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From: JamesTrimm <jstrimm@s...>
Date: Tue Sep 14, 1999 3:11
Subject: [essene] Essene Manifesto
The following is a call to action. It is my intent herein to declare an
ideology and a program which I hope will be readily percieved, easily
understood and successfully implemented within the Essene Community.
Esseneism is first and foremost a sect of Judaism and central to Judaism is
According to the Damascus Document (from the Dead Sea Scrolls), in order to
become a member of the Essene community (the Yahad) the following
proceedure was followed:
...they shall register him by the oath of the covenant that
Moses made with Israel, the covenant to return to the Law
(Torah) of Moses with a whole heart, and to return with
a whole spirit to that which is found therein to do...
(The Dead Sea Scrolls a New Translation;
Wise, Abegg and Cook p. 65)
According to Josephus the Essenes were stricter in observing the Sabbath,
for example than any other sect of Judaism:
...they are stricter than any other of the Jews in
resting from their labours on the Seventh day...(Wars 2:8:9)
Moreover the Essenes used the mezuzah. The mezuzah is a small box with
certain scripture passages wriiten on a parchment within it and placed on
the doorposts of a Jewish home in literal fulfilment of Deut. 6:9 and 11:20.
A Mezuzah was found at Qumran:
The earliest evidence we possess for the existence
of the mezuzah dates from the Second Temple period.
From this era, we have an example from Qumran
of a mezuzah parchment with some sentences from
Deuteronomy 10:1-11:1 written on it.
(The Mezuzah - A Visible Reminder of Who You Are;
p. 8; available from First Fruits of Zion www.ffoz.org )
The tefillin or phylactery are small boxes with certain scripture passages
written on parchments within them and with straps attached so that they may
be bound to the forehead and left hand twice a day in literal fulfilment of
Dt. 6:8; 11:18; Ex. 13:9, 16.
Several sets of tefillin were found at Qumran this is documented at:
So it is clear that the Essenes were a Torah observant sect of Judaism. A
great deal of information on Essene Halachah (methodology in keeping the
Torah) may be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The modern efforts to restore New Testament understanding to its Nazarene
Jewish origins has often focused on parallels with Rabbinic Judaism (which
descends from Pharisaic Judaism). There is much to be said for such
parallels and I do not oppose these comparisons. However many of the
Nazarene movement have neglected the very significant parallels between the
New Testament, the Nazarenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Essene Judaism.
In this article we will begin to explore this aspect of Nazarene roots.
This material is far from exhaustive, yet shows that such exploration can
be very productive for our understanding of Nazarene Judaism.
Qumran and the New Testament
In regards to the New Testament The Dead Sea Scrolls tell us a great deal
about the language, customs and doctrinal issues of first century Judah. To
begin with the Scrolls are written primarilly in Hebrew and Aramaic,
demostrating these to be the languages of the place and time of the NT.
Additionally the Scrolls tell us of the early existance of a belief in two
Messiahs, a belief which appers in the NT in the form of a belief of two
comings of one Messiah. Yet another example can be seen in the light which
the Dead Sea Scrolls shine on Jn. 2:6 "And there were there six water-pots
of stone, set for the purification of the Jews, concerning each two or
three measures." In the past this verse seemed obscure but a passage in the
DSS (Temple Scroll col. 56) tells us that if any woman who was menstrating
was to enter a room, anything stored in potery vessals (which are porous)
becomes impure. As a result archaeologists find huge stone pots used during
the period between about twenty BCE and seventy CE. These stone vesals seem
to have been used by Jews of the first century to prevent food and drink
from becoming unclean, thus explaining Jn. 2:6. This almost certainly
proves that John's Gospel was written in Israel aound the first century by
a Jew. One final example can be found in the book of Luke, where twice the
twelve students of Yeshua argue over who is greatest (Lk. 9:46; 22:24) at
first glance it looks like the twelve are unseemingly arogant! However,
once again, the Scrolls shed some light on this passage. The Scrolls tell
us that, at least within the Qumran community, laymen were ranked by there
leaders so that "every man in Israel may be made aware of his status in the
community of G-d" (Manual of Discipline ii, 19-25) priority of seating was
based upon these ranks (Damascus Document xiv, 3-12). Although in the past
Rabbinic documents informed us that such rank and priority of seating
existed among Rabbis in the rabbinic schools, it is only in the Dead Sea
Scrolls that we learn that, at least in the Qumran community, such ranks
existed among the students and laity. Now it becomes clear that Yeshua's
students were conerned as to there individual status, which was normal for
their culture, not merely bickering over who was best.
One of the most interesting significances of the Dead Sea Scrolls is the
surprising number of parallel phrases found only in the Dead Sea Scroll and
the New Testament (and most particularly the writings of John).
Some of these phrases include:
"he that does truth" (Jn. 3:21 & Manual of Discipline 3, 21)
"works of G-d" (Jn. 6:28 & Man. of Disc. 4, 4)
"angel of Satan" (2Cor. 12:7 & Damascus Document 16, 4)
"B'lial" (2Cor. 6:14 & Man. of Disc. 1, 16f; Dam. Doc. 4, 13; etc.)
There are also several phrases involving extended metaphores relating to
light and darkness. In general this metaphore can be found in Rom. 13:12;
2Cor. 6:14; Eph. 4:17;5:14 & Dam. Doc. 4,3. Several specific parallel
phrases appear using this extended metaphore, such as:
"light of life" (Jn. 8:12 & Man. Disc. 3, 7)
"he that walks in darkness" (Jn. 8:12; 12:35 & Man. Disc. 3, 21)
"sons of light" (Lk. 16:8; Jn. 12:36; Eph. 5:8; 1Thes. 5:5 & Man. Disc. 1,
9; 2, 24; 1QM)
One of the more significant parallel phrases is the phrase "living water"
(Jn. 4:10 & Dam. Doc. 4, 4-5; 7, 9-8, 21). This metaphore later appears in
Rabbinic Judaism, to describe "running water" used in T'villah (Baptism)
ceremonies. In John chapter four "living water" is symboliclly drawn from
Jacob's well, and brings salvation and eternal life. In the Manual of
Discipline "living water" is the teachings of the community and is
symbolicly drawn from the well of Num. 21:18 which is identified by the
Scroll to be sybolic of the Law. Thus we may conclude that in Jn. 4 Yeshua
draws upon a Midrash (allegorical interpretation) which existed in his time.
Another very significant term used in the Scrolls is the phrase "Holy
Spirit." which is used twice in the Tenach, but is very commonly used in
the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament. In the Dead Sea Scrolls the
Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, which, like "waters of purification"
cleanses man from wickedness (Manual of Discipline iv, 12-13). A mission
not unlike the mission of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.
Another unusual parallel phrase used both in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in
the New Testament is "a book sealed with seven seals" (Rev. 5:1 & 4Q550;
Col. 4 line 5).
Perhaps the most astoundijng parallel text between the Dead Sea Scrolls and
the New Testament is the profound parallel between Q=Mt. 11:4-6 = Lk. 7:22
and 4Q521. In The Gospels Yeshua is recorded as saying:
Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive
sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead
are raised up, the poor have the glad tiding preached to them.
(Luke 7:22-23 and Matthew 11:4-5)
This closely parlles the Messianic criteria given in 4Q521:
[the hea]vens and the earth will listen to His Messiah, and none therein
will stray from the commandments of the holy ones. Seekers of the L-rd,
strengthen yourselves in His service! All you hopeful in (your) heart, will
you not find the L-rd in this? For the L-rd will consider the pious
(hasidim) and call the righteous by name. Over the poor His spirit will
hover and will renew the faithful with His power. And He will glorify the
pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom. He who liberates the captives,
restores sight to the blind, straightens the b[ent] And f[or] ever I will
cleav[ve to the h]opeful and in His mercy . . .
And the fr[uit . . .] will not be delayed for anyone. And the L-rd will
accomplish glorious things which have never been as [He . . .] For He will
heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor. . .
He will lead the uprooted and knowledge . . . and smoke (?)
(Michael O. Wise, translation)
The existance of so many common phrases both in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in
the New Testament is of the upmost importance. Some of these phrases may be
idioms of first century Hebrew and Aramaic. Other phrases may be technical
theological terms used in discussing Jewish religion and mysicism in the
first Century. We cannot, of course, be certain if any or all of these
terms were Essene terms, or if they were common to Judaism in general. What
we can be certain of is that the presence of these terms in the New
Testament proves its first century Jewish origin. Moreover, the presence of
these terms in non-New Testament Jewish literatur of the same time period
will help us to better understand what these terms meant to the first
Century Semitic mind.
Yochanan and Qumran
To trace the origin of the Nazrenes we must first examine the figure of
Yochanan (John) the Immerser (baptist). As the Goodnews according to Mark
The beginning of the goodnews of Y'shua the Messiah,... John came immersing
in the wilderness...
(Mk. 1:1, 4)
As George Howard has pointed out, "...there was a John the Baptist sect
that existed from early times and continued perhaps for centuries." (The
Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text by George Howard;
1987; p. 205; see Acts 18:5-19:7; Justin, Trypho 80; Pseudo-Clementine
Recognitions 1:54:60) Such a sect still exists in Iraq today. Howard has
In Shem-Tob's Hebrew Matthew John the Baptist emerges as a much more
important figure than in Greek Matthew. The Greek Matthew may well
represent a later corrective to the more primitive statements made about
John the Baptist in Hebrew Matthew before the followers of John the Baptist
were seen as a threat to trunkline Christianity."
A careful reading of the Gospels will show that John the Baptist had his
own "disciples" (Jn. 1:35) who continued on as such, apart from the Y'shua
movement even after John and Y'shua had died (Acts 19:1-3). The flavor of
John chapter one also indicates that John did not live alone in the
wilderness, but lived with a comunity of followers near Bethabara (Jn.
1:28) a town just eight miles from Qumran.
Now one of the most important similarities between John the Baptist and his
disciples, and the Qumran community is quite obviously that of geography.
As mentioned, John and his disciples resided "in the wilderness" near a
town just eight miles from Qumran. Infact the caves in which the scrolls
were found are just five miles from the location along the Jordan at which
John was baptizing. Both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament use the
phrase "in the wilderness" (drawn from Is. 40:3) almost as a proper noun,
to describe this area. One NT passage in particular seemed a mystery until
the discovery of the Scrolls. Luke 1:80 states:
"...the child [John the Baptist] grew and became strong in spirit, and was
in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel." What would
a child be doing "in the wilderness?" Could John have been raised at the
Qumran community? An apocraphal tradition once circulated in the Church of
the East may offer some insight. The Protevangelion of James, once read in
some eastern churches, records a tradition that at the time of the
slaughter of the innocents, Elizabeth took her son and went up unto the
mountains, and looked around for a place to hide him; and there was no
secret place to be found. Then she groaned within herself, and said, O
mountain of YHWH, receive the mother with the child. For Elizabeth could
not climb up. And instantly the mountain was divided and received them. And
there appeared to them an angel (or messenger) of YHWH, to preserve them."
Could this tradition be preserving an ancient tradition that John and his
mother were taken in through an opening in the mountains (a cave) and a
"messenger of YHWH" at Qumran took them in. This possibility is stengthened
by the fact that Hugh Schonfield has shown that there are a number of
parallelisms between DuTillet Hebrew Matthew and the Protevangelion, "which
cannot be accidental." (An Old Hebrew Text of Matthew's Gospel by Hugh
Schonfield; 1927; p. 25-30,40). Moreover Joesphus tells us that the Essenes
commonly raised other peoples children (Josephus; 2:8:3). Thus it would
seem that John the Baptist was raised up in the Qumran community.
As a Levite, and decendant of Zadock, John would have held a prominant
place in the Qumran community, which favored the priesthood heirs. However,
John's normal life at Qumran was interupted when "the word of G-d came to
John... in the wilderness" (Lk. 3:2). In a rigid community where everyone
had a rank and no one spoke out of turn, John's message may not have been
welcome. This would explain why John and his disciples relocated near
Both Matthew and Mark tell us that John ate locusts (Mt. 3:4; Mk. 1:6). (Of
course Leviticus lists these insects as kosher (Lev. 1:20-23)). Now The
Dead Sea Scrolls tell us that the Qumran community also made locusts as
part of their diet. In fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls even tell us how they
were to be cooked (Dam. Doc. xii, 11-15).
Both the Qumran community, and John quoted Is. 40:3 as being a prophecy
fortelling of their work (Mt. 3:3; Mk. 1:3; Lk. 3:4; Jn 1:23; Dam. Doc.
viii, 12-14; ix, 20). This verse appears in most New Testament as:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of YHWH; make
straight in the desert a highway for our G-d."
However, the contor markings in the Masoretic Text give us the understanding:
The voice of one crying "In the wilderness prepare the way of YHWH; make
straight in the desert a highway for our G-d."
As a result of their use of this verse, both John and the Qumran community
referred to themselves as being "in the wilderness" and both the Qumran
community and the early believers in Y'shua called their movement "the way".
Another strong parallel between John and the Qumran community is that of
the importance given to the practice of water immersion/baptism (Heb:
T'vilah). The Torah requires "washing" for "uncleaness" (Lev. 16-18) and
"uncleaness" can result from sin (Lev. 18:1ff for example.) King David
spoke of this practice in the Psalms (Ps. 51:2, 7). In the Qumran comunity
this practice was given great importance (Man. Disc. 3, 4f; v, 13; Dam.
Doc. 10, 10-13) and it was certainly regarded as of high priority to John
(Mt. 3:6, 11; Mk. 1:4-5; Lk. 3:2-3, 7; Acts 19:3-4). Both believed that
water baptism was only symbolic of a greater cleansing of wickedness
performed by the Ruach HaKodesh (Man. Disc. 4, 12-13).
One final similarity between John and the Qumran community was that both
stressed that the day of fiery judgement was eminently aproaching. Now
having discussed the similarities between John the Baptist and the Qumran
community, let us note the differences. Essenes always wore white
(Josephus; 2:8:3) yet John wore camel's hair (Mt. 3:4). Secondly, the
Qumram community only ate food provided by their community yet John foraged
for himself (Mt. 3:4). Finally and most importantly the Qumran community
was not even a little bit evangelical. The Manual of Discipline specificly
commands its adherents to "bear unremitting hatred towards all men of ill
repute... to leave it to them to pursue wealth and mercenary gain...
truckling to a depot." (Man. Disc. ix 21-26). But John called these men of
ill repute to "Repent, for the Kingdom of G-d is offered." (Mt. 3:2). This
new teaching must have been the "word of G-d" which John "received in the
wilderness" (Lk. 3:2) since it is later echoed by Y'shua (Mt. 4:17) and
Y'shua's disciples (Mt. 10:7).
As a result of the new light shined on the NT by the Dead Sea Scrolls, we
may now conclude that John the Baptist was raised in the very community
which wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. That the word of G-d came to John, and he
began teaching an evangelical message of repentance. A message which was
unacceptable to the Qumran community. That message probably caused a schism
which resulted in John the Baptist and his disciples relocating to
Bethabara, just eight miles from Qumran. This new group became a John the
Baptist sect which has continued to this very day, and which held a close
relationship to the Messianic movement surrounding Y'shua.
Yeshua and the Essenes
While Yocahan was essentially an Essene, Yeshua did not apear to live the
Essene lifestyle, as we read in Mt. 11:18-19:
Yochanan came neither eating nor drinking…
The Son of man came eating and drinking…
Nonetheless there are many important similarities between the teachings of
Yeshua and those of the Essenes/Qumran community.
Yeshua went out into the wilderness to be tempted (Mt. 4:1f). Yeshua’s
twelve talmidim (students) remind us of the council of twelve at Qumran
(Manual of Discipline 1QS 8:1). Yeshua’s twelve talmidim seemed to be
headed by three (Kefa (Peter), James (Ya’akov) and Yochanan (John) and the
twelve laymen of Qumran were headed by three priests (1QS 8:1).
Josephus, speaking of the Essenes writes:
...and if any of their sect come from other places, what they have lies
open for them, just as if it were their own; and they go into such as they
never knew before, as if they had been ever so long acquained with them.
For which reason they carry nothing with them when they travel into remote
parts, though still they take their weapons with them, for fear of thieves.
Accordingly there is, in every city where they live, one appointed
particularly to take care of strangers, and provide garments and other
necessaries for them.
(Josephus; Wars 2:8:4)
This provides interesting cultural context for Yeshua's instruction to his
...Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your moneybelts, nor bag
for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for the worker
is worthy of his food. Now whatever city or town you enter, enquire who
in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out.
Also note that Yeshua and his Talmidim traveled armed (Lk. 22:38) Were
Yeshua and his Talmidim circulating to some extent within the Essene
Many of Yeshua’s halachic teachings parallel those of the Qumran community.
Yeshua opposed the taking of oaths (Mt. 5:34) as did the Essenes (Josephus;
Wars 2:8:6; Manual of Discipline 1QS 15:1-3). Y'shua's use of Gen. 1:27 to
prove his halachic position on divorce is paralleled in the Dead Sea Scrolls:
...they are caught in two traps: fornication, by taking two wives in their
lifetimes although the principle of creation is: "male and female He
(Dam. Doc. Col. 4 line 20 through Col. 5 line 1)
Yeshua’s halachah on the issue of "CORBAN" (an offering) being used as an
excuse to violate Torah in Matthew 15:1-8 parallels a similar ruling at
Qumran (Damascus Document 16:13).
Matthew records a very interesting event involving Yeshua snd the Temple Tax:
...they that recieved tribute came to Kefa (Peter) , and said, Does not
your master pay tribute? He said, Yes. And when he came into the house
Yeshua prevented him, saying, what do you think, Simon? of whom do the
kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of
strangers? Kefa (Peter) said to him, of strangers. Yeshua said to him, Then
the children are free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go you
to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first comes up;
and when you have opened his mouth, you shall find a piece of money: that
take, and give to them for me and you.
Here Kefa indicates the Yeshua pays the Temple tax, but Yeshua indicates
that neither himself, nor Kefa nor aparantly any of his followers owe the
Temple tax. Yeshua does not seem to argue that he does not owe such a tax
because he is the Messiah, for he extends the same privilage to Kefa and
aparantly all of his followers. Is Yeshua teaching against Torah? The
answer is no. The Torah does command that a Temple tax must be payed by
every male 20 and older (Ex. 30:11-16) but is ambiguos as to how often it
must be payed. The Pharisaic Halachah (and aparenetly the Sadducean
Halachah) had the tax being paid annually during the month of Adar (m.Shek.
1:1, 3) However the Qumran community had a different Halachah. They taught:
...concerning the Ransom: the money of the valuation which a man gives as
ransom for his life shall be half a shekel in accordance with the shekel of
the sanctuary. He shall give it only once in his life.
(4Q159 Frag 1; Col. 2; lines 6-7)
Now if Yeshua held to this Essene Halachah then He would not believe that
he or his followers owed the tax, if they had already paid it at least once
in their lifetime. This would explain why Kefa said that Yeshua pays the
tax, while Yeshua claims that he and his followers don't owe the tax.
Like the Qumran community Yeshua speaks allegorically of "Living Water"
coming from a well. . In John chapter four "living water" is symboliclly
drawn from Jacob's well, and brings salvation and eternal life. In the
Manual of Discipline "living water" is the teachings of the community and
is symbolicly drawn from the well of Num. 21:18 which is identified by the
Scroll to be symbolic of the Law. Thus we may conclude that in Jn. 4 Yeshua
draws upon a Midrash (allegorical interpretation) which existed in his time
(Jn. 4:10 & Dam. Doc. VI, 4-5; VII, 9-VIII, 21).
Yeshua’s use of the Passover Sader as a sort of Messianic banquet certainly
reminds us of the Messianic banquet of the Qumran Essenes (Josephus; Wars
2:8:5; Manual of Discipline 6:3-6 & 1QS Sa. 2, 17-20). The Qumran material
even reads "the Messiah of Israel shall reach for the bread" (1QSa.
2:20-21) a phase which certainly reminds us of the "Last Supper" account of
the New Testament.
There were however some very important point with which Yeshua greatly
disagreed with the Essenes. The Essenes held the strictest rules of resting
on the Sabbath than any of the Jews (Josephus; Wars 2:8:9) The Qumran
community, with its stricter Halacha likely did not permit healing on the
Shabbat at all. They did not allow carrying medicine on the Shabbat nor did
they allow using a tool to save a life on the Shabbat (Dam. Document col.
10; lines 14-18). Now Y'shua's Halacha on the issue seems to have been less
strict. There is conflict between Yeshua and Qumran on the plucking and
rubbing of wheat in Mt. 12:1=Lk. 6:1=Mk. 2:23. The activity described is
clearly permitted by the Torah in general, though not necessarily on the
Shabbat (Duet. 23:26 (23:25 in non-Jewish editions)). This was forbidden by
Qumran halacha which stated:
"A man may not go about in the field to do his desired activity on the
Sabbath... A man may not eat anything on the Sabbath except food already
(Dam. Doc. Col. 10; lines 20-22).
Also Yeshua’s teaching that it is permitted to rescue an animal from a pit.
(Mt. 12:11 and Lk. 14:3-6) is in direct conflict with Qumran Halacha.(Dam.
Doc. col. 10; lines 14-18).
Finally the Qumran community had a intense hated for outsiders. The Manual
of Discipline even states the community members should "bear unremitting
hatred towards all men of ill repute…" (1QS 11:21f). This hatered greatly
contrsts with such teachings of Yeshua as the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Ya’akov HaTzadik and Qumran
There are also many parallels between Ya’akov HaTzadik (James the Just) and
the Essenes of Qumran. The title "HaTzadik" ("the righeous"; or "the Just")
reminds us of the title of the Teacher of Righteousness in the Qumran
scrolls. Ya’akov, like Yeshua discouraged swearing (James 5:12) as did the
Essenes (Essenes (Josephus; Wars 2:8:6; Manual of Discipline 1QS 15:1-3).
Ya’akov’s admonition to be "doers" of the word (James 2:21-27) reminds us
of the very term "Essene" which may come from the Hebrew "OSSIM" ("doers"
[of the Torah]). Finally Ya’akov’s discourse on the use of the toungue
(James 3:1-12) closely parallels the Manual of Discipline (Col. 10:21-11:2).
Paul and Qumran
Paul was clearly of Pharisaic rather than Essene background (Acts 24:5) and
had been a student of Gamilel (Acts 22:3). Nonetheless there are several
parallels between Paul and Qumran. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damscus
reminds us of the Qumran community who made a New Covenant at Damascus. It
is also of interest that Paul spent years in Damascus before beginning his
ministry (Gal. 1:16-17).
There are several Parallels between Paul’s teachings and those at Qumran.
Paul’s teaching often involved what he called "mysteries" (Eph. 3:3-4; Col.
1:12 etc.) as did the Qumran Scrolls (Hab. Commentary 1QpHab 7, 4-5; Man.
Of Disc. 40, 5; Hodayot 7, 26). Paul often used metaphores of light and
darkness (2Cor. 6:14; Rom. 13:12) as the Qumran scrolls do ( Damascus
Document 4, 3). Paul allegorically compared the Nazarene community to the
Temple (Eph. 2:20-22) while the Manual of Discipline makes the same
comparison of the Temple with the Qumran society (1Qs 8:5-9). Paul’s use of
the phrases "works of darkness" and "works of light" (Eph. 4:17; 5:14) are
paralleled at qumran (Dam. Doc. 4:3). Both Paul and the Scrolls refer to
men as "vessels of clay" (2Cor. 4:7 & Hodayot 11, 3). Paul’s concept of
"partakers of the inheritance of the Holy Ones" (Col. 1:12) is similar to
the phrase "heirs in the legacy of the Holy Ones" (1Qs 11:7-8) found in the
Manual of Discipline. Paul’s terms "Belial" (2Cor. 6:14) and "Angel of
Satan" (2Cor. 12:7) also appear in the scrolls ("Belial" in 1Qs 4, 13 and
"Angel of Satan" in 1Qs 16:4).
However Paul also contrasts Qumran theology. His commentary on Hab. 2:4 (in
Gal. 3:11, Rom. 1:17 & Heb. 10:37-38 see my Hebrews Commentary on this
passage) seems to be a rebuttal to that of the Qumran community (1QpHab 8,
1-3). In fact Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews seems aimed at those with an
Essene background. (See SEMITIC LIGHT ON HEBREWS by James Trimm).
THE NAZARENES AND ESSENES
Yeshua’s ministry got started when he visited Yochanan’s community in the
wilderness. It was here that Yochanan decalred him to be the Messiah and it
was here that he first met the first of his talmidim (disciples/students)
Kefa (Peter), Andrew and an unnamed student whom most identify as Yochanan
(John) the Talmid (Yochanon tends to avoid mentioning himself by name in
his Gospel). These men were likely of an Essene background as Yochanan the
imnmerser had been (John 1).
Yeshua’s followers had much in common with the Essenes. Both were called
"The Way" (Acts 9:2 & 1QS 9,18) and "B’nai Or" (Sons of Light) (Lk. 16:8;
Jn. 12:36; Eph. 5:8; 1Thes. 5:5; Man. Of Disc. 1,9; 2, 24; 1QM). Like the
Essenes they shared all things in common (Acts 2:44-45; Josephus; Ant.
18:1:5; Wars 2:8:3) and lieing about such assets was regarded as a great
sin (Acts 5:1-10). Although further study is needed, there may be some good
connections between the Qumran hierachy and that of the Nazarenes. Both
groups seemed to have made some use of the Book of Enoch (1Enoch 1:9 is
quoted in Jude 1:14-15; seven fragmentary copies of Enoch were found at
Qumran). Like the Qumran community, the Nazarenes also seem to have used
Hebrew manuscripts of Tanak books which agreed in places with the text
behind the Septuagint. The Nazarene belief in two comings of the Messiah is
similar to the Qumran belief in two Messiahs. The Qumran community believed
in a priestly Messiah who was a Melchizadek figure whom they termed EL,
ELOHIM and YHWH (11Q13), a figure they believed was prophecied of in such
passages as Dan. 9:24-27; Is. 52 (and presumably 53) and Is. 61:1. In like
manner the Nazarenes saw their Messiah Yeshua as a Melchizadek figure
(Hebrews 7) who fulfilled the very same prophecies.
What do the similarities mean? First of all these many similarities place
both the Nazarenes and the New Testament firmly in the context of first
century Judaism. These similarities also make it apparent that the Essenes
were likely forerunners of the Nazarenes. This however should not subtract
from the Pharisaic roots which are also apparent among the Nazarenes (which
I will soon cover in another companion article). By recognizing that the
Essenes were our forerunners we may now move forward in greater light.
Knowing where we came from helps us to move forward with accuracy in
reconstructing the Nazarene movement. Moreover understanding the Essene
element in the sayings of Yeshua (and the rest of the New Testament) will
help us to understand them better. Finally recognizing the Essene factor in
Nazarene halachah will aid us in understanding the nature of Nazarene
Halachah and Halachic authority and how it relates to that of Essenes,
Pharisees, Sadducees as well as modern Rabbinic Judaism (which descends
from the Pharisees).
In closing I quote from the Intriduction to THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS; A New
Translation; by Wise, Abegg and Cook:
For Jews the Qumran texts say, "Our family was larger than you knew." The
watchword is diversity. Modern [Rabbinic] Judaism comes from Pharisaism,
but in the first two centuries B.C.E. and C.E. there were also other kinds
of Judaism, and it was not obvious that the Pharisees would be the ones
still standing at the end of the day. Understanding the world of the first
century C.E. now means understanding the fact of diversity, and the scrolls
have helped cultivate a sense of the historical complexity of the matrix of
Judaism and early Christianity. The scrolls teach, indiectly, a message the
scroll writers themselves would have repudiated; that is, that there are
different ways of being authentically Jewish. Any effort to "reclaim the
scrolls for Judaism" must acknowledge that truth.
(THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS; A New Translation; by Wise, Abegg and Cook; p. 34)
Now it is well known that researchers believe that Chritendom has roots at
Qumran. What is less well known is that many researchers also see the roots
of Kabbalah at Qumran.
Kabbalah had its beginning as "torat-ha-sod" as Adin Steinsaltz writes:
The sources state that torat ha-sod (mysticism) was divided into two parts:
Ma'aseh Bereshit (Act of Creation) and Ma'aseh Merkavah (Divine Chariot).
The former was more theoretical and dealt with the creation of the world
and the first divine revelations. Ma'aseh Merkavah, based on the prophet
Ezekiel's description of the Divine Chariot, is a study of the prevailing
relations between God and the world and apparently contained the seeds of
what later came to be known as Kabbalah ma'asit (practical kabbalah).
(The Essential Talmud; Adin Steinsaltz p. 213)
And as G. Vermes writes:
The Throne-Chariot was a central subject of meditation in ancient as well
as in medieval Jewish esotericism and mysticism, but the guardians of the
Rabbinic orthodoxy tended to discourage such speculation. The liturgical
use of Ezekiel's chapter on the Chariot is expressly forbidden in the
Mishnah; it even lays down that no wise man is to share his understanding
of the Merkavah with a person less enlightened than himself. As a result,
there is very little ancient literary material extant on the subject, and
the Qumran text is therefore of great importance to the study of the
Origins of Jewish mysticism.
(The Dead Sea Scroll in English; Second Edition; G.Vermes; p. 211)
Among the parallels between Kabbalah and Qumran esotericism is the strong
parallel between the Metatron figure of Kabbalah and the Melchizadek figure
at Qumran as P. Alexander writes:
The Merkabah literature has links also with Qumran. Perhaps the closest
Parallels are in the following texts: The angelic liturgy (4QsirSabb) … The
heavenly Melchizedek (11QMelch) [also known as 11Q13]… Physiognomies
(OTP Vol. 1 pp. 250-251)
Regarding the Melchizedek/Metatron connection Alexander states:
In this text Melchizedek appears as being exalted over all angels. It is
stated that he will preside over a heavenly assize and exact Punishment,
with the help of other angels, from Belial and his Minions. In view of the
priestly functions of Melchizedek in the Bible (Gen. 14:8; Ps. 110:4), van
der Woude has conjectured that at Qumran Melchizedek may have been regarded
as the high priest of the heavenly Temple and identified with the archangel
Michael, who fulfills the role of the heavenly high priest in rabbinic
tradition … However all of this is very uncertain. A number of clear
parallels between the heavenly Melchizedek of Qumran and Metatron of 3
Enoch at once suggest themselves: both figures hold exalted, if not
pre-eminent, positions among the angels, both are heavenly judges… and
both, apparently had earthly lives prior to their exalted, heavenly states.
The fact that the Qumran community believed in the deity of the Messiah can
best be shown by examining the Qumran community's understanding of Is.
61:1-2. Now we know from 4Q521 that the Qumran community saw the one
"anointed" by YHWH in Is. 61:1-2 as the Messiah as this fragment reads:
For the heavens and the earth shall listen to His Messiah …
And then goes on to allude to Is. 61:1-2. Another reference to the figure
of Is. 61:1-2 is made in another Qumran document known as 11Q13. 11Q13
speaks of this Messiah as a figure called "Melchizedek." In this document
Is. 61:2 is quoted with "Melchizedek" substituted for YHWH. Furthermore the
terms EL and ELOHIM are in 11Q13 applied to the Melchizedek/Messiah figure.
11Q13 Col. 4-9 quotes Is. 61:1-2 but substitutes "the year of Melchizedek's
favor" for "the year of YHWH's favor" thus identifying the Melchizedek
figure with YHWH in this passage. 11Q13 goes on to say:
…as it is written about him [Melchizedek] in the Songs of David, "ELOHIM
has taken his place in the council of EL; in the midst of the ELOHIM he
Scripture also says about him [Melchizedek],
"Over it take your seat in the highest heaven; EL will judge the peoples"
(11Q13 Col. 10-11)
The text of 11Q13 goes on to apply the passage "Your ELOHIM reigns" (Is.
52:7) to Melchizedek finally concluding:
"Your ELOHIM" (Is. 52:7) is Melchizedek, who will deliver them from the
power of Belial.
(11Q13 Col. 24-25)
It is therefore apparent that the Qumran community saw the Messiah as a
Melchizedek figure who was identified as EL, ELOHIM and even YHWH.
Further evidence for belief in the deity of Messiah at Qumran is found in a
reference in the Book of Enoch, (seven fragmentary copies of this book were
found in cave four at Qumran). In Enoch 14 Enoch is having a vision of the
divine throne in which the figure on the throne calls to Enoch "come near
to Me and to My Holy Word." (1En. 14: 24). Thus it would seem that the
concept of the entity known as the "Word" of YHWH which we discussed in
terms of Rabbinic Judaism earlier, was also held to by the Qumran
community. It seems hard to escape the fact that in 1En. 14:24 the "Word"
of YHWH seems to be positioned next to the throne of YHWH, just as
Melchizedek is in Ps. 110.
There are many things wich divide those of us who today regard ourselves as
Essenes. There are issues of meat consumption versus vegitarianism, as
well as serious issues of what books should be accepted as canon. Some
Modern Essenes accept such books as:
The Crucifixion of Jesus by an Eye-Witness
The Essene Gospel of Peace (and other Szekely materials)
The Gospel of The Holy Twelve
The Gospel of the Nazirenes
Moreover some Essenes question parts or all of the New Testament books and
some Essenes question portions of the Tanak (Old Testament). Finally some
Essenes see various documents in the Dead Sea Scrolls as canonical while
others see them as authoritative commentary.
However despite these differences which we may (and do) debate among
ourselves there are clearly three points about which we as Essenes should
1. Torah observance, including the Sabbath, Biblical feasts,
mesuzah, teffilin etc.
2. The Messiahship of Yeshua ("Jesus of Nazareth") in light
of the Essene backdrop.
3. Mysticism. Essenes were clearly mystics with a deep
involvement in the very roots of Jewish Mysticism or "Kabbalah."
I believe that these three basic points should be the things wich should
unite us as Essenes.
He who seeks will not cease until he finds,
and having found he will be amazed,
and having been amazed he will reign,
and having reigned he will rest.
- The Goodnews according to the Hebrews
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