The Qumran Community were Essenes

The Qumran Community were Essenes
James Scott Trimm

Every once in a while sensational theories about the Dead Sea Scrolls/Qumran Scrolls make the rounds again. Many of these theories insist that the Dead Sea Scrolls were not Essene documents.

The fact is that anyone who can read, and exercise basic logic, can see for themselves that the Qumran Scrolls were the product of Essenes.

The standard model accepted by most scholars is that the Qumran Community were Essenes and that the bulk of the Dead Sea Scrolls represent Essene documents.  However some have been misled by various theories ascribing the scrolls to Sadducees or other groups.  The truth is that the evidence that the Qumran Community were Essenes is overwhelming.  To begin with Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus (c. 23 CE – August 25,  79 CE)) was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher. He was also a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian.  In his writings he tells us that in the Second Temple Era there was a community of Essenes that lived right at the physical location of Qumran:

To the west [of the Dead Sea] the Essenes have put the necessary distance between themselves and the insalubrious shore. They are a people unique of its kind and admirable beyond all others in the whole world without women and renouncing love entirely, without money, and having for company only the palm trees. Owing to the throng of newcomers, this people is daily re-born in equal number; indeed, those whom, wearied by the fluctuations of fortune, life leads to adopt their customs, stream in great numbers. Thus, unbelievable though this may seem, for thousands of centuries a race has existed which is eternal yet into which no one is born: so fruitful for them is the repentance which others feel for their past lives! Below the Essenes was the town of Engada [Engedi], which yielded only to Jerusalem in fertility and palm-groves but is today become another ash-heap. From there, one comes to the fortress of Masada, situated on a rock, and itself near the lake of Asphalt.
(Pliny the Elder, Historia Naturalis V, 17, 4 (73))

When we compare what the first century Jewish Roman writer Josephus tells us about the Essenes with the Dead Sea Scrolls, it becomes obvious that the authors were Essenes:

“…the sect of the Essenes affirm that fate governs all things, and that nothing befalls men but what is according to its determination.”
(Josephus; Ant. 13:5:9)
“From the God of Knowledge comes all that is and shall be. Before ever they existed He established their whole design, and when, as ordained for them, they come into being, it is in accord with His glorious design that they accomplish their task without change. …”
(1QS 3:15f)
Communal Property:
“This is demonstrated by that institution of theirs, which will not allow anything to hinder them from having all things in common; so that a rich man enjoys no more of his own wealth than he who has nothing at all.”
(Ant. 18:1:5)
“These men are despisers of riches, and so very communicative as raises our admiration.  Nor is there any one to be found among them who has more than another;  for it is a law among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order, insomuch, that among them all there is no appearance of poverty or excess of riches, but everyone’s possessions are intermingled with every other’s possessions,…”
(Wars 2:8:3)
Communal Property:
“All who volunteer for his truth are to bring the full measure of their knowledge, strength, and wealth into the Yahad of God.  Thus will they purify their knowledge in the verity of God’s laws, properly exercise their strength according to the perfection of his ways, and likewise their wealth by the canon of His righteous counsel.”
(1QS 1:11-13)
Negative View of Women:
“…they guard against the lascivious behavior of women, and are persuaded that none of them preserve their fidelity to one man.”
(Wars 2:8:2)
Negative View of Women:
“She speaks emptiness…  she flatters men with nonsense and leads them to uselessness.  Her heart sets traps,
…  No one will keep her from her never-ending fornication.  Her eyes dart here and there, looking for a virtuous man to catch, an important man to lead astray, a just man to make unjust,…
Office of Overseer:
“…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 acquainted 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)
Office of Overseer:
“They [the Yahad] shall also take steps to incorporate his property, putting it under the authority of the Overseer together with that of the general membership,…”
(1QS1 6:19-20)
Ritual Bathe of Purification:
“…they then bathe their bodies in cold water.  And after this purification is over…”
(Josephus; Wars 2:8:5)
Ritual Bathe of Purification:
“About purification by water.  A man may not wash himself in water that is filthy and to shallow to make a ripple.”
(Dam. Doc. 10:10-11)
“Ceremonies of atonement cannot restore his innocence, nor cultic waters his purity.  He cannot be sanctified by immersion in oceans and rivers, nor purified by mere ritual bathing….  Only thus can he really receive the purifying waters and be purged by the cleansing flow.
(1Qs 3:4f; 5, 13)
Ritual Communal Meal:
“…every one meets together in an apartment of their own, into which it is not permitted to any of another sect to enter; while they go, after a pure manner, into the dining-room, as into a certain holy temple, and quietly set themselves down; upon which the baker lays them loaves in order; the cook also brings a single plate of one sort of food, and sets it before every one of them; but a priest says grace before meat; and it is unlawful for any one to taste of the food before grace be said. The same priest, when he has dined, says grace again after meat; and when they begin, and when they end, they praise God, as he that bestows their food upon them;…”
(Wars 2:8:5)
Ritual Communal Meal:
“They shall eat, pray and deliberate communally.  Wherever ten men belonging to the society of the Yahad are gathered, a priest must always be present.  The men shall sit before the priest by rank, and in that manner their opinions will be sought on any matter.  When the table has been set for eating or the new wine readied for drinking, it is the priest who shall stretch out his hand first, blessing the first portion of the bread or the new wine.”
(1Qs 6:2-5)
“The procedure for the [mee]ting of the men of reputation [when they are called] to the banquet held by the society of the Yahad, when [God] has fa[th]ered (?) the Messiah (or, when the Messiah has been revealed) among them: [the Priest,] as head of the entire congregation of Israel, shall enter first, trailed by all [his] brot[hers, the Sons of] Aaron, those priests [appointed] to the banquet of the men of reputation.  They are to sit be[fore him] by rank.  Then the
[Mess]iah of Israel may en[ter], and the heads of the th[ousands of Israel] are to sit before him by rank. … all the heads of the congregation’s cl[ans], together with [their] wis[e and knowledgeable men]. Shall sit before them by rank.  [When] they gather [at the] communal [tab]le, [having set out bread and w]ine so the communal table is set [for eating] and [the] wine (poured) for drinking, none [may r]each for the first portion of the     bread or [the wine] before the Priest.  For [he] shall [bl]ess the first
portion of the bread and the wine, [reac]hing for the bread first. Afterw[ard] the Messiah of Israel [shall re]ach for the bread.  [Finally,] ea[ch] member of the whole congregation of the Yahad [shall give a bl]essing, [in descending order of] rank. This procedure shall govern every me[al], provided at least ten
me[n are ga]thered together.”
(1Qsa 2, 11-22)
Row:6 Cell:2
They Speak in Turn:
“Nor is there ever any clamor or disturbance to pollute their house, but they give every one leave to speak in their turn; which silence thus kept in their house appears to foreigners like some tremendous mystery; the cause of which is that perpetual sobriety they exercise,…”
(Wars 2:8:5)
They Speak in Turn:
“…none should interrupt the words of his comrade, speaking before his brother finishes what he has to say.  Neither should anyone speak before another of higher rank.  Only the man being questioned shall speak in his turn.”
(1Qs 6:10-11) 
Against Oaths:
“…whatsoever they say also is firmer than an oath; but swearing is avoided by them, and they esteem it worse than perjury for they say that he who cannot be believed without [swearing by] God is already” condemned.
(Wars 2:8:6)
Against Oaths:
“A man must not swear
either by Aleph and Lamedh (Elohim) or by Aleph and Daleth (Adonai)…”
(Dam. Doc. 15:1)
Process of Initiation:
But now if any one has a mind to come over to their sect, he is not immediately admitted, but he is prescribed the same method of living which they use for a year, while he continues excluded’; and they give him also a small hatchet, and the fore-mentioned girdle, and the white garment. And when he has given evidence, during that time, that he can observe their continence, he approaches nearer to their way of living, and is made a partaker of the waters of purification; yet is he not even now admitted to live with them; for after this demonstration of his fortitude, his temper is tried two more years; and if he appear to be worthy, they then admit him into their society. And before he is allowed to touch their common food, he is obliged to take tremendous oaths,
(Wars 2:8:7)
Process of Initiation:
If any man in Israel wish to be affiliated to the formal congregation of the community, the overseer of the general membership is to examine him as to his intelligence and his actions and, if he then embark on a course of training, he is to have him enter into a covenant to return to the truth and turn away from all perversity. Then he is to appraise him of all the rules of the community.  Subsequently, when that man comes to present himself to the general membership, everyone is to be asked his opinion about him. and his admission to or rejection from the formal congregation of the community is to be determined by general vote.  No candidate, however, is to be admitted to the formal state of purity enjoyed by the general membership of the community until, at the completion of a full year, his spiritual attitude and his performance have been duly reviewed. Meanwhile he is to have no stake in the common funds.
After he has spent a full year in the midst of the community, the members are jointly to review his case, as to his understanding and performance in matters of doctrine. If it then be voted by the opinion of the priests and of a majority of their co-covenanters to admit him to the sodality, they are to have him bring with him all his property and the tools of his profession. These are to be committed to the custody of the community’s ‘minister of works’. They are to be entered by that officer into an account, but he is not to disburse them for the general benefit.
Not until the completion of a second year among the members of the community is the candidate to be admitted to the common board. [Drink] When however, that second year has been completed, he is to be subjected to a further review by the general membership, and if it then be voted to admit him to the community, he is to be registered in due order of rank which he is to occupy among his brethren in all matters pertaining to doctrine, judicial procedure, degree of purity and share in the common funds. Thenceforth his counsel and his judgment are to be at the disposal of the community.
(1Qs 6:13-23)
“And whosoever in all Israel shall enter into the covenant by a statute forever, together with their children who are (not of an age) to pass over into the number of those who are enrolled by the oath of the covenant, shall confirm it on their behalf.  And this is also the law throughout the entire period of the wickedness for every one who returns from his corrupt way.  On the day when he speaks with the Overseer of the many they shall enroll him by the oath of the covenant that Moses established with Israel the covenant to re(turn to the Law of  M)oses …with all (his) heart…(and with all his) soul: as regards that which there is found to be done by them…  And no man shall make known to him the laws until he stand before the Overseer  (who) shall search out concerning him when he examines him.
(Dam. Doc. 15:5-12)
Spitting Prohibited:
“They also avoid spitting in the midst of them, or on the right side.”
(Wars 2:8:9)
Spitting Prohibited:
“A man who spits in a session of the many shall be fined for thirty days” (1QS 7:13).
Stricter than any other Jews Regarding Sabbath:
“…they are stricter than any other of the Jews in resting from their labors on the seventh day…”
(Wars 2:8:9)
Stricter than any other Jews Regarding Sabbath:
“As to the Sabbath, to observe it according to its law, no man shall do work on the sixth day from the time when the sun’s orb in its fullness is still without the gate, for it is He who has said, ‘Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’
And on the Sabbath day no man shall utter a word of folly and vanity.  No man shall lend aught, to his neighbor.  None shall dispute on matters of wealth and gain.  None shall speak on matters of work and labor to be done on the following morning.  No man shall walk in the field to do the work of his business.  On the Sabbath none shall walk outside his city more than a thousand cubits.  No man shall eat on the Sabbath day aught save that which is prepared or perishing (in the field).  Nor shall one eat or drink unless in the camp.  (If he was) on the way and went down to wash he may drink where he stands, but he shall not draw into any vessel.  No man shall send the son of a stranger to do his business on the Sabbath day….
No man shall fast of his own will on the Sabbath.  No man shall walk after the animal to pasture it outside his city more than two thousand cubits.  None shall lift his hand to smite it with (his) fist.  If it be stubborn he shall not remove it out of his house. No man shall carry anything from the house to the outside or from the outside into the house, and if he be in the vestibule he shall not carry anything out of it or bring in anything into it.  None shall open the cover of a vessel that is pasted on the Sabbath. No man shall carry on him spices to go out or come in on the Sabbath.  None shall lift up in his dwelling house rock or earth.  Let not the nursing father take the sucking child to go out or to come in on the Sabbath.  No man shall provoke his manservant or his maid-servant or his hireling on the Sabbath. No man shall help an animal in its delivery on the Sabbath day.  And if it falls into a pit or ditch, he shall not raise it on the Sabbath.  No man shall rest in a place near to the Gentiles on the Sabbath.  No man shall suffer himself to be polluted [the Sabbath] for the sake of wealth or gain on the Sabbath.  And if any person falls into a place of water or into a place of… he shall not bring him up by a ladder or a cord or instrument.  No man shall offer anything on the altar on the Sabbath, save the burnt-offering of the Sabbath, for so it is written ‘Excepting your Sabbaths’.
(Dam. Doc. 10:14-11:18)
…they will not remove any vessel out of its place [on the Sabbath]…
(Wars 2:8:9)
No man shall carry anything from the house to the outside or from the outside into the house, and if he be in the vestibule he shall not carry anything out of it or bring in anything into it.  None shall open the cover of a vessel that is pasted on the Sabbath.
(Dam. Doc. 11:7-9)
Their Four Classes:
“…they are parted into four classes…”
(Wars 2:8:10)
Their Four Classes:
“All shall be mustered by their names; the priests first, the Levites second, the Children of Israel third, the proselytes fourth.”
(Dam. Doc. 14:3-6) 

If it walks like an Essene and talks like an Essene…. its an Essene!

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4 thoughts on “The Qumran Community were Essenes”

  1. Quote: “…but a priest says grace before meat; and it is unlawful for any one to taste of the food before grace be said”

    It’s surprising to read the Essene’s were not aware of the torah instructions to pray after meals.

  2. I heard a teacher once mention the all the Qumran scrolls were missing the Alef and Tov were they are currently are in our scriptures. Can anyone verify that?

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