Though the Essenes of the Dead Sea Scrolls are not mentioned in the New Testament, they are described by Philo, Josephus, and Eusebius. With publication of the Essenes' own sectarian writings since the 1950s, however, they have become well known. Their withdrawal into desert seclusion was in opposition to the ruling powers in the city and the Temple of Jerusalem. They lived apart from society in constant study of the Scriptures and with a firm belief that they were the elect of Israel living in the end of days and to whom would come messianic figures—a messiah of David (royal) and a messiah of Aaron (priestly). After a long period of probation and initiation, a man became a member of this elect community that had strict rules of community discipline that would seal or destroy his membership in their New Covenant.
Their laws were strict, their discipline severe, and — unlike Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots — they were not simply different parties within Judaism but a separate eschatological sect. They believed that they alone, among those living in the end time, would be saved. The apocalypticism of the Essenes and the early Christians had many similarities, but the Christians had a higher eschatological intensity because they already knew who the Messiah would be when he came in the future at the Parousia (the "Second" Advent), and they also had a recollection of the earthly Jesus, knowledge of the risen Lord, and the gift of the Spirit upon the church. Both Essenes and Christians were sects with tightly knit organizations, but the church had a historically based messiah. The Essenes probably were killed or forced to flee from their wilderness community c. AD 68, yet some of their ideas can still be traced in the ministry of John the Baptist (who might have been an Essene) and in the thought world of the New Testament (see also Judaism).
Adapted from "biblical literature."Encyclopedia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD