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The Essenes were a Jewish religious sect in Israel. They originated in the first or second century BC, and disappeared from Bible History around the time of the Fall of Jerusalem In 70 A.D.. They are not mentioned specifically by name in The Bible, but some have speculated that the Essenes' austere, celibate religious lifestyle is referred to in some Scriptures in the New Testament, however this is unclear.

Ancient Scroll

What is known about the Essenes is found primarily from first-century historians such as Flavius Josephus and Philo, and slightly later writers such as Hippolytus and Pliny the Elder:

  • they lived a communal lifestyle based on manual labor, with strict rules of behavior required by all members.

  • the were generally unmarried and celibate; their members came from those who joined them.

  • according to Pliny, their total membership was less than about 4,000

  • they were strict observers of The Ten Commandments and the "Law of Moses," however they apparently did not participate in worship at the Temple (see Temples) in Jerusalem.

  • they did not swear oaths, except for an oath of loyalty, obedience and secrecy that new members took after a 3 year probation period.

  • they remained separate from the society at large around them, generally avoiding involvement in public life.

  • like the Pharisees, the Essenes, while believing in eternal life, opposed the belief in a literal Resurrection, a point alone (among others) that proves that John The Baptist was not an Essene, as some have speculated. Other "Biblical scholars" have even speculated that Jesus Christ was an Essene, an idea that, in the light of Christ's recorded teachings in the New Testament, is absurd.

  • The Essenes are believed by some historians to be responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Khirbet Qumran.

Fact Finder: What were the Dead Sea Scrolls?
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