According to Josephus, there were four prominent sects of Judaism at the time of Jesus'ministry namely, Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots. In the NT we come across a number of people identified by their respective sects. For instance:

St Paul who calls himself a Pharisee ( Phil 3:4) Apostle Simon who was called Zealot (Lk 6:15)

We do not hear much about the Essenes in the NT. Dr James Tabor has the following to say:

The Essenes (possibly from ‘Ossim, meaning “Doers of Torah”), who wrote or collected the Dead Sea Scrolls, pioneered certain aspects of this “Way” over 150 years before the birth of Jesus. They were a wilderness (out in the Arava, near the Dead Sea–based on Isaiah 40:3), baptizing (mikveh of repentance as entrance requirement into their fellowship), new covenant, messianic/apocalyptic group (they were expecting three redemptive Figures—the Prophet like Moses and his two Messiahs), that saw themselves as the remnant core of God’s faithful people—preparing the Way for the return of YHVH’s Glory (Kavod) as set forth in Isaiah 40-66. They too referred to themselves as the Way, the Poor, the Saints, the New Covenanters, Children of Light, and so forth. Perhaps their most common designation was the Yachad–the brotherhood or community, and they referred to themselves as brother and sister. They were bitterly opposed to the corrupt Priests in Jerusalem, to the Herods, and even to the Pharisees whom they saw as compromising with that establishment to get power and influence from the Hellenistic/Roman powers. They had their own developed Halacha (interpretation of Torah), some aspects of which Jesus picks up (ideal of no divorce, not using oaths, etc.).

 One sees many similarities between the life & teachings of Jesus  and the precepts  of Essenes.  A large part of his pre-Ministry life on which the Gospels are silent,  could also perhaps  be explained in association with Essenes. For instance, his  40 days' fast in the wilderness could have been prompted by the lifestyle of Essenes.      

My question therefore is: According to Catholic Church, did Jesus belong to the Essenes sect of Judaism ?

  • The Essenes were basically the ancient equivalent of contemporary religious Zionism; their attitude towards foreigners and the infirm ranged from hatred to exclusion; none of these things are particularly close to either Christ or His teachings.
    – user46876
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 14:17

2 Answers 2


According to Catholic Church, did Jesus belong to the Essenes sect of Judaism?

There is no historical evidence to suggest so or Magisterium teachings to affirm such.

The Essenes would not permit the lame or blind to join their ranks. Whereas Jesus constantly had mercy on the poor, the hungry, the lame and the blind.

The Essenes seemed to practice certain elements related to Christianity but Jesus did not belong to this Jewish cult.

Rules, customs, theology, and beliefs

After a three-year probationary period, newly joining members would take an oath that included the commitment to practice piety towards God (το θειον) and righteousness towards humanity, to maintain a pure lifestyle, to abstain from criminal and immoral activities, to transmit their rules uncorrupted and to preserve the books of the Essenes and the names of the angels. Their theology included belief in the immortality of the soul and that they would receive their souls back after death. Part of their activities included purification by water rituals, which was supported by rainwater catchment and storage. According to the Community Rules, repentance was a prerequisite to baptism: "They shall not enter the water... for they will not be cleansed unless they have turned from their evil."

Scholarly discussion

Fred Gladstone Bratton notes that

The Teacher of Righteousness of the Scrolls would seem to be a prototype of Jesus, for both spoke of the New Covenant; they preached a similar gospel; each was regarded as a Savior or Redeemer; and each was condemned and put to death by reactionary factions... We do not know whether Jesus was an Essene, but some scholars feel that he was at least influenced by them.

Lawrence Schiffman has argued that the Qumran community may be called Sadducean, and not Essene, since their legal positions retain a link with Sadducean tradition. - Essenes

Although their is no historical evidence to firmly connect Jesus to the Essenes, Blessed Catherine Emmerich notes in her private revelations that some of the ancestors of Mary were of the Essene community.

It seems safe to say the Church does not believe that Jesus belonged to any one Jewish group of sect.

To what sect or group did Jesus belong? Was he a Pharisee or a Sadducee or what?

These sects you mention are from the official and formal hierarchy of Jewish groups that originated during the period just before or after the birth of Christ. Besides the two you name, there were the Essenes and Zealots. Each of these had their own specific beliefs.

The Pharisees accepted both the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and oral tradition as inspired. They believed in a hierarchy of angels and demons, human equality, a future for the dead, and the immortality of the soul with reward and retribution.

For the Sadducees, only the Books of Moses were Scripture but were interpreted more literally than by the Pharisees. The Essenes were strict and zealous Jews who observed the strict purity laws of the Torah. They kept communal ownership of property and had a sense of mutual responsibility.

Jesus and his family did not belong to any of these formal groups. They were simple peasants who lived in Nazareth where Joseph was a carpenter, a labourer while Mary carried out the ordinary tasks of a wife and mother.

Scripture does not give us much information about their lives. But the Gospels show different facets of Jesus' life so we have four pictures or aspects of who Jesus is.

The Gospel of Mark is considered to be the earliest Gospel. It tells us that Jesus is the Son of God and that he, Mark, is reporting that his Gospel is the "good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

Mark begins with the actions and preaching of John the Baptist who lives in the wilderness on locusts and wild honey. He baptizes people and calls them to repentance for the forgiveness of their sins.

John the Baptist makes a striking contrast between himself and Jesus proclaiming that Jesus, who is coming soon, is more powerful than he, John: "I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

  • The support for the claim that Mark is the earliest gospel is flimsy at best and downright disingenuous at worst. It takes a modernist approach to determining which gospel came first and ignores the historical fact that the traditions of early Christians were oral before they were written down. Given this, it's no surprise that the gospels would have conveyed many stories in precisely the same words without having "copied" or, as the atheist fans of Q theory suppose, "plagiarized" one another.
    – jaredad7
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 16:55
  • This is tangential, but the argument you quote takes Marcan priority as a premise.
    – jaredad7
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 16:56

No, that is not a doctrine of the Catholic Church. Some speculate that Jesus used the Essene calendar for the date of Passover at the Last Supper, but that is not to speculate that Jesus himself was an Essene.

Some more info about that speculation is here: Essene Passover Dates

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