Nazarenes Qumran and the Essenes

I've been rather busy responding to the spiritualist comments in one post, and Catholic comments in another post, I've hardly had time to post new posts. :-)

I recently received the following article by James Trimm on the Essene community -- the folks in the 1st century and and prior who wrote and preserved the Dead Sea scrolls -- and how they related to the community of "The Way" sect of Judaism, which later morphed into the new religion of Christianity. Interesting, thought-provoking article, definitely worth a read:


The modern efforts to restore New Testament understanding to its Nazarene Jewish origins has often focused on parallels with Rabbinic Judaism (which descends from Pharisaic Judaism). There is much to be said for such parallels and I do not oppose these comparisons. However many of the Nazarene movement have neglected the very significant parallels between the New Testament, the Nazarenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Essene Judaism. In this article we will begin to explore this aspect of Nazarene roots. This material is far from exhaustive, yet shows that such exploration can be very productive for our understanding of Nazarene Judaism.

Qumran and the New Testament

In regards to the New Testament The Dead Sea Scrolls tell us a great deal about the language, customs and doctrinal issues of first century Judah. To begin with the Scrolls are written primarilly in Hebrew and Aramaic, demostrating these to be the languages of the place and time of the NT. Additionally the Scrolls tell us of the early existance of a belief in two Messiahs, a belief which appers in the NT in the form of a belief of two comings of one Messiah. Yet another example can be seen in the light which the Dead Sea Scrolls shine on Jn. 2:6 "And there were there six water-pots of stone, set for the purification of the Jews, concerning each two or three measures." In the past this verse seemed obscure but a passage in the DSS (Temple Scroll col. 56) tells us that if any woman who was menstrating was to enter a room, anything stored in potery vessals (which are porous) becomes impure. As a result archaeologists find huge stone pots used during the period between about twenty BCE and seventy CE. These stone vesals seem to have been used by Jews of the first century to prevent food and drink from becoming unclean, thus explaining Jn. 2:6. This almost certainly proves that John's Gospel was written in Israel aound the first century by a Jew. One final example can be found in the book of Luke, where twice the twelve students of Yeshua argue over who is greatest (Lk. 9:46; 22:24) at first glance it looks like the twelve are unseemingly arogant! However, once again, the Scrolls shed some light on this passage. The Scrolls tell us that, at least within the Qumran community, laymen were ranked by there leaders so that "every man in Israel may be made aware of his status in the community of G-d" (Manual of Discipline ii, 19-25) priority of seating was based upon these ranks (Damascus Document xiv, 3-12). Although in the past Rabbinic documents informed us that such rank and priority of seating existed among Rabbis in the rabbinic schools, it is only in the Dead Sea Scrolls that we learn that, at least in the Qumran community, such ranks existed among the students and laity. Now it becomes clear that Yeshua's students were conerned as to there individual status, which was normal for their culture, not merely bickering over who was best.

One of the most interesting significances of the Dead Sea Scrolls is the surprising number of parallel phrases found only in the Dead Sea Scroll and the New Testament (and most particularly the writings of John).

Some of these phrases include:

  • "he that does truth" (Jn. 3:21 & Manual of Discipline 3, 21)
  • "works of G-d" (Jn. 6:28 & Man. of Disc. 4, 4)
  • "angel of Satan" (2Cor. 12:7 & Damascus Document 16, 4)
  • "B'lial" (2Cor. 6:14 & Man. of Disc. 1, 16f; Dam. Doc. 4, 13; etc.)
There are also several phrases involving extended metaphores relating to light and darkness. In general this metaphore can be found in Rom. 13:12; 2Cor. 6:14; Eph. 4:17;5:14 & Dam. Doc. 4,3. Several specific parallel phrases appear using this extended metaphore, such as:
  • "light of life" (Jn. 8:12 & Man. Disc. 3, 7)
  • "he that walks in darkness" (Jn. 8:12; 12:35 & Man. Disc. 3, 21)
  • "sons of light" (Lk. 16:8; Jn. 12:36; Eph. 5:8; 1Thes. 5:5 & Man. Disc. 1, 9; 2, 24; 1QM)
One of the more significant parallel phrases is the phrase "living water" (Jn. 4:10 & Dam. Doc. 4, 4-5; 7, 9-8, 21). This metaphore later appears in Rabbinic Judaism, to describe "running water" used in T'villah (Baptism) ceremonies. In John chapter four "living water" is symboliclly drawn from Jacob's well, and brings salvation and eternal life. In the Manual of Discipline "living water" is the teachings of the community and is symbolicly drawn from the well of Num. 21:18 which is identified by the Scroll to be sybolic of the Law. Thus we may conclude that in Jn. 4 Yeshua draws upon a Midrash (allegorical interpretation) which existed in his time.

Another very significant term used in the Scrolls is the phrase "Holy Spirit." which is used twice in the Tenach, but is very commonly used in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament. In the Dead Sea Scrolls the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, which, like "waters of purification" cleanses man from wickedness (Manual of Discipline iv, 12-13). A mission not unlike the mission of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.

Another unusual parallel phrase used both in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the New Testament is "a book sealed with seven seals" (Rev. 5:1 & 4Q550; Col. 4 line 5).

Perhaps the most astoundijng parallel text between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament is the profound parallel between Q=Mt. 11:4-6 = Lk. 7:22 and 4Q521. In The Gospels Yeshua is recorded as saying:

Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the glad tiding preached to them.
(Luke 7:22-23 and Matthew 11:4-5)
This closely parlles the Messianic criteria given in 4Q521:
[the hea]vens and the earth will listen to His Messiah, and none therein will stray from the commandments of the holy ones. Seekers of the L-rd, strengthen yourselves in His service! All you hopeful in (your) heart, will you not find the L-rd in this? For the L-rd will consider the pious (hasidim) and call the righteous by name. Over the poor His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with His power. And He will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom. He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the b[ent] And f[or] ever I will cleav[ve to the h]opeful and in His mercy . . .

And the fr[uit . . .] will not be delayed for anyone. And the L-rd will accomplish glorious things which have never been as [He . . .] For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor. . . He will lead the uprooted and knowledge . . . and smoke (?)
(Michael O. Wise, translation)

The existance of so many common phrases both in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the New Testament is of the upmost importance. Some of these phrases may be idioms of first century Hebrew and Aramaic. Other phrases may be technical theological terms used in discussing Jewish religion and mysicism in the first Century. We cannot, of course, be certain if any or all of these terms were Essene terms, or if they were common to Judaism in general. What we can be certain of is that the presence of these terms in the New Testament proves its first century Jewish origin. Moreover, the presence of these terms in non-New Testament Jewish literatur of the same time period will help us to better understand what these terms meant to the first Century Semitic mind.

Yochanan and Qumran

To trace the origin of the Nazrenes we must first examine the figure of Yochanan (John) the Immerser (baptist). As the Goodnews according to Mark begins:

The beginning of the goodnews of Y'shua the Messiah,... John came immersing in the wilderness...
(Mk. 1:1, 4)
As George Howard has pointed out, "...there was a John the Baptist sect that existed from early times and continued perhaps for centuries." (The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text by George Howard; 1987; p. 205; see Acts 18:5-19:7; Justin, Trypho 80; Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1:54:60) Such a sect still exists in Iraq today. Howard has also noted:
In Shem-Tob's Hebrew Matthew John the Baptist emerges as a much more important figure than in Greek Matthew. The Greek Matthew may well represent a later corrective to the more primitive statements made about John the Baptist in Hebrew Matthew before the followers of John the Baptist were seen as a threat to trunkline Christianity."
A careful reading of the Gospels will show that John the Baptist had his own "disciples" (Jn. 1:35) who continued on as such, apart from the Y'shua movement even after John and Y'shua had died (Acts 19:1-3). The flavor of John chapter one also indicates that John did not live alone in the wilderness, but lived with a comunity of followers near Bethabara (Jn. 1:28) a town just eight miles from Qumran.

Now one of the most important similarities between John the Baptist and his disciples, and the Qumran community is quite obviously that of geography. As mentioned, John and his disciples resided "in the wilderness" near a town just eight miles from Qumran. Infact the caves in which the scrolls were found are just five miles from the location along the Jordan at which John was baptizing. Both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament use the phrase "in the wilderness" (drawn from Is. 40:3) almost as a proper noun, to describe this area. One NT passage in particular seemed a mystery until the discovery of the Scrolls. Luke 1:80 states:

"...the child [John the Baptist] grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel." What would a child be doing "in the wilderness?" Could John have been raised at the Qumran community? An apocraphal tradition once circulated in the Church of the East may offer some insight. The Protevangelion of James, once read in some eastern churches, records a tradition that at the time of the slaughter of the innocents, Elizabeth took her son and went up unto the mountains, and looked around for a place to hide him; and there was no secret place to be found. Then she groaned within herself, and said, O mountain of YHWH, receive the mother with the child. For Elizabeth could not climb up. And instantly the mountain was divided and received them. And there appeared to them an angel (or messenger) of YHWH, to preserve them."
(Protevangelion 16:3-8)
Could this tradition be preserving an ancient tradition that John and his mother were taken in through an opening in the mountains (a cave) and a "messenger of YHWH" at Qumran took them in. This possibility is stengthened by the fact that Hugh Schonfield has shown that there are a number of parallelisms between DuTillet Hebrew Matthew and the Protevangelion, "which cannot be accidental." (An Old Hebrew Text of Matthew's Gospel by Hugh Schonfield; 1927; p. 25-30,40). Moreover Joesphus tells us that the Essenes commonly raised other peoples children (Josephus; 2:8:3). Thus it would seem that John the Baptist was raised up in the Qumran community.

As a Levite, and decendant of Zadock, John would have held a prominant place in the Qumran community, which favored the priesthood heirs. However, John's normal life at Qumran was interupted when "the word of G-d came to John... in the wilderness" (Lk. 3:2). In a rigid community where everyone had a rank and no one spoke out of turn, John's message may not have been welcome. This would explain why John and his disciples relocated near nearby Bethabara.

Both Matthew and Mark tell us that John ate locusts (Mt. 3:4; Mk. 1:6). (Of course Leviticus lists these insects as kosher (Lev. 1:20-23)). Now The Dead Sea Scrolls tell us that the Qumran community also made locusts as part of their diet. In fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls even tell us how they were to be cooked (Dam. Doc. xii, 11-15).

Both the Qumran community, and John quoted Is. 40:3 as being a prophecy fortelling of their work (Mt. 3:3; Mk. 1:3; Lk. 3:4; Jn 1:23; Dam. Doc. viii, 12-14; ix, 20). This verse appears in most New Testament as:

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of YHWH; make straight in the desert a highway for our G-d."
However, the contor markings in the Masoretic Text give us the understanding:
The voice of one crying "In the wilderness prepare the way of YHWH; make straight in the desert a highway for our G-d."
As a result of their use of this verse, both John and the Qumran community referred to themselves as being "in the wilderness" and both the Qumran community and the early believers in Y'shua called their movement "the way".

Another strong parallel between John and the Qumran community is that of the importance given to the practice of water immersion/baptism (Heb: T'vilah). The Torah requires "washing" for "uncleaness" (Lev. 16-18) and "uncleaness" can result from sin (Lev. 18:1ff for example.) King David spoke of this practice in the Psalms (Ps. 51:2, 7). In the Qumran comunity this practice was given great importance (Man. Disc. 3, 4f; v, 13; Dam. Doc. 10, 10-13) and it was certainly regarded as of high priority to John (Mt. 3:6, 11; Mk. 1:4-5; Lk. 3:2-3, 7; Acts 19:3-4). Both believed that water baptism was only symbolic of a greater cleansing of wickedness performed by the Ruach HaKodesh (Man. Disc. 4, 12-13).

One final similarity between John and the Qumran community was that both stressed that the day of fiery judgement was eminently aproaching. Now having discussed the similarities between John the Baptist and the Qumran community, let us note the differences. Essenes always wore white (Josephus; 2:8:3) yet John wore camel's hair (Mt. 3:4). Secondly, the Qumram community only ate food provided by their community yet John foraged for himself (Mt. 3:4). Finally and most importantly the Qumran community was not even a little bit evangelical. The Manual of Discipline specificly commands its adherents to "bear unremitting hatred towards all men of ill repute... to leave it to them to pursue wealth and mercenary gain... truckling to a depot." (Man. Disc. ix 21-26). But John called these men of ill repute to "Repent, for the Kingdom of G-d is offered." (Mt. 3:2). This new teaching must have been the "word of G-d" which John "received in the wilderness" (Lk. 3:2) since it is later echoed by Y'shua (Mt. 4:17) and Y'shua's disciples (Mt. 10:7).

As a result of the new light shined on the NT by the Dead Sea Scrolls, we may now conclude that John the Baptist was raised in the very community which wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. That the word of G-d came to John, and he began teaching an evangelical message of repentance. A message which was unacceptable to the Qumran community. That message probably caused a schism which resulted in John the Baptist and his disciples relocating to Bethabara, just eight miles from Qumran. This new group became a John the Baptist sect which has continued to this very day, and which held a close relationship to the Messianic movement surrounding Y'shua.

Yeshua and the Essenes

While Yochanan was essentially an Essene, Yeshua did not apear to live the Essene lifestyle, as we read in Mt. 11:18-19:

Yochanan came neither eating nor drinking…

The Son of man came eating and drinking…

Nonetheless there are many important similarities between the teachings of Yeshua and those of the Essenes/Qumran community.

Yeshua went out into the wilderness to be tempted (Mt. 4:1f). Yeshua’s twelve talmidim (students) remind us of the council of twelve at Qumran (Manual of Discipline 1QS 8:1). Yeshua’s twelve talmidim seemed to be headed by three (Kefa (Peter), James (Ya’akov) and Yochanan (John) and the twelve laymen of Qumran were headed by three priests (1QS 8:1).

Josephus, speaking of the Essenes writes:

...and if any of their sect come from other places, what they have lies open for them, just as if it were their own; and they go into such as they never knew before, as if they had been ever so long acquained with them. For which reason they carry nothing with them when they travel into remote parts, though still they take their weapons with them, for fear of thieves.
Accordingly there is, in every city where they live, one appointed particularly to take care of strangers, and provide garments and other necessaries for them.
(Josephus; Wars 2:8:4)
This provides interesting cultural context for Yeshua's instruction to his Talmidim:
...Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your moneybelts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for the worker is worthy of his food. Now whatever city or town you enter, enquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out.
(Mt. 10:9-11)
Also note that Yeshua and his Talmidim traveled armed (Lk. 22:38) Were Yeshua and his Talmidim circulating to some extent within the Essene community network?

Many of Yeshua’s halachic teachings parallel those of the Qumran community. Yeshua opposed the taking of oaths (Mt. 5:34) as did the Essenes (Josephus; Wars 2:8:6; Manual of Discipline 1QS 15:1-3). Y'shua's use of Gen. 1:27 to prove his halachic position on divorce is paralleled in the Dead Sea Scrolls:

...they are caught in two traps: fornication, by taking two wives in their lifetimes although the principle of creation is: "male and female He created them."
(Dam. Doc. Col. 4 line 20 through Col. 5 line 1)
Yeshua’s halachah on the issue of "CORBAN" (an offering) being used as an excuse to violate Torah in Matthew 15:1-8 parallels a similar ruling at Qumran (Damascus Document 16:13).

Matthew records a very interesting event involving Yeshua snd the Temple Tax:

...they that recieved tribute came to Kefa (Peter) , and said, Does not your master pay tribute? He said, Yes. And when he came into the house Yeshua prevented him, saying, what do you think, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Kefa (Peter) said to him, of strangers. Yeshua said to him, Then the children are free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go you to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first comes up; and when you have opened his mouth, you shall find a piece of money: that take, and give to them for me and you.
(Mt. 17:24-27)
Here Kefa indicates the Yeshua pays the Temple tax, but Yeshua indicates that neither himself, nor Kefa nor aparantly any of his followers owe the Temple tax. Yeshua does not seem to argue that he does not owe such a tax because he is the Messiah, for he extends the same privilage to Kefa and aparantly all of his followers. Is Yeshua teaching against Torah? The answer is no. The Torah does command that a Temple tax must be payed by every male 20 and older (Ex. 30:11-16) but is ambiguos as to how often it must be payed. The Pharisaic Halachah (and aparenetly the Sadducean Halachah) had the tax being paid annually during the month of Adar (m.Shek. 1:1, 3) However the Qumran community had a different Halachah. They taught:
...concerning the Ransom: the money of the valuation which a man gives as ransom for his life shall be half a shekel in accordance with the shekel of the sanctuary. He shall give it only once in his life.
(4Q159 Frag 1; Col. 2; lines 6-7)
Now if Yeshua held to this Essene Halachah then He would not believe that he or his followers owed the tax, if they had already paid it at least once in their lifetime. This would explain why Kefa said that Yeshua pays the tax, while Yeshua claims that he and his followers don't owe the tax.

Like the Qumran community Yeshua speaks allegorically of "Living Water" coming from a well. . In John chapter four "living water" is symboliclly drawn from Jacob's well, and brings salvation and eternal life. In the Manual of Discipline "living water" is the teachings of the community and is symbolicly drawn from the well of Num. 21:18 which is identified by the Scroll to be symbolic of the Law. Thus we may conclude that in Jn. 4 Yeshua draws upon a Midrash (allegorical interpretation) which existed in his time (Jn. 4:10 & Dam. Doc. VI, 4-5; VII, 9-VIII, 21).

Yeshua’s use of the Passover Sader as a sort of Messianic banquet certainly reminds us of the Messianic banquet of the Qumran Essenes (Josephus; Wars 2:8:5; Manual of Discipline 6:3-6 & 1QS Sa. 2, 17-20). The Qumran material even reads "the Messiah of Israel shall reach for the bread" (1QSa. 2:20-21) a phase which certainly reminds us of the "Last Supper" account of the New Testament.

There were however some very important point with which Yeshua greatly disagreed with the Essenes. The Essenes held the strictest rules of resting on the Sabbath than any of the Jews (Josephus; Wars 2:8:9) The Qumran community, with its stricter Halacha likely did not permit healing on the Shabbat at all. They did not allow carrying medicine on the Shabbat nor did they allow using a tool to save a life on the Shabbat (Dam. Document col. 10; lines 14-18). Now Y'shua's Halacha on the issue seems to have been less strict. There is conflict between Yeshua and Qumran on the plucking and rubbing of wheat in Mt. 12:1=Lk. 6:1=Mk. 2:23. The activity described is clearly permitted by the Torah in general, though not necessarily on the Shabbat (Duet. 23:26 (23:25 in non-Jewish editions)). This was forbidden by Qumran halacha which stated:

"A man may not go about in the field to do his desired activity on the Sabbath... A man may not eat anything on the Sabbath except food already prepared."
(Dam. Doc. Col. 10; lines 20-22).
Also Yeshua’s teaching that it is permitted to rescue an animal from a pit. (Mt. 12:11 and Lk. 14:3-6) is in direct conflict with Qumran Halacha.(Dam. Doc. col. 10; lines 14-18).

Finally the Qumran community had a intense hated for outsiders. The Manual of Discipline even states the community members should "bear unremitting hatred towards all men of ill repute…" (1QS 11:21f). This hatered greatly contrsts with such teachings of Yeshua as the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Ya’akov HaTzadik and Qumran

There are also many parallels between Ya’akov HaTzadik (James the Just) and the Essenes of Qumran. The title "HaTzadik" ("the righeous"; or "the Just") reminds us of the title of the Teacher of Righteousness in the Qumran scrolls. Ya’akov, like Yeshua discouraged swearing (James 5:12) as did the Essenes (Essenes (Josephus; Wars 2:8:6; Manual of Discipline 1QS 15:1-3). Ya’akov’s admonition to be "doers" of the word (James 2:21-27) reminds us of the very term "Essene" which may come from the Hebrew "OSSIM" ("doers" [of the Torah]). Finally Ya’akov’s discourse on the use of the toungue (James 3:1-12) closely parallels the Manual of Discipline (Col. 10:21-11:2).

Paul and Qumran

Paul was clearly of Pharisaic rather than Essene background (Acts 24:5) and had been a student of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Nonetheless there are several parallels between Paul and Qumran. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damscus reminds us of the Qumran community who made a New Covenant at Damascus. It is also of interest that Paul spent years in Damascus before beginning his ministry (Gal. 1:16-17).

There are several Parallels between Paul’s teachings and those at Qumran. Paul’s teaching often involved what he called "mysteries" (Eph. 3:3-4; Col. 1:12 etc.) as did the Qumran Scrolls (Hab. Commentary 1QpHab 7, 4-5; Man. Of Disc. 40, 5; Hodayot 7, 26). Paul often used metaphores of light and darkness (2Cor. 6:14; Rom. 13:12) as the Qumran scrolls do ( Damascus Document 4, 3). Paul allegorically compared the Nazarene community to the Temple (Eph. 2:20-22) while the Manual of Discipline makes the same comparison of the Temple with the Qumran society (1Qs 8:5-9). Paul’s use of the phrases "works of darkness" and "works of light" (Eph. 4:17; 5:14) are paralleled at qumran (Dam. Doc. 4:3). Both Paul and the Scrolls refer to men as "vessels of clay" (2Cor. 4:7 & Hodayot 11, 3). Paul’s concept of "partakers of the inheritance of the Holy Ones" (Col. 1:12) is similar to the phrase "heirs in the legacy of the Holy Ones" (1Qs 11:7-8) found in the Manual of Discipline. Paul’s terms "Belial" (2Cor. 6:14) and "Angel of Satan" (2Cor. 12:7) also appear in the scrolls ("Belial" in 1Qs 4, 13 and "Angel of Satan" in 1Qs 16:4).

However Paul also contrasts Qumran theology. His commentary on Hab. 2:4 (in Gal. 3:11, Rom. 1:17 & Heb. 10:37-38 see my Hebrews Commentary on this passage) seems to be a rebuttal to that of the Qumran community (1QpHab 8, 1-3). In fact Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews seems aimed at those with an Essene background. (See SEMITIC LIGHT ON HEBREWS by James Trimm).


Yeshua’s ministry got started when he visited Yochanan’s community in the wilderness. It was here that Yochanan decalred him to be the Messiah and it was here that he first met the first of his talmidim (disciples/students) Kefa (Peter), Andrew and an unnamed student whom most identify as Yochanan (John) the Talmid (Yochanon tends to avoid mentioning himself by name in his Gospel). These men were likely of an Essene background as Yochanan the imnmerser had been (John 1).

Yeshua’s followers had much in common with the Essenes. Both were called "The Way" (Acts 9:2 & 1QS 9,18) and "B’nai Or" (Sons of Light) (Lk. 16:8; Jn. 12:36; Eph. 5:8; 1Thes. 5:5; Man. Of Disc. 1,9; 2, 24; 1QM). Like the Essenes they shared all things in common (Acts 2:44-45; Josephus; Ant. 18:1:5; Wars 2:8:3) and lieing about such assets was regarded as a great sin (Acts 5:1-10). Although further study is needed, there may be some good connections between the Qumran hierachy and that of the Nazarenes. Bith groups seemed to have made some use of the Book of Enoch (1Enoch 1:9 is quoted in Jude 1:14-15; seven fragmentary copies of Enoch were found at Qumran). Like the Qumran community, the Nazarenes also seem to have used Hebrew manuscripts of Tanak books which agreed in places with the text behind the Septuagint. The Nazarene belief in two comings of the Messiah is similar to the Qumran belief in two Messiahs. The Qumran community believed in a priestly Messiah who was a Melchizadek figure whom they termed EL, ELOHIM and YHWH (11Q13), a figure they believed was prophecied of in such passages as Dan. 9:24-27; Is. 52 (and presumably 53) and Is. 61:1. In like manner the Nazarenes saw their Messiah Yeshua as a Melchizadek figure (Hebrews 7) who fulfilled the very same prophecies.

What do the similarities mean? First of all these many similarities place both the Nazarenes and the New Testament firmly in the context of first century Judaism. These similarities also make it apparent that the Essenes were likely forerunners of the Nazarenes. This however should not subtract from the Pharisaic roots which are also apparent among the Nazarenes (which I will soon cover in another companion article). By recognizing that the Essenes were our forerunners we may now move forward in greater light. Knowing where we came from helps us to move forward with accuracy in reconstructing the Nazarene movement. Moreover understanding the Essene element in the sayings of Yeshua (and the rest of the New Testament) will help us to understand them better. Finally recognizing the Essene factor in Nazarene halachah will aid us in understanding the nature of Nazarene Halachah and Halachic authority and how it relates to that of Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees as well as modern Rabbinic Judaism (which descends from the Pharisees).

In closing I quote from the Intriduction to THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS; A New Translation; by Wise, Abegg and Cook:

For Jews the Qumran texts say, "Our family was larger than you knew." The watchword is diversity. Modern [Rabbinic] Judaism comes from Pharisaism, but in the first two centuries B.C.E. and C.E. there were also other kinds of Judaism, and it was not obvious that the Pharisees would be the ones still standing at the end of the day. Understanding the world of the first century C.E. now means understanding the fact of diversity, and the scrolls have helped cultivate a sense of the historical complexity of the matrix of Judaism and early Christianity. The scrolls teach, indiectly, a message the scroll writers themselves would have repudiated; that is, that there are different ways of being authentically Jewish. Any effort to "reclaim the scrolls for Judaism" must acknowledge that truth.
(THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS; A New Translation; by Wise, Abegg and Cook; p. 34)
-James Scott Trimm
Article published on


  1. Interesting. I also recommend the book "Nazarene Jewish Christianity" by Ray Pritz. Published by Magnes Press which is the press of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


    "We are not concerned with our appearing to be successful, but with your doing what is right, even if we appear to be failures." 2nd Corinthians 13:7. (Stern)

  2. This was a nice comparison between the Essenes and the Apostolic community.

    I recommend The Dead Sea Scrolls Sudy Edition by Florentino Garcia Martinez and Eibert J.C. Tigchelaar, a 2 volume set with the original language of the non-canonized scrolls in parallel with the English translation.

    I have been working on reconstructing the calendar from the community, which specifically lays out the days they observed the feasts, the priests serving at each time, etc. The calendar can be found at the following links:



    Footnotes & arguement for the calendar:

    Shalom baShem Yeshua miNazareth,