Jesus and the Essenes–How Were They Related?

Anyone up for a fairly in-depth hour and a half discussion of the John the Baptizer/Jesus/James movement and it possible relationship to the group that the historical Josephus, and other classical writers such as Pliny and Strabo, called the “Essenes”? We are not sure of the origins of this Greek term ( Ἐσσηνοὶ)–but some have suggested it is a version of the Hebrew term ‘Ossim–or “Doers,” as in “Doers of the Torah (Cf. Romans 2:13). I have always found that suggestion attractive.

Whatever its origins in this interview with Jacob Berman, host of the Youtube channel @History Valley, I explore the cross-currents of the earliest two messianic apocalyptic movements of which we have fairly extensive records in late 2nd Temple Jewish times–namely the group that wrote the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls and the early Jesus movement. I find Michael Wise’s dating of the floruit of the “Teacher’s Movement,” as he aptly puts it, in the first quarter of the first century BCE–just after the time of Alexander Jannaeus (c. 76). See his very convincing article on dating in the Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls

and his page-turning book, The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Christ. However, the movement did not dissolve forty years after the Teacher’s death, as the community initially expected–but based on the archaeology of Qumran (see Magness, et al.), it lasted down into the first Jewish War. So if we put John/Jesus c. 26-30 C.E. that is a full 100 years after the Teacher. So the movements basically intersected–chronologically, and I think geographically (“Prepare the Way in the Aravah”).

I speak extensively about what I call the “dynamics of messianic apocalypticism” including the notion of a “suffering” redeemer or savior figure, as well as a triumphant and exalted one–as I am convinced that both movements shared these twin ideas, and both had to deal with the reality of Roman power and hegemony during this period.  If find this interview fascinating, I invite you to join my on-line course–that you complete at your own pace, I meet with students via Zoom once a month, with Q&A and deeper discussion (

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases with no extra cost to buyers

Comments are closed.