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Essenes

This term perhaps comes from the Aramaic Issi'im, "pious ones"; an ascetic Jewish sect that flourished along the Dead Sea from the mid-second century BC until the First Jewish-Roman War (AD 66-73). According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Essenes were one of four sociopolitical groups in first-century Judaism, along with the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Zealots.

The Essenes seem to have been devout Jews that retreated into isolation in response to widespread priestly corruption (the post of high priest, rather than being regarded hereditarily, had been "purchased" by the Hasmonean family). The Essenes lived simply, faithfully following the Torah as well as their own communal laws, awaiting the time when "pure worship" would be restored in the Jewish temple. Apparently, during the war, the Essenes fled from their desert communities and hid their documents in caves near Qumran; these began to be found in the 1940s and became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

According to Dan Brown, the Essene documents "speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms," "highlight glaring historical discrepancies and fabrications" in the canonical Scriptures, and confirm "that the Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda" (DVC, 234). The Qumran writings, however, were primarily pre-Christian (BC) Jewish documents; indirect references to Christ are in copies of Old Testament writings (such as Isaiah, who doesn't name Jesus Christ but rather prophetically tells of Messiah's coming). Furthermore, far from highlighting "glaring discrepancies," the Qumran literature proves that the Old Testament Scriptures had been preserved from ancient times with remarkable accuracy. See also Dead Sea Scrolls; Josephus, Flavius; Pharisees; Qumran; Sadducees.



Printed with permission from Bethany House Publishers, South Bloomington, Minnesota from the book "The Da Vinci Codebreaker : an easy-to-use fact checker for truth seekers" by James L. Garlow.
 

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