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Jesus and the Essenes

Jesus and the Essenes

Jesus and the Essenes

Postby dogman » Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:01 am
Jesus and the Essenes

The Master Jesus was a very simple man who walked in the street in the middle of the people, who spoke directly with them and who lived in the company of his few disciples. Of course, there was a goodness, a purity, a royalty which emanated from him; but he was nothing like the "inaccessible high Master" which all of the churches have completely fabricated.
The Master Jesus was completely accessible, simple, yet imposing, and that is what pleased the crowd. When he was in town, people knew his habits and waited for him in the places where he often gave a teaching through parables, stories and discussions with those who asked him questions or who tried to trip him up. Everybody could come and participate in his talks, and anyone could speak. The Master gave a veiled teaching; he did not reveal all of his thoughts. Those who were interested by this first approach could follow him and become one of his disciples. One could be such a disciple without abandoning one's family or one's work.

Then the Master gave other teachings--deeper, more practical, more direct. He explained the meaning of the parables.
One of the higher steps for the circle of disciples was to repent and to receive John's baptism. It was the close disciples of the Master, the 12 apostles, who were to baptize the students who were entering a deeper level on the path.
Once a candidate had received the baptism, he entered an inner circle of a more restricted and secret School. Inside this circle, the Master transmitted a profound initiatic teaching, as well as certain precise methods. He said that he was working on the future of humanity through the intermediary of his students who had been thus prepared. The students of this secret School included women as well as men, although men were in the majority because of that time period. The discipline was strict, as in the Essene communities, but the presence of the Master meant that joy, laughter, and love circulated abundantly from soul to soul. The students had to do a lot of exercises, and work on themselves, on their own matter, according to the directives which were taught.
The Master said that, when a group of people gather together freely around a divine idea and begin to work on themselves in the direction of this idea, then, if there are enough of them, they carry within themselves all of humanity and they can make it evolve. From their work emanates a communal spiritual strength, which is like a sun in the soul of the earth and of humanity. This sun, in turn, works throughout time to attract the divine idea and to bring it to life within the reality of the earth.

The Master had given very precise directives for this work, and during some very beautiful communal ceremonies--notably the washing of the feet--he had made it understood that each one of them was becoming one with him in the Christ, that each one of them was becoming a part of the Christ on the earth, and that the final incarnation of the Christ inside all humans depended on the work of each one of them.
He had also transmitted songs, sounds, words, dances and movements which had to be done in a particular state of mind and with a great inner purity in order to produce certain effects within oneself and within the soul of the earth.
He taught that, in this way, certain very pure spiritual beings who live inside the soul of man and of the earth could be awakened, nourished, and strengthened in the will of the Heavenly Father.

The students had also to take the Nazarite vow not to eat meat or drink fermented drinks anymore. The Master said that, if a human being ate meat, he could not receive his word. This discipline was, at the same time, for both the external side and the internal side of life. The Master taught that physical vegetarianism had to be coupled with psychic vegetarianism, an attitude of inner life filled with a living morality, an active pacifism, a tenacious and serene will, a clarity and openness of mind. Like the Essenes, the Master attached great importance to cleanliness and purity. The purity which the Master taught was a lot less rigid than the one preached by the Essenes. It was alive, in movement, dynamic. The Master Jesus was very tolerant and very open. These rules applied only in the inner circle of his School. His teaching had several degrees, according to the state of consciousness and the level of evolution of the being who was in front of him. The Master loved all beings and wanted each one to be able to receive and participate in God's word at his own level. For some people, this word took on a tone of reprimand, of severity, even of condemnation. For others, one of consolation and hope. And finally, for the prepared students, it opened up the doors to the sacred path of the initiation of the soul into the eternal mysteries.
Master Jesus liked the atmosphere to be pure, and that is why, before he came, the students prepared and purified themselves in their thoughts, feelings, and desires through rhythmical exercises, movements, and dances. They used certain kinds of human-shaped waves which had the power to vivify, purify and improve the quality of the atmosphere of a place.

Master Jesus himself was always careful about the place in which he taught or practiced the works of his Father-Mother with his disciples. Thus, when he was in Jerusalem, he went and taught the crowd in the square of the Gentiles or in certain places in the streets of the city. People knew where they could find him. With his disciples, he liked to go outside of the city. Thus, he often arranged to meet the members of the inner circle in the garden of the 12 palm trees, which was located close to Bethany. There was a spring there, and the Master had explained at great length that this place was tied to the work which his faithful disciples would have to accomplish in the world in the centuries to come. He had revealed to all of them the purpose of his mission, the future history of humanity, the different incarnations of his disciples, and the role they would have to play in this history to serve Christ. Once again, he had alluded to the mysterious role of the Apostle John, and he had placed him in parallel with John the Baptist, the prophet Eli and the Essene Brotherhood-Sisterhood.
At the time when the Master Jesus was present among his disciples, he had already named the Master St. John as the leader of and the person responsible for this inner and secret School. It is the Master St. John who was put in charge of teaching in this School and of ensuring that the exercises were done correctly.
Thereafter, the Master St. John continued his task, even after Jesus' departure. He remained faithful and opened inner Schools in most European countries. These Schools continued to exist in secret and have propagated themselves right up to our own time, keeping Christ's teaching pure, exactly as the Essenes had kept pure Moses' secret and authentic teaching. Today, parts of this Teaching and of its techniques are being extended to the outside world because a new time of harvesting and sowing has arrived.

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Re: Jesus and the Essenes

Postby dogman » Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:05 pm
The Jews, long before the time of Jesus, were divided into three sects, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes. It is almost impossible in reading of the last not to be forcibly struck with the remarkable resemblance between their doctrines, precepts and practices, and those of Jesus and the early Christians. Jesus is recorded to have frequently rebuked and denounced both the Sadducees and Pharisees, but it is not related that he once mentioned the Essenes by name. Yet we are informed by both Philo and Josephus that at the period in which John the Baptist and Jesus were born the Esseneswere scattered over Palestine, and that they numbered about four thousand souls. It should be mentioned that peculiar importance is to be attached to the testimony of both Philo and Josephus respecting the mode of life pursued by theEssenes, as these authors were fully acquainted with it. They speak also with great respect and reverence of this sect, as surpassing all others in virtue. Josephus informs us that they led the same kind of life as the Pythagoreans in Greece, and that by their excellent virtue they were thought worthy even of divine revelations, while Philo says they were honoured with the appellation of Essenes because of their exceeding holiness.

As regards the word "Essene," we are informed that there is hardly an expression the etymology of which has
called forth such a diversity of opinion as this name. The Greek and the Hebrew, the Syriac and the Chaldee names of persons and names of places, have successively been appealed to, to yield the etymology of this appellation, and to tell the reason why it has been given to this sect, and there are no less, if not more, than nineteen different explanations of it. The same authority just cited says that the term "Essene" was "coined" by Philo and Josephus for the benefit of the Greeks. 

The words Therapeuts and Essenes are convertible terms, and refer primarily to the art of healing which these devotees professed, as it was believed in those days that sanctity was closely allied to the exercise of this power, and that no cure of any sort could be imputed simply to natural causes. Additional value belongs to the records of these two historians, because they describe the life of the Essenes as it was in the time of Jesus. Philo was about sixty-two years old when the Great Teacher commenced his short but important career, and he survived the latter between ten and fifteen years, the exact period of his death being unknown. He lived chiefly at Alexandria, though he mentions having once visited Jerusalem. He does not appear to have met Jesus, for, being an ardent admirer of virtue himself, he would probably in that case have left us some record of his excellencies and sufferings. If he did hear of him, he may possibly have regarded him simply as a peculiarly enthusiastic member of that sect which he has described so minutely. Josephus was contemporary with Philo, but lived to a somewhat later period. 

There is a reference to the Jesus of Scripture in the pages of this historian, but it is considered by many
to have been interpolated and fathered upon this Jewish writer by some early Christian copyist. The passage stands thus:—"Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works,—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, but he appeared 'to them again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named after him, are not extinct at this day." 

Renan says of the foregoing allusion to Jesus, "I believe the passage respecting Jesus to be authentic. It is perfectly in the style of Josephus, and if this historian has made mention of Jesus, it is thus that he must have spoken of him. We feel only that a Christian hand has retouched the passage, has added a few words, without which it would almost have been blasphemous, has perhaps retrenched or modified some expressions. It must be recollected that the literary fortune of Josephus was made by the Christians, who adopted his writings as essential documents to their sacred history. They made, probably in the second century, an edition according to Christian ideas." 3 Another French writer of distinction says, "No one in our day maintains any longer the entire authenticity of the chapter which Josephus devotes to Christ in his Antiquities." 

Opinions will probably ever differ respecting the celebrated passage last cited from Josephus. Thus the Rev. Dr. Giles says, "Those who are best acquainted with the character of Josephus and the style of his writings, have no hesitation in condemning this passage as a forgery; interpolated in the text, during the third century, by some pious Christian, who was scandalized that so famous a writer as Josephus should have taken no notice of the Gospels or of Christ, their subject." Concerning the same passage, a still more eminent authority says, "The passage concerning Jesus Christ was inserted into the text of Josephus between the time of Origen and that of Eusebius, and may furnish us with an example of a vulgar forgery." Dr. N. Lardner was also evidently of opinion that the passage referred to above, in Josephus, was a forgery. He says, "Who was the first author of this interpolation cannot be said. Tanaquil Faber suspected Eusebius. I do not charge it upon him; but I think it was first made about his time, for, if I am not mistaken, we have seen sufficient reason to believe that this paragraph was not quoted by Origen, nor by any ancient Christian writer before Eusebius, that we have any knowledge of." 

Admitting there is anything genuine in the allusion in Josephus to Jesus, we can feel little surprise at the slightness of the notice he takes of him, for it is the style of this historian not to dwell too long upon the characters of those he describes. He makes hardly more than a passing reference to John the Baptist, whom he
terms "a good man." But it is worthy of observation that Josephus does not select either Jesus, in the doubtful passage we have quoted, or the Baptist, as worthy of special commendation; he speaks of other men in the same way. Thus, he tells us of one named Manahem, belonging to the sect of the Essenes, who lived in the time of Herod the Great, before the temple was rebuilt, that "had this testimony, that he not only conducted his life after an excellent manner, but had the foreknowledge of future events given him by God also," and he assures us that Herod had the Essenes in such high estimation as to think "higher of them than their mortal state required." In another place he refers to a distinguished member of the same sect called Simon, who, he informs us, interpreted a vision for Archelaus. Most of what will be related of the Therapeuts or Essenes may be found either in Philo or Josephus; but as a constant reference to their works would be inconvenient, we beg to refer the reader, as the sources whence we have chiefly selected our information respecting these interesting people, to the works mentioned below. 

In almost all ages and countries there have been men anxious to withdraw themselves from the violence and strife which often disturb the quietude of our brief existence. In India the Gymnosophists were persons of this description, in Greece the Pythagoreans, in Egypt the Therapeuts, and in Syria the Essenes. As the Jews had long been settled in Alexandria, the two last named sects are regarded by many persons as the same under different designations. At all events, as they held similar doctrines, taught the same precepts, and followed the same practices, we shall speak of them without distinction. Mosheim tells us that he agrees "entirely with those who regard the Therapeuts as being Jews," although he does not consider it absolutely certain that they were identical with the Essenes. M. de Pressensé in his work also expresses it as his opinion that "the sect of the Essenes forms the link between the Judaism of Palestine and that of Alexandria." Another writer informs us that the Essenes of Egypt were divided into two sects: the practical Essenes, whose mode of life was the same as those of Palestine; and the contemplative Essenes, who were called Therapeuts. Strauss informs us that theEssenes of Palestine, notwithstanding their social life being in accordance with the rules of their order, were especially adapted to spread their religious principles beyond the exclusive circle of their society, in consequence of occupying themselves with agriculture and peaceful trades. He also accounts for the similarity which is observable between the Pythagoreans and the Essenes by the fact that the members of the latter sect among the Egyptian Jews, under the name of Therapeuts, necessarily came in contact with the mental tendency which distinguished the Grecian sect. By this means he considers it possible that the peculiar doctrines of the Pythagoreans may have found their way into Judea, unless, he says, "we prefer to suppose that already in the time of the amalgamation, the education and cultivation which took place under the Seleucidæ, the Pythagorean system found an echo in Palestine, this tendency being only strengthened and further developed by subsequent contact with the Egyptian Therapeuts."

It is quite certain that before the time of Jesus the Therapeuts were known in Egypt. Great numbers of them lived in the neighbourhood of the Mareotic Lake. This inland water is now known as Mareotis or Marioût. It is situated in the N.–W. of Lower Egypt, and is separated from the Mediterranean on the west by the long and narrow belt of land on which Alexandria is built. It is about twenty-eight miles long and twenty broad, and in the early times of which we write was sufficiently deep for navigation. The overflowings of the Nile kept it constantly full. It was fitly chosen by the pious hermits we are describing as their home. It was a place remote from turmoil, was surrounded by beautiful gardens and vineyards, and was especially pleasant on account of the salubrity and mildness of its climate. The breezes from the lake and sea contributed to their enjoyment, and the occupations in which they were engaged were such as to promote their health and conduce to their longevity. The dwellings in which the recluses lived were not placed near to each other, for it was regarded as inconsistent that men who had retired from the world should dwell too closely together. On the other hand, they were sufficiently adjacent for communications to pass easily between the several habitations, so that help could be had in seasons of difficulty or of danger. Most of the Therapeuts were men who had abandoned their property, giving it away as an encumbrance to their pursuit of peace and rest, and there are few among them who had not, in addition to the renunciation of wealth, also abandoned brethren, wives, and often numerous families. In disposing of their means, when considered superfluous to themselves, it might have been thought they would, at all events, have bestowed what the greater part of the world considers desirable upon their immediate relations and friends. But these men, who renounced wealth themselves, would not give it to those whom they had most occasion to love, but in the instances where they did not destroy it, as by cutting down their trees and allowing cattle to devour their estates, gave it to the utterly poor. Josephus says distinctly of theEssenes that they were permitted of their own accord to afford succour to such as deserved it, or to those in distress; but they could not bestow anything on their kindred without the consent of the curators, that is, of the persons who had charge of the common property.

The foregoing remarks find illustration in more than one part of the New Testament. Thus Jesus called upon his disciples to leave all and follow him; and so Peter is recorded to have once said, "Lo, we have left all, and followed thee." And Jesus him self frequently encouraged this utter renunciation of all worldly ties by the promise of great future happiness. "Verily," he said, "there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." Levi, the publican, afterwards Matthew, is recorded to have "left all" at the bidding of Jesus. At his word, he rose up and followed him. 

As the language of Jesus, which promised an increase of goods and relatives on earth to those who would forsake those they already had, cannot be understood literally, we must regard it as having reference to that universal spirit of brotherhood which existed among the Essenes, and which required them, under all circumstances, to help each other. Philo says, speaking distinctly of the Essenes, "If any of them is sick, he is cured from the common resources, being attended to by the general care and anxiety of the whole body. Accordingly, the old men, even if they happen to be childless, as if they were not only the fathers of many children, but were even also particularly happy in an affectionate offspring, are accustomed to end their lives in a most happy and prosperous and carefully attended old age, being looked upon by such a number of people as worthy of so much honour and provident regard, that they think themselves bound to care for them even more from inclination than from any tie of natural affection."

If we did not know otherwise, we might think the following a sequel to the above description given us by Philo of the communistic society in which the Essenes lived. It is certainly highly suggestive that they and the early Christians were the same. "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessed of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses … having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet." 

The Essenes, as we have seen, were scattered all over Judea, and a warm-hearted missionary of this sect might well gain disciples to the cause. A word would often be sufficient to a prepared mind, and confirm in it the resolution which was perhaps already half-formed. Thus, after Jesus had for some time preached repentance, he had only to say to Peter and Andrew, when he saw them fishing, "Follow me," to induce them instantly to act on his invitation. Nay, the same day, when he called James, the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, "they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him." 

A partial renunciation of property, conjoined with the most scrupulous conduct, was not a sufficient claim for the privilege of discipleship with Jesus; all must be abandoned, or the sacrifice was insufficient. Thus, when a young man of irreproachable behaviour asked Jesus what "good thing" he should do to obtain eternal life, he was told to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. When this was done, he was told, treasure in heaven would be his, and he could then follow Jesus. 3 The conditions were too severe, he went away sorrowful; for we are told he had great possessions. It was on this occasion that Jesus said to his disciples, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." In the same spirit Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven "unto treasure hid in a field; the which, when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." Again, he tells us, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." 

So thoroughly was the idea of wealth associated with wickedness and future misery, and that of poverty with virtue and eternal happiness, that we find the most important utterances of Jesus pregnant with this teaching. The rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and who fared sumptuously every day, was his conception of one whose future lot it was to be in hell, lifting up his eyes in torment, because in this world he had received his "good things"; while virtue, and its ultimate reward, were typified in the beggar, lying at the rich man's gate, full of sores, and so utterly abandoned by man, that the only relief he obtained was from the dogs which licked his ulcerous limbs. The poor abandoned wretch was rather to be envied than the rich man. Although nothing evil is related of the latter, it was his misfortune to be wealthy here. Though nothing excellent is related of Lazarus, it was his inexpressibly good fortune to be poor on earth; for having there received "evil things," it was his destiny hereafter to be for ever "comforted." Well might Jesus say, "Blessed be ye poor," if for this, and this alone, theirs was the "kingdom of God." And with equal force might he denounce the wealthy, and say, "Woe unto you that are rich! for you have received your consolation," if this present comfort and ease were to comprehend all they might ever hope to receive from the hands of Him who is equally the God and Father of the rich and the poor, and who, not they, determines, beyond any one's control, the destiny of every child of man, and the bounds of his habitation.

A certain class of clergymen sometimes affect a style of exposition which not unfrequently appears somewhat like a parody on the recorded words of Jesus, but which fail to command that respect and consideration from those to whom it is addressed, which early training has taught us to pay even to those sayings of his which appear upon reflection both harsh and unreasonable. The consequence is, that ministers throw themselves open to a tu quoque retort. Thus, Dr. Trench expresses the opinion, in his "Notes on the Parables," that "the course of an unbroken prosperity is ever a sign and augury of ultimate reprobation." A reviewer remarks on the atrocious sentiment as follows:—"Doubtless the heart knows its own bitterness, and there may be many breaks in a life of outward uninterrupted success; but Dr. Trench's axiom might afford a grim satisfaction to those who, in the midst of want and wretchedness, regard the rich and the powerful as unquestionably in the enjoyment of 'unbroken prosperity.' There are probably those who may think that this dangerous condition is fulfilled in Dr. Trench himself." 

A writer, commenting on the question of the disciples, when they heard Jesus say it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, and which so amazed them, that they exclaimed, "Who, then, can be saved?" says, "Truly we can re-echo the question, since every day shows this to be totally contrary to experience; for the world contains men of the greatest wealth, and of the strictest morality and piety. But Jesus," he goes on to say, "was no political economist; and all his views were absorbed in the ideas—a community of property and the approach of the end of the world—which the Essenians so strictly carried out." 

The rewards promised by Jesus to the good, and the prospect of suffering which he held out to the evil, correspond very closely with the ideas which the best of the Jewish sects are stated to have believed. They taught that good souls have their habitation beyond the ocean in a region that is neither oppressed with storms of rain or snow, nor with intense heat; but that this place is such as is refreshed by the gentle breathing of a west wind, that is perpetually blowing from the ocean; while they allotted to bad souls a dark and tempestuous den, full of never-ceasing punishments. So Jesus taught that the wicked shall "go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." The ultimately rejected are to be cast into "outer darkness," where "weeping and gnashing of teeth" will be the only sounds ever heard amidst the awful profundity of the gloom. The finally-accepted, the early Christians joyfully believed, will dwell in a city that shall have no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it, because the Lord God giveth them light, while softest music shall swell and fall from celestial harps, a new song shall ever be sung, and odours of heavenly fragrance shall be unceasingly poured from golden vials. 

"These men," says Josephus, speaking of the Essenes, "are despisers of riches, and so very communicative as raises our admiration." We might almost think he is praising those whom Jesus taught in these words, "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." We will still quote the historian last cited, as his description so exactly tallies with the precepts of Jesus and the customs of his followers. Thus he continues to write:—"Nor is there any one to be found among them who hath more than another; for it is a law among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order, insomuch, that among them all there is no appearance of poverty or excess of riches, but every one's possessions are intermingled with every other's possessions; and so there is, as it were, one patrimony among all the brethren." So it was with Jesus and the disciples, they all had one purse. When food was required, the disciples went singly or together to purchase it. 

Among this admirable sect, stewards were appointed to take care of their secular affairs, that every member might not be occupied in worldly matters. So we learn that even among the disciples in the time of Jesus one was appointed to carry the bag containing the common property, and that afterwards, in the first organized body of believers, "seven men of honest report" were selected by the rest to see justice done to the wants of all, both Jews and Gentiles, in "the daily ministration." 

Those who desired to be enrolled among the Essenes, were made partakers of "the waters of purification," and we find that even Jesus did not disdain to be baptized by John. 3 We are informed that the baptism of John was for "the remission of sins," 4 and it is well known with what importance this ceremony, sanctioned by Jesus, was afterwards invested, as a token of affiliation in the Church which he was said to have established.

The similarity between the right of initiation practised by the Essenes, and that adopted by Christians, is certainly too striking not to be suggestive of the idea that they had a common origin. "No question," says Dean Milman, "has been more strenuously debated than the origin of the rite of baptism. The practice of the external washing of the body, as emblematic of the inward purification of the soul, is almost universal. The sacred Ganges cleanses all moral pollution from the Indian; among the Greeks and Romans even the murderer might, it was supposed, wash the blood 'clean from his hands'; and in many of their religious rites, lustrations or ablutions, either in the running stream or in the sea, purified the candidate for divine favour, and made him fit to approach the shrines of the gods. The perpetual similitude and connection between the uncleanliness of the body and of the soul, which ran through the Mosaic Law, and have been interwoven with the common language and sentiments, the formal enactment of washing in many cases, which required the cleansing of some unhealthy taint, or more than usual purity, must have familiarized the mind with the mysterious effect attributed to such a rite; and of all the Jewish sects, that of the Essenes, to which no doubt popular opinion associated the Baptists, were most frequent and scrupulous in their ceremonial ablutions." 

Dean Stanley remarks that "the plunge into the bath of purification, long known among the Jewish nation as the symbol of a change of life, had been revived with a fresh energy by the Essenes, and it received a definite signification and impulse from the austere Prophet who derived his name from the ordinance." He elsewhere remarks, "With the Essenes, among whom baptism originated, we may almost say that it was godliness." 
"Cleanliness next to godliness," was a maxim of John Wesley.

Among the Jews, from a very early period, two modes of interpreting scripture existed, the literal and the allegorical or spiritual. Josephus, in his preface to his "Antiquities of the Jews," says that Moses wrote "some things wisely, but enigmatically, and others under a decent allegory." Special education and training were required to apply in an acceptable and appropriate manner these two methods, according to the recognised rules of the three Jewish sects: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. Jewish writers tell us that those who study the Pentateuch attentively cannot fail to perceive traces in it of an Oral Law. They refer us for example to Deuteronomy i. 1, where it is said, "On this side of Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain the Law." In Deuteronomy xii. 21 we read as follows: "If the place where the Lord thy God hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the Lord hath given thee, as I have commanded thee." There is no written command of Moses relating to the circumstance above supposed. Again, we read in Deuteronomy xvii. 8–11, "If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, … and thou shalt come unto the Levites, and the Judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall show thee the sentence of judgment: and thou shalt do according to the sentence, … and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee: according to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left."

It is affirmed that the very nature of the Mosaic Law required from the beginning of its promulgation an oral explanation, or it would not have been understood at all. The first precept given in Egypt was one relating to the sanctification of the first month of the year, yet no mention is made anywhere of a calendar. Work was prohibited on the Sabbath, but it was not stated distinctly what was work and what not. Then the law of inheritance is confined to four verses in Numbers xxviii. 8–11. These in practice required a multitude of regulations, which are now to be found in a large volume of the Talmud. Even Jesus is represented as acknowledging the authority of the rulers of his day, saying, "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do."

Not withstanding the respect which Jesus is related to have paid to the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees, he is said to have seriously upbraided them with concealing truths from their listeners relating to the kingdom of heaven, shutting it up against men, not entering in themselves, nor yet suffering others to enter in. But the lawyers, scribes, and Pharisees were not peculiar in their concealment of recondite verities from the people, the Essenes were also distinguished for a similar practice. One of the promises required from every proselyte who joined the Essenes was that he would neither conceal anything from those of his own sect, nor discover any of their doctrines to others, not though any one should compel him to do so at the hazard of his life. It is certainly strange, and more than strange, that though Jesus is represented as denouncing the lawyers for withholding from the people "the key of knowledge," it is recorded that he himself did the very same thing. Thus, we are informed that when "much people," in fact, "great multitudes," were come to him out of every city to hear him preach, that he purposely spoke to them in parables, that seeing they might not perceive, and hearing they might not understand, lest at any time they should be converted and be healed by him, while he said to his disciples that unto them it was given, by his after explanations, to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. We are even told by two of the evangelists that Jesus never spoke unto the multitudes except in parables. 

The unwillingness of Jesus, the Great Teacher as he is so often called, to enlighten the people at large as to the truths so important for them to know, and which, if accepted by them, would have led to their conversion, by his own admission, and to their being healed by him, is quite inexplicable unless we regard Jesus simply as a member of a secret society or sect, like that of the Essenes. We perceive what extreme care he took not to enlighten them as to the meaning of his words. How strange such conduct appears in this Being, whom we are informed is the Saviour of all mankind, and who was called JESUS expressly because he was to "save his people from their sins!" Are we really to believe that even in his own life-time this long-promised Emmanuel, this God-Man, purposely, of set intention, acted as described, and for the reason stated, viz. that those who so gladly listened to him, should, nevertheless, not be converted by his inspired teachings? If so, we have one more, added to the vast number of those insuperable difficulties which many experience, and which prevents their accepting, in their integrity, the Gospel narratives of the life of Jesus. The special difficulty associated with the preaching of the son of Joseph disappears in a great degree, if we regard him simply as an Essene.

A modern missionary of Christianity who should act on the same principle towards those to whom he is sent, as Jesus is said to have done when he uttered obscure and incomprehensible parables to his own countrymen expressly that they might not comprehend them, would be considered very inconsistent, as not truly recognizing
the importance of his high calling, and as very unlikely to succeed in his errand. Nor would he probably be more successful than was Jesus in making numerous, convinced, and permanent converts to his cause. The evidence given to us in the Gospels certainly appears to indicate that Jesus himself had no conception of the future and extensive adoption of that creed which should in after ages be known as Christianity. His conduct was that of a sectary and not that of the Founder of a Religion meant for all mankind.

Obedience to those in authority was a fundamental maxim with the Essenes, because, as Josephus informs us, they believed no one obtains the government without God's assistance. This idea corresponds with the narrative which relates the unwillingness of Jesus to offend the secular power when collecting tribute money; and with his precepts to "render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's;" and also with the apostolic assurance that "the powers that be are ordained of God." An Essene was, in fact, to show fidelity to all men, but specially to those in authority. "No one," says Philo, "not even immoderately cruel tyrants, nor of the more treacherous and hypocritical oppressors, was ever able to bring any real accusation against the multitude of those called Essenes or Holy." Such being the case, we need hardly wonder to find it is recorded that Pilate said to the chief priests and the people concerning Jesus, "I find no fault in this man."

There are some who would infer the divinity of Jesus by assuming that no record exists of shortcomings or sinfulness on his part. And they tell us he "uniformly expressed a distinct sense of faultlessness and perfection. He never once reproached himself or regretted anything he had done or said. He never uttered a word to indicate that he had even taken a wrong step, or neglected a single opportunity, or that anything could have been done or said more or better than he had done or said." We see, however, from the above testimony that there were hundreds of men in the time of Jesus against whom their bitterest enemies were never "able to bring any real accusation." We must not forget either, whatever our prepossessions are, that the life of Jesus was written by those who admired and loved him; and that all the documents we have respecting him are but traditional; we can never positively know how he really lived, what words he actually spoke!

Though the writer last quoted assures us Jesus uniformly expressed a distinct sense of faultlessness and perfection, we are not, therefore, ourselves rendered incapable of discerning what appear blemishes in his character, as this is delineated in the Gospels; or, at least, of noticing that his conduct was sometimes not in accordance with his own precepts. These latter deprecated revilings, yet he reviled. They forbade striking, yet he struck. These inconsistencies have been apparent to thousands of intelligent readers, who have often been shocked and grieved by them; nay, their faith itself has often been disturbed by the reflections they suggest. One author says, "In the Gospels we have the picture of one who, on many occasions, used his tongue in the very way which St. Peter and St. James both condemned.

St. Peter described our Lord as one who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we find reports of sayings of Jesus full of revilings—revilings so hard and cruel, that Christians could not follow the example of using such language without forfeiting their Christian character. In St. John, Jesus is represented as wrangling in a very undignified manner with his opponents, and actually calling them the children of the devil. Now, I prefer to accept St. Peter's account of our Lord; but, if I do so, I must give up the others. Both accounts cannot be equally true." 

That Jesus did not always attract those who came to him can hardly be denied. This fact is even admitted by that eminent Churchman, Cardinal Newman, whom we should naturally expect to be exceedingly careful in a concession on this subject. Thus, Charles Kingsley writes, "I was frightened at a sermon of Newman's on 'Christian Reverence,' in which he tries to show that Christ used to 'deter' people and repel them. He illustrates it by the case of the young ruler, and says that he was severe on Nicodemus, and that 'he made himself strange and spake roughly' to those who inquired. This," adds the author whom we are quoting, "is very dark and dismal;" which he may truly say, if we are to regard Jesus as the Redeemer of all mankind, in every age and in every country, without respect of persons. The behaviour and language of Jesus to the woman of Canaan is in striking opposition to this conception.
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Re: Jesus and the Essenes

Postby dogman » Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:06 pm
Dr. Temple, Bishop of London, seems to admit the impossibility of perceiving a divine element in all the events of the life of Jesus, for he tells us that "had his revelation been delayed till now, assuredly it would have been hard for us to recognize the Divinity; for the faculty of Faith has turned inwards, and cannot now accept any outer manifestations of the truth of God. Our vision of the Son of God is now aided by the eyes of the Apostles, and by that aid we can recognize the Express Image of the Father. But in this we are like men who are led through unknown woods by Indian guides. We recognize the indications by which the path was known, as soon as those indications are pointed out; but we feel that it would have been quite vain for us to look for them unaided." The foregoing is a very remarkable admission. It brings forcibly to recollection the opinion of those most intimate with the private life of Jesus. In the very chapter that records the appointment of twelve disciples to the apostleship, we read that the immediate friends (in the margin, kmomen) of Jesus, so far from perceiving "the Divinity" of him they knew so well, were persuaded that he was "beside himself," and they even went so far as to go out with the, no doubt, kindly intention "to lay hold upon him." This unbelief of those most intimate with Jesus must have made a lasting impression on many minds, and have been considered in those apostolic days as highly significant, for in the Gospel of John, written very many years after the death of Jesus, we are told that about the period when the apostles were chosen "many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him," and that "neither did his brethren believe in him." These statements confirm the opinion of Dr. Temple that a personal knowledge of Jesus would not probably have assisted us "to recognize" his divine nature.

There is little doubt but that the delineation of the character of Jesus as gentle and sympathetic in the extreme, full of yearning to long-suffering humanity, particularly towards the poor and unhappy among his' own countrymen and women, over whom he so deeply mourned when he exclaimed, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not," has tended greatly towards his recognition by so many as God-Man. Dean Stanley justly remarks that "when Bishop Pearson in his work of the Creed vindicates the Divinity of Christ without the slightest mention of those moral qualities by which he has bowed down the world before him, his grasp on the doctrine is far feebler than that of Rousseau or Mill, who have seized the very attributes which constitute the marrow and essence of his nature." 

It is certain, however, that the Gospels present us with a two-fold aspect of the character of Jesus. A careful student of the evangelistic records remarks, "That whatever there is of simplicity, tenderness, or encouragement in his discourses is reserved for his disciples, and spoken to all alike. The hard sayings are uttered in the presence of the public, almost, as it would seem, to destroy the impression that his miracles are reported to have produced. It is, in fact, difficult to form any other conclusion from the fourth Gospel than that Jesus, of set purpose, repelled the Jews lest they should believe in him." This writer is evidently of the same opinion as Cardinal Newman, already referred to by Kingsley, and who appears to conclude from the particulars we have of Jesus in the Gospels that he "used to 'deter' people and 'repel' them."

The evangelists differ greatly in their histories of the life of Jesus. One orthodox writer tells us that "Very numerous attempts have been made to construct harmonies of the four Gospels. One plan is to form out of the whole, in what is supposed to be the true chronological order, a continuous narrative, embracing all the matter of the four, but without repetitions of the same or similar words. Another plan is to exhibit in chronological order, the entire text of the four Gospels arrayed in parallel columns so far as two or more of them cover the same ground. The idea is very imposing, but the realization of it is beset with formidable if not insurmountable difficulties. It is certain that the evangelists do not always follow the exact order of time, and it is sometimes impossible to decide between the different arrangements of events in their record. In the four narratives of the events connected with the resurrection all harmonists find themselves baffled." 

A more recent authority on this subject, who tells us in the commencement of his "Life of Christ" that the Gospels "are always truthful, bearing on every page that simplicity which is the stamp of honest narrative;" 3
afterwards, in answer to the inquiry, "Is it or is it not possible to construct a harmony of the Gospels which shall remove all difficulties created by the differing order in which the evangelists narrate the same events, and by the confessedly fragmentary character of their records," replies as follows:—"It is, perhaps, a sufficient answer to this question that scarcely any two authorities agree in the schemes which have been elaborated for the purpose. A host of writers, in all Christian nations, have devoted years—some of them have devoted well-nigh whole lives—to the consideration of this and similar questions, and have yet failed to come to any agreement or to command any general consent. An indisputable or convincing harmony of the Gospels appears to me impossible. To enter into all the arguments on this subject would be to undertake a task which would fill volumes and yet produce no final settlement of the difficulty." 1 There have actually been about two hundred different harmonies of the four Gospels published since the Reformation, the whole of which have failed to reconcile the discordant elements and details of these histories.

The necessary consequence, the inevitable result of conflicting evidence as to any event, whether related in secular or sacred history, is to weaken the testimony, and it may be so divergent as to be absolutely valueless. The impossibility of forming a harmony of the Gospels in relation to the reputed birth, deeds, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, which subsequent events have invested with the highest interest to our race, is a proof to thinking minds that the acceptance or rejection of his biography as related in them is not of that paramount importance as regards the eternal destinies of mankind as theologians would make us believe. He, who, we are told, so controlled all things from the beginning of the world as to make them culminate in the life of Jesus, would never certainly, as the final result, have caused the evidences of it to be so dubious as to render nugatory his vast and beneficial design for man's well-being; or leave the records of it such as to cause doubts of every degree in the minds of men in every age, whose longing for the truth has been of the most ardent and sincere nature. The whole case is, indeed, put very mildly by the writer, who says, "When the question is in agitation, whether an alleged fact be true, or not, our conviction of the truth of it will certainly be affected by the concurrence or contradiction of the testimonies in its favour. And if the contradictions are such as to be wholly incapable of a reconciliation, the proof of the fact will certainly not be so satisfactory, as it would be, if the witnesses agreed." A more recent and an esteemed author affirms, when referring to the Bible, that "In a divine book everything must be true, and as two contradictions cannot both be true, it must not contain any contradiction." In all estimates of the life of Jesus we should never forget that we only possess very imperfect and often contradictory accounts of from two to four years of it, leaving about twenty-six years of varied incidents connected with his earthly sojourn totally unrecorded. Were we supplied with authentic information concerning his whole career, how different might be our opinion of him as a man, and how fully might we feel the difficulty which the Bishop of London says we should experience, had his revelation been delayed "till now," of recognizing his divinity! As it is, we are not, and unfortunately never shall be, in a position to form a truthful opinion of the history of Jesus. We can only glean, from the meagre descriptions of him which have descended to us through interested sources, some faint ideas respecting his opinions, his creed and his acts. These, in many instances, assimilate, we believe, to those which are read of, as distinguishing the Essenes. One thing is certain, that the Jesus of Christians is not what Jesus was, but what they conceive he ought to have been. Their conception of him is far more ideal than real.

"Among those men," says Philo, once more speaking of the Essenes, "you will find no makers of arrows, or javelins, or swords, or helmets, or breastplates, or shields; no makers of arms or of military engines; no one, in short, attending to any employment whatever connected with war, or even to any of those occupations even in peace which are easily perverted to wicked purposes; for they are utterly ignorant of all traffic, and of all commercial dealings, and of all navigation, but they repudiate and keep from everything which can possibly afford any inducement to covetousness." Much of the foregoing description would apply to the disciples whom Jesus gathered around him. Contention and strife were evidently discountenanced among them, there was nothing warlike in their ways, and we can readily believe they would have been averse to the manufacture of martial or of deadly weapons. Nay, Jesus himself is reported to have said "they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." 

Commerce could hardly have existed among those who were required to give to the asker and lend without interest to the borrower, and who were forbidden to accumulate treasure. "Lay not up for yourselves," said Jesus to his disciples, "treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." 1 These sentiments attributed to Jesus, a recent author remarks, "are, in reality, the sentiments of the poor Essenian Jews, who placed the sum of human virtue in passive meekness and rigid self-denial, in poverty, bodily and mental suffering, and a total dereliction of all worldly concerns. The essence of religion they believed to consist in peace, quietness and tranquility; and they were so negligent of all earthly affairs, that if the world had been peopled with Essenians, it would soon have come to an end." 

The utmost equality obtained among the followers of Jesus. "All ye are brethren," said this teacher to his disciples. He claimed for himself alone the title of Master, but this term seems to have been chiefly used to indicate that they were to learn from him lessons of humility and lowliness, for he said, "he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." 5 Acting on this principle he even washed, we are told, his disciples’ feet. In like manner, Philo informs us that in the sacred feast of the Therapeuts, young men were selected from the other members with all possible care, on account of their excellence, to wait on the rest as servants, not on compulsion, nor in obedience to imperious commands, but as "acting as virtuous and well-born youths ought to act who are eager to attain to the perfection of virtue."

The conquest of the passions was a primary doctrine among the Essenes. So Jesus makes the rash display of anger a deadly sin, which placed man in the greatest imminence, and the utterances of hasty revilings as putting him in danger of hell-fire. 

The Essenes considered pleasures an evil, and this opinion was enforced by Jesus in the parable of the sower who went forth to sow. The seed which fell among thorns, we are told by him, are "they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." 

Remarking on this parable, a recent writer observes that "The rude, slovenly, careless agriculture which Jesus has depicted in the Parable of the Sower very correctly typifies the character of his own teaching. There is no tillage described, no ploughing and preparation of the soil, and careful harrowing in of the seed; neither is there any watering, hoeing, and weeding to strengthen the young plant and insure its satisfactory growth. The husbandman goes forth and scatters the seed before him indifferently, as a blind man might do, no matter where or how it falls, and imagines that his work is fitly accomplished. But see the result: much that he flings carelessly abroad settles in wild and stony places, where it cannot possibly germinate, and some perishes for want of sustenance or is carried off by birds, and only a comparatively small portion strikes root in a good soil, so as to be eventually productive. Correspondingly poor issues would be sure to come from his own irregular wayside discourses—wandering from place to place, and imparting to groups of rude, unprepared minds instruction without education." 

The Essenes, again, were particularly averse to oaths on ordinary occasions; whatever they said was strictly to be credited. Swearing in order to be believed they regarded as worse than perjury, for they affirmed that he who could not be trusted without swearing by God, was already condemned. So Jesus taught his followers. "Swear not at all;" he said, "neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King." All swearing, in fact, even by the "head," was prohibited, and whatever asseveration included more than "Yea, yea," or "Nay, nay," was said to be evil. 

When the Essenes partook of food together a priest always said grace before meat, and it was unlawful for any one to taste of the food before this was done. Jesus also, it is recorded, gave thanks on several occasions before distributing food, and, in the affecting scene of the last supper, it is said that he took bread and blessed it, or gave thanks, previous to handing it to his disciples.

Josephus describes the Essenes as considering it a good thing to be clothed in white raiment, and he speaks of them as frequently using white veils; while Philo remarks of the Therapeuts, that, when they assembled on religious occasions, they came together clothed in white garments. And so we are informed that when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, "his raiment was white as the light." Another writer says that on the same occasion it was white as snow; so as no fuller on earth could whiten them. We read, also, that the raiment of the angel who rolled the stone from the door of the sepulchre was as "white as snow." The angel spoken of in the Revelation of St. John promised a few in the church at Sardis that they should walk with him "in white," and he is represented as saying generally, "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment." In the same book the four and twenty elders who sat round the throne are described as "clothed in white raiment," and John, who beheld the Apocalyptic vision, says, "I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the Lamb, clothed with white robes." In other parts of the book just quoted we shall find the same preference given to white garments and to white objects as that which the Essenes and Therapeuts are said to have manifested. 

In the early ages of Christianity the followers of Jesus still celebrated some of the Jewish ordinances, in particular that relating to the feast of Pentecost, so called from the Greek word pentēkostē, fiftieth day, kept up on the fiftieth day after the feast of the Passover, see Leviticus xxiii. 15; Deuteronomy xvi. 9; and Acts ii. 1. This was a favourite period among them for the observance of the rite of baptism, which was, as already pointed out, of Essenic origin. As emblematic of the spiritual purity which this ceremony is supposed to confer, those who received it were clothed in white, and the Pentecostal day received the name of White Sunday (Dominica alba), still retained in the Christian Church under the name of Whit-sunday. It is the seventh Sunday after Easter, just before which the Jews still observe their Passover. Thus as this season or Whitsuntide, as it is called, yearly returns, the partiality of the Essenes and Therapeuts for white raiment recorded by their Jewish historians is brought appropriately to our recollection.

Though the Essenes were numerous in Judea, they had no hereditary or family connexions. They were recruited from without. This fact may account for the speech which Jesus is reported once to have uttered, and which has often been accounted unnatural and harsh, especially in one who was so gentle in his character. It is said that on one occasion a woman, carried away with her admiration of his teachings, exclaimed, "Blessed is the womb which bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked." To which Jesus is reported to have replied, "Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." We may also, in this manner, comprehend the singular mode in which he is once said to have accosted his mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" 2 We are not told that this apparently rough manner offended his mother. On the contrary, she seems to have regarded it as quite in keeping with the mission upon which he had entered. He had renounced all family ties himself, or he would not have advised and required his disciples to do the same.

It is generally conceded that the Gospels nowhere indicate that at any period the mother of Jesus recognized his divinity. If any with whom he was intimate knew of it, she, of all others, should have been deeply conscious of it. As regards his father, Joseph, it is remarkable that after Jesus was twelve years old we have not a single reference to him in the four Evangelists. And yet Joseph was the head of a large family of sons and of daughters, of whom Jesus was the first-born. If Jesus at an early age joined the Essenes, as is highly probable, he may no longer have recognized Joseph as "father," any more than he chose to call Mary "mother," and may have repudiated any natural claim his progenitors had upon him. This seems not unlikely when we remember the harsh answer which he gave to a disciple whom he had commanded to follow him. This man's father had just died, and though anxious to follow Jesus, he very properly said, "Suffer me first to go and bury my father." The reply he received was, "Let the dead bury their dead." Are we to presume from this that Jesus himself would have acted in a similar manner as he required of this disciple, and not have seen the fitness of paying the last filial rites to his own father, Joseph, in the event of the latter's decease? Such behaviour in any ordinary instance would surely call for reprobation, but in the case of an Essene might simply demonstrate beyond any doubt how thorough was that renunciation of mere natural obligations which they were required to make when they became initiated into the secrets and forms of this self-denying sect. There are few incidents connected with the life of Jesus that leave such a painful impression, when read, as the objection Jesus made to this disciple's doing what his natural instinct and love to his departed father dictated to him as his privilege and his duty. The history of the behaviour of the patriarch Joseph upon the death of his father Jacob (Genesis 1. 1–7) is in striking contrast to the narrative we have commented upon, as well as to all Jewish funeral practices in similar instances.

The Essenes, in their renunciation of all worldly ties, may have borne in mind the example of the old Levites, who, in their entire devotion unto the service to which they were set apart, are thus referred to in the person of Levi, their ancestor: "Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children." (Deuteronomy xxxiii. 9.)

Speaking of the Essenes, one of the historians we have mentioned says expressly that they were Jews by birth, and that they manifested a greater affection one to another than did members of the other sects. How many touching illustrations we could give of the fervent love which Jesus is said to have expressed towards his friends, of his exhortations to them to love each other, and himself, their teacher, in particular. He compares in one place the love which he bore to his disciples to that which his heavenly Father bore to him, saying, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you." He tells his followers that love to one another was to be their peculiar distinction. "By this," he said, "shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." And he excites their affection to himself by solemnly declaring, that whosoever loved him should be loved by God himself, saying, "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father." 

The very affection which the brotherhood we are speaking of felt towards each other, was strictly limited to the male sex. The Essenes, at least the great bulk of them, did not marry, and they esteemed continence as the highest virtue. They did not deny the fitness of marriage in others, for the due preservation of the race, but they avoided it themselves, and, as a rule, all who joined them had to be single. Josephus, indeed, tells of one order of Essenes who agreed with the rest as to their way of living, and in their customs and laws, but differed from them on the point of matrimony, as thinking that by not marrying they cut off the principal part of human life, which is the prospect of succession; nay, rather, that if all me should be of the same opinion, the whole race of man kind would fail. But he adds further, "They do not use to accompany with their wives when they are with child, as a demonstration that they do not marry out of regard to pleasure, but for the sake of posterity." It appears highly probable that Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus, belonged to this section of the Essenes; and we read expressly of the former, that when he was fully assured of offspring by his wife, that he "knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son."
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Re: Jesus and the Essenes

Postby dogman » Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:11 pm
Archdeacon Farrar, in his beautifully written, poetical, but fallacious "Life of Christ," ignores the exceedingly numerous instances in which the teachings and conduct of Jesus were in agreement with what has been recorded of the Essenes by both Josephus and Philo, but he does not avoid all allusion to them. He speaks in disparaging terms of Josephus, but says nothing to invalidate his history, and he admits that Philo was a good man, a great thinker, and a contemporary of Jesus. He tells us the Essenes were an exclusive, ascetic, and isolated community, with whose discouragement of marriage and withdrawal from action, the Gospels have no sympathy, and to whom Jesus never alluded, unless it be in those passages where he reprobates those who abstain from anointing themselves with oil when they fast, and hide their light under a bushel In these instances, Farrar admits, reference is probably made to the Essenes. He further remarks that the period in which Jesus lived was an epoch so troubled and so restless, that it was excusable for an Essene to embrace a life of celibacy, and to retire from the society of man. This is exactly what Jesus did. It is undeniable that he was a celibate himself, and encouraged others to become irretrievably so, and also that he was a great recluse. Not to dwell on the fact of his long seclusion till he reached middle age, he often retired from the world; he was not always preaching, as witness his forty days in "the wilderness," his retirement "into a solitary place," his departure "into a mountain to pray," his going "into a desert place," his going "into a mountain himself alone," and his hiding himself on several occasions. In fact, the time came quite early in his ministry when "he would not walk in Jewry," or, if he did so at all, it was done secretly, for it is afterwards emphatically said, "He walked no more openly among the Jews." 

Admitting that the parents of Jesus were Essenes, their going into Egypt, from whatever cause, is easily understood, as it has been shown there were establishments of this sect in that country. We are not obliged to connect their journey there with any miraculous incident; it may, in fact, have been no unusual event for Joseph to go there. Farrar remarks that Egypt has in all ages been the natural place of refuge for all who were desirous to leave Palestine, and that even in those times it could have been reached in three days. Another writer says it was "the simplest thing in those days to step over the frontier round the corner of the Mediterranean into Egypt—just as we slip over to Boulogne or Paris; the road from ancient times was so beaten a track that the very cab and horse fares are mentioned. (See 1 Kings x. 29.)" The early years of Jesus are involved in much obscurity, according to the Scripture; but not sufficiently so to affect our general argument. Matthew makes the departure into Egypt to have taken place almost immediately after his birth, and he is stated to have remained there with his parents till Herod was dead, supposed to have been about six years afterwards. Luke, on the contrary, says that Mary, after "the days of her purification according to the law of Moses," which were one month, during which the parents of Jesus and himself were apparently unmolested, brought the latter to Jerusalem openly "to present him to the Lord," and that when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, "they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth," where it further appears from his narrative they resided henceforth for years. It is quite apparent that the accounts of Matthew and of Luke are irreconcilable; they cannot both of them be true: consequently, possibly neither of them.

Presuming that Joseph belonged to the Essenes, or that he held intercourse with them, the earliest education of Jesus may have been commenced and continued among them, and from them he may have imbibed those doctrines he afterwards disseminated. So unable, in fact, is Farrar himself to account for the precociousness of Jesus as recorded in Luke, that he cannot but candidly admit that "in any case it is clear our Lord, from his earliest infancy, must have been thrown into close connection with several kinsmen or brothers, a little older or a little younger than himself, who were men of marked individuality, of burning zeal, of a simplicity almost bordering on Essenic asceticism." This is a remarkable admission from such an authority, and we are entitled to all, and more than all, it embraces. Surrounded, as it is allowed Jesus must have been in early life, by men of "an almost Essenic asceticism," is it any wonder that when he attained to a full age he was fully equipped to impart the doctrines and to inculcate the practices of the Essenes? Among this meditative and intelligent sect—gathered from rich and poor, both in India and Egypt, recruited from men of all ages, and of varied experiences and attainments—there would doubtless be many cultivated and educated men, acquainted with various languages and intimately versed in the literature of their own and of other countries. They would resemble, in fact, in a great degree, those nobles, scholars, travellers, and tired, wearied, and battered warriors who, in our Middle Ages, retired to sequestered valleys or mountain slopes throughout Europe, to spend the remainder of their days in seclusion, prayers, and pious exercises. In intercourse with such society as was doubtless to be found among the Essenes, perhaps passing years at a time among them, it must have been easy for Jesus, gifted so fully as he was by nature, to have acquired that knowledge of "the Law and the Prophets," that ability to select and to read from them extracts in the synagogues, which extorted the admiration and surprise of his hearers, and caused them to exclaim, "How knoweth this man letters?" assuming, no doubt, that he had "never learned." No writers have been hardy enough to assert that the knowledge Jesus manifested was acquired in any other mode than that which is usual; he must have been taught by those who at first knew more than himself, though he was probably an exceedingly apt and intelligent pupil.

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