John P. Meier, The Marginal Jew,
v.3, ch. 30: Jesus in Relation to Competing Jewish Groups: The Essenes,
pp 488-532

(Detailed summary)

Did the Qumran Essenes influence Jesus?


In theory, some influence might have been expected, since the subgroup of Essenes at Qumran in the Judean desert lived from the second century BC until AD 68, while Jesus ministered from AD 28 to 30. But there is no evidence of contact between the two. Moreover, religiously speaking, they belonged to two different planets.

Yet, in terms of religious vision and behavior, there are many similarities:

  • Their religious vision is marked by an eschatology (the approach of the last days) that includes a present element (already begun) and a future element (not yet, but soon);

  • Both emphasize the promise of the Lord that will be fulfilled by his Messiah as announced by the prophet Isaiah: to free the captives, to give sight to the blind, to straighten the stooped, to heal the wounded, to raise the dead and to proclaim the good news to the poor;

  • Jesus rejects divorce as the Qumranites will have a negative perception of divorce, except in certain special circumstances;

  • Both Jesus and the Essenes disapproved of the multiplication of oaths and their frivolous use, and even more so, the pernicious use of certain oaths or vows to avoid helping others.

But the points of divergence outweigh in number. We can mention some of them:

  • At Qumran, the eschatological present is a period of trial and suffering in which the Israelites must take a stand on the true interpretation of the Law and prepare for the conflict that will culminate in the arrival of the two Messiahs and the final war led by the royal Messiah, whereas for Jesus the eschatological present is good news in which God's liberating action is already taking place through his person;

  • Qumran totally rejected the temple of Jerusalem which it considered to be served by illegitimate priests (not descended from Zadok), and using an illegal liturgical (lunar) calendar, whereas Jesus seems to accept the temple and its calendar as part of the normal order of things, except towards the end of his ministry when in a prophetic gesture he announces its disappearance with the arrival in power of the kingdom of God;

  • As much as the Qumranites avoided sensual pleasures and regulated sexual life in a very detailed way, to the point of requiring celibacy for the members of the community, Jesus shows no particular interest in it, and celibacy is not a condition for joining his group;

  • Entry into the Qumran community implied the surrender of all one's possessions, but Jesus, on the other hand, even though he took a very firm stand against excessive concern for money, did not make such a demand, with some, like Peter, retaining his property;

  • As much as the Qumranites applied themselves to a strict and meticulous observance of the Torah, with all its requirements of ritual purity, to the point of cutting themselves off from the other Jews and hating them as sons of darkness, so much so does Jesus give himself a great deal of freedom in the face of all these rules, not in the name of principles such as love, but in the name of the fact that he knew the deepest will of God: for example, he distances himself from a strict application of the Sabbath, he accepts to eat and drink with what was considered the dregs of religious society, he preaches mercy and forgiveness, he promotes an inclusive approach where all, Gentiles as well as Jews, are invited to enter the kingdom of God.

    Jesus in Relation to Competing Jewish Groups: the Essenes

    1. Introduction: the limited purpose of this section

      It is not our purpose to offer a detailed treatment of Qumran or the Essenes, since it is limited to Jesus' relationship with certain groups. And unfortunately, the gospels, like the rest of the New Testament, never mention the Essenes or Qumran, just as the latter never mention Jesus of Nazareth. Our focus will therefore be limited to the legitimate question of similarities in religious vision and practice. And at the outset we must reject certain fanciful theories that identify the "master of justice" or the "iniquitous priest" of the Essenes with New Testament figures: the writings at Qumran date for the most part from the second or first century BC, and thus long precede the historical Jesus.

    2. Jesus and Qumran/the Essenes: Caveats on Comparisons

      Let's begin by making five observations about the method.

      1. When we make comparisons, we cannot put aside what we know about the the sources, forms and redaction criticism of the gospels. For example, if we use Matthew's Sermon on the Mount, we cannot forget that this account reflects a Christian creation around the year 80 or 90 with a theology specific to Matthew.

      2. Some of the parallels we will draw involve broader questions about Jesus' teaching on the Mosaic law and his positions on various forms of messianic hope. But we will confine ourselves to summary statements for the moment, reserving a justification of these statements for the next volume.

      3. There is something unequal about comparing, on the one hand, the viewpoint of a structured community that lived for about two hundred years and left abundant documentation, and on the other hand, an itinerant prophet whose ministry lasted less than three years and who left no writings.

      4. Even if in general a thought develops in time and evolves, we cannot make a similar analysis for Qumran or Jesus, for lack of sufficient data. We will have to be content with a simple description of similarities and differences in thought, language and social structures, without being able to determine who influenced what.

      5. There is no consensus that documents such as the Temple Scroll, or the Damascus Document, or the New Jerusalem were composed at Qumran. However the number of copies found at Qumran testify to their popularity and show affinities with those clearly composed at Qumran. Note finally that we usually speak undifferentiated of Qumran and the Essenes, one probably being a subgroup of the other, except when discussing certain topics such as money and possessions.

    3. Jesus and Qumran/the Essenes: Points of Comparison and Contrast

      1. Eschatology

        1. In both Qumran and Jesus, eschatology has a present (already) and a future (not yet) element.

          • At Qumran, the present element was experienced through the communal liturgy celebrated supposedly in the presence of the angels of heaven, whom one then joined at death.

          • At Qumran, this eschatological present is a period of trial and suffering in which the Israelites must take a stand on the true interpretation of the Law and prepare for the conflict that will culminate in the arrival of the two Messiahs and the final war led by the royal Messiah.

          • For Jesus, the reign of God (God exercising his power to liberate and gather Israel) is also already present through his ministry, but points to a future and definitive coming with all his power, at the resurrection of the dead at the end of time.

          • But in Jesus there are a number of differences: there is no timetable for future events, the eschatological banquet will include Gentiles as well (not just members of the community as in Qumran), the reign of God is already palpable through the person of Jesus (rather than the routine liturgy in Qumran).

        2. There is a remarkable parallel between Jesus' response to the envoys of John the Baptist (Mt 11:2-6) and this Qumran fragment called 4Q521. It is a reference to various Isaiah passages, "The blind see and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor."

          • The context of the Qumran fragment is that of a prophecy of the Lord who promises the faithful members of Israel marvelous deeds in the days of the Messiah: freeing the captives, restoring sight to the blind, straightening the stooped, healing the wounded, raising the dead and announcing the good news to the poor. Thus, in Mt and in Qumran, it is a question of the realization of a prophecy where the summit is reached with the announcement to the poor.

          • There are of course differences. In Qumran it is the Lord who acts, not the Messiah, whereas Matthew sees prophecy fulfilled through the actions of Jesus. However, the Qumran text might presuppose that the Lord acts through his Messiah, whereas in Matthew Jesus is seen only as the vehicle of God coming with power. Moreover, the allusion to Isa 61:1 (anointing by God and proclamation to the poor) suggests in both cases the image of an eschatological prophet, a Messiah (anointed) later interpreted as Elijah in rabbinic literature. Similarly, in the gospels Jesus was seen as a prophet who had put on the mantle of Elijah.

          • The text found at Qumran may not have been composed at Qumran itself, but it was part of the community's library. Thus, Jesus' response to John the Baptist's envoys, referring to the fulfillment of Isaiah's promises, echoed the favorite themes of pious groups in the early first century.

      2. Attitude Towards the Temple

        For a Jew, the temple and the Mosaic law were central religious symbols. It is not surprising that questions of priesthood, rites and the liturgical calendar became the subject of bitter debate and division.

        1. Qumran broke away from Palestinian Judaism, rejecting the temple because of its current priesthood and liturgical calendar. Indeed, when the Hasmoneans seized the role of high priest in the middle of the 2nd century BC, interrupting the priestly line of the Zadokites, the Qumranites considered the high priests of Jerusalem illegitimate. Moreover, they used a lunar, rather than a solar, liturgical calendar, and thus liturgical celebrations took place at the wrong time and were therefore invalid. Thus, they lived in the hope of one day regaining control of a purified temple with the correct liturgical calendar, in anticipation of a new eschatological temple in the heart of a new creation. This is what the Temple Scroll describes.

        2. Unlike the Qumranites, Jesus seems to accept as part of the current order of things the temple in Jerusalem. Multiple attestations support this fact:

          • Mt 1:44: Jesus asks the healed leper to go to a priest in the temple for a certification according to the Mosaic law;
          • Q Document (Mt 23:23 || Lk 11:42): Jesus accepts the temple tithe, even though justice, mercy and good faith are superior;
          • M Document (Mt 5: 23-24): Jesus accepts the idea of bringing an offering to the temple, even if he must first be reconciled with his brother;
          • M Document (Mt 23: 16-21): Jesus recognizes the sacredness of the temple;
          • L Document (Lk 18: 9-14): Jesus accepts the temple as a place of prayer;
          • John 18: 20: Jesus talks about all the time spent teaching in the temple.

          But towards the end of his ministry, Jesus announces the destruction of the temple. Both the Marcan tradition (Mk 11:15-17) and the Johannine tradition (Jn 2:13-17) tell of the cleansing of the temple, a symbolic and prophetic action, initiating the end of the present temple. This action is cohesive with several passages where Jesus prophesies the destruction of the temple (Mk 14:58; Mt 23:37-38; Lk 19:41-44; Jn 2:19).

        3. The Qumranites and Jesus thus make a distinction between the present order and the last days. But for Qumran, the present temple is defiled and must be avoided, and only after its cleansing and the establishment of an eschatological temple can there be a worthy worship. For Jesus, the present temple, in spite of its shortcomings, is the normal place of worship, but it is destined to disappear with the coming of the reign of God. It should be noted that, in both cases, there is agreement to distinguish two periods, the present period and a new period of salvation that God will bring.

      3. Rules Governing Behavior

        1. In sexual matters, one could say that both the Essenes and Jesus had high standards governing thought and action.

          1. According to the Jewish historian Josephus (J.W. 2.8.2 #120), the Essenes avoided sensual pleasures because they considered them evil, and virtue consisted in refusing to submit to the passions. Only the need to ensure the survival of the species could make marriage acceptable for some. When we look at some of the Qumran manuscripts, such as the Rule of the Community, we note the requirement to eliminate concupiscence and nudity before others.

            On the other hand, apart from the question of divorce and celibacy, Jesus apparently shows no interest in the details of sexual behavior. Yet he would have had the opportunity to do so, for example, when he addresses the question of scandal (Mk 9:42-47); instead he sticks to generalities. It is only in a passage from the M tradition (Mt 5:25-28: "Whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart") that we find something more explicit. On the whole, Jesus was probably following the usual customs of Judaism.

          2. On the issue of marriage and divorce, the Q Document (Mt 5:32 || Lk 16:18) probably represents the earliest form of Jesus' teaching: "Every man who divorces his wife, except in the case of 'prostitution,' exposes her to adultery; and everyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery." For their part, the Qumranites had a very negative view of divorce and seem to have allowed it only in certain circumstances.

          3. The question of celibacy is a bit more complicated. It is very likely that Jesus was celibate, like the prophet Jeremiah, like John the Baptist, and like certain figures in rabbinic literature after him. It is undoubtedly out of a need to explain this celibacy that he speaks of becoming celibate for the sake of God's reign (Mt 19:12). However, celibacy is not a condition for joining his group.

            Among the Essenes and at Qumran in particular, the picture is even more complex. In general, Greek and Latin sources (see Philo, Pliny the Elder, and Josephus) agree that the Essenes practiced celibacy. On the other hand, the manuscripts found at Qumran do not explicitly speak of celibacy, and even the Damascus Document assumes the existence of wives and children, while proscribing polygamy. At the same time, the Rule of the Community assumes a community of men only. And even Josephus, in Jewish War, begins his book by talking about the celibacy of the Essenes only to mention at the end that there are other groups of Essenes who marry. In short, it seems that the Qumranites practiced the Essene ideal of celibacy, but marriage was permitted among certain groups outside Qumran.

            But comparing the motivations for celibacy in Jesus and the Essenes, there is a major difference. Jesus' celibacy is motivated by his total commitment to proclaim the coming of God's reign and to gather all Israel, as the present period draws to a close; celibacy becomes a sign that the present order of things is about to disappear. One might add to this the fact that at the resurrection in the last days, man will join the state of the angels where it is no longer necessary to beget (see Mk 18:12-27), and so celibacy becomes a sign of this new world. On the other hand, among the Essenes, celibacy is the extreme and logical extension of this focus on the purity of the body. When the priest had to officiate in the temple, he had to abstain from sexual relations. Now, the Qumranites considered themselves continually involved in the service of the temple in community, in the presence of the angels, and therefore continually applied the requirements of the officiating priest. To this could be added the idea of being engaged in a holy war against the pagans, enemies of the Lord. A soldier engaged in a holy war had to abstain from sexual relations. Thus, always ready for holy war, the Qumranites observed the ritual purity required of combatants.

        2. On the question of oaths, both Jesus and the Essenes disapproved of the multiplication of oaths and their frivolous use. Generally speaking, the Essenes avoided taking oaths, which they considered worse than perjury; they totally defended the use of God's name or the Torah in an oath. Yet, as the Damascus Document testifies, there was an exception: when young people joined the community and reached the age of commitment, they took the covenant oath. And this oath could be used in cases of judicial examination. Jesus, on the other hand, if we rely on Mt 5:34 ("Well, I tell you not to swear at all"), which seems to date back to the historical Jesus, forbids the oath, a word that contradicts Jewish practice and even the Christian community later on.

        3. On the issue of the pernicious use of certain oaths or vows, Jesus and the Essenes have a similar view. In Mark 7:1-23 Jesus attacks the Pharisees' use of the tradition of the elders, especially the one that allows one to avoid helping one's parents by declaring one's own possessions "korbān" (sacred offering). Even if we cannot resort to multiple attestation to trace this saying back to the historical Jesus, the fact that the issue of the korbān was of no interest to the early Christian communities militates in favor of the idea that this may be an echo of Jesus' debates with certain Jewish groups, including the Pharisees. For their part, the Essenes displayed similar ideas if the Damascus Document (16:1-20) is any indication, even though they do not use the word korbān. Indeed, they discuss when an oath or vow is to be annulled by saying that a man cannot sanctify (reserve for God) food to avoid helping his neighbor in need. Thus, both Jesus and the Essenes take up the ancient prophetic tradition that denounces any act of piety that perverts the deep intention of the Torah.

        4. On the issue of wealth and property, there are similarities and differences between Jesus and the Essenes.

          1. Among the Essenes, the group at Qumran must be distinguished from other small groups of Essenes.

            1. When someone wanted to join the Qumran community, after the initial investigation he had to go through a year of probation, followed by a second year during which the supervisor took care of his possessions. Only after these two years were his possessions merged with those of the community and he lived in poverty, i.e. totally dependent on the community for his needs in food, clothing or special care. This picture is confirmed by Philo and Josephus who speak of a group that shared meals together under the direction of leaders. As a means of subsistence, the members of the community engaged in agriculture, livestock breeding or crafts.

            2. The Damascus Document, which is addressed to a larger group of Essenes, especially the small, scattered groups who were married, paints a somewhat different picture. Thus, it allows trade with non-Essenians, provided the supervisor is informed. Possessions were not forbidden, but they were obliged to contribute the equivalent of two days' wages per month to a common fund to provide for the poor and the sick. At the same time, they sought to avoid the accumulation of goods in the hands of a few and to promote the same socio-economic level for all, sharing with those in need.

          2. In the teaching of Jesus, there are similarities and differences.

            1. First, the Markan tradition offers us this text of a rich man whom Jesus asks to part with all his wealth to follow him (Mark 10:17-22). While this story fits well with Mark's theology, it has a good chance of tracing back to the historical Jesus by the criteria of embarrassment and discontinuity:
              • Refusing to be called "good" must have been shocking to Christians, so much so that Matthew changes the sentence;
              • Jesus' failure in the face of man's refusal is unique and embarrassing, in the face of all other positive responses;
              • The request to leave all one's possessions to be a disciple is unique, since Jesus never asks this of his other disciples, including Peter who seems to keep his house where his mother-in-law lives and where he can receive Jesus.

              Jesus' request probably aims at unmasking the rich man's insincerity. But at the same time it serves as a warning about the danger of wealth that can make it difficult to enter the kingdom of God.

            2. The Q Document offers two passages on wealth. First, Jesus invites his disciples not to worry about what they will have to eat or wear, but to seek first the reign of God (Mt 6:25-33 || Lk 12:22-31). For him, these two types of concerns are opposed, and we must choose. Then there is this word of Jesus: "No one can serve two masters: either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mamôna (Money)" (Mt 6:24 || Lk 16:13). The word Mamôna is the Aramaic form of the Hebrew Mamôn. The Hebrew word is found in the Mishna and refers to wealth, money, property, or values, but with no negative value. The Mishna even explains that to love God with all one's strength means to love him with all one's mamôn (Ber 9:5). In contrast, Jesus personifies Mamôna as a false God and in the manner of the prophets asks to make a choice. This saying of Jesus is probably authentic for the following reasons:
              • The presence of the Aramaic word itself in the Greek text;
              • His presence only in the words of Jesus in the whole New Testament;
              • The unusual and very imaginative use of a known word that he associates with false gods in an eschatological battle;
              • Its coherence with the radical and eschatological morality of Jesus.

            3. The Lucan tradition contains many texts on wealth and poverty. Unfortunately, they support a major theme of Luke and his church, and their historical value is questionable. We must therefore limit ourselves to a few texts. The parable of the rich and foolish man (Lk 12:16-20) who accumulates wealth while on the verge of death, a common theme in the Old Testament, could be traced back to Jesus, but we cannot be sure. On the other hand, one might think that this passage where someone asks Jesus to settle an inheritance dispute with his brother (Lk 12:13-14) goes back to the historical Jesus by the embarrassment criterion:
              • Jesus' abrupt rejection of a request with a rhetorical question that is on the same level as "Why do you call me good" must have been shocking to the early Christians;
              • The statement that no one established him as a judge of men cannot come from the early church, which, on the contrary, considers Jesus as an eschatological judge;

              Jesus shows his disdain for the minor things related to property while the call to proclaim the reign of God is pressing.

            4. In summary, from the multiple sources and forms, it can be said that the historical Jesus took a very firm stand against excessive concern for money and property and a trust in them. On the other hand, what he asks of those who welcome him varies greatly: to one he asks to give everything to the poor, to another he asks only to follow him physically on the road, to yet another he asks to support him with his hospitality. In this, his attitude differs from that of the Qumranites, where members had to give up everything to belong to this community that called itself a "community of the poor" in the manner of the psalmic and prophetic tradition, even if this did not imply socio-economic poverty. In contrast, Jesus never attributed the title of poor to himself or to his group: the poor were those to whom he announced the good news (Lk 7:22), those to whom he asked the rich to give their goods (Mk 10:21), those to whom he gave from the common purse (Jn 13:29).

    4. Jesus and Qumran/The Essenes: Notable Points of Contrast

      The Context

      The Essenes were a Jewish sectarian group that emerged in the mid-2nd century BC and lasted until the First Jewish War (66-70). The Qumranite subgroup was established at Qumran in the Judean desert in the mid-to-late 2nd century BC and disappeared around AD 68. This community was founded by the "Teacher of Righteousness", an anonymous figure who probably belonged to the priestly aristocracy of Jerusalem. Later, it erected several buildings, developed a complex internal organization, detailed the rules of daily life and supported a whole group of scribes copying manuscripts or developing their own religious literature.

      Jesus, on the other hand, was a Jewish layman from Nazareth in Galilee, a woodworker, with no professional education as a scribe or student of the law. Although we cannot be certain, it is likely that he could read. For more than two years he traveled the roads of Palestine (from 28 to 30), especially in Galilee, and made several pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem, teaching from the oral tradition of the prophets of Israel. Neither he nor his immediate followers produced any written works. Jesus and his followers behaved like the majority of Jews of their time, and therefore they could not be considered a sect. But when we look at the different roles Jesus played, we see an eschatological prophet speaking about the end of the present order of things, a miracle worker doing Elijah-like healings and exorcisms, a leader seeking to gather the tribes of Israel and creating for himself a close group of Twelve disciples, a teacher of wisdom who taught the crowds, and perhaps even, towards the end of his life, a prophet implicitly claiming to be the Messiah. This last point contributed to his execution by Pilate, who had the title of accusation inscribed: King of the Jews.

      1. Approach to detailed hălākâ (specific rules of conduct in accordance with Jewish law)

        The Qumranites in particular, and the Essenes in general, were committed to a strict and extreme observance of the Law as perceived by the majority of Palestinian Jews. One could give several examples, such as the prohibition of defecating on the Sabbath or of spitting at a community gathering, the obligation to make numerous water ablutions and to live celibacy for several members of the community, all the rules of purity concerning bodily fluids or food or animal sacrifices in the temple.

        On the other hand, while he seems to accept the usual Jewish rules, Jesus shows no particular interest in the hălākâ as seen among the Essenes. On the contrary, he fulminates against an excessive preoccupation with the details of the Law (see Mt 23:23 || Lk 11:42). And he allows himself a certain freedom, for example with regard to the practices of ritual purity, by eating with public sinners and tax collectors (Mk 2:13-17), by allowing himself to be touched by lepers (Mk 1:40-45), or by accepting to be accompanied by unaccompanied women (Lk 8:1-3). But when he gives himself this freedom, it is not because of a higher principle like love, but it is in the name of a personal authority that comes from a deep knowledge of God's will, in the manner of a charismatic prophet.

        1. The Sabbath rules offer a clear case of different views. The Essenes forbade taking a newborn animal out of a cistern or hole into which it had fallen on the Sabbath. They also forbade the use of a ladder, rope, or tool for a man who fell into a well on the Sabbath (although 4Q265 7i 7-8 seems to allow the use of a garment as a lifeline).

          The gospels tell us of a healing of Jesus on the Sabbath, which was forbidden by Jewish law (Mk 3:1-6 || Lk 6:6-11 || Lk 14:1-6 || Mt 12:9-14). Even if we have in these texts several different versions of Jesus' indulgence of the Sabbath rule with which he was familiar, Jesus' argument is based, not on any casuistry, but on the usual practice of the Jews who spontaneously went to the aid of an animal (a sheep, an ox) in an emergency situation, in spite of what the Law said. From this practice, Jesus builds an argument a fortiori: how much more a sick person requires immediate intervention, even on the Sabbath.

        2. At Qumran, the community meals were governed by very strict rules in which only the initiates who respected the rites of ritual purity participated. These meals had a sacred and eschatological character, and anticipated the meal of the last days which would take place in the presence of the two Messiahs (1QSa 2:17-21).

          Jesus' attitude is in stark contrast: with great freedom he agrees to eat and drink with what was considered the social and religious dregs of Israel, the sinners, the tax collectors. As an eschatological prophet, his intention is to gather the marginalized people to celebrate their inclusion at the same fraternal table of all Israel in the end times. Even the Pharisees, who could be considered liberal in comparison to the Essenes, were horrified by Jesus' attitude. So it is easy to understand that the Qumranites and Jesus were not on the same religious planet, and if there had been any contact between Jesus and the Qumranites, they would never have taken him seriously.

      2. Interest in Calendars

        The Qumranites held to the traditional solar calendar, and the introduction of the lunar calendar in the Jerusalem temple around the second century BC was probably one of the causes that precipitated the departure of the Teacher of Righteousness. Jesus, for his part, never showed any interest in the question of the religious calendar and seems to have followed the religious festivities according to the current calendar without any problem.

      3. Hatred or Love of Enemies

        If the Rule of the Community and the War Scroll are any indication, the Qumranites taught hatred of all people outside the community, the "sons of darkness," which included both Gentiles and Jews who did not accept their practice. They had a dualistic view of things and felt they were engaged in an eschatological struggle for the future of the world.

        Jesus, on the other hand, even though his vision had an eschatological side with apocalyptic elements, speaks of fighting against evil spirits, but not against evil men. On the contrary, he exhorts his audience to love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness. He constantly seeks to gather the scattered sheep of Israel. His approach is inclusive, not exclusive as at Qumran.

      4. Hierarchical Leadership

        Since the leadership of Qumran is derived from the hierarchy of the temple in Jerusalem, it is not surprising to find a very hierarchical community with precedence given to the priests and Levites. It was considered the community of the "new covenant".

        Such a structure is absent from this eschatological movement initiated by Jesus. As we have already pointed out, there are three groups that gravitate around him: the crowd in general, the disciples he has called and the intimate group of the Twelve whom he sends on short missions. Apart from that, there are support groups that perhaps contributed to the common purse. But one would look in vain for a firm structure, and there is no mention of forming a "new covenant" group.

      5. Miracle Working

        Healings and exorcisms were central to Jesus' ministry and identity. In contrast, at Qumran never is the teacher of justice or even the expected Messiahs associated with thaumaturgical actions (with the possible exception of 4Q521). Texts such as the Genesis of Apocryphon or the Prayer of Nabonides seem to recount healing and exorcism, but in fact they are rather prayers addressed to God for his intervention. Besides, in the dualistic view of Qumran, magic and divination were considered an evil thing. And the Jewish historian Josephus cannot report any miracle performed by an Essene.

      In conclusion, we can say that the differences between Qumran and Jesus were many and profound. It is therefore not surprising that there was no interaction between the two. On the other hand, both are examples of a broader phenomenon in Palestine in the early modern era in which eschatological Jewish groups with a radical lifestyle proclaim their hope for a renewed Israel and their hostility to the priestly establishment in Jerusalem. But while what was initiated at Qumran has disappeared forever, what was initiated by Jesus continues to this day.

Did Jesus have contact with the Samaritans?

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