Essene Influence in Early Christianity

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by Ahanu, May 13, 2019.

  1. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    In this thread let's analyze proof for and against Essene influence in the Jesus movement! We've seen Thomas argue against Essene influence.


    Let's look at another argument against Essene influence since "bob x," a learned scholar I suppose, specifically quotes from documents from Qumran to formulate his argument.


    Hmm . . .

    You're skipping over a lot here since you're solely focused on that which suggests Jesus and the Essenes were diametrically opposed to one another. Scholars tend to focus on differences when a more holistic approach is called for.

    Does it really matter if Jesus contradicted the Essenes over whether or not one should rescue a fallen lamb in a well when we know these laws were temporary? According to Lawrence H. Schiffman's The Halakhah at Qumran,

    "the Zadokite Fragments give guidance to the sect only about how to observe the Sabbath in 'the current period of wickedness.'"​

    The community established temporary laws

    "until the coming of the prophet and the messiahs of Aaron and Israel" (1QS 9.11).​

    After all, the prophet can change the laws according to his interpretation of Torah in the messianic age.

    And so what if some Essenes despised the Jesus movement? So did some followers of John the Baptist. It does not follow from this that there was no influence. Eschatological movements change at a faster pace than more established groups.

    Here are a few of my notes showing where Jesus and the Essene movement do agree (and I find the first two points to be strong because of their eschatological assumptions that rely on arguments from creation):
    • Jesus and the Essene movement both prohibit divorce (Mark 10.1-16; CD 4.19-5.2) and make appeals to the same texts concerning creation for proof (Gen 1.27, 2.24)
    • Jesus and the Essene movement believe they have the authority to challenge and correct the Law of Moses by restoring it to the original Law of creation, implying both groups held it above Mosaic Torah (and thus "one-up" the position of traditional Jews), a position that not only upset the apple cart of the everyday Sadducee who believed the Law was fixed, but it led to conflicts with Pharisaical oral Law too (Mark 10.5-6; Matt 5.32; Luke 16.18; Deut 24.1-4)
    • Jesus' praise of celibacy is a nod to certain Essenes, and it most likely enthralled many of them for eschatological purposes (Matthew 19.12; CD 4.21; 1QS 1.6-11; 1QS 7.4-6)
    • Jesus and the Essene movement do not participate in the sacrificial cult of the Temple, and both think their own community is a valid substitute for the Temple itself (1QS 9.3-6; Gal 2.9; Matt 16.18; Eph 2.20; 1 Pet 2.4)
    • Jesus and the Essene movement shared "all things in common" (Acts 4.32-35; 1QS 1.11-12; CD 13.11)
    • Jesus and the Essene movement describe the messianic age as a time of healing, and both also link resurrection with Isaiah 61 - a concept quite unheard of for many (4Q521; 1QS 4.6; Matt 11.4-5; Luke 7.22; Isa 61). Sounds familiar, huh?
      • 1. The heavens and the earth will listen to his anointed/messiah 2. and all that is in them will not turn away from the commandments of the holy ones . . . 5. For the Lord will visit the pious and call the righteous by name 6. And upon the poor his spirit will hover and the faithful he will renew with his force 7. He will honor the pious on a throne of an eternal kingdom, 8. liberating the captives, giving sight to the blind, straightening the bent . . . 11. And glorious deeds that never were the Lord will perform as he said 12. For he will heal the wounded, revive the dead, and proclaim good news to the poor.
        -
        4Q521
      • Note the order of verse 12 above. It corresponds exactly with the order found in Luke 7.22 and Matthew 11.4-5.
    Would Jesus have horrified Essenes? Let's examine all the evidence we can find. Looking at the above points, what do you think?​
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
  2. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Some clarification.

    "The Zadokite Fragments" was an old term for the Damascus Document (CD). The term halakhah is translated literally as "the way one walks," but it can also be translated as "Jewish Law." To give an example, two halakhah controversies are referred to above: one concerns divorce; the other concerns an animal in danger on the Sabbath.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
  3. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Some clarification.

    It is debated what exactly the Damascus Document is discussing in the section I'm referring to. Does it refer to divorce, polygamy, or both? Either way it doesn't really matter for this discussion, because both Jesus and CD evoke Genesis to revise Torah (e.g. changing laws regarding divorce or polygamy). Here's one translation of the debated passage from CD:

    . . . taking (21) two wives in their lives, while the foundation of creation is “male and female he created them”. (5:1) And those who entered (Noah’s) ark “went two by two into the ark”. And of the prince it is written, (2) “Let him not multiply wives for himself ”. They are caught by two (snares). By unchastity, (namely,)
    -Echoes from the Caves : Qumran and the New Testament, edited by Florentino García Martínez, BRILL, 2009.​

    The point is we're in the same interpretive atmosphere here.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Whoa! I never said that ... did I?

    BobX really knew his stuff, and knocked me back on my heels more than once. I miss his presence and input.

    I think Jesus opposed the major religious institutions of his day, Essene, Pharisee, Sadducee ... He was certainly a thorn in the side of the power brokers.

    Only in the context of illuminating the spirit over the letter, which is what He did.

    Interesting
     
  5. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    This, too, is interesting ...

    "And he said to them: Behold, as you go into the city, there shall meet you a man carrying a pitcher of water: follow him into the house where he entereth in... " (Luke 22:10, Mark 14:13)

    A man carrying a pitcher of water would be an unusual sight in the city — this was regarded as women's work. Why then a man?

    Well if the man was an Essene, then that would not be so strange. Essenes performed tasks that were commonly regarded as women's work. The Essenes had a community in Jerusalem, and there was a city gate called the Essene Gate.

    Google 'man carrying a pitcher of water' and 'essene' ... there's the usual stuff.
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    And so is this ...

    A 'contradiction' beloved of armchair Biblical critics is the three days in the tomb thing: the Crucifixion on a Friday and the Resurrection on a Sunday. Scholars have come up with plausible solutions, all involving the fact that John's Gospel indicates a different timeline than suggested in the Synoptics.

    Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI offered this:
    "According to John, Jesus died on the Cross at the very moment when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the temple. The death of Jesus and the sacrifice of the lambs coincided. However, this means that he must have died the day before Easter and could not, therefore, have celebrated the Passover meal in person – this, at any rate, is how it appears...

    ... the discovery of the (Dead Sea) Scrolls at Qumran has led us to a possible and convincing solution which, although it is not yet accepted by everyone, is a highly plausible hypothesis. We can now say that John’s account is historically precise. Jesus truly shed his blood on the eve of Easter at the time of the immolation of the lambs.

    In all likelihood, however, he celebrated the Passover with his disciples in accordance with the Qumran calendar, (my emphasis – the Qumran calendar differed from the standard Jewish calendar) hence, at least one day earlier; he celebrated it without a lamb, like the Qumran community which did not recognise Herod’s temple and was waiting for the new temple..."
     
  7. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    But no-one was born an Essene? The Qumran Essenes at any rate were all adult men who requested to join the sect and donated all their property and belongings to it, after a two year probation?
     
  8. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Sorry, although true for the Qumran Essenes, Josepehus says there was one order of Essenes that did marry.

    The Jewish War 2:160-161
     
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    We have no real indicator (as far as I know) that Jesus was an Essene, nor that He had any dealings with the Qumran community. What little we know of His birth suggests not, and I don't know of any indicator regarding Capernaum as far as the Essenes are concerned, the place from where Jesus commenced His ministry. it is reportedly the hometown of Matthew, and not far from Bethsaida, hometown of Peter, Andrew, James and John.

    of course the Essenes were not only at Qumran, and it may well be that Qumran was a particular sect within the whole Essene thing.

    On the other hand, we might suppose from the mention of Nicodemus (in John), a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, that Jesus had dealings and possibly followers in beyond His immediate discipleship, and rather than Jesus being an Essene, there were some Essenes who were followers of Jesus, such as the man carrying the pitcher of water.

    A curio is that the Essene Gate in Jerusalem has been identified, and the road from it seemed to lead nowhere, but wander off into nearby woods. A rule of the Essenes (from Exodus) is that one does not defecate in the camp. The Essenes regarded 'the camp' as a place on the road to Perfection, as it were, and that Jerusalem was 'a camp' awaiting the Messiah. So Essenes living in the city would not defecate in the city, but rather (presumably) lived in a community close by the gate, and would go out into the woods when nature called ... which if you're my age, you'll know as particularly bloomin tedious when you wake up in the middle of the night to pee ...
     
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  10. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    They took with them a small hatchet and dug a hole a foot deep, then wrapping their cloak around themselves so as to expose no naked flesh, they pooped into the hole then covered it up again.

    And on the Sabbath they were not permitted to poop at all.

    In fact all the outside information we have about the Essenes is a few paragraphs of Josepehus, and the only outside information that the Qumran community were Essenes is a few words from Pliny. But the scrolls seem to confirm that they were. See how much I learned in a day, lol?

    I like Jesus and John the Baptist as coming from the Essenes. But evidence is going to be quite hard to produce?
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
  11. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget ol' Philo of Alexandria . . .
     
  12. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    'Coming from', I think yes ... what evidence is there to suggest John was influenced by the Essenes?
     
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  13. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    There's the fact that he separated himself and lived in the wilderness, along with his 'eschatological urgency' and just the general way he spoke, but mostly the baptism thing, which immersion in water was an Essene purification ... apparently.

    It's very thin. I'm still reading.
     
  14. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Expand please. I'm a novice here
     
  15. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    I am too. Just google Philo and the Essenes.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
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  16. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Ok. Thanks. Cool.
    So we have this, along with the fact that Philo himself was probably an Essene Jew:

    http://essene.com/History/AncientHistoriansAndEssenes.html

    Philo's (first account)
    "They do not offer animal sacrifice, judging it more fitting to render their minds truly holy. They flee the cities and live in villages where clean air and clean social life abound. They either work in the fields or in crafts that contribute to peace. They do not hoard silver and gold and do not acquire great landholdings; procuring for themselves only what is necessary for life. Thus they live without goods and without property, not by misfortune, but out of preference. They do not make armaments of any kind. They do not keep slaves and detest slavery. They avoid wholesale and retail commerce, believing that such activity excites one to cupidity.

    With respect to philosophy, they dismiss logic but have an extremely high regard for virtue. They honour the Sabbath with great respect over the other days of the week. They have an internal rule which all learn, together with rules on piety, holiness, justice and the knowledge of good and bad. These they make use of in the form of triple definitions, rules regarding the love of God, the love of virtue, and the love of men. They believe God causes all good but cannot be the cause of any evil. They honour virtue by foregoing all riches, glory and pleasure.

    Further, they are convinced they must be modest, quiet, obedient to the rule, simple, frugal and without mirth. Their life style is communal. They have a common purse. Their salaries they deposit before them all, in the midst of them, to be put to the common employment of those who wish to make use of it. They do not neglect the sick on the pretext that they can produce nothing. With the common purse there is plenty from which to treat all illnesses. They lavish great respect on the elderly. With them they are very generous and surround them with a thousand attentions. They practice virtue like a gymnastic exercise, seeing the accomplishment of praiseworthy deeds as the means by which a man ensures absolute freedom for himself."

    Philo (second account)

    "The Essenes live in a number of towns in Judea, and also in many villages and in large groups. They do not enlist by race, but by volunteers who have a zeal for righteousness and an ardent love of men. For this reason there are no young children among the Essenes. Not even adolescents or young men. Instead they are men of old or ripe years who have learned how to control their bodily passions.

    They possess nothing of their own, not house, field, slave nor flocks, nor anything which feeds and procures wealth. They live together in brotherhoods, and eat in common together. Everything they do is for the common good of the group. They work at many different jobs and attack their work with amazing zeal and dedication, working from before sunrise to almost sunset without complaint, but in obvious exhilaration. Their exercise is their work. Indeed, they believe their own training to be more agreeable to body and soul, and more lasting, than athletic games, since their exercises remain fitted to their age, even when the body no longer possesses its full strength.

    They are farmers and shepherds and beekeepers and craftsmen in diverse trades. They share the same way of life, the same table, even the same tastes; all of them loving frugality and hating luxury as a plague for both body and soul. Not only do they share a common table, but common clothes as well. What belongs to one belongs to all. Available to all of them are thick coats for winter and inexpensive light tunics for summer. Seeing it as an obstacle to communal life, they have banned marriage."

    EDIT: And the Josephus reference is:
    'The Jewish War' (2: 116-165)
     
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  17. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Sorry: In fact the Josephus paragraphs are also published in the above link.

    It is the website of 'The Nazarenes of Mount Carmel' -- ie: the descendants of Edmond Bordeaux Szekely. I am happier with my more objective sticky-taped old Penguin Classics translation of The Jewish War by GA Williamson. The above link provides Pliny's comments too, along with a comment by:

    Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, writing around A.D.300
    "Even in our day, there are still those whose only guide is Deity; ones who live by the true reason of nature, not only themselves free but filling their neighbors with he spirit of freedom. They are not very numerous indeed, but that is not strange, for the highest nobility is ever rare; and then these ones have turned aside from the vulgar herd to devote themselves to a contemplation of nature's verities. They pray, if it were possible, that they may reform our fallen lives; but if they cannot, owing to the tide of evils and wrongs which surge up in cities, they flee away, lest they too be swept off their feet by the force of the current. And we, if we had a true zeal for self-improvement, would have to track them to their places of retreat, and, halting as supplicants before them, would beseech them to come to us and tame our life grown too fierce and wild; preaching instead of war and slavery and untold ills, their Gospel of Peace and freedom, and all the fullness of other blessings."

    So there we seem to have everything?

    (edited ...)
     
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  18. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Sounds like a lot of the Jesus sayings in action
     
  19. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    So it seems the Essenes at Qumran might have been a brotherhood of older male ascetics?

    The sources, Pliny, Josephus and Philo all claim they were a celibate brotherhood. The Qumran finds, however, contain documents that deal with family matters, with wives and children.

    So an uneducated guess for me is that 'Essene' might well be a collective term that covered a broad range of belief, from strict ascetic male-only communities of older men (Qumran?) to more commonplace family structures, nevertheless observing certain rules that set them apart from the Pharisee and the Sadducee. Jewish mystical speculation is a lot more sophisticated and a lot more diverse than we for so long assumed.

    Re the quote from Eusebius ... it would be useful if the site had given the source document ...
     
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  20. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    The book I have is an old one 1995; there's a new edition available. There must be a lot of stuff in the actual scrolls: the community rules, etc.

    But to me there seems to be a definite flavour of Essene thought in the New Testament.

    Oh yes, it's a dodgy source. They have 'prettied up' Josephus a bit, lol
     

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