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A few months later, in the spring of 67 CE, the Jews, still confident from their victory over Cestius, sent three of their best and more daring generals, "who were the chiefs of them all, both for strength and sagacity," among them John the Essene, to launch an attack on Askalon. The expedition turned into catastrophe; the Jewish army, strong in numbers and enthusiasm but poorly equipped and inexperienced, was overwhelmed by the superior military organization of the Roman garrison, and John himself died in battle.

The reference to die bravery the Essenes demonstrated during "our war against the Romans," facing torture and death before "blaspheming their legislator or eating what was forbidden to them" J. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, 2 vols. Minneapolis: Fortress, ; E. Finally, Josephus stresses that the Essenes were not only geographically dispersed in Palestine but also ideologically divided; he mentions a "second order" with different attitudes toward marriage J.

If, as seems likely, the Therapeutae were not a separate movement but a branch of Egyptian Essenes, we would have from Philo a further glimpse at the pluralism and geographical extent of the movement. Many of the customs of the Therapeutae are indeed strikingly similar to those of the Palestinian Essenes. Philo even attributes to the Palestinian Essenes the same name, therapeutai Omn.


In addition, the beginning of his treatise De Vita Contemplativa sounds more like the prologue to the description of a different group of Essenes than an introduction to a completely unrelated phenomenon. They are called Therapeutae and Therapeutridae" Vit. Philo, however, makes clear that the Egyptian Therapeutae had different customs from their Palestinian cousins.

They lived isolated, "having left their homes and emigrated to a certain spot most suitable, which is situated above the Mareotic Lake, on a low hill" Vit. Any parallelism between the Palestinian Essenes and the Egyptian Therapeutae requires great caution; if the Therapeutae were Essenes, they formed a completely autonomous group. The most remarkable clue to the presence of an Essene 5. Vermes, "Essenes and Therapeutae.

When describing the southwestern part of the city, he incidentally mentions that the wall "stretched down through the place called Bethso to the gate of the Essenes" J. Archaeological excavations have recently confirmed Josephus's narrative and strengthened the credibility of his testimony. From Josephus we know that the Essenes had a complex ritual for the evacuation of excrement, which was considered a defiling act and therefore forbidden on the seventh day.

They squat there, covered by their mantles so as not to offend the rays of God. Then they push back the excavated soil into the hole. For this operation they choose the loneliest places. The hypothesis that the latrines and the gate lay in a quarter inhabited by the Essenes has already produced a vast bibliography. Pixner, D. Chen, and S. Kapera, ed. Pixner, "Das Essenerquartier in Jerusalem," in R. Riesner, ed. Bottini, ed. Baldi, Enchiridion locorum sanctorum: Documenta S. Evangelii loca respicientia.

Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, ,; B. Bagatti and E. Even without this significant link with Christian origins, the excavations related to the "gate of the Essenes" and to "the place called Bethso" are of the greatest importance.

The evidence is circumstantial, yet it is the only occurrence in which archaeological findings can be used to support the existence of an Essene settlement in a Judaean city. Both give precise geographical coordinates. Pliny says that "the people of the Essenes live to the west [of the Dead Sea], having put the necessary distance between themselves and the insalubrious shore. Then he locates the Essenes on its western shore, somewhere north of Engedi and Masada.

From there, one comes to the fortress of Masada, situated on a rock, and itself near the lake of Asphalt" Nat. In spile of its brevity, Dio's testimony is particularly remarkable inasmuch as it openly contradicts Josephus, for whom, as we have seen, "there is not one town [Gk. Epiphanius offers another interesting piece of evidence. As did other later Christian authors, he mistook the Essenes for a Samaritan sect, yet he located a genos of Jews with a strikingly similar name, the Ossaioi, in the vicinity of the Dead Sea Haer.

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It is likely that this piece of information came from a source similar to that available to Pliny and Dio. The changing of the name may have been the way Epiphanius sought to harmonize his conflicting sources. Archaeologists have excavated a settlement, so-called Khirbet Qum9. Laperrousaz, "Infra hos Engadda," RB 69 Despite attempts to prove the contrary, no other site in this region corresponds as well to Pliny's and Dio's portrait.

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Even the pottery from Qumran shows clear signs of uniqueness; it "suggests that the inhabitants practiced a deliberate and selective policy of isolation, manufacturing ceramic products to suit their own special needs and requirements. The interpretation of Roland de Vaux, who directed the excavations in the s, that the site was a sectarian settlement, "still makes the most sense. At any rate, "thousands of centuries" is too vague and bombastic to have any historical reliability. According to all ancient Jewish chronologies, the origin of the Essenes would then precede even the time of creation.

The phrase serves only to tum the chronologically indefinite notion of the antiquity of the group that Pliny shared with Jewish sources into an ingenious trick to capture the imagination of his Roman readers. London: Oxford University Press, Wise, et al. For a revisionistic approach that denies the uniqueness of Qumran, see R. Donceel and P. Communal Ownership! Tie second element shared by Jewish and non-Jewish witnesses is the uniqueness and distinctiveness of the Essene way of life, based on communal organization and the sharing of goods.

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In particular, ancient sources were impressed by a way of life in which money was not necessary. For Pliny, the Essenes lived "without money" Lat. Josephus claims that among the Essenes economic transactions were regulated neither by money nor by exchange, but by common ownership. And they can even receive freely from whomsoever they like without giving anything in exchange" J.

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Philo's assertions agree with Josephus: "None of them can endure to possess anything of his own; neither house, slave, field, nor flocks, nor anything which feeds and procures wealth. It is agreed that whatever belongs to each belongs to all, and conversely, whatever belongs to all belongs to each" Apol. Among the Essenes, therefore, everything was in common. According to Josephus, the Essenes "live among themselves" Gk. Josephus like Hippolytus describes the typical day of the Essenes: Before sunrise they speak no profane word but recite certain ancestral prayers. After these prayers the superiors dismiss them.

When they are quietly seated, the baker serves out the loaves of bread in order, and the cook serves only one bowlful of one dish to each man. Before the meal the priest says a prayer and no one is permitted to taste the food before he prayer; and after they have eaten the meal they recite another prayer. Then they return and take their dinner in the same manner. The seventh day was honored with particular sacredness, and work was forbidden; however, the reference to the care with which food was prepared in advance suggests that the practice of communal meals was not discontinued.

Not only do they prepare their food on the day before to avoid lighting a fire on that day, but they dare not even move an object, or go to stool Hippolytus: some would not even rise from a couch]" J. Philo adds that during the seventh day, more time was devoted to religious instruction. On that day they abstain from other work and proceed to the holy places [Gk. That the communal meals, with their complex rituals of purification and prayers, were the center of Essene life is confirmed by the rigid exclusion of nonmembers Josephus, J.

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Even the postulants had to wait until the completion of the three-year process of admission. During the first year they were not even allowed to enter the meeting place of the Essenes. The postulant had to wait "two more years [in which] his character is tested, and if he appears worthy he is received into the company permanently. But before touching the common food he makes solemn vows before his brethren" Josephus, J. Participation in the communal meals was the ultimate goal of the entire probationary period of the postulants.

Philo also emphasizes that in tine Essene experience the "communal meals" Gk. The Essenes "dwell together, in brotherhoods, having adopted the form of associations and the custom of eating in common" Apol. They have a common table [Gk. Ancient sources agree that the sacred and, for nonmembers, inaccessible meeting place of the Essenes was basically a dining hall. Although the communal life of the Essenes was highly demanding, it was limited to some times of the day and did not consume the individual completely. Hippolytus: "each going to whatever employment they please," Ref.

Philo confirms that there was no communal work. Although the ideal of the Essenes was to "employ their whole activity for the common good, nevertheless they all follow different occupations and apply themselves with zeal. There are farmers among them expert in the art of sowing and cultivation of plants, shepherds leading every sort of flock, and beekeepers. Other are craftsmen in diverse t r a d e s. They never defer until the morrow whatever serves to procure for them blameless revenue" Apol.

Philo reveals that some jobs were considered unsuitable: "they have not die smallest idea, nor even a dream, of wholesale, retail, or marine commerce, rejecting everything that might excite them to cupidity" Omn. Josephus agrees that agriculture was the Essenes' main and ideal occupation: "they are excellent men and wholly given up to agricultural labour" Ant. But the general picture that emerges from our sources is that of people who worked outside their brotherhoods, practicing the ordinary jobs of the time and receiving revenues, exactly as everybody else did. Because the Essene communities were not the employers of their members and were not economically self-sufficient, Essenes used to spend much of their time working among non-Essenes.

It is possible that this was not the only time that Essenes were with nonmembers. Interestingly, our sources make no mention of where the Essenes actually dwelt and spent the night.

It is not said from where in the morning they assembled in the same meeting place. Neither are we told that the community owned any facility for lodging. On the contrary, Philo and Josephus speak of private houses that were to be shared. For as well as living in communities, their homes are open to members of the sect arriving from elsewhere" Philo, Omn.