Essene Qumran & Messiah Judaism (Christianity ) 1 – Separateness & Supersessionism

The Essenes and Qumran communities develop in Palestine in a diverse pluralistic ‘Many Judaisms” milieu where much of the intellectual center was both Greek and foreign to Palestine

The latter part of the Second Temple period, that is, the period from the rise of the Maccabees (160s BCE) to the destruction of the temple (70 CE), was a rich and significant chapter in Jewish history. This was the age of sects (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, the Qumran community, the Jesus movement (Christians), Sicarii, Zealots, and others) and sectarian literature; apocalypses and varied speculations about God’s control of human events,

Jesus taught in a manner similar to the Essenes, most likely in vernacular Aramaic or Greek

At public services, the Torah was not only read; it was also explained and interpreted. The model for this activity was Ezra (Neh. 8:8). The highlight of the Sabbath gatherings of the Therapeutae and the Essenes was (according to Philo) a sermon on the allegorical meaning of the Law. Jesus taught in the synagogues of Galilee; Paul, in the synagogues of Asia Minor. In first-century Jerusalem, one Theodotus erected a synagogue “for the reading of the Law and the teaching of the commandments.” For the benefit of those who did not know sufficient Hebrew, the text was translated into the vernacular, Aramaic in Babylonia and parts of the land of Israel, Greek in the Greco-Roman Diaspora and parts of the land of Israel.

Jesus followed the Essene tradition of excluding women ( from spiritual leadership e.g. Apostleship)

According to both Philo and Josephus, the Essenes excluded women altogether, although Josephus goes on to note that some Essenes permitted marriage for the sake of procreation. Several of the Qumran scrolls (notably the Manual of Discipline) indeed presume an all-male environment, although others (notably the Damascus Document) presume a society of men, women, and children.

Calvinistic predestination (or Islamic ‘Divine Decree’) are consistent with Essene teachings – in contrast contemporary Rabbinic Judaism

According to Josephus, the Essenes, in contrast to the Sadducees, declared, “Fate is mistress of all things, and nothing befalls men unless it be in accordance with her decree.”

Essenes claimed that all human actions are determined by Fate, while the Pharisees claimed that life is governed jointly by Fate and free will. The Qumran scrolls—many of which, in all likelihood, are documents of the Essenes (see chap. 5)—confirm how these pietists believed that God created two types of people, those who were destined to become the sons of light and the supporters of truth, and those who were destined to become sons of darkness and the supporters of wickedness.

Essenes , like early Christians, considered wider Hellenistic Jews to be sinners apostate from Torah Judaism

They marry, have children, own property and slaves, and must be wary of contact with both gentiles and Jewish nonsectarians [impure sinners apostate from Torah Judaism]


Many of the utopian or “sectarian” features of the Qumran Essenes can be found in other groups as well. The Essene community bears striking similarities to the community of early Christians as described in the opening chapters of the book of Acts. Property is held in common, violators of the rules are punished, the group is controlled by a group of leaders, lots are used in the selection process, entrants into the group require “conversion,” and so on. These parallels are in addition to those of attitude (both are eschatologically oriented), doctrine (both see the current world as under the control of wicked forces), and practice (both lay great importance on ablutions or “baptisms”).

whether the separation is the consequence of a claim to exclusive possession of the truth, like the claims advanced by the Essenes and the Christians. Without a claim to exclusive truth, a group is not a sect (see the next chapter). At Qumran, the sectarians are righteous and therefore pure; everyone else is wicked and therefore impure. The rabbinic legislation seems to be based on the opposite logic. The members of the havurah are pure and therefore righteous; everyone else is impure and therefore wicked. In any case, no matter what social reality may be lurking behind the rabbinic legislation about the havurah, the affinity with the Qumran legislation shows that separatism based on purity laws was a powerful idea in ancient Judaism that extended even beyond clearly sectarian groups.

The Jews of Qumran Were Essenes and despised their feloow Jews as Apostate ‘Sons of Darkness’ condemned to destruction

The “sectarian” scrolls of the Qumran library also show that Josephus and Philo omit many essential characteristics of the group, not least of which is its sectarian nature. The Qumran group celebrated its festivals according to a solar calendar of 364 days, while the rest of the Jews followed a lunisolar calendar19 of approximately 354 days. (Some scholars have argued that the Qumran scrolls testify to several different solar calendars.) The group denounced its fellow Jews as sinners and “sons of darkness,”…

If early Christians were Essenes then they rejected then Temple Judaism as corrupt, impure, apostate

strengthening its dualistic social perspective with a dualistic theology. Living in a period when sin was triumphant, the Qumran Jews regarded the Jerusalem temple as polluted and its priesthood as sinful. In the end of days, the world would be purged of evil, the sinners would be destroyed, a new temple would be built, and the sect would rise to glory. In the interim, the sect itself was a surrogate temple and its liturgy a surrogate sacrifice. The group, unlike the Jerusalem temple, was led by true priests, the sons of Zadok. All of these features are omitted in whole or in part by Philo and Josephus. The only clue that the Essenes may have been a sect is Josephus’s remark that “although they send votive offerings to the temple, they do not offer sacrifices [there], because of the difference in the purity regulations which they practice. For this reason they are barred from [or: they avoid] the temple precincts of the community and perform their rites [or: sacrifices] by themselves.”20 The Greek of this passage is very difficult, perhaps corrupt, but this is the closest that Josephus comes to noticing the separation and exclusivism that characterized the Essene worldview.

The Group of Believers is the True Chosen People ( Supersessionist Replacement Theology) – there is no Godly covenant with the Disbelievers

Last, sectarians do not see themselves as sectarians, and the Jews of Qumran never refer to themselves as “Essenes” or “Essaeans.” They are the chosen of God, the elect of God, the community, the many, the community of God, the repenters of Israel, the members of the covenant, the members of the new covenant, Judah, Israel, and so on, but not “Essenes.” (The meaning of the name “Essene” is unknown, as I shall discuss below.) But the Jews of Qumran certainly were a sect in the sense described above, and that important fact, hidden by Josephus and Philo, is clearly revealed in the Qumran scrolls.

Early Christians most likely emerge as Separatist Jewish Sectarians who reject then mainstream Temple Judaism as Apostate with the innovation of a new Messianic universalist evangelism that includes all mankind.
Their theology was Supersessionist. Their Church replaces the Temple and becomes the New Chosen People. The sect disappears shortly after the emergence of Messiah Judaism suggesting Christianity in the East was merely a continuation of Supersessionist Essene Judaism.

  • Shayle Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah
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