The ancient historian Flavius Josephus identifies four rival religious philosophies among the Jews at the time of Jesus: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots.
- The Essenes are the third major “philosophical school” identified by Josephus. Little is know about them with certainty.
- The Essenes do not figure explicitly in the New Testament.
- They lived near the Dead Sea (according to Philo of Alexandria) as well as being scattered throughout Palestine (according to Josephus).
- Josephus: “The doctrine of the Essenes is that all things are left in the and of God. They teach the immortality of the soul, and think it their duty to strive for the fruits of righteousness.”
- They were believed in predestination to the exclusion of human free will.
- They were celibate.
- They held their property in common.
- They did not practice animal sacrifices, kept no slaves and swore no oaths.
- They provided generously for the elderly.
- They had an elaborate 3-year initiation process.
- They were devoted to the Scriptures, predicted the future and had a reputation as prophets.
- Much of the contemporary interest in them is due to their association with Qumran, very near where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947.
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary:
Easton’s Bible Dictionary: Essenes
Fausset Bible Dictionary: Essenes
Holman Bible Dictionary: Jewish Parties in the New Testament
Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible: Essenes
Kitto’s Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature:
Morrish Bible Dictionary: Essenes
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Essenes, The
McClintock and Strong:
The Nuttall Encyclopedia: Essenes
The Jewish Encyclopedia: Essenes