Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins
New Light on Ancient Texts and Communities
240 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- ISBN: 9781481307765
- Published: April 2018
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves near Qumran in 1947 sparked near endless speculation about the possible connections between the Essenes—purportedly the inhabitants of the settlement—and the birth, nature, and growth of early Christianity. Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins sheds new light on this old question by reexamining the complex relationships among Qumran, the historical Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian origins within first-century Palestinian Judaism.
Author Simon J. Joseph’s careful examination of a number of distinctive passages in the Jesus tradition in light of Qumran-Essene texts focuses on major points of contact between the Qumran-Essene community and early Christianity in four areas of belief and practice: covenant identity, messianism, eschatology, and halakhah (legal interpretation), placing the weight of his argument for continuity and discontinuity on the halakhic topics of divorce, Sabbath, sacrifice, celibacy, and violence.
Joseph focuses on the historical, cultural, chronological, and theological correspondences as convergence. This not only illuminates the historical Jesus’ teachings as distinctive, developing and extending earlier Jewish ethical and halakhic thought, it also clarifies the emergence of early Christianity in relationship to Palestinian Essenism. By bringing this holistic analysis of the evidence to bear, Joseph adds a powerful and insightful voice to the decades-long debate surrounding the Essenes and Christianity.
1. Rediscovering the Essenes in the Study of Christian Origins
2. The Community of the New Covenant
3. The Anointed Prophet
4. The Eschatological Teacher
5. Beyond the Essenes
Index of Authors
Index of Subjects
The question of the relationship between Jesus and the Essenes has, as Simon Joseph notes, ‘fascinated biblical scholars and the general public for over three hundred years’ (163), and more so since the discovery of the Judean Desert Scrolls in 1947. In the time that has elapsed since their publication, what has changed in ways that affect this inquiry is not the data but rather scholars’ approach to its interpretation. Joseph offers a concise survey of both the evidence and scholarship concerning it and raises a forceful argument in favor of an actual connection and familiarity between Jesus and the Essenes.~Aryeh Amihay, Reading Religion
Simon Joseph shows his in-depth acquaintance with the ancient literature of and about the Essenes of the last centuries of the pre-Christian era and the scholarly literature about them. His knowledge of the extensive scholarly literature about the Qumran library is impressive even for a specialist in the field. I heartily recommend Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins to anyone who seeks to master this highly important area of New Testament study.~James A. Sanders, Professor Emeritus, Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University
The Essenes—variously defined—have been invoked to understand Jesus and the rise of Christianity for centuries. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, an invaluable resource for study became available, but claims in regard to Jesus’ relationship to the community at Qumran have continued to burgeon uncritically. Simon Joseph’s skillful treatment puts the systematic comparison of Jesus and the Scrolls on a sound and productive footing. The result is a sensible evaluation of Jesus in relation to those behind the production of the Dead Sea Scrolls, comparatively assessing teaching in regard to divorce, celibacy, violence, Sabbath, and sacrifice.~Bruce Chilton, Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion, Bard College
From the outset the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948 has led to a variety of hypotheses about the possible relationship of the Essenes, a Jewish sect that populated Qumran, the site where the scrolls were found, to Jesus and early Christianity. In this marvelous work Simon Joseph, professor emeritus at the Claremont School of Theology, offers a detailed, well-researched, and eminently balanced assessment of this intriguing potential relationship.~The Bible Today