Mike Aquilina

Essene Essay

Wednesday June 17th 2009, 9:46 pm

On the long flight from Newark to Tel Aviv, I occupied myself with Jesus and First-Century Christianity in Jerusalem, by Elizabeth McNamer and Bargil Pixner, OSB. I see that Dr. McNamer has posted an online essay based on that fascinating book.

For more of Father Pixner’s work, see here and here. He has since gone to his reward. Two of my fellow pilgrims went looking for his excavations and were shown the way by a Palestinian boy who remembered the priest and his digging.

Father Pixner and Dr. McNamer connect the first-century Christians genetically (literally and figuratively) with the Essenes.

One does not have to look far to see that many of these practices [Essene] were adopted by the early Christian community. They returned to that upper room after the death of Jesus. They were altogether there at Pentecost. They celebrated this according to the Essene calendar. (“Devout men “were present in Jerusalem.) They choose Matthias by lot (there is a house of Matthias mentioned in the copper scroll). Pentecost became the main feast for the early church. Baptism became the initiation rite of the new community; The Holy Spirit (not mentioned anywhere in the O.T.) is prominent in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the literature of the early Jewish community. They celebrated a sacred meal. They practiced communal living. Both sects observed a community rule (Didache for Christians). There was a hierarchy of twelve for both. Times of prayer were the same. Healing was done by both groups. Could it all just be coincidence? We are told early on that a group of priests converted. They couldn’t have been Sadducees, who are shown as opposed to the Christian sect in the Acts. So who else? The only alternative was the Essenes.