The Qumran Residents: Were they Essenes?

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Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored ninety-two books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Now that we have determined that, the Dead Sea Scrolls were the library of Qumran community, who were its people? Early on, in 1947 Professor Eleazar Sukenik obtained three scrolls from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; after that, suggesting that these scrolls had belonged to the Essene Community.

The Essenes were a sect, mentioned by first-century writers Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, and Pliny the Elder, during the Second Temple period which flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE. The exact origin of the Essenes is a matter of speculation,

First-century writers Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, and Pliny, the elder, are our primary source of information for this Jewish sect, the Essenes. There is no real consensus on their origin, but most scholars agree that they seem to have arisen following the Jewish Maccabean revolt in the second century B.C.E. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus described their existence during that period as he sketched their religious views as opposed to the Pharisees and Sadducees. On the other hand, Pliny talks about the whereabouts of a community of Essenes by the Dead Sea between Jericho and En-gedi.

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Professor James VanderKam, a Dead Sea Scroll scholar, suggests, “The Essenes who lived at Qumran were just a small part of the larger Essene movement,”[1] which Josephus numbered to about four thousand. While this certainly does not perfectly fit the picture, what comes from the Qumran texts appears to match the Essenes better than any other known Jewish group in that period.

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While dismissed by most scholars, a few have suggested that Christianity grew up out of the Qumran community. However, the differences between these two communities are far too great, even to take seriously such suggestions. For example, the Qumran writing contains ultra-strict Sabbath regulations and an almost fanatical obsession with ceremonial purity. (Matthew 15:1-20; Luke 6:1-11) This would hold true as well with the Essenes’ isolation from society, their position on the immortality of the soul, the stress they place on celibacy and spiritual concepts about sharing with angels in their worship. All of this puts them at odds with Jesus and the early Christian congregation.–Matthew 5:14-16; John 11:23, 24; Colossians 2:18; 1 Timothy 4:1-3.

[1] James VanderKam, The Dead Sea Scrolls Today. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), 127.

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