The Essene Odyssey: The Mystery of the True Teacher and the Essene Impact on the Shaping of Human Destiny. Tisbury: Element Books. ISBN 0-906540-49-6. Schonfield, Hugh J. Those Incredible Christians. Tisbury: Element Books. ISBN 0-906540-71-2. Shaw, George Bernard (2004) 1912. Androcles and The Lion.
- From the essene book of moses THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 1 And Mount Sinai was altogether in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
- The Essenes were a New Testament religious sect that existed from the second century B.C. To the first century A.D. Of the three main religious groups mentioned by Josephus (a well known first century Jewish historian), they are the only ones not found directly in Scripture.
This message was for the ears of man alone, they who walk between the worlds of earth and heaven. And unto the ears of man was whispered this message... ~The Essene Gospel of Peace
- The Apocryphal TextsThe excluded and suppressed books of the Bible. In the process of determining the Biblical canon, a large number of texts were excluded from the New Testament, many of which were vigorously suppressed or destroyed. Some survive only as fragments.
- The Gospel of the Holy Twelve The most ancient and complete early Christian fragment. Written in Aramaic, the text includes the complete life and teachings of Jesus. The lections of this ancient Gospel set forth a much higher moral and spiritual understanding than is currently taught by the Christian church.
- The Essene Gospels of Peace Liberated from the secret archives of the Vatican, these sacred scrolls are testaments to the eternal and living truth.
- The Nag Hammadi Librarya collection of thirteen ancient codices containing over fifty texts. Discovered in upper Egypt in 1945, this immensely important discovery includes a large number of primary Gnostic scriptures, texts once thought to have been entirely destroyed during the early Christian struggle to define 'orthodoxy'
- The Gospel of ThomasThese are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down. Complete with usurps from the New Testament Gospels.
- The Greek New TestamentThe entire 1881 Westcott-Hort New Testament in ancient Greek. Variant readings are also given within the text of this translation. (The Greek 'symbol' font is required for viewing this text.)
- The Gospel of QA collection of Jesus' sayings which forms the two-source hypothesis and the most widely accepted solution to the synoptic problem which posits that Matthew and Luke drew on two written sources, as shown by textual correspondences between their works. The Gospel of Mark forms one source, and Q the other.
The Sophia (Wisdom) of Jesus ChristA revelation discourse describing the celestial regions beyond the visible world. Given by the risen Christ in response to questions by his disciples.
The Book of EnochOnce considered scripture, the Book of Enoch contains many key concepts used by Jesus. Over a hundred phrases in the New Testament find precedents in this ancient text. Many Aramaic fragments of Enoch have been recovered from the Qumran caves, showing the importance of Enoch to the Essene community.
- From Enoch to the Dead Sea Scrolls From the remote ages of antiquity this remarkable teaching has existed which is universal in its application and ageless in its wisdom.
- The Dead Sea ScrollsTheir discovery, interpretations and publication. A collection of 850 documents which were discovered between 1947 and 1956 at eleven caves near Qumran, a fortress northwest of the Dead Sea. They were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, sometime between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD.
- Christ in IslâmTraditional sayings and stories attributed to Jesus taken from Islamic literature. Islam has always considered Jesus to be one of the greatest of prophets. Highly recommended to anyone interested in comparative religion or alternative views of Jesus.
- The Kybalion The study of the Hermetic philosophy of ancient Egypt and Greece. These teachings cannot be accredited to any one person or human source, for these teachings represent the workings of Creation Itself.
- The Book of Wisdom One of the forgotten books of the Apocrypha; It is a 1st century BCE Greek work originating in Alexandrian Egypt. The work relates early Nazorite and Essene understandings of the feminine principle of God at work in the ancient Hebrew tradition.
- Clothed With The SunThe Book of the Illuminationsof Anna Bonus Kingsford. A contemporary of Rev. Ouseley, this remarkable text explains the interpretations of mystical scripture and the spiritual mysteries of the kingdoms of God.
- The Book of the Mysteries of GodAnciently called 'The Greater Mysteries' as containing knowledges which for their interiorness were reserved for initiates of high degree.
- The Perfect Wayor The Finding of ChristThe Perfect Way represents a discovery to ascertain the nature and method of existence. It also represents a recovery because the system propounded has proved to be that which constituted the basic and secret doctrines of all the great religions of antiquity, including Christianity, – the doctrine commonly called the Gnosis, and variously entitled Hermetic and Kabbalistic.
- The Inner SanctumScriptorium and archives for advanced Essenic studies.
- The Essene Book StoreSuggestions and resources for expanding your own Essenic library or scriptorium.
- Textual Analysis of Biblical LiteratureThe scholarly approach of studying, evaluating and critically assessing the Bible as literature in order to better understand its origins and the original intentions of its authors.
'There are also many things which Jesus did, that if they should be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain all the books that would be written.' ~St. John (A.V.)
~The Forgotten Teachings ~
Due to lack of knowledge, my people shall perish ~Hosea 4:6
Whoever finds the interpretation of these words will not experience death ~Jesus, The Gospel of Thomas
- The Essene Holy Communions Originated by Enoch, and again brought forth by Moses on the two stone tablets he first brought down from Mount Sinai.
- The Ten Commandments(or 'The Lesser Mysteries')'To thy people of little faith, who did sin against the Creator, even whilst thou stood on holy ground before thy God, -I will give another Law. It shall be a stem law, yea, it shall bind them, for they know not yet the Kingdom of Light.'
- Thou Shalt Not KillThe exact Hebrew of this biblical phrase is 'lo tirtzack' which accurately translates as 'any kind of killing whatsoever.'
- Biblical Vegetarianism 'They cannot be righteous, nor can they touch holy things, whose hands are stained with blood, or whose mouths are defiled with flesh.'
- The TransfigurationThe law once given through Moses 'by the ministry of angels,' is now given through Jesus as the more perfect Law -the Law of Christ.
- The Beatitudes of ChristA beatitude is a declaration of happiness or promised blessing resulting from an individuals virtue or good deeds. They describe the qualities of perfection and the promise of future blessings rather than current material or physical rewards.
- The Lords PrayerBiblical scholars disagree about Jesus' meaning in the Lord's Prayer. Some view it as 'existential,' referring to man's present experience on earth, while others interpret it as 'eschatological,' referring to the coming Kingdom of God. The prayer itself lends to both interpretations.
- The Sermon On The Mount'When Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished. For he taught them as one appealing to the reason and the heart, and not as the scribes who taught rather by authority.'
- The Lections of CompassionThe teachings of compassion and the condemning of all forms of cruelty.
- Fasting and SobrietyThe penitential practice of fasting is observed for the purposes of purification, for heightening states of awareness, and for atonement of sins and wrongdoing.
- The Art of MeditationMeditation is closely akin to prayer and worship, wherein the practitioner turns spiritual thoughts over in the mind and engages the brain in a higher thinking processes. The goal is the receipt of spiritual insights and new understanding.
- Materialism and Simple LivingThe teachings of the Christ dedicated to freeing mankind from the slavish pursuits of material 'Mammon.'
- God and MammonThe selling of God and the false glamour of riches. The teachings of materialism according to the Gospels.
- The Ascetic Sayings of Jesus The practice of asceticism and the relinquishment of all material attachments were regarded by the Christ as necessary and required prerequisites for salvation.
- Regeneration of the Soul 'Blessed are they who suffer many experiences, for they shall be made perfect: They shall be as the angels in Heaven and shall die no more, and neither shall they be reborn, for death and birth will no longer have dominion over them.'
- Resurrection and AscensionThe crucial initiation for humanity to understand at this time is that only when we have mastered the significance of service and sacrifice can the fact of immortality and its true meaning be revealed to us.
- The Key to Overcoming DeathThe key to the overcoming of death and to the processes of realizing the meaning and nature of eternity and the continuity of life can with safety be revealed only when love holds sway over the human consciousness, and where the good of the whole, and not the selfish good of the individual, comes to be the supreme regard.
'The lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of Understanding' ~The Kybalion
The issue of the relationship of Jesus to the “Essenes,” as well as to the the Dead Sea Scrolls, whether Essene or otherwise, is central to our attempts to view Jesus in his historical contexts. In other words, we are essentially asking, in our historical Quest–“what kind of a Jew was Jesus?” We know that James the brother of Jesus assumed the leadership of the original Jerusalem-based Jewish followers of Jesus. Even Paul acknowledged the status of James and at least gave lip service to his authority. What this “Jesus” movement was called or just how it fit into the broader spectrum of Jewish groups and movements of the late 2nd Temple period is a complex issue.
Essene Book Of Mosesrejected Scriptures Study
Josephus regularly reports three main sects or schools of Judaism: Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, (War 2: 119; Antiquities 13:171; 18:11). In one passage he mentions a “fourth” philosophy that he does not label but associates with Judas the Galilean, and treats as a kind of “subset” of the Pharisees (Antiquities 18:23). Elsewhere he seems to refer to this movement as the “Zealots,” which seems to be a rather loose designation for those who participated in the 1st Revolt against Rome (War 2:651; 7:268). He mentions John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and Jesus himself (an a passage that has been heavily interpolated), but he never labels the group or movement/s to which they belonged.
Like the group behind the sectarian writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest followers of Jesus, apparently, did not use a dominant self-identifying label but preferred a variety of descriptive terms. Paul’s letters are our earliest sources, dating to the 50s CE, and he never “names” his followers or the movement as a whole, but uses phrases like “the believers” or those “in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:7, 2:10; 1 Corinthians 14:22; Romans 16: 3, 7, 9; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).
According to the book of Acts, which comes late in the 1st century, the followers of Jesus were called, or perhaps called themselves, “the Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22). The term “Christian” or “Christians” is mentioned twice, but presented as a newly minted designation, probably coming from outsiders, as the movement spread north to Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:26; 26:28). It is surely surprising for many to realize that the term “Christian” only occurs one other time in the entire New Testament, in one of our latest sources (1 Peter 4:16). This is, however, the name that apparently stuck as it shows up in our earliest Roman sources mentioning the movement, namely Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian, and Galen (see texts here.). It is a Greek name, not a Hebrew or Aramaic one, but unfortunately the English term veils what was likely the more original connotation of the term, which would translate roughly as something like “Messianist.”
There is, however, a reference in the book of Acts to a Hebrew name for the Jesus movement that might have well been its earliest formal appellation. Paul, on trial before the Roman governer Felix, is referred to as being “the ring leader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). Whether this term was used by “outsiders” to label the group, or within the movement itself, is difficult to know. Associated with the term “Nazarenes” is a second Hebrew designation, namely Ebionites, that was also apparently used for the earliest mostly-Jewish followers of Jesus.
This Ebionite/Nazarene movement was made up of mostly Jewish followers of John the Baptizer and later Jesus, who were concentrated in Palestine and surrounding regions and led by “James the Just” (the oldest brother of Jesus), and flourished between the years 30-80 C.E. Non-Jews were certainly part of the mix but the dominant ethos of the group was an adherence to what Paul calls ioudaizein–to live according to Jewish law (Galatians 2:14). They were zealous for the Torah and continued to observe the mitzvot (commandments) as enlightened by their Rabbi and Teacher. The non-Jews in their midst were apparently expected to follow some version of the Noachide Laws (Acts 15: 28-29). The term Ebionite (from Hebrew ‘Evyonim) means “Poor Ones” and was perhaps related to the teachings of Jesus: “Blessed are you Poor Ones, for yours is the Kingdom of God” based on Isaiah 66:2 and other related texts that address a remnant group of faithful ones. I am convinced that Nazarene comes from the Hebrew word Netzer (drawn from Isaiah 11:1) and means “a Branch”—so the Nazarenes were the “Branchites” or followers of the one they believed to be the Branch–that is the Davidic Messiah. It is often confused with a completely different word, Nazirite or Nazir, that refers to individuals, male or female, not a group, who took on a special vow based on Numbers 6. The two terms can sound alike in English are spelled differently in Hebrew.
If I were guessing I would think the designation Nazarene was likely used by outsiders for the group, whereas the term Ebionite was more likely used within the group as a self-description. It seems significant that the Dead Sea community also used this term Ebionite or “Poor Ones” to refer to their own movement (CD 19:9; 1QSb 5:21). This movement, that Josephus and others label as Essene (possibly from ‘Ossim, meaning “Doers of Torah”), who wrote or collected the Dead Sea Scrolls, pioneered certain aspects of this “Way” over 150 years before the birth of Jesus. They were a wilderness (out in the Arava, near the Dead Sea–based on Isaiah 40:3), baptizing (mikveh of repentance as entrance requirement into their fellowship), new covenant, messianic/apocalyptic group. They believed they were the final generation and would live to see the end and the coming of the Messiahs of Aaron and of Israel (the two anointed ones–priest and king). They saw themselves as the remnant core of God’s faithful people—preparing the Way for the return of YHVH’s Glory (Kavod) as set forth in Isaiah 40-66. They too referred to themselves as the Way, the Poor, the Saints, the New Covenanters, Children of Light, and so forth. Perhaps their most common designation was the Yachad–the brotherhood or community, and they referred to themselves as brother and sister. They were bitterly opposed to the corrupt Priests in Jerusalem, to the Herods, and even to the Pharisees whom they saw as compromising with that establishment to get power and influence from the Hellenistic/Roman powers. They had their own developed Halacha (interpretation of Torah), some aspects of which Jesus picks up (ideal of no divorce, not using oaths, etc.). They followed one they called the True Teacher (Teacher of Righteousness) whom most scholars believe lived in the 1st century BCE and was opposed and possibly killed by the Hasmonean King/Priests at the instigation of the Pharisees. John the Baptizer seems to arise out of this context and rekindle the apocalyptic fervor of the movement in the early decades of the first century CE. Jesus joined this movement and it remains our best insight into the conceptual world of an apocalyptic, messianic, movement of this period, akin to the Jesus movement.
The variety of self-designations used by the John/Jesus/James movement, many of which had previously been used by the Essenes, is telling. Indeed, one might call the Jesus movement a further developed messianic “Essenism,” modified through the powerful, prophetic influence of Jesus as Teacher and the leadership of James his brother for nearly 40 years.
Later, when Christianity developed in the 3rd and 4th centuries and gradually lost its Jewish roots and heritage, largely severing its homeland connections, the Gentile, Roman Catholic Church historians began to refer to Ebionites and Nazarenes as two separate groups—and indeed, by the late 2nd century there might have been a split between these mostly Jewish followers of Jesus. The distinction these writers make (and remember, they universally despise these people and call them “Judaizers”), is that the Ebionites reject Paul and the doctrine of the Virgin Birth or “divinity” of Jesus, use only the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, and are thus more extreme in their Judaism. They describe the Nazarenes more positively as those who accept Paul (with caution) and believe in some aspect of the divinity of Jesus, even possibly the virgin birth, but viewed him as “adopted” as Son of God at his baptism. What we have to keep in mind in reading these accounts from the Church fathers is that they are strongly prejudiced against any form of what they call “Judaizing” among Christians and they share the view that “Christianity” has replaced Judaism entirely overthrowing the Torah for both Gentile and Jew.
I think it best today to use the collective term Ebionite/Nazarene in an attempt to capture the whole of this earliest movement, and it would be useful to revive the term Yachad as a collective designation for the community of the Hasidim/Saints. Ebionite/Nazarene is a good historical designation to refer to those original, 1st century, mostly Jewish, followers of Jesus, gathered around James the brother of Jesus in Jerusalem, who were zealous for the Torah, but saw themselves as part of the New Covenant Way inaugurated by their “True Teacher” Jesus. James is a key and neglected figure in this whole picture (see essays on James). As the blood brother of Jesus, authority and rights of leadership were passed on to him. When he was brutally murdered in 62 CE by the High Priest Ananus (see Josephus, Antiquities 20.197ff), Simeon, a second brother [“cousin” according to Hegesippus] of Jesus took over the leadership of the Jerusalem based movement. Clearly we have the idea here of a blood-line dynasty, and according to the Gospel of Thomas, discovered in 1946 in upper Egypt, this dynastic succession was ordained by Jesus himself who tells his followers who ask him who will lead them when he leaves: “No matter where you are, you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being” (Gospel of Thomas 12, and additional primary texts here). Indeed, when Simeon was crucified by the Emperor Trajan around 106 C.E., one Judas, perhaps an aged third brother of Jesus, or at least a close relative of the bloodline, took over the leadership of the community.
As far as “beliefs” of the Ebionites, the documents of the New Testament, critically evaluated, are our best sources, including some of the fragmentary traditions still embedded in the book of Acts (7:37-53). There are fragments and quotations surviving from their Hebrew Gospel tradition (see see A. F. J. Klijn, Jewish-Christian Gospel Tradition, E. J. Brill, 1992), the so-called Pseudo-Clementine materials, as well as some of the traditions reflected in texts such as the “Hebrew Matthew” preserved by Ibn Shaprut, and now published in a critical edition by George Howard (The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Mercer University Press, 1995). Based on what we can reliably put together from these sources we can say the Ebionite or Nazarene movement could be distinguished by the following views:
1) Jesus as a human being with father and mother but designated a “Prophet like Moses,” or “the Anointed of the Spirit,” who will be revealed in power as the “Son of Man coming in the Clouds of heaven,” following his rejection and death (Acts 7:37; Luke 4:18-19; Mark 10:35-45; 13:26-27).
2) Disdain for eating meat and even the Temple slaughter of animals, preferring the ideals of the pre-Flood diet and what they took to be the original ideal of worship (see Genesis 9:1-5; Jeremiah 7:21-22; Isaiah 11:9; 66:1-4). This reflects a general interest in seeking the “Path” reflected in the pre-Sinai revelation, especially the time from Enoch to Noah. For example, divorce was shunned, as violating the Edenic ideal, even though technically it was later allowed by Moses (Mark 10:2-11).
3) Dedication to following the whole Torah, as applicable to Israel and to Gentiles, but through the “easy yoke” or the “Torah of liberty” of their Teacher Jesus, which emphasized the Spirit of the Biblical Prophets in a restoration of the “True Faith,” the Ancient Paths (Jeremiah 6:16; Matthew 11:28-30; James 2:8-13; Matthew 5:17-18; 9:13; 12:7), from which, by and large, they believed the establishment Jewish groups of 2nd Temple times had departed.
4) Rejection of the “doctrines and traditions” of men, which they believed had been added to the pure Torah of Moses, including scribal alterations of the texts of Scripture (Jeremiah 8:8).
Generally, the movement came to have a very negative view of Paul as an “apostate from the Torah,” though it is possible that in the 2nd and 3rd centuries there were branches of the Nazarenes who were more tolerant of Paul as the “apostle to the Gentiles,” but who as Jews, nonetheless, insisted on Torah observance.
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For much more on the whole “underbelly” of the original Jesus movement led by James the brother of Jesus, its relationship with the Dead Sea Scroll sect, and the Ebionites and their subsequent history, see Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus(Penguin, 1998). There is a new abridged edition of this work as well here, but I recommend the original for serious students of early Christianity. On “Jewish Christianity” more generally, see H-J Schoeps, Jewish Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969), out of print but still useful for students as a general introduction. For a modern interpretation of the Ebionite ideals, reflecting the peaceful ideas of vegetarianism and non-violence, see Keith Akers, The Lost Religion of Jesus: Simple Living and Non-Violence in Early Christianity (Lantern Book, 2000). Finally, there is an active “Ebionite” movement today, that seeks to revive and reflect these ancient perspectives, see the web site: ebionite.org.