a Jewish sect during the Second Temple period
The Essenes (in Modern Hebrew: אִסִּיִים, Isiyim; Greek: Εσσήνοι, Εσσαίοι, or Οσσαίοι, Essḗnoi, Essaíoi, Ossaíoi) were a sect of Second Temple Judaism that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE.
- The Essenes, a third sect of the Jews, are not mentioned in the New Testament. They differed from both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They were Jewish monks or hermits, passing their time little in society, but mostly in places of obscurity and retirement. It is not probable, therefore, that our Saviour often, if ever, encountered them; and this, it is supposed, is the reason why they are not mentioned in the New Testament. They were a contemplative sect, having little to do with the common business of life. The property which they possessed they held in common. They denied themselves, in a great measure, the usual comforts of life, and were exceedingly strict in the observance of the duties of religion. They were generally more pure than the rest of the Jews, and appear to have been an unambitious, a modest, and retiring sort of people. The two sexes were not in company except on the Sabbath, when they partook of their coarse fare (only bread and salt) together. They practiced dancing in their worship. Few of them were married; they were opposed to oaths, and they asserted that slavery was repugnant to nature. In regard to doctrine, they did not differ materially from the Pharisees, except that they objected to the sacrifices of slain animals, and of course did not visit the temple, and were not, therefore, likely to come into public contact with the Saviour. They perpetuated their sect by proselytes, and by taking orphan children to train up.
- They did not marry, but adopted the children of others, whom they brought up in the institutions of their sect. They despised riches, and had all things in common, and never changed their clothes till they were entirely worn out.
- Already some time before our era, the adepts, except in India, had ceased to congregate in large communities; but whether among the Essenes, or the Neo-platonists, or, again, among the innumerable struggling sects born but to die, the same doctrines, identical in substance and spirit, if not always in form, are encountered... After nineteen centuries of enforced eliminations from the canonical books of every sentence which might put the investigator on the true path, it has become very difficult to show, to the satisfaction of exact science, that the "Pagan" worshippers of Adonis, their neighbors, the Nazarenes, and the Pythagorean Essenes, the healing Therapeutes, the Ebionites, and other sects, were all, with very slight differences, followers of the ancient theurgic Mysteries...
- It is evident that Philo's Therapeutes are a branch of the Essenes. Their name indicates it — Essaioc, Asaya, physician. Hence, the contradictions, forgeries, and other desperate expedients to reconcile the prophecies of the Jewish canon with the Galilean nativity and god-ship... Both Jesus and St. John the Baptist preached the end of the Age; which proves their knowledge of the secret computation of the priests and kabalists, who with the chiefs of the Essene communities alone had the secret of the duration of the cycles. The latter were kabalists and theurgists... they had their mystic books, and predicted future events...
- H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Vol. II, Chapter III, (1877)
- (H.P.) Dunlap (in SOD: The Son Of The Man, 1861), whose personal researches seem to have been quite successful... traces the Essenes, Nazarenes, Dositheans, and some other sects as having all existed before Christ: "They rejected pleasures, despised riches, loved one another, and more than other sects, neglected wedlock, deeming the conquest of the passions to be virtuous,"* he says. These are all virtues preached by Jesus; and if we are to take the gospels as a standard of truth, Christ was a metempsychosist "or re-incarnationist" — again like these same Essenes, whom we see were Pythagoreans in all their doctrine and habits... In his discourses and sermons, Jesus always spoke in parables and used metaphors with his audience. This habit was again that of the Essenians and the Nazarenes; the Galileans who dwelt in cities and villages were never known to use such allegorical language.
- H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Vol. II, Chapter III, (1877)
- Essenes. A hellenized word, from the Hebrew Asa, a “healer”. A mysterious sect of Jews said by Pliny to have lived near the Dead Sea per millia sæculorum—for thousands of ages. “ Some have supposed them to be extreme Pharisees, and others—which may be the true theory—the descendants of the Benim-nabim of the Bible, and think that they were ‘Kenites and Nazarites. They had many Buddhistic ideas and practices; and it is noteworthy that the priests of the Great Mother at Ephesus, Diana-Bhavani with many breasts, were also so denominated. Eusebius, and after him De Quincey, declared them to be the same as the early Christians, which is more than probable. The title ‘ brother’, used in the early Church, was Essenean ; they were a fraternity, or a koinobion or community like the early converts.” (Isis Unveiled.)
- In this country live a considerable part of the very populous nation of the Jews, including as it is said, certain persons, more than four thousand in number, called Essenes. Their name which is, I think, a variation, though the form of the Greek is inexact, of ὁσιότης (holiness), is given them, because they have shown themselves especially devout in the service of God, not by offering sacrifices of animals, but by resolving to sanctify their minds.
- Philo of Alexandria, Every Good Man is Free, F. Colson, trans. (1941), 75
- They are trained in piety, holiness, justice, domestic and civil conduct, knowledge of what is truly good, or evil, or indifferent, and how to choose what they should and avoid the opposite, taking for their defining standards these three: love of God, love of virtue, love of men.
- Philo of Alexandria, Every Good Man is Free, F. Colson, trans. (1941), 83
- Their love of God they show by … their freedom from the love of either money or reputation or pleasure, by self-mastery and endurance, again by frugality, simple living, contentment, humility, respect for law, steadiness and all similar qualities; their love of men by benevolence and sense of equality, and their spirit of fellowship.
- Philo of Alexandria, Every Good Man is Free, F. Colson, trans. (1941), 84
- Such are the athletes of virtue produced by a philosophy free from the pedantry of Greek wordiness.
- Philo of Alexandria, Every Good Man is Free, F. Colson, trans. (1941), 88