In 1945, the secret caves of the Essenes library, miscalled the "Dead Sea Scrolls," were discovered by Taamirah Bedouin nomads in Qumran, about fourteen miles from Jerusalem. The Essenes was a group who settled within Qumran, in the Judean desert, and became their own community, which was called "The Community of the New Covenant. "The Kingdom of Heaven," is what the Essenes intended to establish. Also, according to Josephus, many of them dwell in every city, they had no one certain city. Josephus stated:
"They have no one certain city, but many of them dwell in every city; 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 in to such as they never knew before, as if they had been ever so long acquainted with them. For which reason they carry nothing at all 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 to provide garments and other necessaries for them." - Josephus, Wars, 2:8:4
They were a sect that started during the time of the Second Temple that flourished from 2nd century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. The Essenes began when they became followers of an individual known simply as the Teacher of Righteousness, that they followed to Damascus (he is found in some of the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran) The Teacher of Righteousness was at odds with a figure referred to as the "Wicked Priest" some scholars identify him as Alexander Jannaeus. The Essenes practiced ascetic monastic, which is when, one devotes themselves to the pursuits of their beliefs and abstains from worldly pleasures.
Greek author, Philo, is the first author to give them the name “Essenes,” which is not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Philo stated that the name Essenes, that he gave them, transcribes an untranslatable Hebrew word that indicated holiness (Quod Probus, 75) When Philo visited Jerusalem, he gave his account on what he observed of this community of Israelite's.
"The life of the Essenes, a life so highly to be prized that not only commoners but also great kings look upon them with admiration and amazement, and the approbation and honors which they give add further veneration to their venerable name.
Philo; Every Good Man, Hypothetica 2 viii. 11.18
“The Essenes number around 4,000, they have shown themselves especially devout in the service to ALYHM, not by offering sacrifices of animals, but by resolving to sanctify their minds.”
(Philo IX, 55; Quod Probus,75)
This observation lets us know that the Essenes believed that cleansing the mind (circumcising the heart) was how they would show their deep commitment in serving ALYHM. YHWH speaks about circumcising the heart. YHWH described disobedience as a result of an uncircumcised heart (Lev.26:41) and described repentance as circumcision of the heart (Deut. 10:16; Deut. 30:6) YHWH said, he would punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised (Jeremiah 9:25). YHWH also spoke about the NEW COVENANT that he would make with the house of Israel, by putting his LAW IN THEIR INWARD PARTS, AND WRITING IT IN THEIR HEARTS, AND HOW THEY WILL NOT HAVE TO TEACH NO MORE EVERY MAN HIS NEIGHBOR, AND EVERY MAN HIS BROTHER (Jeremiah 31:33-34).
Another person that attested to the Essenes not offering sacrifices in the temple was, Josephus’s in his writings, Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII, 1, 5. He stated, that they have more PURE OFFERINGS of their own and that they bind themselves to taking care of animals and cultivating crops, rather then, sacrificing animals.
“And when they send what they have dedicated to ALHYM into the temple, they DO NOT OFFER SACRIFICES, because they have more pure offerings of their own; on which account they are excluded from the common court of the temple, but offer their sacrifices themselves; yet is their course of life better than that of other men; and they entirely bind themselves to husbandry.”
- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII, 1, 5
Pliny is another one who attested to this community:
“To the west the Essenes have put the necessary distance between themselves and the insalubrious shore. They are a people unique of its kind and admirable beyond all others in the whole world, without women and renouncing love entirely, without money, and having for company only the palm trees. Owing to the throng of newcomers, this people is daily reborn in equal number; indeed, those whom, wearied by the fluctuations of fortune, life leads to adopt their customs, stream in in great numbers. Thus, unbelievable though this may seem, for thousands of centuries a race has existed which is eternal yet into which no one is born: so fruitful for them is the repentance which others feel for their past lives!”
— Pliny, Natural History 5.17, 4
"Many of the Essenes have by their excellent virtue been thought worthy of this knowledge of divine revelation."
The Essenes separated from the Pharisees because they felt that their teachings of the Torah were not strict enough and that the temple was being defiled. According to one of their Qumran scrolls (Dead Sea scrolls) that were found at Qumran in Judean Samaria, known as the Halakhic letter (4QMMT), the Essenes said:
"We separated from the majority of the people and from all their uncleanness and from being party to or going along with them in these matters." (4QMMT C7-9)
"They also defile the sanctuary, for they do not separate clean from unclean according to the LAW." (Dam. Doc. 5, 6-7)
"There are also the Essenes who separate themselves from all these, and observe the laws of their fathers." Apostolic Constitutions or Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, By Clement, William Whiston's Version, Revised from Greek
Check out this great video
Essenes Way of Life
There are two orders of Essenes, according to marriage. According to Josephus, the second order agrees with the rest as to their way of living, and customs, and laws, but DIFFER FROM THE FIRST ORDER, IN THE POINT OF MARRIAGE. What would they do? observe their women for three years. Then when the women have purified themselves three times and proved capable of bearing children, they then marry them.
“Moreover, there is another order of Essenes, who agree with the rest as to their way of living, and customs, and laws, but differ from them in the point of marriage, as thinking that by not marrying they cut off the principal part of human life, which is the prospect of succession; nay, rather, that if all men should be of the same opinion, the whole race of mankind would fail. However, they try their spouses for three years; and if they find that they have their natural purgations thrice, as trials that they are likely to be fruitful, they then actually marry them. But they do not use to accompany with their wives when they are with child, as a demonstration that they do not many out of regard to pleasure, but for the sake of posterity. Now the women go into the baths with some of their garments on, as the men do with somewhat girded about them. And these are the customs of this order of Essenes.” - Josephus, Wars, 2:8:13
The Qumran community/Essenes and John (Matt. 1:3; Luke 3:4) quoted Isaiah 40:3 as being a prophecy foretelling their work.
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare THE WAY of YHWH;" make straight in the desert a highway for our ALHYM" Isaiah 40:3
Later during HaMashiach ministry he proclaimed that he was THE WAY (John 14:5-6)
Also, they referred to themselves as being "in the wilderness," which would make sense because, they did live in the desert and they built their foundations from notably the greater Hebrew prophets. They interpreted the writings of the prophets but in a new way, in accordance with "the new covenant," which they believed was revealed to them through the instructions of the Teacher of Righteousness. Yet, according to (Jer. 31:33-34) the new covenant that is said that will be made with the house of Israel is, YHWH putting the law in our inward parts, writing it on our hearts so we will not have to teach it anymore. So, it’s impossible that we are living under the new covenant because if we were everyone would know the law, as YHWH stated in (Jer. 31:33-34.)
It is said that HaMashiach students for the most part came from the Essene background. HaMashiach followers had much in common with the Essenes they both were called "THE WAY " (Acts 9:2 & 1QS 9, 18) and "B'nai or" (Sons of Light) (John 12:36; Eph5:8; 1Thes. 5:5; Man. Of Disc. 1, 9; 2, 24; 1QM.) Not only were they called "The Way or Sons of Light" by others but, the Qumran community and early believers in HaMashiach, called their movement "THE WAY" too (Matt.3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23; Dam. Doc. viii, 12-14; ix, 20.) HaMashiach advocated and preached the Essenes beliefs (so did John the Baptist) to an extent, as the Qumran scrolls are revealing, such as:
HaMashiach twelve disciples and the Essenes council of twelve at Qumran
(Matt. 10:1-4; Man. of Dis. 1QS 8:1)
HaMashiach disagreed with taking an oath as did the Essenes
(Matt. 5:34; Josephus; Wars 2:8:6; Man. of Dis. 1QS 5:1-3)
HaMashiach Passover dinner reflects the Qumran communities’ Messianic banquet
(Matt. 26:17-30; Josephus; Wars 2:8:5; Man. of Discipline 6:3-6 & 1QS Sa. 2, 17-20)
reaching for bread, which was a phase used during the "Last Supper"
(Matt. 26:26; 1QSa. 2:20-21)
Those are just some examples. Some teachings of HaMashiach were different but most agreed with the Essenes.
Paul and the Essenes shared similarities one of which is very important. According to Hebrew 7:13-17 Paul said that HaMashiach is considered a priest in the order of Melchizedek (high priest), yet, he is not a descendent of Aaron, which means he is not from the Levitical priesthood, but of the priest hood of YHWH and according to a Qumran document known as 11Q13, the Essenes spoke of HaMashiach as a figure called "Melchizedek."
The Silent Ones
The Performers of the Law
The Retired Ones
The Servants of Elohim
The Men of Essa
The Stout Ones
The Strong Race
The Mysterious Ones
The Holiness Sect
The Third Sect
The School of Healers
The Daily Baptists
The Observers of The Laws of Purity
The Apron- Wearers
The Ministers of Peace