Essene scholars basically rely on four sets of ancient writings for their knowledge and speculation concerning the Essenes. The Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, c.20BC - c.54AD, in his manuscript titled Quod Omnius Probus Liber, mentioned over 4000 Essenes in villages throughout Palestinian Syria. Next, Pliny the Elder, c.23AD - c.79AD, a Roman soldier, naturalist, historian and biographer produced the 37-volume Natural History, indicating that the Essenes had existed for thousands of generations and located them at his time in the desert along the north-west portion of the Dead Sea. Flavius Josephus, c.37AD - c.100AD, Jewish soldier turned Roman historian and politician, included the Essenes in a number of his manuscripts, offering us the most comprehensive look at this mystical religious order.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, in caves outside of Qumran near the north-west coast of the Dead Sea, helped, or possibly complicated, the analysis of Essene history. Some scholars believe that the Qumran colony was Essene, and others most definitely do not. I will leave it with you to do your own research, if you have the inclination, and to draw your own conclusions.
Excerpt from Chapter 9 of The Soul of Jesus
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