Many images flash across the mind when this sect of Jewish mystics is mentioned. Life in the desert, asceticism, harsh discipline, caves, scrolls and idealism seem inextricably associated with the Essenes. It is these images that Professor David Flusser addresses, attempting to carry the reader back through the centuries to explore the life and thought of these fascinating men. His purpose is to paint a broader picture of the Essene sect so often neglected by the generally narrow focus of the scholarly world.
Based on a series of radio lectures, the book retains much of its original conversational tone and structure, but has been expanded to present a more detailed overview. Flusser opens with a general introduction to the Essenes and their origins, then describes their relationship to the Pharisees and Sadducees, the organization of the sect and aspects of its daily life. Only after this groundwork is laid are the various doctrines, beliefs and ideologies explored.
Flusser continually draws from a broad reservoir of ancient texts and recent scholarship, much of it his own, as he surveys the sect’s beliefs of predestination, the “true Israel,” the conflict between light and darkness, spirit and flesh, the Messiah and the Apocalypse.