It never ceases to amaze me in my studies the overall failure of Christian commentators to be acquainted with the evolution of the Essenes and their doctrines, dogmas, philosophies from generation to generation. It seems as if the vast majority of writers on the Essenes read Josephus, Philo, or Pliny and believe these accounts are a realistic and total view of this theologically complex group of apocalyptists. An unbiased study of the Essenes will show that this group grew by gradual stages, from a Judaizing program at the beginning into an esoteric cult of celibate-communist apocalytpists at the end some two-hundred years later. Serious investigation into these Essenes will reveal how they were able to create in secrecy the elements, which, according to accepted Christian history, were proclaimed for the first time to an astonished public by John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth.
It is only by looking at the Essene movement and tracing its evolution by comparing the doctrines within their writings can we see for certain how the theological views of this "sect" changed over two-hundred years!
By 143 B.C.E., the Zadokites had become known definitely as the Sadducees; and the Chasidim, splitting into two parties, had become known as the Pharisees and the Essenes. The Essenes could be looked upon as "ultra-strict" Pharisees. The Sadducees became identified with the rich and successful; the Pharisees became the popular leaders; and the Essenes gradually evolved into an esoteric communion of celibate communists.
As stated above, it is a shame that so few have endeavored to trace the evolution of these Essenes (Holy Ones) from their pristine, pre-Chasidic beginnings as a Zadokite reaction against Hellenization among the Jews, into the frozen, rigid, esoteric, and celibate-communist mystery-cult which they had become in the days of Philo and Josephus. Until this is done then it is very difficult to look at the writings left from this group of individuals and discern that many of their "religious doctrines" originated outside of normative Judaism and find their points of origin in the Pythagorean, Buddhist, and Iranian religious culture.
It would be this Essenic group of Greek-Jews of Alexandria, Egypt, who would be responsible for the purposeful gross mistranslation and corruption of the Jewish Scriptures into Greek. The Septuagint, their final production, ended up as an adulterated and fraudulent creation that fostered the religious views of the sect and which would serve as the foundation for the Greek Old Testament which would be used not only by the Christian Church but Jews who no longer had the ability to read Hebrew.
There is evidence which indicated that, about 70 B.C.E. or soon thereafter, an Essene prophet known as the Teacher of Righteousness had been put to death by the Jewish authorities because of doctrinal, ritualistic, and organizational heterodoxy; that, in due course, his followers declared that he was God himself, appearing as a man in Jerusalem, and that his death was an atoning sacrifice for the elect; that he arose from the grace and returned to heaven; and that he would send a representative in a few years who would be precisely the kind of Messiah that was proclaimed for Jesus by his followers. There is a strong indication that if Jesus was not at one time affiliated with the Essenes, that he was strongly influenced by them and their doctrines; yet at times we find Jesus' individuality and diversion from some of the Essene tenants. Many feel that Jesus was persuaded that he was himself the Messiah expected by the Essene Community, that he left it and preached the Gospel to the public; and that finally, in a revised concept of his own mission, re-enacted the role and the passion of the slain Teacher, and proclaimed that in his eschatological role he would appear as the last judge and the all-powerful Son of Man.
The book of Acts attests that the core of the pristine Christian communion consisted of individual Essenes who defected to the "Jesus Movement" soon after Jesus' crucifixion; that soon after Jesus' death and later after the destruction of Jerusalem these Essene Priests came over in large numbers and constituted the Christian-Essene communion known as the Ebionites; and, finally, that many of the multifarious primitive Gnostic communions, which flourished during the early centuries of this era, bear the indelible imprint of Essene origin and influence.
Those who speak of "our Judeo-Christian tradition or culture" are laboring under a serious misconception. Ours is not the social, political, or economic system reflected in the Mosaic Law or the Yahweh prophets, which existed in Palestine following David and Solomon; and western life is separated by an even more impassable gulf from the ethics, political economy, and religious discipline set forth in the Essene and Synoptic Scriptures. Our culture is based substantially upon Graeco-Roman antecedents. The Essenes absorbed their basic ideology originally from Zoroastrianism and later from Greek-mystery sources, particularly Pythagoreanism. The Essenes group, originally a return to Torah movement, would evolve into a group that would reject Judaism in toto; and except for certain Buddhist accretions, Jesus and the pristine church reproduced the Essene pattern faithfully. Since, however, this form of Christianity was wholly unacceptable in the pagan world, it was Hellenized in the Pauline literature and the Fourth Gospel, both of which reflect Stoic influence; these eventually became the essential foundation for that reconstruction or restitution of Christianity known as the Protestant Reformation. Ancient Hellenized Christianity itself did not long survive; for the soon-to-be victorious Catholic Church, in order to establish itself as a theocracy, absorbed their most salient elements from the great pagan cults which were its competitors.
Answer for yourself: Why, then, does it continue as the dominant religion of the western world?
Neither inertia or surrender to the past nor yet the power of vested and venerable institutions can explain the power of the Christian religion. For the dominance of Christianity in the western world finds its momentum from the fact that Paul and the writer of the Fourth Gospel Hellenized the pristine Essene evangel, then it was paganized by Catholicism, and then the Protestant Reformation revolutionized, not only the religious, but also the political and economic structure of northern Europe. The broad appeal of Christianity stems from the fact that it a synthesis of the most important doctrines which had already been developed in the great pre-Christian cultures over a period of centuries. Had this not been so, it would simply have been a restrictive creed and would, like many others, soon have vanished from the stage of history.
The central elements in the Synoptic Gospels as derived from Essene theology are:
What escapes the understanding of 99.9 % of all Christians is that the immediate source of these concepts was the Essene society and the pagan influences to which they had yielded over two-hundred years. Behind them the ultimate origins of these above religious concepts must be traced to the mystery-cults and the major religions of the pre-Christian world.
What follows is a detailed and semi-chronological view of the development of this religious synthesis of which I speak. Staring with Egyptian religion and the religious myth of Osiris, one can easily trace the "evolution" of religious ideas through the succeeding nations and world powers unto its final metamorphosis by the Essenes and the proto-Christian community. Today the western world is influenced by such a religious synthesis which can be shown clearly to be the evolution of sun-worship in its many disguises. Anyone who looks at Gentile Christianity and believes it to be a Divine and unique revelation from God in Heaven would do well to read the following set of articles for such a notion could not be further from the truth.
As demonstrated above, and elsewhere on this website, the Essenes of the first century were a far cry from normative Judaism. Through the articles coming next we trace, in the the Essene's main religious document, the evolution of Essenic religious beliefs as they move further away from Biblical Judaism and more toward Zoroastrian, Pythagorean, Greek and Buddhist beliefs. Of special interest will be the sequential development and enlargement of the Essene doctrines regarding the Messiah. It will be easy as we read the sequential development of these Messianic beliefs to discern the heavy Zoroastrian and Pythagorean religious influence upon the Essenes who fused the Davidic Messiah with the solar-myth saviors of the Gentiles.