Who Were the Essenes?

What social archaeology tells us about the Essenes of Qumran

Who Were the Essenes?

In a recent study about the Essenes of Qumran, archaeologist Eyal Regev used the tools of social archaeology to answer the question, “Who were the Essenes?” Photo by Zev Radovan.

A recent study has sought to determine by sophisticated new methods whether Khirbet Qumran was home to a Qumran community of sectarian Jews, the Essenes of Qumran.

The new study by Eyal Regev of Bar-Ilan University examines the architectural plan of Qumran and applies so-called “access analysis” to map the site’s spatial organization in order to uncover the social ideology of the Essenes of Qumran.

Regev characterizes this approach to studying the Qumran community as social archaeology, “now an established field of research which uses archaeological records to reconstruct the belief system and social organization of past societies.”

By physically dividing up and demarcating spaces—walls, doorways and entrances that are used on an everyday basis—the architecture thereby classifies and controls the movement of people and the spaces they inhabit. Studying these spaces can help archaeologists answer the question, “Who were the Essenes?”

In a detailed analysis of the physical spaces of the Qumran community, Regev finds the occupied area is divided into different space segments, “each connected to a controlling central passage with minimal connections between segments.” The spaces within segments are also “minimally connected.” Access to most spaces is therefore “limited, and several boundaries must be crossed to reach most spaces from any starting point on the site.”

The large rooms (such as the dining room and the so-called scriptorium) used by the Essenes of Qumran “were not easily accessible and were out of view of casual entrants.” This, says Regev, means that “social encounters between the inhabitants were quite uncommon.”

From such analyses, Regev concludes that the spaces of the Qumran community reflect “an ethos of social segregation, not only between the inhabitants themselves, but, more importantly, between the inhabitants and the outside world.”

The organization of space at Qumran thus “reflects sectarian organization and ideology.” Moreover, all this is consistent with the ideology of the famous Community Rule, one of the original intact scrolls. While this does not prove that the sectarian Qumran community was Essene, together with much other evidence, both from the architecture and the finds from the excavation, the Essene identification, says Regev, is “extremely plausible.”

 


 

Based on “Moving About at Qumran,” sidebar to Sidnie White Crawford, “A View from the Caves,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2011.

Posted in Biblical Archaeology Sites, Dead Sea Scrolls.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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18 Responses

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  1. shmoo says

    Does anyone actually believe this nonsence.

  2. SA says

    shmoo, where have you been all your life? Scholars who spend their lives studying “this nonsense (sic)” actually make sense out of archaeology to give us insights into past civilizations! Your ignorance is showing!

  3. Joseph says

    Is it possible that both John the Bapt. and Jesus spent time with the Essenes? Especially if Jesus and His parents went to Egypt and stayed with a Essene community.

    There are too many connections to what Essenes preached and what Jesus preached with exception of war.

  4. Kenneth says

    Has anyone considered that the Essene community and the early followers of Jesus were one and the same?

  5. Nandip says

    So, what happen to the Essenes? is their religion still exist?

  6. Robert says

    All the evidence points to a strong connection between early followers of Jesus and the so-called Essenes. The NT continually draws on Sectarian ideas and actual writings from the Essenes – some of the material being exclusive to the Qumranites. Even Pope Benedict 16 confirmed the connection and ‘The Secret Initiation of Jesus at Qumran’ gives chapter and verse of the evidence.

  7. Craig says

    I disagree with many of the above comments connecting Jesus with the Essene community. For one, this sect originated prior to the time of Christ, at least 80 years prior. Its not unusual for writers to parallel their ideals with that of a contemporary. This does not mean that they totally agreed or arrived at the same conclusion to their own purposes. If the early followers of Jesus were connected, what good did it do them to follow Jesus? Irregardless if Pope Benedict concluded a connection, this alone does not validate the non-canonical writings much less the intent. The Essene community ceased to exist in its entirety at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. So how does this connect with Christianity if it was already a religion??

  8. niel says

    Joseph Smith was way ahead of you folks, what took you so long to find other sources and writings of Moses we have had for 200yrs?

  9. niel says

    shmoo , is like taking him out to look at the Sun at high noon and he will say,” I dont see it!”

  10. niel says

    After reading more from the book, WHO ARE THE ESSENES? about the Savior and the Essenes, I am Certain he did not take his Teachings from the Essenes as some suggest. He may have Visited, but some accounts say He acted out of charactor around the essenes.

    ”The students had also to take the Nazarite vow not to eat meat or drink fermented drinks anymore. The Master said that, if a human being ate meat, he could not receive his word.”

    This is utterly False and not the Words of Christ taken from Josephus account. Those who were told to abstain from meats and practice the old law was asured by Paul it was not of God. Further Revelation on this was given to Joseph Smith. 89 th section of Doctrine and Coventants and 48th section verse 18

  11. Sidney says

    My new book, Secret of the Savior: The Myth of the Messiah in Mark, shows how the Essenes led to Christianity. The Gospel of Mark is an allegory of the history of Israel from the Essenic point of view written in response to the fall of Jerusalem. Chapter 3 of Mark, in which Jesus founds the church, is based on the Teacher of Righteousness founding the Essenic community. Check it out.
    Amazon link: http://amzn.to/14XwpHt

  12. Into says

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this,
    like you wrote the book in it or something. I
    think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home
    a bit, but other than that, this is magnificent blog. An excellent read.
    I’ll certainly be back.

  13. Mithras says

    What about The Egyptian Book of the dead with resembling stories yet a few thousand years (carbon dated) older than the bible?

  14. Tracey says

    Greetings to all of you,
    Jesus was an Essene and A Gnostic. Jesus wrote part of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
    The Nag Hammadi & the Dead Sea Scrolls, to date, are the only found scriptures that are unedited or tampered with by man and are PURE spiritual scriptures that remain UNCHALLENGED TRUTHS REGARDING OUR TRUE TRUE HISTORY!!!
    I challenge anyone to prove me wrong because I am not!!! However, I am looking forward to your “PHYSICAL PROOF” that I am wrong!!!
    Let the validation begin…
    Sincerely, Tracey

  15. Darnell says

    Research all things and keep that which is good. Never believe or be led to believe, because the truth comes in knowing. To many of our people are destroyed for thier knowledge. In the beginning there was the word, and the word was with god and god was the word. the bible is just words, nobody saw anything, but look how powerful the word are. everything boils down to words.In hebrew they tell a very different story if you start looking up the meanings. the spirit of words make doctors, lawyers ect and ect. Mans words make god of little effect.

  16. Darnell says

    they took the power of mathmatics, philosophy, music , medicine and gave you biblical philosophy. tetra biblos, our real power was all of the above, so we need to start teaching our children again all that was taken. So everybody get up off of your knees look around and wake up from this mental slaverylllllllllllllllllll

Continuing the Discussion

  1. ANE News – 10.10.11 linked to this post on October 10, 2011

    [...] Who Were the Essenes? A recent study has sought to determine by sophisticated new methods whether Khirbet Qumran was home to a Qumran community of sectarian Jews, the Essenes of Qumran. [...]

  2. Essenes and Zealots and Herodians, oh my! | boothisrael2014 linked to this post on October 21, 2013

    [...] The Essenes were an apocalyptic sect that believed the end of the world was near with its epic battle between the “Sons of Light” (themselves) and the “Sons of Darkness” (pretty much everyone else.) By living lives of the strictest ritual purity (for example, they wouldn’t use toilet facilities on the Sabbath) they could also hasten the coming of the Messiah, who would overthrow the Romans and establish God’s Kingdom on earth. Some scholars believe there was an Essene community in Jerusalem, but many also sought refuge in the desert in order to escape the perceived corruption of the Temple leadership and practices. They may (or may not) have established a “monastery” at Qumran that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. (You can read more about the Essenes here, here and here.) [...]


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