Does the New Testament depict the disciples picking yellow sweet corn (maize) in firs-century Israel?
The New Testament is one the best sources of information on the Second Temple period, and one of the most important groups of that era was the mysterious and monk-like Essenes. So it is especially curious that the New Testament never directly mentions the Essenes. Its failure to discuss the Essenes openly is even more curious in view of the fact that Josephus held them to be as significant as the Pharisees or the Sadducees.
Athough the concept of Messiah is importance both in Judaism and Christianity, the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (maSHIaḥ, messiah) was not often used in Jesus’ day. Jesus and his contemporaries rarely spoke of the Messiah by that name, but preferred to use other more oblique terms. In the New Testament, maSHIaḥ almost always appears in its Greek translation: χριστός (christos, anointed with oil; Christ). The Greek transliteration μεσσίας (messias) appears only twice, in John 1:41 and 4:25.
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.
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. This emphasis on relations with others not only guaranteed Jesus’ followers friendship with outsiders, but helped open non-believers’ hearts to Jesus’ message of love.