>The Essenes Never Existed

>An article published by Time Magazine quotes Rachel Elior, Professor of Jewish mysticism at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, who says that the Essenes were not the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls and that the existence of the Essenes was a creation of Flavius Josephus.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

Biblical scholars have long argued that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of an ascetic and celibate Jewish community known as the Essenes, which flourished in the 1st century A.D. in the scorching desert canyons near the Dead Sea. Now a prominent Israeli scholar, Rachel Elior, disputes that the Essenes ever existed at all – a claim that has shaken the bedrock of biblical scholarship.

Elior, who teaches Jewish mysticism at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, claims that the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus and that his faulty reporting was passed on as fact throughout the centuries. As Elior explains, the Essenes make no mention of themselves in the 900 scrolls found by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947 in the caves of Qumran, near the Dead Sea. “Sixty years of research have been wasted trying to find the Essenes in the scrolls,” Elior tells TIME. “But they didn’t exist. This is legend on a legend.”

Elior contends that Josephus, a former Jewish priest who wrote his history while being held captive in Rome, “wanted to explain to the Romans that the Jews weren’t all losers and traitors, that there were many exceptional Jews of religious devotion and heroism. You might say it was the first rebuttal to anti-Semitic literature.” She adds, “He was probably inspired by the Spartans. For the Romans, the Spartans were the highest ideal of human behavior, and Josephus wanted to portray Jews who were like the Spartans in their ideals and high virtue.”

According to the article, Elior believes that the renegade sons of Zadok were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Elior’s theory about the authorship of the Scrolls is as controversial as the view proposed by Norman Golb. I am sure that this new proposal will continue the controversy about the origin of the Scrolls.

Read the details of this new theory proposed by Rachel Elior by visiting the Time web page.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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7 Responses to >The Essenes Never Existed

  1. >I enjoy dropping by from time-to-time to grab a meaty morself from your O.T. perspective. Thank you, and be blessed!Kathleen


  2. >Kathleen,Thank you for your nice words. My goal is to write articles that inspire people to develop a better appreciation for the Old Testament.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini


  3. Nik says:

    >This sort of thing has the potential to raise interest, and perhaps stir things up. Possibly to cause new information to surface.


  4. >Nik,This view can generate a lot of discussion but the view is not popular and may never gain acceptance. There is a great deal of evidence for the existence of the Essenes.Claude Mariottini


  5. Anonymous says:

    >The Scrolls came from Jerusalem's Temple itself, in fact they are the same Scrolls that Jesus Christ saw and talked about when his parents spend 3 days looking for him and found him in the Temple talking to others. It was the Christian's Jews the ones that stoled the Scrolls and hid them far far away after when they saw the Romans all around Jerusalem at 66 A.D., 4 years before the war of 70 A.D. The Christians's had to fight the Jews of the Temple of Jerusalem to steal the Scrolls and lucky they did so because the Scrolls could have been burned down, just like the Great Library of Alexandria was burnt down. It was not the common Jews that saved the Scrolls that you all call the Dead Sea Scrolls, it was the Christians that belived in Jesus that saved the Scrolls because the Jews could not longer be thrusted after they killed Jesus Christ in the year 33 A.D. I hate it when I hear that the Jews saved the Scrolls when it was the Christians's Jews that saved the Scrolls. The Jews should stop stealing the glory of the Christians'Jews. Even in our days of this 21st Century the Jews don't like Jesus Christ, but they do like stealing the glory of the Christians that stoled the Scrolls and took them to a safe place to protect them. The day will come when the Jews will get the Plagues of Revelation 22:18,19 because the Jews of the 1st Century wanted the Scrolls to burnt with Jerusalem in 70 A.D. to prevent the Gentiles from learning and worshipping God, the Father of Jesus Christ.


  6. >Dear Anonymous,What historical evidence do you have to say that Jewish Christians took the Scrolls from the Temple? Your words reflect the views of someone who hates the Jewish people. This kind of argument is a disservice to Christianity.I am a Christian and refuse to accept your views because they are just wrong.If you study the archaeological and philological evidence provided by the Scrolls, you would recognize that your views is without any merit.Claude Mariottini


  7. Anonymous says:

    >Dear Dr Claude MariottniCan you date the Book of Ben Sirach if so in your Old Testament? I have read the Complete World of Dead Sea Scrolls.Is it possible to name the last High Priests in Second Temple period start with Onias 2nd to his Simon then to Onias 3rd.I believe that in the Dead Sea Scrolls is that the Wicked Priests was Menelaus and Teacher of Righteousness is being named Onias 3rd.The dating of the scrolls to the time of the split between the Sadducees and Pharisees is highly consistent with polemics against the Pharisees in CD, the pesharim, and halachic texts.  The rise of the Hasidim during the Maccabean war (possibly forerunners of the Essenes) introduced a third Jewish party.  4QMMT is IMO best interpreted as an appeal by the Sadducees for the Maccabeans (Hasidim) to adopt Pharisee practices in the newly dedicated temple of 164 BCE.  This is consistent with the pro-Sadducee anti-Pharisee polemics as well as the interesting description of David as a Hasid. The schism under the Man of Lies thus finds a natural and interpretation in fully documented historical events surrounding the fall of the Oniad temple and the rise of the Pharisees.  By contrast, efforts to date the conflict between the Man of Lies and the Teacher of Righteousness in the Hasmonean Era have been highly problematic.  One school of thought viewed the Man of Lies as an Essene figure from whom the Teacher of Righteousness broke away [Jeremias and others], which is inconsistent with the Man of Lies described in Pharisee terminology.  Another proposed the differentiation of the Hasidim into Pharisees and Essenes took place only under John Hyrkanus [Brownlee], which lacks any direct historical corroboration and indeed is contradicted by rabbinical traditions dating the rise of the Pharisees in the pre-Hasmonean period.  From John Stuart


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