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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Essenes

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A sect of the Jews who practiced a strict ceremonial asceticism, discouraging marriage, having community of goods, temperate, industrious, charitable, opposed to all oaths, slavery, and war, like the modern Society of Friends, and also, unlike t temple of the soul, tinged their deep veneration for Moses' laws, which in every way favor marriage. Shrinking from communion with other worshippers whose contact they regarded as polluting, they avoided the temple and sacrificed in their own dwellings. Engedi, the western shores of the Dead Sea, and like solitary places, were their favorite haunts. They arose 110 years B.C. (Judas being the earliest mentioned), but are never noticed in New Testament, the reason doubtless being their isolation from general society. The name is akin to choshen , the high priest's mystic breast-plate, and other Hebrew words meaning "the silent, the mysterious."

The Egyptian ascetic mystics, the Therapeutae, resemble them. In zeal for the law, except where their peculiarities were concerned, sabbatarianism and rigorous exercises, they resembled the Pharisees, with whom they were popularly confounded. See Josephus, B. J. 2:8, sec. 7,11; Ant. 13:5, sec. 9; 15:10, sec. 4; 18:1, sec. 2; Pliny, Nat. Hist., 5:15. They were the forerunners of monkish celibacy and anchorite asceticism. The novitiate was for a year, and then a two years probation before membership, which, on oath of an awful kind (the only oath permitted), bound them to piety, justice, obedience, honesty, and secrecy as to the books of the sect and the names of the angels. Purity and divine communion were their aim.

A good aim, but to be best attained in God's way of the daily life's discipline rather than in self imposed austerity and isolation. We need not bid, for cloistered cell, Our neighbor and our work farewell, Nor try to wind ourselves too high For mortal man beneath the sky. The trivial round, the common task, Should furnish all we ought to ask, Room to deny ourselves, a road To bring us daily nearer God. - Keble See John 17:15; Colossians 2:18-23.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Essenes'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/fbd/e/essenes.html. 1949.

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