Category Archives: THE ESSENES

What was Jesus’ relationship with the Essenes? Were his teachings influenced by Essene practices? The answers to these questions will tell us if the Essenes had a role in the burial of Jesus and then James.

Was Jesus The Righteous Teacher Of The Essenes?

Was Jesus An Essene???

Although we cannot be certain that Jesus was an Essene, we can reasonably come to this conclusion because he held certain opinions that were common with Essene teaching and he presumably had friends among them.

The commonness between the Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian literature and practice that connect Jesus with the Essenes indicate a relationship not only between early Christians and the Essenes, but also a relationship between the Essenes and Jesus himself. It is also reasonable to assume that the early church based in Jerusalem – the Nazoreans who were the followers of James – was the equivalent of the Qumran community (1).

Were the Essenes involved in the risky venture of drugging Jesus to simulate death and then revive him and relocate him in Ephesus together with Mary Magdalene and Juda? If they were involved, was their involvement because Jesus was one of them – their Righteous Teacher perhaps?

It is reasonable to conclude based on the many similarities between the teachings of the two that Jesus was a leader of sorts even if that recognition came only from the Ebionites. However after the crucifixion of Jesus, James who was the leader of the Essenes accepted Jesus as someone special – a messiah and perhaps even the son of God.

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.

(1) Baigent, Michael. (2000). The Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Cornerstone Society. Retrieved 2011, from

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The Essenes And Christianity

Did Early Christians Copy The Essenes?


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