"They talk by turns, and in a low tone, which will appear strange to those not used to it. They observe great temperance in their way of living and eat and drink only what is necessary for their want.
"In general do they not act without the knowledge and consent of their inspectors and director, but it is always left to their own free will to exercise benevolence and compassion in all in want, of all classes of society, but it was not allowed them to give any aid to their relatives without informing the inspector. But in other matters it was allowed every member to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, comfort the sick, visit, assist and comfort the prisoner, and comfort and protect the widows and fatherless.
"They never let themselves to be overcome by anger, hatred, vengeance, or ill will. Indeed, they are the champions of faith, truth, and honesty, and the servants of arbitrators of peace.
"Their year and no was with them as binding as the most sacred oath, and except the oath they take at their admittance into the Order, they never bind themselves through an oath, neither in their public nor private life, for oaths and profanity are with them as much shunned as perjury itself; and they consider that the man loses his esteem among his fellow citizens whose work is not sufficient without swearing.
"They study with perseverance and interest ancient writings, and especially prefer such that are intended to indurate and strengthen the body and ennoble and sanctify the spirit.
"They have profound knowledge of the art of healing, and study it arduously, examine and are acquainted with the medicinal herbs and plants that they prepare as medicine for man and beasts. They also know the use and worth of minerals as medicine and do a great deal of good by applying these for healing the sick.
"Anybody that wishes to belong to the Brotherhood is not at once admitted, but has first to pass a whole year of trial outside the same, and live according to certain rules and regulations. If he during this time has proved himself worthy through a strict moral and virtuous life, and temperance, is he provided with a spade, an apron, and a white garb; and now is he again subjected to new trials, and having passed through these, he is sprinkled with water, or "Baptized", as a sign of his spiritual purity and liberation from material things.
"Having thus proved his chastity, and being further tried in his strength of character and other qualities, and found to be worthy, he is at last admitted an actual member of the Brotherhood. But before he touches any food in the presence of the Brotherhood does he take this sacred vow:
"Above all things to fear God of a true and pure heart, exercise justice and honesty to all men; neither of impulse nor influenced by others, harm or hurt any man; during all his life to shun injustice, and ever undaunted, further truth and justice.'
"Further, he vows sacredly ever to obey his worldly rulers, as nobody has the rule without the will of God, and if he become a ruler, does he vow not to misuse power, and to set an example for his subjects by virtuous life, frugality and plain clothing. He shall always love truth and shun falsehood, preserve his mind from any impure thought or impulse, and never stain his hands with unjust gain.
"For the third, he vows never to interpret or explain anything of the laws of the Order in any other spirit than he himself has received it from the holy fathers and faithfully hide and take care of the books and archives of the Order and according to a special regulation to keep secret the name of the angels with whom the fathers formerly stood in communion.
"This was the vow that every member must take and which they considered so sacred that they would suffer the most violent death than to break it. The member who broke his vow, or who was caught in the act of any crime or vice, or could be proved to have committed the act, was expelled from the Brotherhood, and his fate was to be pitied, for if the Brotherhood showed him no mercy, nor forgave and received him again, he generally had to starve to death, as the one who once had offered himself up to the service of the Brotherhood and sworn faithfully to sustain and obey its laws and regulations, broke his vow, could not receive any food, aid or in the open air seek his support of herbs, roots and wild fruit till death put an end to his miserable life.
"But often it happened that the leader and brethren of the Brotherhood took mercy upon him and again received him into their meetings in the very moment when this miserable was despairing and near starvation, for they considered that a man who was driven to despair and mortal anxiety was punished enough for his crime.
"In their administration of justice they were indeed severe, but sincere and very just. Nobody could be condemned by a court of less than one hundred persons, but a verdict that a majority of these rendered was unchangeable in all cases.
"Besides Jehovah, the Creator of all, they also worshipped highly their 'Lawgiver' (This their Lawgiver was not Moses, as many have supposed, the Essenes often spoke the name of Moses in their conversations with the Gentiles, but in their law it was strictly prohibited to speak the name of their Lawgiver to any uninitiated), and he whoever contemptuously spoke his name was punished with death.
"They had great esteem and veneration for old age, and even considered it right to agree to and respect the opinion of the majority, as many eyes always see more than two eyes.
"They keep the Sabbath more punctually and conscientiously than any other Jews and do no labor on the Sabbath for they not only prepare and cook their food beforehand, that they may not be obliged to make a fire on the Sabbath; but they also did not dare touch or move from one place to another the dishes in which was their food and drink. Every time they had performed their natural wants they washed themselves, as if they thereby had become unclean or stained.
"All the members of the Brotherhood are grouped in four separate classes. The youngest brethren are considered so inferior in comparison with the elder, as regards their inward purity, that the latter again have to wash themselves if they happen to come in contact with the former, as if they had been stained by the touch of an unclean or uninitiated.
"Generally these people grew very old, and I myself know several who have arrived to an extraordinary old age, and I presume this fact may be accounted for by their temperate, laborious life, and strict regularity.
"Their courage and uncommon tranquility cannot be disturbed by the greatest calamities, adversities or troubles, for they can bear suffering and pains with the greatest calmness and strength of mind, and in defense of anything good and just they gladly prefer death for life.
"During the Roman war they have indeed been subjected to great calamities, suffering and excruciations. Many of them have been put to the rack, and, living, crushed by a wheel, burnt alive, crushed with millstones. Indeed, all conceivable instruments of torture and suffering have been invented and used to make them deny their faith, deride their Lawgiver, or eat such food as was prohibited by their law; but all these efforts have been in vain. Unshaken in their determination, they have suffered these excruciations in silence and with great endurance; and many of them have in the very pain rebuked their enemies with the sharp sword of the word of truth, and have then, to the great amazement of the bystanders, in a calm mind and joyful mien, given up the spirit in the firm belief to see it again - for they have the firm belief and faith that their bodies shall decay and become dust, but that the souls are immortal, and shall live eternally."
Josephus' words are: "Opinio antem apud Essenos firmata constitit, corruptibilia guiden esse corpara, animas antem immortales semper remanere."
They say that during the worldly life the spirit is chained to the body life a prisoner in his cell, but when these chains burst, by wear and decay, then the spirit is freed from the bodily prison and already tasting the heavenly bliss, it soars up to the bright kingdom of joy and peace.
"They agree with the disciples of the Grecian philosophers, that the pious spirits, previous to their admission into the joy of heaven, hover in space over the waters, without being affected by rain, snow, cold or heat.
"They maintain that by the doctrine of the immortality of the soul men are promoted and encouraged to a virtuous life and shun vice. Many of the Essenes have often stepped forth among the people as prophets, and informed of the things to happen, which has been easier to do for these holy men, as they from their earliest infancy study nature and the doctrine of God; are instructed in goodly books and the writings of the prophets and grow in wisdom and purity of heart. Their presages often came true, and this increases their esteem with the people as holy men and prophets.
"There was still another class among the Essenes who, although they corresponded with the description of the Brotherhood in general, as doctrines of religion, laws and ceremonies, differed from them in regard to wedlock. These latter consider that everybody who does not marry hereby contradicts the propagation and destination of mankind, as men would soon cease to exist if they lived by such rules.
"But ere the members of this class married, they put the one that they had chosen for their wife on a term of trial for three years; and if, after this threefold trial and cleansing, the woman was found to be chaste and faithful, and capable of bearing children, they married her. They never had sexual intercourse with the wife in her pregnancy, thereby to show that they had not married from lust, but to fulfill the command of Jehovah, ' Be fruitful, increase and full the earth'.
"When the women bathe or wash themselves they are clothed in a linen garb, in accordance with the men, who when they bathe, wear an apron or a belt around the waist. In whatever they do they exercise great order and chastity, and rightly do they deserve to be called an example for the life of other people."
Such is the description that the learned Josephus gives of this interesting Brotherhood, their doctrine, customs, ceremonies and lives, according to what he himself has found of his own observations within the same; he having been admitted as a real member after being tried for three years.
Another learned and authentic author is an old Jewish philosopher called Philo, who lived contemporary with Jesus, and dwelt in Alexandria, who has given to posterity a description of the Order of the Essenes, their doctrines, customs and ceremonies. In several of his writings that have been preserved to our day, he speaks of this Brotherhood, and in his work, "Quod onmis vis probus liber sit" - Every truly upright man is free.
Pages To Ponder
Crucifixion By An Eyewitness