Skip to comments.Scholar: The Essenes, Dead Sea Scroll 'authors,' never existed
Posted on 03/13/2009 8:18:50 AM PDT by TaraP
Scholarship suggesting the existence of the Essenes, a religious Jewish group that lived in the Judea before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, is wrong, according to Prof. Rachel Elior, whose study on the subject will be released soon.
Elior blasts the predominant opinion of Dead Sea Scrolls scholars that the Essenes had written the scrolls in Qumran, claiming instead that they were written by ousted Temple priests in Jerusalem.
"Sixty years of research have been wasted trying to find the Essenes in the scrolls. But they didn't exist, they were invented by [Jewish-Roman historian] Josephus. It's a history of errors which is simply nonsense," she said.
In his book "The Jewish War," Flavius Josephus describes the Essenes as an ascetic, mystical religious sect that lived in abstinence from worldly pleasures, including sex.
The Essenes are commonly believed to have written the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in a Qumran cave in 1947 and are considered the most significant archaeological discovery of the past century.
The scrolls consist of numerous religious documents including preserved copies of the Hebrew Bible, untouched from as early as 300 BCE.
Many scholars claim that the Essenes were the first Christians, or were related to John the Baptist and to Jesus Christ. Prof. James Charlesworth, a senior Bible scholar who also specializes in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus and the Gospel of John, believes John the Baptist lived among the Essenes for at least a year and drew some of his central ideas from them.
(Excerpt) Read more at haaretz.com ...
I wonder if he thought that maybe, just maybe, that was a nickname for the 'ousted temple priests'?
I have a vague recollection of an old joke in which a scholar asserts that Shakespeare’s plays were not actually written by Shakespeare, but by another man with the same name.
I had a similar thought; that Essenes was the name taken by the ousted temple priests, or a name applied to them...
Since those in Jerusalem celebrated Purim and the scroll writers did not, I would think this theory has problems. None of the theories are 100%, but assuming the scroll writers were either Essene or Essene-like is the best option...imho
I’ve always understood that they where priests of the Maccabe tradition, versus, the Herodian appointed priests, so ‘ousted priests’ would fit.
In addition, Philo Judeaeus is named as a minor second source for the existence of the sect. Philo apparently dates from 25 BC. That places him as Christ's contemporary. While he wrote little about them, it would seem the name was a familiar one at the time (in Greek, Essenos).
Exactly how this author comes to suggest they never existed is a question in itself. There may be little evidence of their existence, but that isn't confirmation of their later invention.
“... before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE”
Why does the author use the term “CE” instead of “AD”? Isn’t that the new secular progressive term to steer people away from a historical biblical perspective? I’ve always gone with BC and AD and I don’t think I’ll ever change.
Anno Domini is good enough for me. Common Era can be for someone else.
Actually, my understanding was that the Essenes WERE dissident Temple priests, sorta. The notion I’m referring to was that the Essenes were trying to revive the schools of prophecy which had written most of the Old Testament. They had found the dominant Temple priests unreceptive, and so, just like the more ancient prophets, set up camp in the wilderness.
Unstated but tempting to assume in this notion is that they did consider themselves eligible to be temple priests, but rejected, or that they actually were temple priests who then were dismissed or left in protest.
Anyone know anything about the Essenes which can support this notion or not? It’s actually a notion I probably picked up from my mother when I was a kid, so it’s nothing I can support. (She was studying theology, but often mentioned stuff from her classes which was pretty much bleeding-edge theoretical at the time... which was the 1970s. (gasp!!! — but she did have a very good head on her shoulders and knew how to recognize nonsense.))
I figure this is year 233 CE, 2009 AD.
Well, who we are going to believe, Flavius Josephus, who lived during this time or someone a few thousand years later with a degree......hmmmmm
Some writers believe CE is more scholarly. I once heard the question asked to Lawrence Schiffman (sp?), a Jewish Dead Sea Scrolls Scholar, and he did not really understand the notation either since you just can’t get around the fact our calendar is structured around Christ’s Birth.
Yeah. Same thing with happened with the works of Homer.
by some Brit propagandist
around Shakespeare’s time?***
I remember reading about a Brit in the 1800s who claimed that the origional Holy Land was in England and Edinburogh was the real Jerusalem. He claimed that Constantine altered the history to the mid east.
Poor Constantine. Without him who could we blame for all the religious woes in Christianity. /Sarc.
BEC= Before Common era.
If it bothers you use these diefinitions...
CE =Christ Entered
BCE=Before Christ Entered.
So, Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare’s plays? Shakespeare did? Amazing!
I guess it would make sense, then, that the Essene’s weren’t a Jewish sect founded by dissident priests. Instead they were a Jewish sect founded by dissident priests. Scholarship astounds me!
< /sarc >
In fairness, I think part of the rejection of BC is supposedly that Christ wasn’t born in 1 AD, but 4-10 years earlier. Of course, this was known for hundreds of years before anti-Christian bigots took over the universities, but only was acted upon after the takeover.
What is funny is that both terms still use year “0” (appointed year of Jesus’ birth) as the pivot year, so they are still acknowledging the birth of Jesus as the changing of all Western time and history.
Silly, silly academicians, trying so hard to be “above it all.”
Heck, why not go for the gold dude? -The Dead Sea scrolls never existed! Saul of Tarsus and Jesus of Nazareth never existed!
All that crap is make-believe for the weakminded, remember?
Agreed! BC is fine. hey went CE to be multicultural and anti christian.
"Publish or perish!"
This maxim does not say what one publishes has to make any sense, be hisorically correct, written well, or be based on sound, logical arguement or research.
Bear in mind that: scholars publish so that other scholars can read, critique, and publish counter publications...all for the betterment of scholarship!!
And the wheels of the bus go round and round.
Is your name Lazarus Long?:)
Born about 25 B.C.. His family, of a sacerdotal line, was one of the most powerful of the populous Jewish colony of Alexandria. His brother Alexander Lysimachus was steward to Anthony's second daughter, and married one of his sons to the daughter of Herod Agrippa, whom he had put under financial obligations. Alexander's son, Tiberius Alexander, apostatized and became procurator of Judea and Prefect of Egypt.
It would seem to me that if Philo wrote about the Essenes, albeit minor references,some weight should be given to it...
No, It’s not an accuracy in year numbering thing. Its because its not multicultural. They don’t like any referece to Christ when looking at non-christians, such as Mayans, Chinese, Indians, etc.
They didnt do this in a vacuum, with no idea it might offend christans. Its just another way to say the West is nothing to be proud of.
Relative of Joseph Smith, by any chance? ;)
I thought the Carmelites traced their origins back to the Essenes as well? So I suppose if a modern academic wanted to see what the Essenes lived like, he could visit his local Carmelite monastery? I could be wrong in this, I am not sure how close Mt. Carmel is to where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
Dissidence came about due to Herod's brutalities, his flauting of Jewish moral teaching, his client status with the Romans and tolerance for Roman religious practices, and not the least, in Herod's being an Edomite and not actually a Jew.
Herod's temple, the dissidents held was an abomination as they believed it had been paid for by the Romans in an attempt to bolster Herod within religious elements, though the pro-Herod Sanhedrin accepted it.
In view of the background turmoil, what difference then if the documents in question were written in caves or in Jerusalem houses or the Starbucks of the day?
Caesar was invented too ... made up in the 1950s by the same people who made up the Essenes, the Bible, and Josephus' works, and based only on a vague similarity between the words "Tsar" and "Kaisar". There's no more evidence for him than for the Bible or the Essenes, and they even put him in the Bible as a clue that both are fictional. After they finished inventing Caesar, they noticed that he'd lived too long and done too much, so they divided him into multiple Caesars: Julius, Augustus, Caligula, Nero, and the rest, but they're all fictional and their writer was only a little older than people we know.
That's creative, I may publish it in an academic journal!
Yah it is funny. Poor Constantine, he had all this power and redid the entire faith yet somehow couldn’t even get the east and west to agree on how to calculate Easter/Pascha. *eye roll*.
The man was raised up by God and the entire Church owes a great deal to Holy St. Constantine.
I know this Prof. Rachel Elior. She has an agenda, she is very anti-Israel and an atheist. I would take James Charlesworth over her any day.
Also, the Essenes were one of MANY sects of Judaism that existed prior to the fall of Jerusalem. There is more evidence (outside of Josephus) for them than for many of the others that scholars ‘accept’.
In my analysis, Christianity traces its roots to John the Baptist...
John the Baptist was but the last in a long series of Old Testament prophets. Prophets of the messianic tradition, such as Isaiah, who wrote so much about the coming messiah.
While I agree with you in your description of the conditions existing in John the Baptist’s day, his opposition to the existing situation was not his primary mission. He was first and foremost the prophet crying in the wilderness that would introduce Jesus Christ to Israel.
The “roots of Christianity” then do not actually begin with John Baptist but is the long messianic and prophetic tradition in Israel preceeding him.
I think you mean Anatoly Fomeko.
His magnum opus is six or seven volumes, each volume hundreds of pages in length. Strange stuff.
He claims that the first 1,000 years of our history were essentially invented by the Catholic Church in a bid to dominate history. Christ wasn’t crucified in about AD 33 but instead in about 1085!!! He claims the crusades were a RESPONSE to the killing of Christ!
No no no! They weren't a Jewish sect founded by dissident priests! Newest research indicates they were in fact a dissident sect founded by Jewish priests!
Joke, heck, all kinds of speculation about that, including Amelia Bassano Lanier, a Marrano poet from Venice who was the first woman to publish a book of poetry in England. Also rumored to have shared a bed with William and another of the possible "real" Shakespeares, Edward de Vere I believe. Conspiracies aside, she may well have been a source of information both about Venice, Bill was never there, and Jews, Bill never met one, Amelia was as close as it got. Did I mention she might have been black? I love conspiracies, but sometimes the factual history is just as interesting.
XII. (75) Moreover Palestine and Syria too are not barren of exemplary wisdom and virtue, which countries no slight portion of that most populous nation of the Jews inhabits. There is a portion of those people called Essenes, in number something more than four thousand in my opinion, who derive their name from their piety, though not according to any accurate form of the Grecian dialect, because they are above all men devoted to the service of God, not sacrificing living animals, but studying rather to preserve their own minds in a state of holiness and purity. (76) These men, in the first place, live in villages, avoiding all cities on account of the habitual lawlessness of those who inhabit them, well knowing that such a moral disease is contracted from associations with wicked men, just as a real disease might be from an impure atmosphere, and that this would stamp an incurable evil on their souls. Of these men, some cultivating the earth, and others devoting themselves to those arts which are the result of peace, benefit both themselves and all those who come in contact with them, not storing up treasures of silver and of gold, nor acquiring vast sections of the earth out of a desire for ample revenues, but providing all things which are requisite for the natural purposes of life; (77) for they alone of almost all men having been originally poor and destitute, and that too rather from their own habits and ways of life than from any real deficiency of good fortune, are nevertheless accounted very rich, judging contentment and frugality to be great abundance, as in truth they are. (78) Among those men you will find no makers of arrows, or javelins, or swords, or helmets, or breastplates, or shields; no makers of arms or of military engines; no one, in short, attending to any employment whatever connected with war, or even to any of those occupations even in peace which are easily perverted to wicked purposes; for they are utterly ignorant of all traffic, and of all commercial dealings, and of all navigation, but they repudiate and keep aloof from everything which can possibly afford any inducement to covetousness; (79) and there is not a single slave among them, but they are all free, aiding one another with a reciprocal interchange of good offices; and they condemn masters, not only as unjust, inasmuch as they corrupt the very principle of equality, but likewise as impious, because they destroy the ordinances of nature, which generated them all equally, and brought them up like a mother, as if they were all legitimate brethren, not in name only, but in reality and truth. But in their view this natural relationship of all men to one another has been thrown into disorder by designing covetousness, continually wishing to surpass others in good fortune, and which has therefore engendered alienation instead of affection, and hatred instead of friendship; (80) and leaving the logical part of philosophy, as in no respect necessary for the acquisition of virtue, to the word-catchers, and the natural part, as being too sublime for human nature to master, to those who love to converse about high objects (except indeed so far as such a study takes in the contemplation of the existence of God and of the creation of the universe), they devote all their attention to the moral part of philosophy, using as instructors the laws of their country which it would have been impossible for the human mind to devise without divine inspiration. (81) Now these laws they are taught at other times, indeed, but most especially on the seventh day, for the seventh day is accounted sacred, on which they abstain from all other employments, and frequent the sacred places which are called synagogues, and there they sit according to their age in classes, the younger sitting under the elder, and listening with eager attention in becoming order. (82) Then one, indeed, takes up the holy volume and reads it, and another of the men of the greatest experience comes forward and explains what is not very intelligible, for a great many precepts are delivered in enigmatical modes of expression, and allegorically, as the old fashion was; (83) and thus the people are taught piety, and holiness, and justice, and economy, and the science of regulating the state, and the knowledge of such things as are naturally good, or bad, or indifferent, and to choose what is right and to avoid what is wrong, using a threefold variety of definitions, and rules, and criteria, namely, the love of God, and the love of virtue, and the love of mankind. (84) Accordingly, the sacred volumes present an infinite number of instances of the disposition devoted to the love of God, and of a continued and uninterrupted purity throughout the whole of life, of a careful avoidance of oaths and of falsehood, and of a strict adherence to the principle of looking on the Deity as the cause of everything which is good and of nothing which is evil. They also furnish us with many proofs of a love of virtue, such as abstinence from all covetousness of money, from ambition, from indulgence in pleasures, temperance, endurance, and also moderation, simplicity, good temper, the absence of pride, obedience to the laws, steadiness, and everything of that kind; and, lastly, they bring forward as proofs of the love of mankind, goodwill, equality beyond all power of description, and fellowship, about which it is not unreasonable to say a few words. (85) In the first place, then, there is no one who has a house so absolutely his own private property, that it does not in some sense also belong to every one: for besides that they all dwell together in companies, the house is open to all those of the same notions, who come to them from other quarters; (86) then there is one magazine among them all; their expenses are all in common; their garments belong to them all in common; their food is common, since they all eat in messes; for there is no other people among which you can find a common use of the same house, a common adoption of one mode of living, and a common use of the same table more thoroughly established in fact than among this tribe: and is not this very natural? For whatever they, after having been working during the day, receive for their wages, that they do not retain as their own, but bring it into the common stock, and give any advantage that is to be derived from it to all who desire to avail themselves of it; (87) and those who are sick are not neglected because they are unable to contribute to the common stock, inasmuch as the tribe have in their public stock a means of supplying their necessities and aiding their weakness, so that from their ample means they support them liberally and abundantly; and they cherish respect for their elders, and honour them and care for them, just as parents are honoured and cared for by their lawful children: being supported by them in all abundance both by their personal exertions, and by innumerable contrivances.
While not a lot, it implies a certain knowledge from one who was a contemporary and, as I pointed out previously, had connections to the Herod (Antipas?) administration. There is somewhat more (I downloaded and installed his entire works...) but this is the "essence of the Essenes" from his viewpoint...pun intended.
Yeah. Same thing with happened with the works of Homer.
Yup, I remember having to read “The Illiad” by Simpson in
high school. Duh!
Similar ideas were advanced by one Nikolai Morosov.
Morosov was a remarkable character. In late 19c he, a university student and a nobleman, got involved in the Narodniki revolutionary movement (the idea was to agitate the peasants in Russia) and ended up in jail, where he spent most of his life, freed by the 1917 revolutions as an old man.
He wrote volumes in prison, and studied volumes. His autobiography is a fascinating read. Among other things, he advanced a theory of a historical gap of about 3 centuries, which conflated the classical Greek civilization with Christian Rome, and the Byzantium with Rome. For example, the Parthenon, according to him was a Christian Church dedicated to the Virgin. I wish I remembered the details, they were quite hilarious. I remember thinking how his perception of reality was necessarily warped by sitting in solitary confinement all his life, with, it seems, unlimited access to the prison library, while his human interaction was with the guards that brought food, and fellow prisoners with whom he communicated by knocking on the wall.
It makes perfect sense, now. Well, at least that’s something.
Just adding to the catalog, not sending a general distribution.
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You know what’s weird (and yet not at all unexpected)? If the Bible mentions a person or a group “scholars” automatically assume a skeptical attitude and refuse to consider the person/group as historical until it is “confirmed” by being mentioned elsewhere. But if any text other than the Bible mentions a person/group . . . well then, it’s absolute truth and to deny it is heresy!