Through the writings on the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars have learned a great deal about Essene philosophy and culture. They have also discovered remarkable similarities between the theological beliefs and practices of the Essenes and the early church.
The Essenes practiced a form of ritual cleansing by water, similar to baptism. And they also established a communal lifestyle with common ownership of possessions, much like the early church.
They believed they were living at the end of an age and expected two Messiahs—a priest messiah and a king messiah—to come imminently. The early church also thought of the Messiah as a perfect priest and king, but they recognized that these qualities were united in the one person of Jesus.
Many Essene terms were echoed by Jesus and the apostles as well. They believed in justification by faith and spoke about sons of light fighting an evil world. They thought of themselves as preparing the ?way of the Lord? by obeying his truths. And they called themselves the ?New Israel,? the same words Paul used to describe the church.
Just as God used the Romans? effective roads and communication system to spread the gospel, it seems that he used the Essene community to prepare for Jesus as well. Through their teachings and practices, God laid the groundwork for many concepts that Jesus and the early church would introduce to the world.