Skip to main content
Select Source:

Essenes

Essenes (ĕs´ēnz), members of a small Jewish religious order, originating in the 2d cent. BC The chief sources of information about the Essenes are Pliny the Elder, Philo's Quod omnius probus liber, Josephus' Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews, and (possibly) the Dead Sea Scrolls. The sect consisted of adult males and celibacy was encouraged. The Essenes lived as a highly organized community that held possessions in common. Ceremonial purity entailed scrupulous cleanliness, the wearing of only white garments, and the most strict observance of the Sabbath. The Essenes believed in the immortality of the soul. Their practice, common among many Jewish groups, of purification through ritual immersion may have been a significant influence on the development of the rite of baptism in the early Christian church. They condemned slavery and prohibited trading because it led to covetousness and cheating; they avoided luxury, abhorred untruthfulness and forbade oaths, with the one exception of the oath a new member took after two years of probation. In this oath, the member pledged piety toward God, justice to men, honesty with fellow Essenes, preservation of the sect's secrets, and proper transmission of its teachings. The Essenes subsisted by pastoral and agricultural activities and handicrafts; they avoided the manufacture of weapons. There is evidence of Persian and Hellenistic influences in the sect's thought. The Essenes' belief in several Messiahs is thought by some to have been a major influence in the development of Christianity. The sect ceased to exist sometime in the 2d cent. AD

See D. Howlett, The Essenes and Christianity (1957); A. Dupont-Sommer, The Essene Writings from Qumran (tr. 1961, repr. 1967); M. A. Larson, The Essene Heritage (1967); G. Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls (1978); P. R. Davies, Behind the Essenes: History and Ideology in the Dead Sea Scrolls (1987).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Essenes." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Essenes." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/essenes

"Essenes." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/essenes

Essenes

Essenes. Jewish sect, of a communal kind, active during the later part of the period of the second Temple. The name was taken by Philo (Hypothetica 11. 1–18, Every Good Man is Free 12. 75–13. 91) to mean ‘holy ones’, but others have suggested ‘silent ones’, ‘healers’, or ‘pious ones’. In addition to Philo, the sect is known about from Josephus (War 2. 119–61, Antiquities 18. 18–22, Life 2. 9–11), Pliny (Natural History 5. 73), and Eusebius. Its beliefs and practices bear some resemblance to those described in the sectarian documents found at Qumran (see DEAD SEA SCROLLS), but it is too simple to identify the two: a more probable relationship is that they are variations on a theme, not least because of transient membership between the two.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Essenes." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Essenes." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/essenes

"Essenes." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/essenes

Essenes

Essenes Jewish religious sect that existed in Palestine from the 2nd century bc to the end of the 2nd century ad. Members of the sect, adult men, lived in communal groups isolated from society. A secrecy developed about the sect, and they shunned public life and temple worship. The Dead Sea Scrolls are said to contain their sacred books.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Essenes." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Essenes." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 14, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/essenes

"Essenes." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 14, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/essenes