Customer Reviews: Beyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism
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on December 19, 2001
This is the *best* book I ever read about the Essene and Qumran to date. Dry, no-nonsensical, factual, sound... A bit "boring" here and there, but the matter is dry in itself, and the author is always essential and up-to-the-point, so the "boring" parts are always *very* short (never more than two pages).
The author begins by reviewing all we know about the Essene from ancient sources.
Then he thoroughly examines the literature that most resembles these features, the "Enochic" Jewish literature. He highlights a set of shared ideas in all of these texts, as well an important evolution in them along two centuries.
Next, he examines the ideology displayed by the Qumran literature, and compares it with the "Enochic" one. Boccaccini makes his point with great elegance and very convincingly: Qumran people were not "the Essene" at large, but just a schismatic (somehow fanatical) group that had parted from the Enochic tradition from which it derived, developing unique features and ideas. It is therefore an error using the Qumran texts to understand who "the Essene" were and what did they think.
Boccaccini proposes to rather identify "The Essene" with the "Enochich" tradition at large: if the Enochic party was not the "Essene" party, then it was its twin, he prudently suggests.
Most important is Boccaccini's memento about the fact that Enochic/Essene literature continued after "the parting of the ways" with the Qumran community. From this more recent tradition also Christianity stems, he hints.
And here is the most deceiving point in this book. The huge interest in Qumran was first caused, among other things, from the suspect it was sort of a "parent" community for Christianity. Christianity, Qumran texts seemed to suggest, might have had Qumranic, i.e. allegedly "Essene", roots.
What Boccaccini does, undercover, is showing that these roots were *not* planted in the Qumran tradition... but rather in the larger "Enochic" (Essene) tradition!
The lack of a chapter about Christian roots in Essenism is the weakest point in this book, at least to me (this was the first reason why I bought it). But by reading the title one realizes Boccaccini never promised to deliver such a chapter in the first place, hence my 5 stars.
However, prudence in an exceedingly "hot" issue, not lack of relevance of the issue, is the real reason why Boccaccini did not write such a chapter: all of the documents, and the reasoning, necessary to allow the reader to draw by himself this conclusion, are in this book. Simply, the author refrains from drawing this conclusion by himself, although he explicitly hints at it two or three times along the book.
I strongly recommend this work, but I warn about the need to complement it with other works if the Essene/Christian question is what you are interested in.
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on May 1, 2000
For those who love studying ancient Judaism, Christianity, and the community at Qumran; this is a book that will help bring it all together. Boccanccini shows you a different side of Judaism. Different from the Pharisees and Sadducees we know from the Bible. This is the other side of Judaism, the Judaism of the Essense and their theology. It portrays a theology in Judaism that runs through the Essene community, Qumran, and Christianity and draws similarities between them all. It suggests that they all come from a common source and especially presents a theory that Qumran and what was later known as the Essenes, split from each other. I read this book over a year ago and can't wait to read it again.
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on February 7, 2007
This book does an outstanding job of putting alot of myths regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran to rest. We've been hoodwinked by so many charlatans trying to sell the Dead Sea Scroll - Christian connection. It takes a real scholar like Gabriele Boccaccini to smash those myths once and for all.

The Qumran community which produced the sectarian writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls and who were described by Pliny as the monastic community living on the shores of the Dead Sea were not the same Essenes which Josephus and Philo wrote about. They were both rooted in Enochian Judaism but parted ways after the Maccabean revolt which ended the rival Zadokite priesthood.

Boccaccini takes us step by step through the history of Enochian Judaism which started as a rival to the Zadokite priesthood, to the Maccabean crisis which deposed the Zadokite priesthood and relegated the Enochians to a second class status. The book explains how the Enochians accepted the Zadokite Hebrew Bible with its stress on the Mosaic covenant

but kept the earliest books of Enoch which make no reference to the Mosaic covenant. It then explains how the Qumranites separated from the mainstream Enochian/Essene movement as described in the Damascus Document.

The Qumran community is described as an isolated, xenophobic community which did not have the tremendous impact on history which so many people give them credit for. With two minor exceptions, which are adequately explained, the Qumran sectarian literature was unknown to the earliest Christians and are neither quoted nor mentioned in the earliest Rabbinic writings or Josephus. Conversely, none of the later Enochian literature starting in the first century B.C.E., ie The Similitudes and The Testaments of The Twelve Patriarchs, were found at Qumran.

Boccaccini explains how the mainstream Enochians/Essenes who Josephus and Philo were familiar with radically differed from the Qumranites. The mainstream group were pacifists who refused to take oaths,and believed that individuals could be saved by repentance. In contrast, the Qumranites were more militant and believed in absolute predestination in which only members of their community were predestined for salvation. The Qumranites disdained not only gentiles but anyone who was outside their community. In addition, the Essenes stressed the issues of seduction and greed which the isolated Qumranits didn't have to deal with.

This conforms not only to the descriptions given by Josephus and Philo but the later Enochian literature as well.

Finally, we learn that John the Baptist and Jesus were more than likely products of mainstream Essenism. Their public preaching of repentance, Jesus' acceptance of "unclean" people, ie the lame and the blind, his healing on the Sabbath, and his pacifistic teachings of love for one's enemies and not returning evil for evil conform more to mainstream Essenism and is completely at odds with Qumran. This puts to rest once and for all the sensational but ridiculous idea that John the Baptist, Jesus, or James were members of the Qumran community. The fact that the earliest Christians read The Book of Enoch as indicated in the Book of Jude and preserved in the older Ethiopian Orthodox Church proves that Christianity was rooted in Enochian/Essene Judaism and not Pharisaic/Rabbinic Judaism.

If you really want to know the history of the Essenes, Qumran, and Christianity, you must read this book.
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on December 2, 2002
This book does a fine job of collecting various sources of thought and religious tenets from the period prior to first century Israel to put forward the theory that the various sects of Judaism and Christianity have a very common origination. The differences are explained but the emphasis is on the commonalities with time being properly considered. Some distinguishing light is shed on the major problem of identifying the Essenes to a small community in Qumran considering various sources that identify certain contradictions. Although most will acknowledge a common root to the various sects of the time, Pharisees, Sauducees, Essenes, and Christians, this author ties the various texts available and places them in a convincing time-frame that allows for all the differences. The notion of various sects within the Essene movement is plausible yet simple and that is what makes this so appealing in my opinion. Overall, a nice piece of detective work.
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on March 24, 2003
This work is a must for everyone wishing to understand the birth of both Judaism an Christianity. Boccaccini offers a most helpful key to interpret the historical and theological facts of the period between The Old and The New Testament, throwing new light upon both the Qumran-society (who made the Dead Sea Scrolls) and early Christianity. He convincingly shows the continuity between certain "enochian" themes and ideas usually thought to be spesificially christian, and how these ideas grows out of a split in Second Temple Judaism, between zadokites (mosaic) and levites (enochian). A most impressive book!
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on August 23, 2004
If you're really "in" to the Dead Sea Scrolls, then you won't want to miss this volume. The subtitle ("The Parting of the Ways Between Qumran and Enochic Judaism") really only tells part of the story; Boccaccini devotes a lesser portion of this book to a quite reasonable hypothesis of the origins of the Essene movement in what he calls "Enochic" Judaism. The majority of the book is devoted to descriptions of the life and literature of the Essenes, and includes a collection of secular data on them (from Josephus, Pliny, Philo, etc.). As such it is an excellent reference.
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on January 25, 1999
Boccaccini has pulled together a theory of the origins of the Dead Sea Scroll sectarians and how they fit into the Jewish culture historically. While the book is easy to read and comprehensive, it is not necessarily a beginners book to the DSS. His emphasis focuses on the Essenes and their relationship to the DSS sectarians. If you enjoy reading about the DSS this is one you won't want to miss.
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on November 21, 1999
Gabrielle Boccaccini's Beyond the Essene Hypothesis, may or may not part the differences between Qumran and Enochic Judaism with absolute clearity, but presents the issues of this time period using historical and academic comparitive prose. It was a great resource in my recent paper I wrote on Jewish thought regarding the Temple in Ancient times. This book includes some the latest research on the subject, from the most well known Journals. Good points: contains a lot of research from hard to find resources, a great survey of the issues involved. Bad points: sometimes doesn't back arguements, often leaves the reader to have to search for the answers later in the book and elsewhere for the hypothesises made earlier.
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on September 3, 2013
This book came as quite a surprise. It is a small book, but has the most far-reaching and insightful analysis of the Essenes and their texts and of the texts of Enochic Judaism I have seen in 12 years. It is well worth twice the price. And this analysis has huge implications for the origins and history of Christianity, its relationship with Judaism, and even the Calvinist/Arminian debate. Unfortunately the author does not write a chapter about that or draw conclusions concerning those issues. This leaves one with a feeling of incompleteness, but that's the state of such studies thus far, which the author wisely does not go beyond. I personally find his reasoning and proofs absolutely convincing. In brief, he has taken the Essene theory which views the Qumran sect as Essenes and filtered it through the Gronigen hypothesis, which views the Qumran group as a schismatic splinter group which was rejected by the main group, who Boccaccini identifies with the Enochic Jews who wrote most of 1 Enoch and Jubilees. The main group then wrote Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs and the Similitudes of Enoch. This main group the Jewish authors Josephus and Philo describe as the Essenes, and part of the group may have given rise to early Christianity. The Qumran group was described by the pagan authors Pliny the Elder and Dio Chrysostom as the Essenes--thus the two groups had the same name, but were very different from each other. However, the Qumran group's library contained the Essene books written before the schism, thus enabling a history of the movement to be written. A very interesting and thought-provoking treatment of a movement, that like early Christianity, was rejected by Pharisaic and Rabbinic Judaism.
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on November 28, 2012
I was drawn to this book after reading Melchizedek's Seal & Scroll in which the author Mitchell comes down hard against the Qumran/Essene model of Dead Sea Scroll origin. Mitchell notes that Gabrielle Boccaccini (GB) paid dutiful lip service to the Q/E Model, declaring it a long-settled matter, but then GB went on to suggest that:

1. the Essenes were a much wider group than previously thought,
2. that their central library was at Qumran,
3. The Essenes were propagating (writing?) Enochic literature that influenced the thought of that day.
4. The Qumran literature continued to influence Christianity, Western thought, and literature with its themes of escape and Apocalypse.

Without the Enochic literature, GB conjectures, Melville's Moby Dick would not have been possible. In other words, he agrees with the Q/E model and then he breaks every rule that the model was constructed to avoid; namely that the scrolls did not reflect early Christianity, that the scrolls were not well grounded in Judaism, and that they were merely -in the words of one minimalist critic--"hypnotic words that insulated them from the changing winds of history." Robert Alter, "How important are the Dead Sea Scrolls?" Commentary (Feb, 1992).

Boccaccini simply moves past the controversy and suggests the DSS authors were Essenes and essentially Enochian, and so much the better. The model that they were written by a desert monastic group is getting old. If the DSS are of any value today, they must have been of value back when they were written. "Beyond the Essene Hypothesis" is aptly named and is an important book for anyone interested in the DSS.
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