The Essenes Rediscovered in Light of Ancient Sources

Submitted in the Fall of 2009, while a Master’s student at the University of Minnesota.

Author’s note: I would one day like to explore the growth of the Johannine theology within the context of the wider milieu of the kind of mystical, priestly Judaism represented (in radicalized form) by the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Qumran-Essene hypothesis has obscured our understanding of this apocalyptic branch of Judaism.

Introduction

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars studying the ancient Jewish sect of the Essenes were largely reliant upon the classical authors, the most significant sources being Philo, the Greek-speaking Jewish philosopher of Alexandria, Josephus the Jewish historian, and the Roman geographer Pliny the Elder.[1]

The year 1947 marked the initial discovery of what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in an ancient settlement now known as Khirbet Qumran. Sectarian works describing a “Teacher of Righteousness” and the opposition faced by him at the hands of the temple authorities were especially well preserved, justifying the supposition that the scrolls had been deposited by a sectarian community living in the nearby Qumran settlement. The following year Eleazar Sukenik proposed the theory that the sect responsible for depositing the scrolls was to be identified with the Essenes of the classical authors,[2] a view which was promoted by André Dupont-Sommer[3]; the “Essene hypothesis” was born.

Proponents of this theory pointed to many impressive parallels between the Essenes as described by literary sources on the one hand, and the group described in the Dead Sea Scrolls on the other. However, although there do indeed appear to be impressive parallels, I shall argue that many of these parallels collapse under further investigation, and that the inconsistencies between the classical descriptions of the Essenes and the profile of the Qumran sect discernable in the Scrolls make this theory untenable.

The Classical Authors

Philo described the Essenes in two works, Every Good Man is Free and Hypothetica (the latter is no longer extant, but excerpts are cited by Eusebius). These works were probably composed prior to the year 40 C.E., and they are our oldest literary evidence regarding the Essenes. Pliny the Elder (23-79 C.E.) mentions the Essenes in his Natural History, completed around the year 77 C.E. Our third major source, Flavius Josephus (c. 37-100 C.E.), describes the Essenes in two of his works, The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews.

Josephus’ works are especially important as they describe the Essenes in greater detail than either Philo or Pliny, and because Josephus himself had lived in Judea where the Essenes were based. Josephus also claims to have spent time among the Essenes.[4] However, Josephus may also have been influenced by more than just a concern for the telling of history. The historian had himself had served in the Jewish War as a general in opposition to Rome. He had surrendered and been shown mercy, and he was later commissioned by Vespasian to write an account of the Jewish War.

Clearly Josephus was under obligation to present the Romans in a good light. But he also wanted to defend the reputation of the Jewish nation in the eyes of the Romans.[5] A description of a peaceful, ascetic Jewish sect would have served this end, though how much these concerns colored his description of the Essenes is unknown. Nevertheless, his portrayal of the Essenes as a pious and peaceful people is echoed by Philo, and even by Pliny, himself a Roman writer, and so we are probably justified in accepting Josephus’ account as it stands, although we should remain aware of possible apologetic concerns.

Palm Trees, the Dead Sea and Qumran

Arguing for the Essene hypothesis, Sukenik noted that the “sect of the Essenes,” according to “several literary sources,” had “their seat on the western side of the Dead Sea, in the neighborhood of ‘Ein Gedi.”[6] This information is found in Pliny, whose words are as follows:

To the west [of the Dead Sea] the Essenes have put the necessary distance between themselves and the insalubrious shore. They are a people unique of its kind and admirable beyond all others in the whole world, without women and renouncing love entirely, without money, and having for company only palm trees. Owing to the throng of newcomers, this people is daily re-born in equal number; indeed, those whom, wearied by the fluctuations of fortune, life leads to adopt their customs, stream in great numbers. Thus, unbelievable though this may seem, for thousands of centuries a race has existed which is eternal yet into which no one is born: so fruitful for them is the repentance which others feel for their past lives! Below the Essenes was the town of Engada [En Gedi] which yielded only to Jerusalem in fertility and palm-groves but it is today become another ash-heap. From there, one comes to the fortress of Masada, situated on a rock, and itself near the lake of Asphalt.[7]

These words are often considered very important evidence for the Essene hypothesis, since En Gedi is close to Qumran. Stegemann goes so far as to state that the idea “that Pliny was referring to Qumran is beyond doubt.”[8] But Pliny only stated that the city of En Gedi was below (Latin infra) the Essenes. It is unclear whether he meant that En Gedi was downstream, or to the south, of the Essenes,[9] agreeable to the Essene hypothesis (though not necessitating it), or whether it was at a lower elevation to the Essene settlement (which would make the Essene settlement to have overlooked En Gedi). The Oxford Latin Dictionary does list the primary definition of infra as “To or at a lower level,” but the rendering of “south” is accepted as a possible meaning of the word here even by those who would prefer the alternative.[10]

On the other hand, the sense of lower elevation seems to have been chosen by a number of translators prior to the discovery of the Scrolls, and while it may or may not be correct, it certainly cannot be summarily dismissed as a possibility. John Lightfoot thus writes that “The town Engadda lay beneath the Essenes”[11]; Johann David Michaelis places the Essenes “in the neighbourhood of Engeddi”[12]; Brownlee, while accepting that the Essenes lived at Qumran, nevertheless thought that “we should not exclude the possibility of there having been another Essene establishment near Engedi, of which Pliny heard.”[13] Indeed, Driver argues that the description of Pliny “does not suggest that the Essene settlement was nearly 20 miles distant from the town of Engada; rather, it implies that it was contiguous though out of reach of the noxious exhalations of the shore.”[14] And Qumran would have been adjacent to the shore in the first century.

Cansdale suggests that in light of Pliny’s use of the points of the compass elsewhere in his works, that had he meant “south” he would have said so.[15] This, however, does perhaps not take into account the possibility that Pliny was reliant upon a source for his description of En Gedi as infra the Essenes. Nevertheless, in the chapters surrounding Pliny’s description of the Essenes, we read of Lake Mareotis, which is said to be “to the southern side of the city,”[16] where Pliny employs the word meridianus (“southerly”): mareotis lacus a meridiana urbis parte. The related word meridies (“south”) is used a little later: “The Arabs are adjacent to these: the Canchlei on the east, and the Cedrei to the south.” (his arabes iunguntur, ab oriente canchlei, a meridie cedrei, qui deinde ambo nabataeis).[17] A little further on and we read: “and still more to the south is Babylonia” (ac magis etiamnum meridiana babylonia).[18]

These do not inform us whether Pliny would have used the word for “south” in the sense of downstream. However, the word is used several times again in relation to the Jordan river and the Dead Sea: “[the towns of] Julias and Hippo on the east, Tarichea to the south … Tiberias to the west” (ab oriente iuliade et hippo, a meridie tarichea, ab occidente tiberiade).[19] Again we are told concerning the Dead Sea that “facing it from the east is Arabia, of the tribes, and Machaerus from the south” (prospicit eum ab oriente arabia nomadum, a meridie machaerus).[20] At this point, significantly for our purposes, Pliny introduces the Essenes as living on “the western shore” (ab occidente litora) of the Dead Sea,[21] using the geographical term occidēns which he has used above of Tiberias in conjunction with meridies. There follow our disputed words: “below/south of them, was the town of En Gadda” (infra hos engada oppidum fuit). In light of this limited, yet seemingly consistent usage, the conclusion of Cansdale seems warranted.

Israeli archaeologist Yizhar Hirschfeld identifies what he believes to have been Pliny’s Essene settlement near En Gedi. The buildings are mainly small dwellings, each of which would have had a single inhabitant.[22] Not only was there an absence of luxury items, but Hirschfeld also found no evidence of meat-consumption, in contrast to other sites.[23] Josephus notes that the Essenes ate bread with vegetables, for this seems to be the meaning of ἓν ἀγγεῖον ἐξ ἑνὸς ἐδέσματος.[24]

From this community a path led down to En Gedi.[25] Perhaps significantly, the locals refer to this site as the “Essene village.”[26] However, there were only about 28 such buildings, hardly conforming to Pliny’s description of the multitudes. This is not the only option as a possible Essene site; two suitable sites in caves were located in the nineteenth century—before the advent of the Essene hypothesis—600 feet above En Gedi, by William F. Lynch.[27]

Qumran and the Essene Settlemnt

If we accept that Pliny did refer to a settlement north of En Gedi, Pliny’s description still fails to agree with the site of Qumran in a number of particulars. To begin with, Qumran was destroyed during the Jewish War, whereas Pliny describes the Essenes flourishing after Jerusalem and En Gedi had been reduced to ash heaps. Jodi Magness simply dismisses this observation, stating that Pliny was “confused” in his chronology.[28] Dupont-Sommer argues that Pliny used the historical present,[29] but Pliny employs a clear distinction of tenses.

Furthermore, Qumran is located on a rocky plateau, now about a mile inland from the sea, but probably adjoining the sea in the first century. In relation to Pliny’s description, Cansdale notes that Qumran, having no perennial water supply, cannot be described as a place where sectarians would have had “only palm trees for company.”[30] Furthermore, whereas Masada is described as being on a rock, the Essene settlement is not so described. It is possible to attribute error to Pliny, or to claim that he was speaking hyperbolically or generally, and this may be the case. But in so far as he does speak, his words tend against the Essene hypothesis.

City Dwellers or Village Dwellers?

The classical authors appear to be at variance with each other on the question of the location of the Essene settlements. According to Josephus, they lived in communities dispersed throughout the nation. Philo tells us that they “live in many cities of Judea and in many villages and grouped in great societies of many members.”[31]

Josephus mentions an Essene Gate in Jerusalem,[32] and archaeologists are generally agreed that this led into an Essene quarter within Jerusalem, which is thought to have been in the south-west section of the city.[33] The Essene quarter in Jerusalem had probably been a center of Essene life for a considerable time, predating the destruction of Qumran in 31 B.C.E.[34]

Philo, however, speaks of the Essenes as “fleeing the cities, and living in villages”,[35] which appears to contradict the idea of their having lived in Jerusalem. Boccaccini, however, argues that the word “cities” here (poleis) refers to “political and social communities rather than places.” He also observes that for “they live in villages,” the Greek uses an adverb (kōmēdon), not the accusative plural (kōmas), meaning that the Essenes live “village-wise.”[36] Boccaccini suggests that we should understand Josephus in the following way: “There is not one town (polis) of them only, but in every town (polis) several of them form a colony (metoikeō).[37]

The impression thus gained from Philo and Josephus is that they were dispersed throughout the land, and lived in towns and villages, but in their own quarters, apart from the general populace. Pliny describes the Essenes who lived near En Gedi, but he seems to have misunderstood the significance of the settlement, as though it were the only colony of the Essenes. We should thus probably not understand the En Gedi settlement as experiencing crowds of newcomers over the hyperbolic “thousands of centuries”. Indeed, according to Josephus, there were only about 4000 Essenes in the whole nation. Rather, he describes the crowds of newcomers that would replenish the ranks of the Essenes, despite their not marrying and begetting children.

Neither Josephus nor Philo describe the Essenes as living at Qumran. According to the excavations at Khirbet Qumran under Roland de Vaux, the site was occupied from the end of the second century B.C.E. until the destruction of the settlement by the Romans (usually assigned to the year 68 C.E.), with a brief interlude during the reign of Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.E.).[38] According to the Essene hypothesis, the Essenes occupied Qumran during this time, a period of nearly two centuries; even though those writers who describe the Essenes before the Jewish War make no mention of this site. If it did belong to the Essenes, it does not appear to have been particularly important.

Marriage and Celibacy

One of the most striking features of the Essenes in the classical sources is that of their celibacy. According to Philo, they had banned marriage from among themselves.[39] Josephus also says that they refuse marriage, but he points out that they apply this only to themselves[40]; they do not condemn the institution of marriage itself, but left it to others.[41] Pliny also states that the Essenes lived without women, having renounced love.[42]

Among the sectarian works, the Damascus Document speaks about those from among the sect in the camps who marry and beget children.[43] Another fragment from the same text lays it down that whoever approaches his wife, “not according to the rules,” will be excluded.[44] The Damascus Document speaks of those in authority in the sect who were called “Mothers.”[45] Marriage is elsewhere spoken of in a polemical context, where the writer of a Qumran document condemns the interpretation of the law held by the Pharisees, who allowed niece-uncle marriages.[46]

Although the authors of the Qumran documents do not appear to share the renunciation of marriage which Pliny attributes to them, it is also true that Josephus spoke of another order of Essenes who were separate from the main body in that they allowed marriage.[47] Consequently some scholars argue that the Qumran sectarian works represent one[48] or both groups.[49] This would, however, still leave no mention of the issue of celibacy in the Qumran texts, which would suggest that the library belonged to the married order, if to any.  

Elders and Young Men: Qumran and the Essenes Contrasted

According to Philo, “No Essene is a mere child nor even a stripling or newly bearded”.[50] Instead, he tells us that they are men inclining to old age.[51] In contrast, the Qumran texts speak of younger members participating in the community. The Messianic Rule speaks of initiates joining at 20 years of age,[52] and of members serving as judges from age 30.[53] Unlike Philo, Josephus does tell us that the Essenes adopted the children of others and instructed them in their ways.[54] It would be plausible to suggest that some of these, at least, might want to join the community themselves, upon reaching adulthood, and so it may be possible to reconcile the Messianic Rule with Josephus’ words here (though it would disagree with Philo). Nevertheless, we do not know how long these children lived among the Essenes. They may have been given over to the Essenes by their parents for instruction and training for a period of time, and not necessarily permanently adopted.

The religious group associated with Qumran certainly does not match Philo’s description of the Essenes. According to Stegemann (a supporter of the Essene hypothesis), of 54 graves that have been opened at Khirbet Qumran, the ages of those interred at death ranged from twenty to thirty-five years of age, with the average age being thirty years old.[55] This is particularly striking when we bear in mind that, according to Josephus, most of the Essenes, because of their “simplicity of life,” lived to be over a hundred years old.[56] This is a noteworthy divergence of evidence. However, caution is still required, since only a fraction of the graves have been excavated up to this point.

Initiation into the Community

Both the Essenes and the Qumran community required an initiation process which took place over several years, and which utilized an oath. Josephus records the Essene initiation, and the Community Rule (6.14-23) that of the Qumran sectarians. This “correspondence between 1QS and the description of the Essenes in Josephus” is seen by John Collins as evidence for identifying the groups described.[57] But there do appear to be some discrepancies with respect to the timing of the oath between Josephus and the Community Rule.[58] Thus, whereas the Essenes appear to have eaten of the common food after the oath, the Qumran sectarians waited a full year between the oath and partaking of the “Pure Meal.”[59] A separate stage of admittance to touch the drink after another year of probation is not mentioned with regard to the Essenes.[60]

Perhaps the most significant divergence is that the Community Rule envisions the new initiate taking their oath at the beginning of process, which lasts some years, whereas the Essene swore at the end of the process. Probably none of this is strong enough evidence on which to build any firm conclusions .[61] It is possible that there were local differences in initiation, or that practices changed over time, or that Josephus was mistaken.[62] However, by the same token, it was probably the case that any sect or sectarian group of the time would have had similar initiation practices. Had the descriptions of Josephus (who was personally acquainted with the Essene initiation) corresponded more closely to the Qumran group, it might have yielded some positive evidence in favor of the hypothesis. As it is, the evidence is at best inconclusive.  

Business, Possessions and Slavery

According to Philo, the Essenes held a common purse, and had their food and clothing in common.[63] The Qumran sectarian works also seem to recognize some kind of community of goods. The Community Rule, for example, speaks of new initiates bringing their possessions into the community.[64] However, it is also clear from the same text that there was still some form of private property in the Qumran sect, since those who cause loss to the community are to reimburse it.[65] The Damascus Document speaks of members of the group giving at least two days’ wages to the community every month, for the support of the needy.[66] Philo, on the contrary, states that the Essenes brought all of their wages into the community.[67]

Again it is possible to posit non-falsifiable theories to uphold the hypothesis, such as that there were separate orders within the Qumran sect with variations in practice; our knowledge of this group is not sufficient that we can know exactly what their economic organization looked like in every instance. Nevertheless the evidence does once again point away from identifying the Essenes with the Qumran sectaries.

This impression is strengthened when we note that the Essenes are said to have been thoroughly opposed to the holding of slaves as property. Josephus tells us that the Essenes considered slavery an injustice, and Philo is emphatic that there is not a single slave among them, since they consider slave-owning to be a transgression of equality and the law of nature.[68] This is not the case with the sectarian community responsible for the Damascus Document, in which it is directed that the faithful were not to sell their slaves to Gentiles.[69] It is not likely that Philo would be so emphatic if he had only an imperfect knowledge of their arrangements, or that Josephus, who knew the group by personal experience, would have followed him in his error. It is surely easier to posit that while the Qumran sectarians allowed slavery, the Essenes did not, and were renowned for their opposition to this practice.

The Ancient Library of the Essenes: Healing, Roots and the Properties of Stones

Josephus tells us that the Essenes inquired about healing, roots and the properties of stones.[70] When we consider the library said to have assembled by the Essenes at Qumran, we are struck by the almost complete absence of such interests. There have, to be sure, been attempts to find evidence of interest in these subjects within the Qumran corpus. Beall thinks there are “numerous indications of the group’s interest in healing” among the Dead Sea Scrolls, but his examples add up to isolated references to the wicked not being healed, or the righteous being visited with healing.[71] Beall also mentions the Genesis Apocryphon’s account of Abraham praying for Pharaoh’s healing,[72] the reference in Jubilees to Noah being taught about all medicines,[73] and other such texts. Beall does, however, admit that evidence of the practice of roots and properties of stones “is lacking at Qumran.”[74]

While there are such isolated references to healing, it is hardly the case that the Qumran library is characterized by interest in healing, let alone roots and the properties of stones. Here we have a library of nearly a thousand books, and none of them exhibit an interest in the themes for which the Essenes were renowned. On the contrary, when we think of the Qumran library, we think of such common themes as angelic liturgy, apocalyptic battles, halakhah, and the solar calendar.

Attitudes to War

According to Philo, among the Essenes there was no manufacturer “of arrows, spears, swords, helmets, corselets, or shields, any maker of arms or war-machines.”[75] The outlook of the Qumran sect appears quite distinct. The War Scroll looks to a great eschatological battle in which the sect’s enemies would all be destroyed. According to this work, the officers of the community would exhort those prepared for war during the final battle.[76] Granted that this does not tell us whether they believed in engaging in war before God initiated the final battle, but the Damascus Document does speak of the “men of war” among the followers of the teacher of righteousness who turned back and forsook him.[77]. The Pesher Habakukk may suggest that the Qumran sectarians believed that the final battle would take place when the “elect” would fight against the “Kittim”[78] (understood to refer to the Romans).[79] In contrast, we do not gain the impression from Philo that the Essenes were readying themselves for a cataclysmic battle with the Romans.

The sentiments of the sectarian works do line up with the history of Khirbet Qumran, however. The archaeological evidence from the site shows that it was destroyed in a Roman siege, and not peacefully surrendered. The walls were “mined through” and “the building ruins … sealed in layers of ash from a great conflagration.”[80] To account for this, de Vaux raised the suggestion that the Essenes left in 68 C.E., and were replaced by the sicarii, before the site was besieged and destroyed by the Romans.[81] While possible, such a contrivance does leave de Vaux open to the charge of fitting the data to the hypothesis. The inhabitants of Qumran could well have believed that they were now in the final eschatological war, and have acted accordingly.[82]

In contrast to the apocalyptic ending of the Qumran compound, Josephus praised the passive endurance of the Essenes under torture during the Roman campaign. Josephus does not speak of their resisting the Romans militarily, but only of their enduring death rather than blaspheming under compulsion. Elsewhere Josephus describes them as teaching that in all things one should rely upon God.[83]

The only indication we have of possible Essene involvement in the War is the name of a Jewish general: John the Essene. Whether this John was an exception,[84] or whether he was even ever a member of the sect,[85] have been brought into question. Either way, it is probably not safe to read into the attitudes of the Essenes as a whole the actions of a single person. However, the Essene oath, as recorded by Josephus, does speak of those who might be called into a position of authority, directing that this duty is fulfilled without insolence.[86] Josephus also notes that in their initiation oath, the Essenes also swore to obey the authorities. The oath adds that no-one becomes a ruler apart from God.[87] Such being the case, it is at least theoretically possible that the Essenes joined the Jewish War at the behest of the authorities.

Who were the Essenes?

Before the advent of the Essene hypothesis, many suggestions were suggested and debated on the question of the identity of the Essene sect.[88] I think it is time to revisit these suggestions, divorced from any need to reconcile the result with the Qumran texts. To begin with, the question of possible connections with the Therapeutae in Egypt needs to re-opened; perhaps we might even speak of a Jewish philosophic tradition, exemplified by writers such as Philo, which was more widespread than we have hitherto allowed. In favor of the existence of such a tradition, I note that according to Josephus, the Essenes held the name of the “Lawgiver” as highest under God.[89] Philo also spoke much of the “Lawgiver,” understanding the ideal lawgiver according to Greek conceptions, citing Solon and Lycurgus as esteemed lawgivers,[90] but extolling Moses as the greatest. In Philo’s conception, the ideal lawgiver is one who loves goodness, justice and humanity.[91]

The emphasis of the Essenes upon Moses (presumably) as the “lawgiver” is suggestive of a common philosophical outlook with Philo. Indeed, according to Philo, the Essenes taught (philosopheitai) an ancient method (archaiotropō) of teaching through allegory (dia symbolōn).[92] A spiritualized interpretation of the law may be suggested by the Essene’s aversion to being anointed with oil, required by the law. I think it likely that Philo would have praised a philosophical life which exemplified the ideals he himself advocated, including, perhaps, his own allegorical approach to the Hebrew Scriptures. It seems unlikely that he would have enthusiastically praised the Qumran sect.

There appears to be Greek influences upon the Essenes also, as there were upon Philo. According to Josephus, the Essenes “live the same kind of life as do those whom the Greeks call Pythagoreans.”[93] Josephus’ comment was taken seriously by some scholars, before the discovery of Qumran, and argued accordingly.[94] The third-century Christian writer Hippolytus of Rome went so far as to claim that the Pythagorus and the Stoics were disciples of the Essenes.[95] In common with Greek conceptions, the Essenes, according to Josephus, held that souls are immortal, but are held in bodies which serve as prisons.[96] Josephus also writes that they believed that just souls go to a place beyond the Ocean, and that in this they agree with the Greeks; the wicked, however, go to a pit, which Josephus associates with the Greek Hades.[97]

Conclusion

The evidence provided has suggested that the Essene hypothesis is not the only way of explaining the data drawn from the classical authors, nor necessarily the most plausible. Even if the Essene hypothesis has not been vanquished, I hope that I have shown that it does not deserve to dominate the field to the exclusion of all other sensible alternatives.

In light of the critical problems with the Essene-Qumran hypothesis, old and discarded theories about the origins of the Essene sect should be re-evaluated. We need to go back and take seriously the descriptions of the classical authors, rather than forcing the classical authors into the mold of the Essene-hypothesis.

Select Bibliography

Beall, Todd S. Josephus’s Description of the Essenes Illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Boccaccini, Gabriele. Beyond the Essene hypothesis: the parting of the ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1998.

Cansdale, Lena. Qumran and the Essenes : A Re-Evaluation of the Evidence. Tubingen:  Siebeck, 1997.

Collins, John J. “Essenes.” Pages 619-626 in vol. 2 of The Anchor Bible Dictionary.

Edited by David Noel Freedman. 6 volumes. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Crawford, Sidnie White. “Not According to Rule: Women, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran.” Emanuel: Studies in Hebrew Bible Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls in Honor of Emanuel Tov. Shalom M. Paul, Robert A. Kraft, Lawrence H. Schiff man and Weston W. Fields, eds. Leiden: Brill, 2003, 127–150.

Dupont-Sommer, A. Les Ecrits Esséniens Découverts près de la Mer Morte. Paris: Payot, 1959.

Golb, Norman. Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? New York: Scriber, 1995.

Laperrousaz,  E. M. “Le problème de l’origine des manuscrits découverts près de la Mer Morte, à propos d’un livre récent.” Numen 7 (1960): 26-76.

Shanks, Hershel. The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Random House, 1998.

—– Searching for Essenes at Ein Gedi, not Qumran, Biblical Archaeology Review, 28 (2002): 18-27, 60.

Stegeman, Hartmut. The Library of Qumran. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1998.

VanderKam, James. The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus and Christianity. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002.

Vermes, Geza, and Pamela Vermes. The Dead Sea Scrolls: Qumran in Perspective. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981.

—– The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. London: Penguin, 2004.


[1] There are less significant references to the Essenes in later writers, including Porphyry, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius.

[2] See James Vanderkam and Peter Flint, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2002), 241.

[3] André Dupont-Sommer, Les écrits esséniens découverts près de la mer Morte (Paris: Payot, 1959).

[4] Josephus, Vit. 2.

[5] Todd S. Beall, Josephus’ Description of the Essenes Illustrated by the Dead Sea Scrolls (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 2-3.

[6] The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew University (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1955) 29, cited in Vanderkam and Flint, Meaning, 240.

[7] Pliny, Nat. 5.15.73; Goodman translation, as cited by G. Vermes and M. D. Goodman, eds., The Essenes According to the Classical Sources (Oxford Centre Textbooks 1; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989) 33. Also cited by Vanderkam, 240-41.

[8] Hartmut Stegemann,  The Library of Qumran: on the Essenes, Qumran, John the Baptist, and Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 58.

[9] I.e. E. M. Laperrousaz, “Le problème de l’origine des manuscrits découverts près de la Mer Morte, à propos d’un livre récent,” Numen 7 (1960): 33.

[10] G. R. Driver, The Judean Scrolls (New York: Schocken Books, 1965), 400: That ‘below these’ means that Engaddi lay further down the coast, i.e. to the south of the supposed Essene settlement at Qumrân … is linguistically possible even though such a use of the preposition is rare.”

[11] John Lightfoot, Works vol. 10 (London: J. F. Dove, 1823), 16.

[12] Johann David Michaelis, trans. Herbert Marsh, Introduction to the New Testament, vol. 4 (Cambridge: John Burges,1804), 87.

[13] William Hugh Brownlee, The Meaning of the Qumrân Scrolls for the Bible (Oxford University Press, 1964), 135.

[14] Driver, Judean, 400-401. Cf. Cansdale, Qumran, 26; c.f. Crown and Cansdale, “Qumran,” 28.

[15] Lena Cansdale, Qumran and the Essenes: A Re-Evaluation of the Evidence (Tubingen: Siebeck, 1997), 26; c.f. A. D. Crown and L. Cansdale, “Qumran – Was it an Essene Settlement?” BAR 20:5 (Sept/Oct 1994) 24-35, 73-78, here 26; Hershel Shanks, The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Random House, 1998), 126-130.

[16] English, 5.11; Latin 5:22. Translations in this paper are my own, unless otherwise noted.

[17] English 5.12 ; Latin 5.23

[18] English 5.13; Latin 5:24.

[19] English 5.15 ; Latin 5 :27.

[20] English 5.15 ; Latin 5.28.

[21] English 5.17; Latin 5.29.

[22] Hershel Shanks, “Searching for Essenes at Ein Gedi, not Qumran,” Biblical Archaeology Review 28 (2002): 18-27, 60, here 23.

[23] Shanks, “Searching,” 24-25.

[24] Wars 2.130. This would agree with the description of Josephus that they lived entirely by husbandry.

[25] Shanks, “Searching,” 23.

[26] Shanks, Mystery, 130.

[27] Lena Cansdale, Qumran and the Essenes: A Re-Evaluation of the Evidence (Tubingen: Siebeck, 1997), 26.

[28] Jodi Magness, The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2003), 41.

[29] A. Dupont-Sommer, Les Ecrits Esséniens Découverts près de la Mer Morte (Paris : Payot, 1959), 414.

[30] Cansdale, 175.

[31] Philo, Hypothetica 11:1, cited by Shanks, Mystery, 88.

[32] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 5.4.2.

[33] For bibliography, see Brian Capper, “The Palestinian Cultural Context of Earliest Christian Community of Goods,” in The Book of Acts in Its Palestinian Setting, Richard Bauckham, ed., (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1995), 343.

[34] Hartmut Stegemann, “The Qumran Essenes: Local Members of the Main Jewish Union in Second Temple Times,” The Madrid Qumran Congress: Proceedings of the International Congress on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Madrid 18-21 March 1991, vol. 1, Julio Trebolle Barrera, Luis Vegas Montaner, eds (Leiden: Brill, 1992), 137.

[35] Philo, Omn. Prob. Lib. 76, quoted in Gabriele Boccaccini, Beyond the Essene hypothesis: the parting of the ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1998), 25.

[36] Boccaccini, Beyond, 25.

[37] Josephus, Bell. Jud. 2.124, cited by Boccaccini, Beyond, 25.

[38] This period has since been generally revised down, with a later starting point.

[39] Philo, Apologia pro Judaeis 14.

[40] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 2.120.

[41] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 2.121.

[42] Pliny, Nat. 5.17.4.

[43] CD 7.6-9.

[44] 4Q270 fragment 7; cf. Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (London: Penguin, 2004), 34.

[45] 4Q270 fragment 7.

[46] CD 5. 8-11.

[47] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 13.160.

[48] Vanderkam, Meaning, 250.

[49] Collins, Apocalypticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls (London; New York: Routledge, 1997), 8.

[50] Philo, Hypothetica 11.3, quoted by Shanks, Mystery, 89.

[51] Philo, Apol. pro Jud. 1.3.

[52] 1QSa 1.9-10.

[53] 1QSa 1.13-15.

[54] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 2.120.

[55] Stegemann,  Library, 47.

[56] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 2.139.

[57] John J. Collins, “Essenes,” ABD 2.622.

[58] The following divergences are noted by Driver, Judean, 110-111.

[59] 1QS 6.17.

[60] 1QS 6.20-21.

[61] Vandekam, Meaning, 247

[62] Collins, “Essenes,” 623.

[63] Philo, Omn. Prob. Lib. 86.

[64] 1QS 6.18-20.

[65] 1 QS 7.6-8.

[66] CD 14.13

[67] Philo, Omn. Prob. Lib. 86.

[68] Josephus, Ant. 18.1; Philo, Omn. Prob. Lib. 79.

[69] CD 12.10.

[70] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 2.136.

[71] Beall, Josephus’, 72.

[72] Beall, Josephus’, 72, citing 1QapGen20:19,20 .

[73] Beall, Josephus’, 72-73, citing Jub. 10.10-14.

[74] Beall, Josephus’, 72.

[75] Philo, Omn. Prob. Lib. 12, trans. Moffatt, cited by Norman Golb, “Khirbet Qumran and the Manuscript Finds,” in Michael Wise, Norman Golb, John J. Collins, and Dennis G. Pardee, eds., Methods of Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Khirbet Qumran Site (New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1994), 51-72, here 56.

[76] 1QM 10.5.

[77] CD 8.14.

[78] 1QM 1.5-12.

[79] Vermes, Complete, 59-60.

[80] Frank Moore Cross, Ancient Library (1958), 45, cited by Golb, “Khirbet,” 54.

[81] Golb, “Khirbet,” 56, citing De Vaux in Revue Biblique 61 (1954), 234.

[82] Perhaps it is time to reconsider the Zealot hypothesis argued by G. W. Driver in his The Judean Scrolls, and Cecil Roth, The Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Norton, 1965). 

[83] Josephus, Ant. 5.18.

[84] Golb, Who, 15.

[85] Cecil Roth suggested that the name was, not John the Essene, but John the taciturn. See Roth, Dead, xix n.1.

[86] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 7.137.

[87] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 7.137.

[88] For a survey and discussion of the various theories propounded before the Qumran discoveries, see Emil Schürer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, trans. Sophia Taylor and Peter Christie, vol. 2, New York: Scribner, 1896, 205-218

[89] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 9.145.

[90] Philo, Spec. 3.22-23.

[91] Philo, Mos. 2.9.

[92] Philo, Omn. Prob. Lib. 82, Greek text from Vermes and Goodman, Essenes, 23.

[93] Josephus, Ant. 15.10.4, trans. William Whiston.

[94] This was argued, amongst others, by Eduard Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy, trans. Sarah Frances Alleyne and Evelyn Abbott (New York: Henry Holt, 1889), 316-320. A more recent study of this question is Justin Taylor, Pythagoreans And Essenes: Structural Parallels (Paris/Louvain: Peeters, 2004). Taylor accepts the Essene hypothesis and considers Pythagorean parallels in the Qumran sectarian works also.

[95] Hippolytus of Rome, Refutation of all Heresies, 9.27.

[96] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 11.154.

[97] Josephus, Bell. Jud., 11.154.