Jesus and the Essenes

Articles 2 Comments

The Essenes' favorite name for themselves was "the sons of light." In the Synoptic Gospels the term appears only in Luke 16:8, and the reference is not very flattering. Was Jesus making an ironic reference to the Essenes?

There is a vast difference between the approach of the Essenes toward unbelievers, and that of Jesus and his disciples. The Essenes practiced extreme separatism, particularly forbidding economic relations with outsiders. Whoever wanted to follow Jesus, however, had to live in brotherly love with the outside world and not withdraw from society.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have demonstrated that the Essenes’ favorite name for themselves was “the sons of light.” In the synoptic gospels that term appears only in Luke 16:8, and a close examination of the text indicates that Jesus did not use “sons of light” to refer to his own followers, but rather to refer to the Essenes themselves.

I believe that Jesus’ Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-9) can best be understood as an attempt to teach his disciples not to behave like the Essenes. He further emphasized his warning not to emulate the Essenic separatism in his application of the parable as recounted in Luke 16:10-12.

Premium Members
If you are not a Premium Member, please consider becoming one starting at $10/month (paid monthly) or only $5/month (paid annually):

One Time Purchase Rather Than Membership
Rather than a membership, you may also purchase access to this entire page for $1.99 USD. (If you do not have an account select "Register & Purchase.")

Login & Purchase


Condensed and adapted from Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, a collection of Prof. Flusser’s articles edited by Dr. Bradford Young, copyright © 1988 by The Magnes Press.

A photograph of the War Scroll photographed by Eric Matson of the Matson photo service. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

  • David Flusser [1917-2000]

    David Flusser [1917-2000]

    Professor David Flusser died and was buried in Jerusalem on Friday, September 15, 2000, his 83rd birthday. A founding member of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, Flusser was one of the world's leading Jewish authorities on Early Christianity. His pioneering research on Jesus and…
    [Read more about author]

  • Online Hebrew Course

    Want to learn Hebrew? Check out our online Hebrew course Aleph-Bet: Hebrew Reading and Writing for Christians in 17 Easy Lessons.

  • JP Content