seminal theologies of Christianity which is what made the religion distinct (11).


(1) Cline, Austin. (2012). Essenes: Profile of the Essenes – Creators of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2012, from

(2) Cline, Austin. (2012). Essenes: Profile of the Essenes – Creators of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2012, from

(3) Cline, Austin. (2012). Essenes: Profile of the Essenes – Creators of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2012, from

(4) Baigent, Michael. (2000.). The Essenes And The Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2011, from

(5) Baigent, Michael. (2000.). The Essenes And The Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2011, from

(6) Eisenman, Robert. (n.d). “New Testament Code” retrieved 2011, from

(7) Murti, Vasu (1995-1999). They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy. Retrieved 2011, from

(8) Baigent, Michael. (2000.). The Essenes And The Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2011, from

(9) Cline, Austin. (2012). Essenes: Profile of the Essenes – Creators of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2012, from

(10) Baigent, Michael. (2000.). The Essenes And The Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2011, from

(11) Gaster, Theodor H. (1976). The Dead Sea Scriptures. Doubleday. New York.

Picture Credits:
(Fig 1) Essenes praying

(Fig 2) Jars containing Dead Sea Scrolls

(Fig 3) Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found

Different Accounts Of Resurrection Appearances Of Jesus

Resurrected Jesus First Appears To Mary Magdalene

According to Mark 16:9 and John 20:16–18 the resurrected Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. And according to John 20:17 Jesus is supposed to have told Mary Magdalene “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” The Greek verb that was translated in the King James Version as “touch me not” could also be translated as “stop touching me”. From this it could be understood that Mary Magdalene is hugging Jesus from the sheer joy of seeing him alive again.

Mary Magdalene Was Considered The Next Most Important Teacher Only To Jesus

The fact that three gospels state that it was Mary Magdalene that Jesus appeared to first, is considered to be significant for several reasons. While she was considered a principle figure in Gnosticism, she was also considered to be the next most important teacher only to Jesus.

Mary Magdalene is not the only one who fails to recognize the resurrected Jesus, according to Luke two other disciples also fail to recognize him immediately. Many reasons have been put forward to explain this. One is that her tear soaked eyes impaired her vision, two, that her preoccupation with finding the body of Jesus prevented her from recognizing something that was right there before her eyes and three, that the physical appearance of Jesus was different, either because of the “resurrection process itself, or due to the ordeal of crucifixion”.

According to some claims “Peter was the first to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection.” However others claim that it was “James, not Peter (and certainly not Mary Magdalene) was the “first witness of the resurrection.””

Some Scholars Reject the Resurrection Claim

Some scholars have questioned the very concept of the resurrection. They say that the resurrection stories were all written much later than the purported occurrences and based on narratives by people who reported what eyewitnesses were supposed to have seen. As a consequence the narratives are contradictory and sometimes puzzling (1).

Some Christian accounts claim that the risen Jesus was seen as an actual human being. According to Luke the disciples, astonished and terrified at the appearance of Jesus in their midst, thought that they were seeing a ghost. But Jesus reprimanded them “Handle me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” However as the disciples continued to be baffled Jesus asked for something to eat and ate the piece of broiled fish that was offered to him. This prompted Peter to later exclaim: “[We] ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

Jesus eating fish

The resurrected Jesus eating with the apostles

However some Christians rejected the literal interpretation. Christians who rejected the literal resurrection were labeled as heretics. These heretics interpreted the resurrection experiences as “encounters on a spiritual level.” They claimed that such spiritual encounters occurred “occur in dreams, in ecstatic trance, in visions, or in moments of spiritual illumination.”

Why did orthodox Christian literally interpret the resurrection of Jesus? Some scholars believe that the resurrection accounts not only had a religious connotation but also political undertones. Individuals who claimed to have seen the bodily resurrected Jesus had more authority “to exercise exclusive leadership over the church”. Probably it is for this reason that there are contradicting claims as to who the resurrected Jesus first appeared: Mary Magdalene or Peter? It is probably for the same reason that Paul also claimed to have seen the risen Jesus.

Others question the day of Jesus’ resurrection. They say that the claim that Jesus resurrected on Sunday is untenable. According to Talmudic tradition a spirit does not depart from a body until after the third day. This led to the practice of embalmment after three days. And this seems to be the reason why the resurrection is said to have occurred after the completion of three days. This was a precaution against claims that Jesus may have just been in a trance or that he had been resuscitated.

Therefore, first century Jews would not accept that an individual was truly dead unless three days had passed. As a consequence they had interpreted Jesus’ statement that “After three days I will rise again,” as a claim that he would resurrect after the completion of three days. This is the argument they put forth to Pilate when they asked him for permission to seal the tomb (Matt. 27:63). Jesus also told the Jews (John 2:19) that the sign he would show them is to “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”. John explains that by Temple Jesus was referring to his body.

Some scholars claim that “A Friday crucifixion and Sunday morning resurrection do not allow for three days and three nights in the tomb”.
Matthew 27:57 states “And evening having come, a rich man from Arimathea coming up to Pilate, requests the body of Yeshua”. Mark 15:42 says “Now evening occurring, since it was a preparation which is toward a sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea…came with daring to Pilate and requests the body of Yeshua”. Elsewhere in the bible the similar phrase “Now evening occurring” (Mark 15:42 and Matthew 27:57) has been interpreted as when the sunsets. To avoid upsetting the “Pharisees and leaders of the synagogue” who considered even the miracle of healing as work on a Sabbath, people waited till after sundown before they brought the sick to Jesus to be healed.

Jesus Resurrected On The Second Day

Another argument that Jesus’ body was interred only after sunset is that washing the body of Jesus and then wrapping it with 75 pounds of myrrh and aloe could only have been done elsewhere outside the tomb and would have taken some time. This suggests that Jesus could only have been entombed after sunset. Based on this some scholars argue that to maintain that Jesus resurrected on Sunday would mean a second day resurrection and not a third day (2). Mark does not report any resurrection appearances (16: 1-8). (3)

In Matthew (Mt 28: 2) he reports how an angel of the lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone covering the tomb’s entrance.

Luke reports the appearance of two men in dazzling clothes in the tomb to the women (Lk 24:1-7). Luke (Lk 24: 13-35) also states that the resurrected Jesus first appears to Cleopas and a companion on the road to Emmaus. However the two do not recognize Jesus until the evening. In (Lk 24: 30-51) Jesus appears as a ghost and then disappears only to reappear and is then finally carried up to heaven. This he says happened the day after the disciples discover the empty tomb.

John (Jn 20:2-9) talks about the mysterious “other disciple” who Jesus loved accompanying Peter in search of Jesus at the empty tomb. According to the book of acts Jesus appears to his believers for forty days and is then lifted up to heaven (Acts 1: 3-10).

There are other instances in the Gospels to show that Jesus resurrected bodily. After his appearance to Mary Magdalene Jesus appeared to a group of women who were returning home from the empty tomb. The women “held him by the feet, and worshipped him” (Matthew 28:9). After this incident Jesus appeared to ten of the Apostles (Luke 24:36–42; John 20:19–23). Since the disciples thought that Jesus was just a spirit, Jesus told them “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).

Proof That Jesus Resurrected Bodily

As further proof that Jesus resurrected bodily we can cite the example of the many ossuaries that were excavated near the Mount of Olives’ Dominus Flevit, Jerusalem. Inscriptions on some of these ossuaries state “Jesus, have mercy,” and “Jesus, remember me in the resurrection”. This shows that even from an early date, there were people in Jerusalem who believed in the physical resurrection of Jesus (4).

While the majority of the apostles were not witnesses to the resurrection, it was Paul who wanted to give Jesus the status of divinity, makes bodily resurrection the foundation of Christianity. Peter adds his bit to this concept. However as for most of the other apostles, they were told different resurrection stories at different times. At the other extreme are stories suggesting that the apostles hid in the tomb and robbed the body of Jesus. This seems a rather flippant theory considering that the apostles were so afraid for their own lives that they went into hiding.

Again as regards Jesus’ post resurrection appearances, there are quite a few claims, but the evangelists agree that it was Mary Magdalene to whom Jesus first appeared. However based on the counter claims it would appear that those jostling for the leadership of Jesus’ movement tried to downplay the significance of Mary Magdalene. It would appear that the then leaders of the nascent church claimed that Jesus appeared to them wanting to create the impression that Jesus revealed something special only to them and to lend credibility to what they taught. And probably Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene is more significant than the church acknowledges.

It’s settled then; Jesus most likely appeared to Mary Magdalene first. But did he appear in the flesh and blood or as a spirit?

That’s a debate that will probably have no conclusion. According to Mary Magdalene, she held the resurrected Jesus. Therefore this must have been a bodily appearance. On the other hand, according to Paul he appeared as a spirit. And then later when he appeared to the apostles, he is said to have walked through a wall. These appearances may have been as a spirit.


(1) Resurrection appearances of Jesus. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from
(2) Derstine, Todd. (n.d.). Timing of the Savior’s Death and Resurrection. Retrieved 2011, from
(4) Steve Keohane (n.d.). Documentary Claim – tomb of Jesus and the entire (postulated) Holy Family found in Jerusalem cave. Retrieved 2012, from
Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) Jesus eating fish…4120.15342.0.16419.….0…1ac.1.64.img..20.17.1126.wER1r15jBCM#hl=en&tbm=isch&q=resurrected+jesus+eating+with+the+apostles&imgrc=mLdoNnie_S10MM%3A