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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.
- 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