The Essenes preferred to live in the wilderness, cutting themselves off from the impure and purifying themselves for the future. Their wilderness community may have been very similar to that established by Christian monks. The Essenes are believed to have founded a small community in Qumran, just off the northwest coast of the Dead Sea. This may have been their primary location, but it isn’t certain.
More Evidence That a Mysterious Jewish Sect May Have Authored the Dead Sea Scrolls
Researchers may be moving closer to solving the greatest mystery surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls: Who authored the influential, religious texts? Now, some experts claim to have an answer, as LiveScience is reporting that the scrolls may have been written, at least partially, by a Jewish sect known as the “Essenes.”
Researchers are basing this hypothesis, which has been posed by others in the past, on nearly 200 textiles (clothes) that were discovered in caves in Qumran (West Bank) and recently analyzed. This is also the location where the scrolls were originally unearthed back in 1947. By examining the cloths’ composition and design, some believe the writings may be traceable back to this mysterious Jewish sect.
The Essenes, who developed their identity two centuries before the Christian era, purportedly broke away from traditional Judaism over a dispute surrounding who was most qualified to become a high priest. In About.com’s religion guide, the group is described as follows:
See, the belief is that the Essenes were potentially living in Qumran and that they were inevitably responsible for writing the Dead Sea Scrolls. Subsequently, some researchers contend that they then stored them in caves in the area.
The textiles that were found at this location were made of linen rather than wool. While this may seem like a minor detail, a basic understanding of the materials used in Israel 2,000 years ago helps build the Essenes authorship case. According to researchers, wool was the most popular fabric at the time in Israel.
If fabric that wasn’t popular in Israel was used to pen the scrolls, it would seem that they came from individuals who were part of another community or culture. Considering the Essenes past history — particularly the group’s split from traditional Jews — perhaps their preferred fabric was linen.
Additionally, the textiles lack decoration and coloration, as some appear to have been bleached white. These findings, some say, also suggest that the ancient Jewish sect was behind some of the scrolls.
Researchers claim that the Essenes wanted to be different from the Roman world in that they didn’t want colorful clothing. “They were very humble,” explained Orit Shamir, curator of organic materials at the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The textiles, researchers say, would have originally been used for clothing, but would have later been cut apart and used for other purposes. This, of course, would explain the reason why they were allegedly bleached.
But, of course, not everyone is buying into this interpretation. One archaeologist who has worked at Qumran told LiveScience that the linen could have come from people trying to escape the Roman army after Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70. LiveScience has more:
Qumran itself was first excavated by Roland de Vaux in the 1950s. He came to the conclusion that the site was inhabited by a religious sect called the Essenes who wrote the scrolls and stored them in caves. Among the finds he made were water pools, which he believed were used for ritual bathing, and multiple inkwells found in a room that became known as the “scriptorium.” [...]
More recent archaeological work, conducted by Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg of the Israel Antiquities Authority, suggests that the site could not have supported more than a few dozen people and had nothing to do with the scrolls themselves. They believe that the scrolls were deposited in the caves by refugees fleeing the Roman army after Jerusalem was conquered in A.D. 70.
Regardless of how they reached the caves in Qumran, the scrolls remain influential nearly two thousand years after they were written. They consist of 900 texts, dating back to A.D. 70 (with some going back as early as the third century B.C.). They include hymns, calendars, psalms and early copies of the Hebrew Bible.
In September, the Blaze reported on an innovative new collaboration between Google and the Israel Museum that led to the publication of the scrolls online.
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