The Essenes: The Name Esssene



The name is variously written in Greek: Various

* forma of

1. 'Eo-ff^vo?: Joseph. Ant. xiii. 5. 9, xiii. 10. 6, xv. 10. 5, in Greek, xviii. 1. 2, 5, B. J. ii. 8. 2, 13, Vit. 2; Plin. N. H. v. 15.17 (Essenus); Dion Chrys. in Synes. Dion 3; Hippol. Haer.

ix. 18, 28 (MS iariv6s); Epiphan. Haer. p. 28 sq., 127 (ed. Pet.).

2. 'Eo-o-ato?: Philo II. pp. 457, 471, 632 (ed. Mang.); Hegesippus in Euseb. H. E. iv. 22; Porphyr. de Abstin. iv. 11. So too Joseph. B. J. ii 7. 3, ii. 20. 4, iii. 2. 1; Ant. xv. 10. 4; though in the immediate context of this last passage he writes 'Eaanvos, if the common texts may be trusted.

3. 'Oo-ffoto?: Epiphan. Haer. pp. 40 sq., 125, 462. The common texts very frequently make him write ,Oaanv6<;, but see Dindorfs notes, Epiphan. Op. I. pp. 380, 425. With Epiphanius the Essenes are a Samaritan, the Ossaeans a Judaic sect. He has evidently got his information from two distinct sources, and does not see that the same persons are intended.

4. 'Ico-o-oto?, Epiphan. Haer. p. 117. From the connexion the same sect again seems to be meant: but owing to the form Epiphanius conjectures (dlftat.) that the name is derived from Jesse, the father of David.

All etymo- If any certain example could be produced where the name

i* rejected occurs in any early Hebrew or Aramaic writing, the question of

ri^e the6 *ts derivation would probably be settled; but in the absence of

name a single decisive instance a wide field is opened for conjecture,

and critics have not been backward in availing themselves of

the license. In discussing the claims of the different etymologies

proposed we may reject:

(i)From First: derivations from the Greek. Thus Philo connects

the Greek ;the Word ^^ ^^ < holy >. Quod Qmn ^^ 12 p 4.57

,¥jacraioi...8ia\eKrOv eWvvucf}1; irapcovvfioi oo-idri/tO?, § 13, p. 459 Twv 'Eaaaliov rj oirLwv, Fragm. p. 632 KaXovvrcu per 'JLaaaioi, irapa Trjv oaiorijra, pal Sokw [So/cet ?], T^s irpoay/opias a^iwBevrei. It is not quite clear whether Philo is here playing with words after the manner of his master Plato, or whether he holds a pre-established harmony to exist among different languages by which similar sounds represent similar things, or whether lastly he seriously means that the name was directly derived from the Greek word oaioi. The last supposition is the least probable; but he certainly does not reject this derivation 'as incorrect' (Ginsburg Essenes p. 27), nor can irapwwpoi 6a-i6ttjto<{ be rendered 'from an incorrect derivation from the Greek homonym hosiotes' (ib. p. 32), since the word trapcovvpAK never involves the notion of false etymology. The amount of truth which probably underlies Philo's statement will be considered hereafter. Another Greek derivation is "0-o?, 'companion, associate,' suggested by Rapoport, Erech MUlin p. 41. Several others again are suggested by Lowy, s. v. Essaer, e.g. eau from their esoteric doctrine, or alaa from their fatalism. All such may be rejected as instances of ingenious trifling, if indeed they deserve to be called ingenious. (ii) From Secondly: derivations from proper names whether of persons

personsor or of P1aces< Thus the word has been derived from Jesse the places; father of David (Epiphan. l. c.), or from one 'B" Isai, the disciple of R. Joshua ben Perachia who migrated to Egypt in the time of Alexander Jannaeus (Low in Ben Chananja I. p. 352). Again it has been referred to the town Essa (a doubtful reading in Joseph. Ant. xjii. 15. 3) beyond the Jordan. And other similar

derivations have been suggested.

Thirdly: etymologies from the Hebrew or Aramaic, which (ui) From

do not supply the right consonants, or do not supply them in roots not

the right order. Under this head several must be rejected; the noht5

"IDS asar ' to bind,' Adler Volkslehrer vi. p. 50, referred to coaii0

nants, by Ginsbnrg Essenes p. 29.

TDH chasid 'pious,' which is represented by 'Ao-tSaw? (1 Mace. ii. 42 (v. L), vii. 13, 2 Mace. xiv. 6), and could not possibly assume the form 'Eo-o-ato? or 'eo-o-7ji/o?. Yet this derivation appears in Josippon ben Gorion (iv. 6, 7, v. 24, pp. 274, 278, 451), who substitutes Chasidim in narratives where the Essenes are mentioned in the original of Josephus; and it has been adopted by many more recent writers.

NHD s'chd ' to bathe,' from which with an Aleph prefixed we might get 'xriDK as'chai 'bathers' (a word however which does not occur): Gratz Gesch. der Juden in. pp. 82, 468.

yiJX tsanuat 'retired, modest,' adopted by Frankel (Zeitschrift 1846, p. 449, Monatsschrift II. p. 32) after a suggestion by Low.

To this category must be assigned those etymologies which such as contain a ] as the third consonant of the root; since the com- which parison of the parallel forms 'Eaaalo<; and 'Eo-o-^vo? shows that °^fe" in the latter word the v is only formative. On this ground we 'he root, must reject:

pDn chdsvn; see below under Pet;.

jXTI chotsen 'a fold' of a garment, and so supposed to signify the irepi^wfia or 'apron,' which was given to every neophyte among the Essenes (Joseph. B. J. ii. 8. 5, 7): suggested by Jellinek Ben Chananja IV. p. 374.

PB^ t*s^w 'strong': see Cohn in Frankel's Monatsschrift vii. p. 271. This etymology is suggested to explain Epiphanius Haer. p. 40 Tovto Be To yevos rwv '0aav}vwv epfivveverat Sid Ttj<; tK$6ae<oi Tov 6v6fiaroi arifSapov yevos (' a sturdy race'). The name ' Essene' is so interpreted also in Makrisi (de Sacy, Chrestom. Arab. I. pp. 114, 306); but, as he himself writes it with Elif and not Ain, it is plain that he got this interpretation from some one else, probably from Epiphanius. The correct reading however in Epiphanius is 'Oaaalcav, not 'Oo/njww; and it would therefore appear that this father or his informant derived the word from the Hebrew root try rather than from the Aramaic \wg- The 'Oaaalot, would then be the D'ty, and this is so far a possible derivation, that the n does not enter into the root. Another word suggested to explain the etymology of Epiphanius is the Hebrew and Aramaic ]*Dn chasin 'powerful, strong' (from pn); but this is open to the same objections as

Other de- When all such derivations are eliminated as untenable or

consider- improbable, considerable uncertainty still remains. The 1st and

•*; 3rd radicals might be any of the gutturals N, n, n, j?; and the

Greek a, as the 2nd radical, might represent any one of several

Shemitic sibilants.

Thus we have the choice of the following etymologies, which have found more or less favour. (i)K'DK'a (1) KDN &sa 'to heal,' whence Jodk asya, 'a physician.' 'The Essenes are supposed to be so called because Josephus states (B. J. ii. 8. 6) that they paid great attention to the qualities of herbs and minerals ' with a view to the healing of diseases (•n-p6<; depcnreiav TraBwv)' This etymology is supported likewise by an appeal to the name depairevrai, which Philo gives to an allied sect in Egypt (de Vit. Cont. § 1, n. p. 471). It seems highly improbable however, that the ordinary name of the Essenes should have been derived from a pursuit which was merely secondary and incidental; while the supposed analogy of the Therapeutae rests on a wrong interpretation of the word. Philo indeed (l. a), bent upon extracting from it as much moral significance as possible, says, BepairevraX Kal Bepmrevrpioe: KaXovvrai, rjroi Trap oaov larpuirjv eTrayyiWovrat , Kpturaoea T/}? Kara 7ro\ei? (7j fiev yelp <ro5/xatO depairevei fiovov, i/ieii/ri « Kal ifrv)(a<: K.t.x.) ^ Trap" oaov e'/i <f)vae<i)<; Kcu r(5v iepu>v voiutv evaiBevBrjaav depaireveiv To bv K.t.x.: but the latter meaning alone accords with the usage of the word; for Bepaireirni';, used absolutely, signifies 'a worshipper, devotee,' not 'a physician, healer.' This etymology of 'Eo-o-aio? is ascribed, though wrongly, to Philo by Asaria de' Rossi (Meor Enayim 3, fol. 33 a) and has been very widely received. Among more recent writers, who have adopted or favoured it, are Bellermann (Ueber Essder u. Therapeuten p. 7), Gfrbrer (Philo II. p. 341), Dahne (Ersch. u. Gruber, s. v.), Baur (Christl. Kirche der drei erst. Jakrh. p. 20), Herzfeld (Qesch. des Judenthums II. p. 371, 395,397 sq.), Geiger (Urschrift p. 126), Derenbourg (L'Histoire et la Geographie de la Palestine pp. 170, 175, notes), Keim (Jesus von Nazara I. p. 284 sq.), and Hamburger (Real-Encyclopadie fur Bibel u. Talmud, a v.). Several of these writers identify the Essenes with the Baithusians (pDW3) of the Talmud, though in the Talmud the Baithusians are connected with the Sadducees. This identification was suggested by Asaria de' Rossi (l. c. fol. 33 6), who interprets 'Baithusians' as 'the school of the Essenes' (lOD'K JV3): while subsequent writers, going a step further, have explained it' the school of the physicians' (s'dn JV3).

(2) MTH ch&za 'to see,' whence N'tn chazya 'a seer,' in re- (2) K'tn ference to the prophetic powers which the Essenes claimed, as the result of ascetic contemplation: Joseph. B. J. ii. 8. 12 elm Se hi avtOt< ; ot Koi ra fiiWovra irpoyiv(oaKei.v VTrio-xyovvrai K.t.x. For instances of such Essene prophets see Ant. xiii. 11. 2, xv. 10. 5, B. J. i. 3. 5, ii. 7. 3. Suidas, s. v. 'Eo-iraiot, says: Oeooptq To. TroXKa Trapafievoviriv, ev6ev Kox 'Eaaatoi /eaXovvrat,, Tovto Bt}\ovvto<; Tov cvofiMrO*}, rovreari, BewprjriKoL. For this derivation, which was suggested by Baumgarten (see Bellermann p. 10) and is adopted by Hilgenfeld (Jiid. Apocal. p. 278), there is something to be said: but urn is rather opav than dewptlv; and thus it must denote the result rather than the process, the vision which was the privilege of the few rather than the contemplation which was the duty of all. Indeed in a later paper (Zeitschr. xi. p. 346, 1868) Hilgenfeld expresses himself doubtfully about this derivation, feeling the difficulty of explaining the aa from the t. This is a real objection. In the transliteration of the LXX the t is persistently represented by f,

and the X by a. The exceptions to this rule, where the manuscript authority is beyond question, are very few, and in every case they seem capable of explanation by peculiar circumstances.

(3) To (3) ilEJ'y tdsdh 'to do,' so that 'Eaaaloi would signify ' the

'doers, the observers of the law,' thus referring to the strictness of Essene practices: see Oppenheim in Frankel's Monatsschrift vn. p. 272 sq. It has been suggested also that, as the Pharisees were especially designated the teachers, the Essenes were called the 'doers' by a sort of antithesis: see an article in Jost's Annalen 1839, p. 145. Thus the Talmudic phrase roeyo 'Pitc, interpreted 'men of practice, of good deeds,' is supposed to refer to the Essenes (see Frankel's Zeitschrift HI. p. 458, Monatsschrift II. p. 70). In some passages indeed (see Surenhuis Mishna Hi. p. 313) it may possibly mean 'workers of miracles' (as epyov Joh. v. 20, vii. 21, x. 25, etc.); but in this sense also it might be explained of the thaumaturgic powers claimed by the Essenes. (See below, p. 340.) On the use which has been made of a passage in the Aboth of R. Nathan c. 37, as supporting this derivation, I shall have to speak hereafter. Altogether this etymology has little or nothing to recommend it.

I have reserved to the last the two derivations which seem to deserve most consideration.

(4) duuyo (4) -<VMr chasi (r^fla»» ch'se) or KLifl&w chasyo,' pious,' in pious , Syrjac Thig derivation, which is also given by de Sacy

(Chrestom. Arab. i. p. 347), is adopted by Ewald (Gesch. des V. Isr. IV. p. 484, ed. 3, 1864, vn. pp. 154, 477, ed. 2,1859), who abandons in its favour another etymology ({in chazzan ' watcher, worshipper' = depinrevriji;) which he had suggested in an earlier edition of his fourth volume (p. 420). It is recommended by the fact that it resembles not only in sound, but in meaning, the Greek O<tm>?, of which it is a common rendering in the Peshito (Acts ii. 27, xiii. 35, Tit. i. 8). Thus it explains the derivation given by Philo (see above, p. 326), and it also accounts for the tendency to write 'Oawuo? for 'E<r<raio? in Greek Ewald moreover points out how an Essenizing Sibylline poem (Orac. Sib. iv; see Colossians, p. 96) dwells on the Greek equivalents, evae/Hris, evaeSirj, etc. (vv. 26, 35,42 sq., 148 sq., 162,165 sq., 178 sq., ed. Alexandre), as if they had a special value for the writer: see Gesch. VII. p. 154, Sibyll. Biicher p. 46. Lipsius (Schenkel's Bibel-Lexicon, s. v.) also considers this the most probable etymology.

(5) Nt$n chdsha (also nssn) Heb. 'to be silent'; whence (5) Diwn DWn chashshdim ' the silent ones,' who meditate on mysteries. one8-> Jost (Oesch. d. Judenth. I. p. 207) believes that this was the derivation accepted by Josephus, since he elsewhere (Ant. iii. 7. 5, iii. 8. 9) writes out |55Ti, choshen ' the high-priest's breast-plate' (Exod. xxviii. 15 sq.), iaarjv or eaarjV7}i in Greek, and explains it a-qfiaivei Tovto Kara rrjv 'EXXyvcov yKwrrav \o<yeiov (i.e. the 'place of oracles' or 'of reason': comp. Philo de Man. ii. § 5, u. p. 226, KdXeirai Xoyelov irvfitos, «7retS>) rd iv ovpavw iravra \6yois Kal dva\oyiai<; SeSrifuovpywrai K.tx.), as it is translated in the LXX. Even though modern critics should be right in

connecting jen with the Arab. ll/»»- 'pulcher fuit, ornavit' (see Gesen. Thes. p. 535, s. v.), the other derivation may have prevailed in Josephus' time. We may illustrate this derivation by Josephus' description of the Essenes, B. J. ii. 8. 5 toi? e%co9ev a>? nvcrrTjpt,6v rt, <f>ptKrov rj Ts>v isv&ov <rio>irf/ Kara(paii/trai; and perhaps this will also explain the Greek equivalent 0e(opr}ruioC, which Suidas gives for 'Eaaaloi. The use of the Hebrew word D'NBTl in Mishna Shekalim v. 6, though we need not suppose that the Essenes are there meant, will serve to show how it might be adopted as the name of the sect. On this word see Levy Chalddisches Worterbuoh p. 287. On the whole this seems the most probable etymology of any, though it has not found so much favour as the last. At all events the rules of transliteration are entirely satisfied, and this can hardly be said of the other derivations which come into competition with it.