The Essenes Community At Qumran
The Essenes were an extremely conservative and fundamental Jewish people who went to extremes in order to attain perfect holiness. They were very ascetic and rigid in their beliefs. They had an unnamed Teacher of Righteousness who should not be confused with Jesus Christ. They adhered primarily to Old Testament orthodox Judaism. They were an exclusive brotherhood, animated by the loftiest of ideals and devoted to the observance of “perfect holiness.”
Prior to Qumran, the primary sources concerning the Essenes Jewish religious community were furnished by two Jewish authors, Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus; and Pliny the Elder, who left a short but important note in Latin. The membership of the Palestinian group exceeded 4,000. Josephus, Pliny and Philo locate their dwellings. Josephus and Philo in Judean towns, Pliny refers to a single Essene settlement in the wilderness between Jericho and Engedi. Initiation consisted of one year probation, and two years of further training, leading to swearing an oath of loyalty to the sect. Only adult men qualified, and serious disobedience resulted in expulsion from the order. They experienced common ownership (sharing, communal) of property, and agriculture was the main Essene occupation. They renounced private possessions, and received food, clothes and care. They wore white garments, and initiates took ritual baths before meals. They adhered to strict observance of the law and were famous for extreme observance of the Sabbath. Their esoteric teachings were recorded in secret books. Their expertise was in the healing of body and soul, and they excelled in prophecy. Celibacy was the common life style, yet marriage was permissible with sexual union allowed only for the purpose of procreation. Pliny’s reference to a single Essene settlement in the wilderness between Jericho and Engedi is one of the best proofs on record for the Essenes’ community and settlement of Qumran.
Note: It is often suggested that John the Baptist was raised among the Essenes people, near or at Qumran and the Dead Sea. This idea is reading between the lines, and supposing more than is really there. The only scripture reference that has a very tenuous allusion to this is Luke 1:80, which tells us that John lived in the desert prior to his public ministry. Proponents to this theory also highlight the fact that John’s public ministry was at the Jordan River, not too far from the Dead Sea. The fact of the matter is that John really had little choice about where he would baptize. The custodians of the Jewish religion at the temple of Jerusalem, that is the Pharisees and Sadducees, monopolized as the sole mentors of Judaism, hence they would not have tolerated John. Obviously the Jordan river would be a logical place for John’s ministry in this parched land. There was an inexhaustible source of water, and there was natural breathing room from John’s opponents from Jerusalem. Suffice it to say that there is absolutely no solid Biblical evidence or proof outside of the scriptures that would suggest that John the Baptist was a part of the Essenes’ community of Qumran.