In 1945, the secret caves of the Essene library, miscalled the "Dead Sea Scrolls," were discovered by Bedouin nomads in Qumran, about fourteen miles from Jerusalem. The Essenes was a sect that split off from the Pharisees (Yes, they were Israelites) and settled in Qumran in the Judean desert and became their own community, which was called "The Community of the New Covenant." 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.
Greek author, Philo, is the first author to speak on the Essenes and the first 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 Israelites.
"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 idolatry and 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). 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).
During Paul's trial before Felix, Paul said:
“But I confess unto thee, that after 'THE WAY,' which they call heresy, so worship I the POWER of our fathers, BELIEVING ALL THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN IN THE LAW AND IN THE PROPHETS.” (Acts 24:14).
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)
Check out this great video
Josephus wrote about how The Essenes also held a stricter law than the Pharisees on the observance of the Sabbath. How the Essenes commonly raised other people children (Josephus; Wars 2:8:3) how they would take care of strangers and provide garments and other necessaries for them. (Josephus; Wars 2:8:4) and how they wore all white (Josephus; Wars 2:8:3)
"They are stricter than any of the Jews (Israelites) in resting from their labors on the seventh day." (Wars 2:8:9)
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 & 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."
Other Names that scholars put on "The Essenes"
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