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The Dead Sea Scrolls


One of the most annoying things you will find about the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) is that almost every author, whether in a book or magazine article or interview, will repeat the story of the discovery as if no one has ever heard it before.

There are many theories as to how the scrolls got into the caves. This website does not buy into most of them and leans towards the idea that a group of people stored them there for safe keeping before the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem and the surrounding area.

This site rejects the notion that a few people smuggled them out of the city during the siege and attack as that would have been impossible. For details on that theory and others go to the following links and view the discussions there:



From Craig A. Evans, To Noel Freedman to Hershal Shanks there are a lot of good books written on the DSS. There is no shortage of information on them. What is speculated about the most is the mystery of how they came to be in the caves and who put them there.

The next most common debate is about the Essenes and who they were. Did they really copy the scrolls? Did they really live in Qumran? Are some of the main questions asked.  No one knows as there has been no manuscript discovered documenting the ownership or the details of the storage of the scrolls.

It is all a guessing game. It is also an issue filled with multiple conflicting theories as archaeologists and scholars take the side they think is the best it.  Some even go as far as saying that Qumran was only a pottery factory and could not house the Essenes but their evidence can only support part of that argument.

What follows will be similar to the other new pages: 10 blurbs on the issue of the DSS, with links to help you investigate further. Ten blurbs do not do the issue justice but for the sake of space and time it is a good number to get started.

You will discover that there is a wealth of information out there from all levels of biblical studies and scholarship. Just be careful as you read as most scholars are not Christian and do not care about the truth. They care more about discussion than finding and presenting answers.

The first blurb will be the official internet site of the DSS

#1. http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/home

The discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls in a remote Judean Desert cave in 1947 is widely considered the greatest archaeological event of the twentieth century. Bedouin treasure hunters and archaeologists ultimately found the remains of hundreds of ancient scrolls. These fragile pieces of parchment and papyrus, including the oldest existing copies of the Hebrew Bible, were preserved for two thousand years by the hot, dry desert climate and the darkness of the caves where they were placed. The scrolls provide an unprecedented picture of the diverse religious beliefs of ancient Judaism, and of daily life during the turbulent Second Temple period when Jesus lived and preached.

Fragments of every book of the Hebrew Bible (except the Book of Esther) were found in the Qumran caves, the most famous of the Dead Sea Scrolls sites. Remarkably, some of these ancient copies are identical to the traditional text of the Hebrew Bible that is used today. Other copies preserve differences in the text, which was in the process of standardisation.

Non-biblical texts discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls offer us a tantalizing glimpse of life during the Second Temple period and the opportunity to understand the attitudes, desires and aspirations of the people of that time. Most of the scrolls from the Qumran caves are religious writings from the Second Temple period. Some of these reflect the life and philosophy of a distinctive group that called itself the “Yahad” (“Community”). At other sites, the major finds were administrative and personal documents dating from the catastrophic Judean revolt against Rome in 132–135 ce.

As part of the conservation efforts to preserve the Scrolls for future generations, the IAA has initiated the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls digitization project. Using the most advanced and innovative imaging technology, each Scroll fragment is imaged in various wavelengths and in the highest resolution possible then uploaded to the Digital Library. For the first time ever, the Dead Sea Scrolls archive is becoming available to the public online.

#2. http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/05/21/What-is-the-importance-of-the-Dead-Sea-Scrolls.aspx

What is the most important archaeological discovery to date?

"Probably the Dead Sea Scrolls have had the greatest Biblical impact. They have provided Old Testament manuscripts approximately 1,000 years older than our previous oldest manuscript. The Dead Sea Scrolls have demonstrated that the Old Testament was accurately transmitted during this interval. In addition, they provide a wealth of information on the times leading up to, and during, the life of Christ." -- Dr. Bryant Wood

Description of the Scrolls

As soon as the announcement of the scrolls' discovery was made, the scholarly debates about their origin and significance began. The debates increased when the amazing contents of the scrolls were successively revealed.

The seven original scrolls, from what came to be called "Cave One," comprised the following:

  • a well-preserved copy of the entire prophecy of Isaiah—the oldest copy of an Old Testament book ever to be discovered
  • another fragmentary scroll of Isaiah
  • a commentary on the first two chapters of Habakkuk—the commentator explained the book allegorically interms of the Qumran brotherhood
  • the "Manual of Discipline" or "Community Rule"—the most important source of information about the religious sect at Qumran—it described the requirements for those aspiring to join the brotherhood
  • the "Thanksgiving Hymns," a collection of devotional "psalms" of thanksgiving and praise to God
  • an Aramaic paraphrase of the Book of Genesis
  • the "Rule of War" which dealt with the battle between the "Sons of Light" (the men of Qumran) and the "Sons of Darkness" (the Romans?) yet to take place in the "last days," which days the men of Qumran believed were about to arrive.

Those seven original scrolls were just the beginning. Over six hundred scrolls and thousands of fragments have been discovered in the 11 caves of the Qumran area. Fragments of every Biblical book except Esther have been found, as well as many other non-Biblical texts.

One of the most fascinating of the finds was a copper scroll which had to becut in strips to be opened and which contained a list of 60 treasures located in various parts of Judea (none of which have been found)! Another scroll, which Israeli archaeologists recovered in 1967 underneath the floor of a Bethlehem antiquities dealer, describes in detail the community's view of an elaborate Temple ritual. This has been appropriately called the "Temple Scroll."

The contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls indicate that their authors were a group of priests and laymen pursuing a communal life of strict dedication to God. Their leader was called the "Righteous Teacher." They viewed themselves as the only true elect of Israel—they alone were faithful to the Law.

They opposed the "Wicked Priest"—the Jewish High Priest in Jerusalem who represented the establishment, and who had persecuted them in some way. This wicked priest was probably one of the Maccabean rulers who had illegitimately assumed the high priesthood between 150-140 BC. Most scholars have identified the Qumran brotherhood with the Essenes, a Jewish sect of Jesus' day described by Josephus and Philo.

#3. http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2013/04/17/The-Great-Isaiah-Scroll-and-the-Original-Bible-An-Interview-with-Dr-Peter-Flint.aspx

In 1987, as the Dead Sea Scrolls publishing controversy captured the world’s attention, a graduate student by the name of Peter Flint moved from South Africa to the United States. He took a doctoral fellowship at the University of Notre Dame and began to study under one of the figures at the center of the controversy, Eugene Ulrich, the chief editor of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls.


By 1997, Dr. Peter Flint had published the second largest portion of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls: the Psalms Scrolls. This publication was full of discoveries that soon changed Bibles, Bible study, and biblical scholarship. Today, Flint is an editor of the largest intact Dead Sea Scroll: The Great Isaiah Scroll…

Yes. I have a beautiful example from the Isaiah scrolls. Do you remember the suffering servant of the Lord, the man of sorrows? If you go to Isa 53:11, it says, in reference to the servant, “He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. By his knowledge my righteous servant shall justify many. For he shall bear their iniquities.” According to the KJV, which follows the traditional Hebrew text, the servant will suffer, he will die, and he will be content. It’s Good Friday, right?

Now what do we find when we turn to the scrolls? I went to the Great Isaiah Scroll in Jerusalem and I discovered there is a different reading. Not, “He shall see of the travail of his soul.” Instead, there’s a new word there, “Out of the travail of his soul he will see light.” That is explosive. In that verse we do not only have Good Friday, we have Easter Sunday. Hope, life, resurrection—there it is in the Great Isaiah Scroll. The sermons will have to be repreached, the commentaries will have to be rewritten.

Some might say, “You know what Dr. Flint, just hold on. Maybe ‘He shall see light’ is there because this community thought they were the ‘sons of light.’ Maybe they added it.” I reply to that by asking, “Is this a good and supported reading?” Well, there are two other scrolls that have this, which would seem to suggest it is.

Imagine your minister saying, “I’ve got good news for you—the scrolls tell us the suffering servant will not only find satisfaction, but ‘will see light.’ ” This reading is based on the oldest copies of the Word of God in the world…

The Scrolls demonstrate that your Bible is 99% accurate. We are confirming the Word of God and getting to that 1% of readings that are difficult. The NRSV adopts 85 readings like the “He will see light” reading. The NIV has adopted 22. At this early stage, there are about 100 better readings discovered in the Scrolls that have been proposed for English translations. Some of the bibles that adopt these readings are the RSV, RSV and NIV. However, there are some that stick to the traditional Hebrew text, like the KJV. Those translations will not adopt the 1% better reading

You can read more about Peter Flint and his work at the following website


The years between 1951 and 1956 were marked by accelerated activity in both the search for caves and the archeological excavation of sites related to tile manuscripts. An eight-kilometer-long strip of cliffs was thoroughly investigated. Of the eleven caves that yielded manuscripts, five were discovered by the Bedouins and six by archeologists. Some of the caves were particularly rich in material. Cave 3 preserved two oxidized rolls of beaten copper (the Copper Scroll), containing a lengthy roster of real or imaginary hidden treasures-a tantalizing enigma to this day. Cave 4. was particularly rich in material: 15,000 fragments from at least six hundred composite texts were found there. The last manuscript cave discovered, Cave II, was located in 1956, providing extensive documents, including the Psalms Scroll, an Aramaic targum of Job, and the Temple Scroll, the longest (about twenty-nine feet) of the Qumran manuscripts. The Temple Scroll was acquired by Yigael Yadin in 1967 and is now housed alongside the first seven scrolls in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. All the remaining manuscripts, sizable texts as well as minute fragments, are stored in the Rockefeller Museum building in Jerusalem, the premises of the Israel Antiquities Authority…

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls caused heated controversy in scholarly circles over their date and the identity of the community they represented.

Professor Sukenik, after initially defining the time span of the scrolls as the Second Temple period, recognized their special significance and advocated the now widely accepted theory that they were remnants of the library of the Essenes. At the time, however, he was vociferously opposed by a number of scholars who doubted the antiquity as well as the authenticity of the texts. Lingering in the memory of learned circles was the notorious Shapira affair of 1883. M. Shapira, a Jerusalem antiquities dealer, announced the discovery of an ancient text of Deuteronomy. His texts, allegedly inscribed on fifteen leather strips, caused a huge stir in Europe and were even exhibited at the British Museum. Shortly thereafter, the leading European scholars of the day denounced the writings as rank forgeries.

Today scholarly opinion regarding the time span and background of the Dead Sea Scrolls is anchored in historical, paleographic, and linguistic evidence, corroborated firmly by carbon 14-datings. Some manuscripts were written and copied in the third century B.C.E., but the bulk of the material, particularly the texts that reflect on a sectarian community, are originals or copies from the first century B.C.E.; a number of texts date from as late as the years preceding the destruction of the site in 68 C.E. at the hands of the Roman legions.

#5. http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/deadsea.html

What is the consensus about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the people who wrote them? Charlesworth outlines several points of consensus, some of which follow. First, the scrolls were all written by Jews; none of them have been edited by later Christians, as is the case with some other Jewish literature. Second, all the scrolls (except a treasure map known as the Copper Scroll) can be dated prior to A.D. 68 or 69, when the Qumran settlement was believed to have been destroyed by the Romans in the Jewish revolt. Third, the oldest of the scrolls probably goes back to the middle of the third century B.C. - about a century before the Qumran community was established. Fourth, the Qumran community was established in the middle of the second century B.C. by a group of priests who had been expelled from the Jerusalem temple, led by the man known as The Teacher of Righteousness. Fifth, the archenemy of the Qumran community was the ruling high priest and one of the Maccabean revolutionaries of the second century, probably Jonathan or Simon. They called him the Wicked Priest and the Liar. Sixth, the people of Qumran believed that the Holy Spirit had left the Jerusalem temple and now dwelt with them. Seventh, the people of Qumran belonged to a Jewish religious group known as the Essenes.

The evidence for this last point is overwhelming. What we know about the Essenes from ancient writers like Josephus and Philo is remarkably similar to what we know about the Qumran community from their archaeological remains and their literature. Pliny the Elder, who died during the volcanic destruction of Pompeii in the year 79 A.D., described a community of Essenes living on the western shore of the Dead Sea, close to where Khirbet Qumran is situated. If the Qumran community was not made up of Essenes, then they were completely ignored by every ancient writer and historian. That seems very unlikely.

What seems even more unlikely is the theory of Robert Eisenman which is endorsed by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. According to Eisenman, the Teacher of Righteousness was James the brother of Jesus. The people of Qumran were not Essenes but Zealots, violent rebels, and James was their leader. The enemy they called the Liar was Paul the apostle, and the Wicked Priest was Ananias, the high priest of Jerusalem. After Ananias put James to death Judea revolted, the Romans responded by destroying Jerusalem, and Paul won out by inventing Christianity and turning Jesus into a God. In other far-out theories, the Teacher of Righteousness has been identified as Jesus. But the most interesting theory yet was published by an early Dead Sea scholar named John Allegro. In his book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, Allegro contended that Jesus was not a historical person but an image invoked by the use of a hallucinogenic mushroom. I did read a short story based on that theory once, but I don't know of any scholar who has verified that thesis. The book was an embarrassment to the publisher.

Barbara Thiering has another theory. In the television program mentioned earlier, Thiering talks about the Dead Sea Scrolls and a secret method of interpreting the Gospels. She believes that Jesus was born and raised, not in Bethlehem, but in Qumran. Using her secret method of digging beneath the stated meaning of the Biblical text, she argues that Jesus was not really born of a biological virgin but of a woman who could technically be referred to as a virgin because she was betrothed to an Essene. The Holy Spirit which conceived Jesus was actually a code-name for Joseph, Jesus' father. Jesus grew up to be one of the leaders of the Qumran community, alongside John the Baptist. Together they were regarded as the two Messiahs. But in the year 29 A.D. Jesus turned against the community by rejecting baptisms, law observance, and the ascetic lifestyle, and preached the priesthood of all believers. Jesus then became known as the Wicked Priest and the Liar and John the Baptist became known as the Teacher of Righteousness.

Jesus, meanwhile, became part of a group known as the 12 Apostles. The group split into two factions: the Christians, led by Jesus, and the Zealots, led by Judas Iscariot. The temptation stories recorded in the Gospels are really secret accounts of the argument between Judas, represented by the figure of the devil, and Jesus. Judas offered to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would subordinate himself to Judas and become his second-in-command, but Jesus refused.

#6. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/who-wrote-the-dead-sea-scrolls-11781900/

But hearing the dramatic recitation, Peleg, 40, rolls his eyes. “There is no connection to the Essenes at this site,” he tells me as a hawk circles above in the warming air. He says the scrolls had nothing to do with the settlement. Evidence for a religious community here, he says, is unconvincing. He believes, rather, that Jews fleeing the Roman rampage hurriedly stuffed the documents into the Qumran caves for safekeeping. After digging at the site for ten years, he also believes that Qumran was originally a fort designed to protect a growing Jewish population from threats to the east. Later, it was converted into a pottery factory to serve nearby towns like Jericho, he says.

Other scholars describe Qumran variously as a manor house, a perfume manufacturing center and even a tannery. Despite decades of excavations and careful analysis, there is no consensus about who lived there—and, consequently, no consensus about who actually wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

“It’s an enigmatic and confusing site,” acknowledges Risa Levitt Kohn, who in 2007 curated an exhibit about the Dead Sea Scrolls in San Diego. She says the sheer breadth and age of the writings—during a period that intersects with the life of Jesus and the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem—make Qumran “a powder keg” among normally placid scholars. Qumran has prompted bitter feuds and even a recent criminal investigation.

Nobody doubts the scrolls’ authenticity, but the question of authorship has implications for understanding the history of both Judaism and Christianity. In 164 B.C., a group of Jewish dissidents, the Maccabees, overthrew the Seleucid Empire that then ruled Judea. The Maccabees established an independent kingdom and, in so doing, tossed out the priestly class that had controlled the temple in Jerusalem since the time of King Solomon. The turmoil led to the emergence of several rival sects, each one vying for dominance. If the Qumran texts were written by one such sect, the scrolls “help us to understand the forces that operated after the Maccabean Revolt and how various Jewish groups reacted to those forces,” says New York University professor of Jewish and Hebraic studies Lawrence Schiffman in his book Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls. “While some sects were accommodating themselves to the new order in various ways, the Dead Sea group decided it had to leave Jerusalem altogether in order to continue its unique way of life.”

And if Qumran indeed housed religious ascetics who turned their backs on what they saw as Jerusalem’s decadence, then the Essenes may well represent a previously unknown link between Judaism and Christianity. “John the Baptizer, Jesus’ teacher, probably learned from the Qumran Essenes—though he was no Essene,” says James Charlesworth, a scrolls scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary. Charlesworth adds that the scrolls “disclose the context of Jesus’ life and message.” Moreover, the beliefs and practices of the Qumran Essenes as described in the scrolls—vows of poverty, baptismal rituals and communal meals—mirror those of early Christians. As such, some see Qumran as the first Christian monastery, the cradle of an emerging faith.

But Peleg and others discount Qumran’s role in the history of the two religions. Norman Golb, a University of Chicago professor of Jewish history (and an academic rival of Schiffman), believes that once Galilee fell during the Jewish revolt, Jerusalem’s citizens knew that the conquest of their city was inevitable; they thus gathered up texts from libraries and personal collections and hid them throughout the Judean wilderness, including in the caves near the Dead Sea. If that’s the case, then Qumran was likely a secular—not a spiritual—site, and the scrolls reflect not just the views of a single dissident group of proto-Christians, but a wider tapestry of Jewish thought. “Further determination of the individual concepts and practices described in the scrolls can be best achieved not by forcing them to fit into the single sectarian bed of Essenism,” Golb argued in the journal Biblical Archaeologist.

#7. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB122238636935776931

There are two competing theories about the scrolls. The first is that they belonged to a single religious sect living nearby the caves, most likely the Essenes. The second theory is that the scrolls are a random collection of texts reflecting the beliefs of many Jewish groups of the period; the caves, under this theory, are a repository for sacred texts from various Jewish communities fleeing the Romans during the Jewish revolt of A.D. 68.

The issue is whether these fragments of parchment tell the story of the religious activity of a particular, arguably proto-Christian, denomination or, alternatively, the story of a wider swath of the Jewish people. In other words, are the scrolls a lens affording an unparalleled view of Jews at a crucial, pre-Diasporan moment or, rather, an in-depth account of a single sect's intellectual development?

This theory -- that the scrolls represented an intellectual precursor to Christianity -- actually came first and was even propounded by the man who discovered the caves and their scrolls, the Rev. Roland de Vaux, a French biblical scholar, archaeologist and monk. After reading the scrolls, he announced with pride that they had been authored by an Essene sect and asserted that the sect was the forebear of his own Dominican movement.

The early scholars, many of them Christian, "wanted the scrolls to be sectarian," according to Philip Davies, a British professor of biblical studies. "Christians saw in them the forerunner of Christianity." He explains that "now that the scrolls are in Israeli hands, they are being interpreted as more mainstream, even proto-rabbinic," meaning that they could be read as precursors to the time when the Jewish oral tradition was transformed into an edited, written text.

#8. http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/reviews/the-dead-sea-scrolls-a-full-history-vol-1/

By September 1952 the PAM/Department of Antiquities had exhausted its resources, and the Cave 4 fragments were just beginning to pour onto the market. In a letter dated 29 September 1952 (the day the excavation of Cave 4 ended) to Carl Kraeling of the Oriental Institute, Chicago, Harding estimated that £15,000.00 = $42,300.00 was necessary to cover the acquisition, conservation and publication of these fragments. Where was the money to come from? Not only had sellers to be paid, but scholars had to eat and support families.

There was no alternative but to beg. One might have thought that it would be easy to raise funds for documents important to so many people throughout the world. Over many years the opposite has proved to be true. It is one of the leitmotifs of Fields’ book that the lack of funds caused Harding and de Vaux consistent anxiety and crippled the speed of publication. It is noteworthy that none of those who cried most loudly for access to the scrolls ever offered to put their hands in their pockets. In this connection Fields makes a startling revelation. “As I write this there are as many as 16 Hebrew biblical fragments and one fragment of Enoch languishing in a vault in Switzerland, 140 Greek fragments in Jerusalem, and a large fragment of Genesis elsewhere, for whose purchase I have not been able to get one penny despite four years of work, scores of letters and meetings, and hundreds of dollars’ worth of phone calls” (157). Fields estimates that between 1988 and 2005 alone at least $4 million was spent on publishing the scrolls…

The team turned out to be international and interconfessional but these were not the criteria for selection. Fields’ precision with respect to each member is admirably illustrated by his summary of how Cross was recruited, “From the documentation that survived it is obvious that the invitation [to Cross] came from Kraeling to Harding to de Vaux to Cross” (543 n. 22). On rather slender evidence Fields concludes that “it is virtually certain that Jewish scholars would have been invited to join the Cave 4 team had Jerusalem not been divided in 1953 (sic!)” (541 n. 4). The complex way in which the team was funded over time is laid out in great detail in a report of de Vaux to the Director of Antiquities of Jordan dated 12 June 1960.

The way the Cave 4 team worked is described by Cross, “Initially we all worked on all materials, only specializing when the team had to split up. We searched out and identified particularly the manuscripts which interested us, but also we all contributed to the plates of manuscripts belonging to others. Often we passed over whole manuscripts to others. I got rid of the so-called Pentateuchal paraphrases as soon as Strugnell agreed to take them. The lots remained somewhat fluid until 1956” (232). In a long interview Strugnell describes how fragments were assembled into a document by first identifying the scribal ‘hand’. Thus everyone looked at everything in a quest for the ‘hand’ on which he was currently working.

In this atmosphere there could be no secrets. It would have been impossible to hide fragments considered damaging to Christianity or to the Vatican. Not surprisingly those who cried conspiracy never even quoted anything from memory. In an unguarded moment Allegro wrote, “I am convinced that if something turns up which affects the Roman Catholic dogma, the world will never see it. De Vaux will scrape the money out of some other barrel, and send the lot to the Vatican to be hidden or destroyed” (432 my emphasis). In other words, Allegro was keeping his fingers crossed that such a document would emerge from a still undiscovered cave! It never did...

1956 was a bad year for the Scrollery. Harding was forced out of office on the basis of a farrago of absurd charges regarding improprieties with the scrolls. In contrast to his usual approach Fields here leaves us to deduce the accusations from Harding’s response. The Suez crisis led to the departure of the Cave 4 team from Jerusalem, and the scrolls were packed and stored for security in Amman. They were eventually returned, but the complete team never worked together in the Scrollery again. Worse was to follow. On 6 January 1957 the Minister of Education of Jordan formally claimed full rights with respect to “all ancient manuscripts which were discovered in the area of the Dead Sea” (363). The following month the same minister established a board to oversee the scrolls at the PAM. The members were to be the Director and Assistant director of Antiquities and the Directors of the École Biblique and ASOR, presided over by the mayor of Jerusalem. This almost amounted to nationalization of the PAM, which turned out to be rather less of a success when the authorities discovered the extent of its borrowings to acquire fragments. Not surprisingly, therefore, on 28 December 1957 the Jordanian Council of Ministers declared the actions of the Minister of Education to have been illegal and thus null and void. These momentous events had the potential for great disruption but seem to have had little impact on those free to work on the scrolls. The amount of material led to a proposal to enlarge the Cave 4 team by two, Joseph A. Fitzmyer and a German, but nothing came of it.


The Works of Flavius Josephus

Translated by William Whiston

Book II. Chapter 8.

2. For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of which are the Pharisees; of the second, the Sadducees; and the third sect, which pretends to a severer discipline, are called Essens. These last are Jews by birth, and seem to have a greater affection for one another than the other sects have. These Essens reject pleasures as an evil, but esteem continence, and the conquest over our passions, to be virtue. They neglect wedlock, but choose out other persons children, while they are pliable, and fit for learning, and esteem them to be of their kindred, and form them according to their own manners. They do not absolutely deny the fitness of marriage, and the succession of mankind thereby continued; but they guard against the lascivious behavior of women, and are persuaded that none of them preserve their fidelity to one man.3. These men are despisers of riches, and so very communicative as raises our admiration. Nor is there any one to be found among them who hath more than another; for it is a law among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order, - insomuch that among them all there is no appearance of poverty, or excess of riches, but every one's possessions are intermingled with every other's possessions; and so there is, as it were, one patrimony among all the brethren. They think that oil is a defilement; and if any one of them be anointed without his own approbation, it is wiped off his body; for they think to be sweaty is a good thing, as they do also to be clothed in white garments. They also have stewards appointed to take care of their common affairs, who every one of them have no separate business for any, but what is for the uses of them all.

4. 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. But the habit and management of their bodies is such as children use who are in fear of their masters. Nor do they allow of the change of or of shoes till be first torn to pieces, or worn out by time. Nor do they either buy or sell any thing to one another; but every one of them gives what he hath to him that wanteth it, and receives from him again in lieu of it what may be convenient for himself; and although there be no requital made, they are fully allowed to take what they want of whomsoever they please. 5. And as for their piety towards God, it is very extraordinary; for before sun-rising they speak not a word about profane matters, but put up certain prayers which they have received from their forefathers, as if they made a supplication for its rising. After this every one of them are sent away by their curators, to exercise some of those arts wherein they are skilled, in which they labor with great diligence till the fifth hour. After which they assemble themselves together again into one place; and when they have clothed themselves in white veils, they then bathe their bodies in cold water. And after this purification is over, they every one meet together in an apartment of their own, into which it is not permitted to any of another sect to enter; while they go, after a pure manner, into the dining-room, as into a certain holy temple, and quietly set themselves down; upon which the baker lays them loaves in order; the cook also brings a single plate of one sort of food, and sets it before every one of them; but a priest says grace before meat; and it is unlawful for any one to taste of the food before grace be said. The same priest, when he hath dined, says grace again after meat; and when they begin, and when they end, they praise God, as he that bestows their food upon them; after which they lay aside their [white] garments, and betake themselves to their labors again till the evening; then they return home to supper, after the same manner; and if there be any strangers there, they sit down with them. Nor is there ever any clamor or disturbance to pollute their house, but they give every one leave to speak in their turn; which silence thus kept in their house appears to foreigners like some tremendous mystery; the cause of which is that perpetual sobriety they exercise, and the same settled measure of meat and drink that is allotted them, and that such as is abundantly sufficient for them.


Since the archaeological discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946, the word "Essene" has made its way around the world--often raising a lot of questions. Many people were astonished to discover that, two thousand years ago, a brotherhood of holy men and women, living together in a community, carried within themselves all of the seeds of Christianity and of future western civilization. This brotherhood--more or less persecuted and ostracized--would bring forth people who would change the face of the world and the course of history. Indeed, almost all of the principal founders of what would later be called Christianity were Essenes--St. Ann, Joseph and Mary, John the Baptist, Jesus, John the Evangelist, etc.

The Essenes considered themselves to be a separate people--not because of external signs like skin color, hair color, etc., but because of the illumination of their inner life and their knowledge of the hidden mysteries of nature unknown to other men. They considered themselves to be also a group of people at the center of all peoples--because everyone could become part of it, as soon as they had successfully passed the selective tests.
They thought, and rightly so, that they were the heirs of God's sons and daughters of old, the heirs to their great ancient civilization. They possessed their advanced knowledge and worked assiduously in secret for the triumph of the light over the darkness of the human mind.

They felt that they had been entrusted with a mission, which would turn out to be the founding of Christianity and of western civilization. They were supported in this effort by highly evolved beings who directed the brotherhood. They were true saints, Masters of wisdom, hierophants of the ancient arts of mastery.

They were not limited to a single religion, but studied all of them in order to extract the great scientific principles. They considered each religion to be a different stage of a single revelation. They accorded great importance to the teachings of the ancient Chaldeans, of Zoroaster, of Hermes Trismegiste, to the secret instructions of Moses and of one of the founding Masters of their order who had transmitted techniques similar to those of Buddhism, as well as to the revelation of Enoch.
They possessed a living science of all of these revelations.
Thus, they knew how to communicate with angelic beings and had solved the question of the origin of evil on the earth.

One of their major preoccupations was to protect themselves from any contact with evil spirits, in order to preserve the purity of their souls. They knew that they would only be on earth for a short time, and they did not want to prostitute their eternal souls. It was this attitude, this strict discipline, this absolute refusal to lie or compromise, that made them the object of so much persecution through the ages.

The Essenes considered themselves the guardians of the Divine Teaching. They had in their possession a great number of very ancient manuscripts, some of them going back to the dawn of time. A large portion of the School members spent their time decoding them, translating them into several languages, and reproducing them, in order to perpetuate and preserve this advanced knowledge. They considered this work to be a sacred task.