The Importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Between 1947 and 1956, 11 caves were discovered in the desert near the Qumran Wadi on the Dead Sea, which collectively contained hundreds of manuscripts of Biblical and extra Biblical books. The books are thought to be portions of a library originally housed in a Jewish monastery in ruins nearby and were thought to have been hidden just before the monastery was destroyed by the Romans about 68 AD.

The Sect at Qumran has been identified by scholars as being a sub sect of a wider religious movement in ancient Judaism known as the Essenic Movement. Drawing from information previously known and newly discovered, scholars have seemed to confirm conjectures held since the early church that there was a strong if not direct relationship between the Essenes, the sect of John the Baptist, and the earliest followers of Jesus Christ.

This is controversial since it implies that much of Christianity, particularly the rituals and organizational structure, predated Jesus Christ.

Essenic-Christian Parallels

"Essene" means "holy one" just as "saint" does.

Both believed they were involved in a "New Covenant" with God.

The Essenes had a "Session of the Many" as a General Council just as the Early Church had the "multitude" of disciples (Acts 5:2,5; 15:12).

The Essenes had a special group of twelve men with three priests (though it is not clear if the total is 12 or 15) while the Church had the Twelve Apostles, three of which Peter, James and John represent a special inner subgroup. The Essenes had an overseer or supervisor position that's description matches very closely that of the Bishop in the Early Church (Bishop from the Greek "Episkopos" "overseer" or "supervisor").

The Essenes had a daily baptism ritual.

The Essenes had a ritual meal of bead and wine, which would eventually be performed by the coming messiahs. The Essenes believed two messiahs would appear, one a priest to restore the people religiously, the other a king who would restore the people politically (Note that the Epistle to the Hebrews argues that Jesus fulfilled both roles in himself, Hebrews may well have been intended to attract Essenes to Christianity). The Essenes excluded those not fully initiated into the group from the sacred meal much as the ancient division in the Mass between the Mass of the Catechumens (those in training to be Christians) and the Mass of the Faithful (baptized members). During the later the catechumens were asked to leave and the Sacrifice of the Eucharist was performed.

To join the Essenes took a three year process, members were only finally admitted once a year during the Jewish feast of the Pentecost. In Acts 2:1-41 records that some 3,000 people were "miraculously" added to Christianity during the first Pentecost after Christ's death and resurrection. Scholars feel this maybe a distorted memory of the Essenic practice which may have been discontinued and forgotten by the final version of Acts.

Fully initiated Essenes had to donate all of their possessions to the community's common fund. Acts 2:42-47 shows that the earliest Christians did the same thing. Acts 5:1-10 even relates what became of a couple who tried to cheat on this practice.

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