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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins: New Light on Ancient Texts and Communities
Joseph, Simon J.

Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2018 pp. x + 238. $39.95


Description: The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves near Qumran in 1947 sparked near endless speculation about the possible connections between the Essenes―purportedly the inhabitants of the settlement―and the birth, nature, and growth of early Christianity. Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins sheds new light on this old question by reexamining the complex relationships among Qumran, the historical Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian origins within first-century Palestinian Judaism. Author Simon J. Joseph's careful examination of a number of distinctive passages in the Jesus tradition in light of Qumran-Essene texts focuses on major points of contact between the Qumran-Essene community and early Christianity in four areas of belief and practice: covenant identity, messianism, eschatology, and halakhah (legal interpretation), placing the weight of his argument for continuity and discontinuity on the halakhic topics of divorce, Sabbath, sacrifice, celibacy, and violence. Joseph focuses on the historical, cultural, chronological, and theological correspondences as convergence. This not only illuminates the historical Jesus' teachings as distinctive, developing and extending earlier Jewish ethical and halakhic thought, it also clarifies the emergence of early Christianity in relationship to Palestinian Essenism. By bringing this holistic analysis of the evidence to bear, Joseph adds a powerful and insightful voice to the decades-long debate surrounding the Essenes and Christianity.

Subjects: Early Christian Literature, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, History, History of Judaism, Early Church Origins, Dead Sea Scrolls

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Review by Mary J. Marshall
Published 8/8/2019
Citation: Mary J. Marshall, review of Simon J. Joseph, Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins: New Light on Ancient Texts and Communities, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2019).


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