For more information, see: Kersey Graves and The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors by Richard Carrier
MORE than twenty thousand sermons are preached in the Christian pulpits, on every recurring Sabbath, to convince the people that the religion and morality taught and practiced by Jesus Christ was of divine emanation, and was never before taught in the world, — that his system of morality was without a parallel, and his practical life without a precedent, — that the doctrine of self-denial, humility, unselfishness, benevolence, and charity, — also devout piety, kind treatment of enemies, and love for the human race, which he preached and practiced, had never before been exemplified in the life and teachings of any individual or nation. But a thorough acquaintance with the history and moral systems of some of the oriental nations, and the practical lives of piety and self-denial exemplified in their leading men long anterior to the birth of Christ, and long before the name of Christianity was anywhere known, must convince any unprejudiced mind that such a claim is without foundation. And to prove it, we will here institute a critical comparison between Christianity and some of the older systems with respect to the essential spirit of their teachings, and observe how utterly untenable and groundless is the dogmatic assumption which claims for the Christian religion either any originality or any superiority. Of course if their is nothing new or original, there is nothing superior.
We will first arrange Christianity side by side with the ancient system known as Essenism — a religion whose origin has never been discovered, though it is known that the Essenes existed in the days of Jonathan Maccabeus, B.C. 150, and that they were of Jewish origin, and constituted one of the three Jewish sects (the other two being Pharisees and Sadducees). We have but fragments of their history as furnished by Philo, Josephus, Pliny, and their copyists, Eusebius, Dr. Ginsburg, and others, on whose authority we will proceed to show that Alexandrian and Judean Essenism was identically the same system in spirit and essence as its successor Judean Christianity; in other words, Judean Christianity teaches the same doctrines and moral precepts which had been previously inculcated by the disciples of the Essenian religion.
A PARALLEL EXHIBITION OF THE PRECEPTS AND PRACTICAL LIVES OR CHRIST AND THE ESSENES
We will condense from Philo, Josephus, and other authors.
- Philo says, “It is our first duty to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness;” so the Essenes believed and taught.
Scripture parallel: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all else shall be added (Matt. vi 33; Luke xii. 31.)
- Philo says, “They abjured all amusements, all elegances, and all pleasures of the senses.
Scripture Parallel: “Forsake the world and the things thereof.”
- The Essenes say, “Lay up nothing on earth, but fix your mind solely on heaven.”
Scripture parallel: “Lay not up treasures on earth,” &c.
- “The Essenes, having laid aside all the anxieties of life,” says Philo, “and leaving society, they make their residence in solitary wilds and in gardens.”
Scripture parallel: “They wander in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens, and in caves of the earth.” (Heb. xi. 38.)
- Josephus says, “They neither buy nor sell among themselves, but give of what they have to him that wanteth.”
Scripture parallel: “And parted them (their goods) to all men as every man had need.” (Acts ii. 45.)
- Eusebius says, “Even as it is related in the Acts of the Apostles, all (the Essenes) were wont to sell their possessions and their substance, and divide among all according as any one had need so that there was not one among them in want.”
Scripture parallel: “Neither was their any among them that lacked, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the price of the things that were sold, &c. (Acts iv. 34.)
- Eusebius says, “For whoever, of Christ’s disciples, were owners of estates or houses, sold them, and brought the price thereof, and laid them at the apostles’ feet, and distribution was made as every one had need. So Philo relates things exactly similar of the Essenes.”
Scripture parallel: (The text above quoted.)
- “Philo tells us (says Eusebius) that the Essenes forsook father, mother, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, for their religion.”
Scripture parallel: “Whosoever forsaketh not father and mother, houses and lands, &c. cannot be my disciples.”
- “Their being sometimes called monks was owing to their abstraction from the world,” says Eusebius.
Scripture parallel: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John xvii. 16.)
- “And the name Ascetics was applied to them on account of their rigid discipline, their prayers, fasting, self-mortification, &c., as they made themselves eunuchs.”
Scripture parallel: “There be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.”
- “They maintained a perfect community of goods, and an equality of external rank.” (Mich. vol. iv. p. 83.)
Scripture parallel: “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” (Matt. xx. 27.)
- “The Essenes had all things in common, and appointed one of their number to manage the common bag.” (Dr. Ginsburg.)
Scripture parallel: “And had all things in common.” (Acts ii. 44; see also Acts iv. 32.)
- “All ornamental dress they (Essenes) detested.” (Mich. vol. iv. p. 83.)
Scripture parallel: Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, and putting on of apparel.” (i Peter iii. 3.)
- “They would call no man master.” (Mich.)
Scripture parallel: “Be not called Rabbi, for one is your Master.” (Matt. xxiii. 8.)
- “They said the Creator made all mankind equal.” (Mich.)
Scripture parallel: “God hath made of one blood all them that dwell upon the earth.”
- “They renounced oaths, saying, He who cannot be believed with out swearing is condemned already.” (Mich.)
Scripture parallel: “Swear not at all.”
- “They would not eat anything which had blood in it, or meat which had been offered to idols. Their food was hyssop, and bread, and salt; and water their only drink.” (Mich.)
Scripture parallel: “That ye abstain from meat offered to idols, and from blood.” (Acts xv. 29.)
- “Take nothing with them, neither meat or drink, nor anything necessary for the wants of the body.”
Scripture parallel: “Take nothing for your journey; neither staves nor script; neither bread, neither money, neither have two coats apiece.”
- “They expounded the literal sense of the Holy Scriptures by allegory.”
Scripture parallel: “Which things are an allegory.” (Gal. iv. 24.)
- “They abjured the pleasures of the body, not desiring mortal offspring, and they renounced marriage, believing it to be detrimental to a holy life.” (Mich.)
Scripture Parallel: It will be recollected that neither Jesus nor Paul ever married, and that they discouraged the marriage relation. Christ says, “They that shall be counted worthy of that world and the resurrection neither marry nor are given in marriage.” And Paul says, “The unmarried careth for the things of the Lord.” (i Cor. vii. 32.)
- “They strove to disengage their minds entirely from the world.”
Scripture Parallel: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
- “Devoting themselves to the Lord, they provide not for future subsistence.”
Scripture Parallel: “Take no thought for the morrow, what ye shall eat and drink,” &c.
- “Regarding the body as a prison, they were ashamed to give it sustenance.” (c. ii. 71.)
Scripture Parallel: “Who shall change our vile bodies?” (Phil. iii. 21.)
- “They spent nearly all their time in silent meditation and inward prayer.” (c. ii. 71.)
Scripture Parallel: “Men ought always to pray.” (Luke xviii. 1.) “Pray without ceasing.” (i Thess. v. 17.)
- “Believing the poor were the Lord’s favorites, they vowed perpetual chastity and poverty.” (C. ii. 7.)
Scripture Parallel: “Blessed be ye poor.” (Luke vi. 20.) “Hath not God chosen the poor?” (James ii. 5.)
- “They devoted themselves entirely to contemplation in divine things.” (c. ii. 71.)
Scripture Parallel: “Mediate upon these (divine) things; give thyself wholly to them.” (i Tim. iv. 15.)
- “They fasted often, sometimes tasting food but once in three or even six days.”
Scripture Parallel: Christ’s disciples were “in fastings often.” (2 Cor. xi. 27; see also v. 34.)
- “They offered no sacrifices, believing that a serious and devout soul was most acceptable.” (c. ii. 71.)
Scripture Parallel: “There is no more offering for sin.” (Heb. x. 18.)
- “They believed in and practiced baptizing the dead.”(C. ii. 71.)
Scripture Parallel: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead.” (i Cor. XV. 29.)
- “They gave a mystical sense to the Scriptures, disregarding the letter.”
Scripture Parallel: “The letter killeth, but the spirit maketh alive.” (i Cor. iii. 6.)
- “They taught by metaphors, symbols, and parables.”
Scripture Parallel: “Without a parable spake he not unto them.” (Matt. xiii. 34.)
- “They had many mysteries in their religion which they were sworn to keep secret.”
Scripture Parallel: “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom; to them it is not given.” (Matt. xiii. 11.) “Great is the mystery of godliness.”
- “They had in their churches, bishops, elders, deacons, and priests.”
Scripture Parallel: “Ordain elders in every church.” (Acts xiv. 23.) For “deacons,” see i Tim. iii. 1.
- “When assembled together they would often sing psalms.”
Scripture Parallel: “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms.” (Col. iii. 16.)
- “They healed and cured the minds and bodies of those who joined them.”
Scripture Parallel: “Healing all manner of sickness,” &c. (Matt. iv. 23.)
- “They practiced certain ceremonial purifications by water.”
Scripture Parallel: “The accomplishment of the days of purification.” (Acts xxi. 26.)
- “They assembled at the Sabbath festivals clothed in white garments.”
Scripture Parallel: “Shall be clothed in white garments.” (Rev. iii. 4.)
- “They disbelieved in the resurrection of the external body.”
Scripture Parallel: “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (i Cor. xv. 44.)
- Pliny says, “They were the only sort of men who lived without money and without women.”
Scripture Parallel: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (i Tim. vi. 10.) Christ’s disciples travelled without money and without scrip, and “eschew the lusts of the flesh.”
- “They practiced the extremist charity to the poor.” (C. ii. 71.)
Scripture Parallel: “Bestow all thy goods to feed the poor.” (i Cor. xiii. 3.)
- “They were skillful in interpreting dreams, and in foretelling future events.”
Scripture Parallel: “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts ii. 17.)
- “They believed in a paradise, and in a place of never- ending lamentations.”
Scripture Parallel: “Life everlasting.” (Gal. viii. 8.) “Weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. xiii. 42.)
- “They affirmed,” says Josephus, “that God foreordained all the events of human life.”
Scripture Parallel: “Foreordained before the foundation of the world.” (i Peter.)
- “They believed in Mediators between God and the souls of men.”
Scripture Parallel: “One Mediator between God and men.” (i Tim. ii. 5.)
- “They practiced the pantomimic representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of God ” — Christ the Spirit.
Scripture Parallel: With respect to the death, burial, resurrection of Christ, see i Cor. xv. 4.
- “They inculcated the forgiveness of injuries.”
Scripture Parallel: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke xxiii. 34.)
- “They totally disapproved of all war.”
Scripture Parallel: “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.” (John xviii. 36.)
- “They inculcated obedience to magistrates, and to the civil authorities.”
Scripture Parallel: “Obey them which have the rule over you.” (Heb. xiii. 17; xxvi. 65.)
- “They retired within themselves to receive interior revelations of divine truth.” (C. ii. 71.)
Scripture Parallel: “Every one of you hath a revelation.” (i Cor. xiv. 26.)
- “They were scrupulous in speaking the truth.”
Scripture Parallel: “Speaking all things in truth.” (2 Cor. vii. 14.)
- “They perform many wonderful miracles.”
Scripture Parallel: Many texts teach us that Christ and his apostles did the same.
- Essenism put all its members upon the same level, forbidding the exercise of authority of one over another.” (Dr. Ginsburg.)
Scripture Parallel: Christ did the same. For proof, see Matt. xx. 25; Mark ix. 35.
- “Essenism laid the greatest stress on being meek and lowly in spirit.” (Dr. Ginsburg.)
Scripture Parallel: See Matt. v. 5; ix. 28.
- “The Essenes commended the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and the merciful, and the pure in heart.” (Dr Ginsburg.)
Scripture Parallel: For proof that Christ did the same, see Matt.
- “The Essenes commended the peacemakers.” (Dr. Ginsburg.)
Scripture Parallel: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
- “The Essenes declared their disciples must cast out evil spirits, and perform miraculous cures, as signs and proof of their faith.” (Dr. Ginsburg.)
Scripture Parallel: Christ’s disciples were to cast out devils, heal the sick, and raise the dead, &c., as signs and proof of their faith. (Mark xvi. 17.)
- “They sacrificed the lusts of the flesh to gain spiritual happiness.”
Scripture Parallel: “You abstain from fleshly lusts.” (i Peter ii. 11.)
- “The breaking of bread was a veritable ordinance among the Essenes.”
Scripture Parallel: “He (Jesus) took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it.” (Luke xxii. 19.)
- “The Essenes enjoined the loving of enemies.” (Philo.)
Scripture Parallel: So did Christ say, “Love your enemies,” &c.
- The Essenes enjoined, “Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Scripture Parallel: The Confucian golden rule, as taught by Christ.
This parallel might be extended much further, but we will proceed to present the reader with a general description of Essenism, as furnished us by Philo, Josephus, and some Christian writers. Philo, who was born in Alexandria 20 B.C;, and lived to 60 A.D., and who was himself an Essenian Jew, in his account of them, says, “They do not lay up treasures of gold or silver. … but provide themselves only with the necessities of life.” Paul afterwards, having caught the same spirit, advises the same course of life. “Having food and raiment, therewith be content.” Contentment of mind they regarded as the greatest of riches. They make no instruments of war. They repudiate every inducement to covetousness, None are held as slaves, but all are free, and serve each other. They are instructed in piety and holiness, righteousness, economy; &c. They are guided by a threefold rule: love of God, love of virtue, and love of mankind. Of their love of God they give innumerable demonstrations, which is found in their constant and unalterable holiness throughout the whole of their lives, their avoidance of oaths and falsehoods, and their firm belief that God is the source of all good, but of nothing evil. “Of their love of virtue they give proof in their contempt for money, fame, and pleasures, their continence, easy satisfying of their wants, their simplicity, modesty,” &c. Their love of man is proved by their benevolence and equality, and their having all things in common, which is beyond all deception. They reverence and take care of the aged, as children do their parents. (Condensed from Philo’s treatise, “Every Virtuous Man is Free.”)
Josephus, 37 A.D., and who was also at one time a member of the Essenian Brotherhood, furnishes another fragmentary account of the Essenes in his Jewish Wars,” of which the following is the substance: —
“They love each other more than others (that is, are “partial to the household of faith”); they despise riches, and have all things in common, so that there is neither abjectness of poverty nor distinction of riches among them; they change neither garments nor shoes till they are worn out or become unfit for use; they neither buy nor sell among themselves; their piety is extraordinary; they never speak about worldly matters before sunrise; they are girt about with a linen apron, and have a baptism of cold water; they eat but one kind of a food at a time, and commence with a prayer, and the priest must say grace before any one eats (that is, breaks and blesses as Christ did); they also return thanks after eating, and then put off their white, garments; strangers were made welcome at their tables without money and without price; they give food to the hungry and the needy and show mercy to all; they curb their passions, restrain their anger, and claim to be ministers of peace; an oath they regard as worse than perjury; they excommunicate offenders (‘Go tell it to the churches, says Christ); they condemn finery in dress; though condemning in most solemn terms oaths, members were admitted to the secret brotherhood by an oath (‘See thou tell no man,’ said Christ); they endured pain with heroic fortitude, and regarded an honorable death as better than long life; they read and study their Holy Scriptures from youth, often prophesy, and it was very seldom they failed in their predictions.”
Dr. Ginburg’s testimony, abridged, is as follows: —
“The Essenes had a high appreciations of the inspired law of God. The highest aim of their lives was to become fit temples of the Holy Ghost (see i Cor. vi. 19); also to perform miraculous cures, and to be spiritually qualified for forerunners of the Messiah. They taught the duty of mortifying the flesh and the lusts thereof, and to become meek and lowly in spirit; they answered by yea, yea, and nay, nay (see Matt.), scrupulously avoiding oaths; they avoided impure contact with the heathen and the world’s people, and lived retired from the world, being in numbers about four thousand; they strove to be like the angels of heaven; there were no rich and poor, or masters and servants, amongst them; they lived peaceably with all men; a mysterious silence was observed while eating; a solemn oath was required on becoming a member of the secret order, which required three things:
1. Love of God; 2. Merciful justice to all men, and to avoid the wicked, and help the righteous; 3. Purity of character, which implied love of truth, hatred of falsehood, and strict observance of ‘the mysteries of godliness’ to outsiders — that is, ‘heathen and publicans;’ they endured suffering for righteousness’ sake, with rejoicings, and even sought it; regarding the body as a prison for the soul, they desired the time to come to escape from it; they recognized eight different stages of spiritual growth and perfection: 1. Bodily purity; 2. Celibacy; 3. Spiritual purity; 4. The suppression of anger and malice, and the cultivation of a meek, lowly spirit; 5. The attainment of true holiness; 6. Becoming fit temples for the Holy Ghost; 7. The ability to perform miraculous cures, and raise the dead; 8. Becoming forerunners of the Messiah; and finally they took a solemn vow to exercise piety toward God and justice toward all men, to hate the wicked, assist the good to keep clear of theft and unrighteous gains, to conceal none of their ‘mysteries of godliness’ from each other, or disclose them to others. ‘Great is the mystery of godliness’ (‘See thou tell no man’); they were to walk humbly with God, shun bad society, forgive their enemies, sacrifice their passions, and crucify the lusts of the flesh; they disregarded bodily suffering, and even gloried in martyrdom, preaching and singing to God amid their sufferings; but in their domestic habits they were extremely filthy; they wore their clothes until they became ragged, filthy, and offensive, never changing them till they were wore out; their food consisted of bread and water, and wild roots and fruits of the palm tree; they enjoined their duty, not only of forgiving their enemies, but of seeking to benefit them, and of even blessing the destroyer who took life and property.” Such was the religion, such the moral system, such the devout piety, and such the practical lives of the Essenian Jews, a religious sect which flourished in Alexandria and Judea several hundred years before the birth of Christ, and went out of history the hour Christianity came in.
Now, as the foregoing exposition shows that Essenism and Christianity are most strikingly alike in all their essential features, that the former system contains nearly every important doctrine and precept of the Christian religion, the question occurs here as one of momentous import, how is this striking resemblance, this identity of character of the two religions, to be accounted for? Does it not go far toward proving that Christianity is an outgrowth, a legitimate offspring, of Judean Essenism? Indeed, are we not absolutely driven to such a conclusion? Let us briefly recite some of the important facts brought to light by the investigation of the character and history of these two religions, and see if those facts do not bring them together, and weld them as one system — as one and the same religion.
Both are alike, and Essenism is much the older system.
Both religions are an outgrowth of Judaism.
Both were known and taught in Judea and in Alexandria.
Josephus living in Judea, and Philo in Alexandria, neither of them speaks of Christianity, or refers to any such religion by that name, and yet both describe a religion inculcating the same doctrines and moral precepts, which they call Essenism.
Is not this very nearly conclusive proof that Essenism was only another name for Christianity — that it had not yet changed its name to Christianity? That famous standard author, Mr. Gibbon, was evidently of this opinion when he said, “Whether, indeed, the first of that sect (the Essenes) took the name of Christian when the appellation of Christian had as yet been nowhere announced, it is by no means necessary to discuss.” (Book II. chap. xvi.) Here is evidence that Gibbon believed that the Essenes, after having borne that name for centuries, changed the appellation to Christian. And we find still stronger language than this in the writings of the same author expressive of this opinion. In a note to chapter xv. he says, “it is probable that the Therapeuts (Essenes) changed their name to Christians, as some writers affirm, and adopted some new articles of faith.” Here the position is assumed that the Christian religion is an outgrowth of Essenism, that is, merely a continuation of that religion under a change of name, with a slight modification of its creed.
And then we have the declaration of Christian writers, expressed in the most positive terms, that Essenism and Christianity were the same religion, the former name being used at an earlier period. Hear Eusebius, a standard ecclesiastical writer of the fourth century. He asserts positively, “Those ancient Therapeuts (Essenes) were Christians, and their ancient writings were our gospels.” (Ecel. Hist. p. 63.) Hark! Hark! my good Christian reader, here is one of your own sworn witnesses testifying that the Essenes originated and established the Christian religion; i.e., the religion now known by that name. Will you then give it up? If not, we have other testimony of a similar character, rendering the proposition still stronger. Robert Taylor declares, “The learned Basnage has shown that the Essenes were really Christians centuries before Christ, and that they were actually in possession of those very writings which are now our Gospels and Epistles.” (p. 81.) And then we have the declaration of the author of “Christ the Spirit” (p. 110), that “the Christians were the later Essenes — that is, the Essenes of the time of Eusebius under a changed name, that name having been made at Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christian.” The same writer suggests that “their sacred books are our sacred books.” We will now hear Eusebius again: “It is highly probable that their (the Essenes’) ancient commentaries, which Philo says the Essenes have, are the very Gospels and writings of the Apostles.”
Based upon this conclusion, he calls the Essenes “the first heralds of the gospel.” “I find it, therefore, most probable,” says Mr. Weilting, “that Jesus and John belonged literally to the society of the Essenes.” And then the New American Encyclopedia furnishes us with the testimony of a very able English author of the last century (De Quincy), who concurs with all the writers cited above. “Mr. De Quincy (it says) identified the Essenes as being the early Christians; i.e., the early Christians were known as Essenes. Such testimony, coming from such a source, is entitled to much weight.” (vol. i.p. 157.) And to the same effect is the testimony of Bishop Marsh, who admits that our Gospels were drawn from those of the Essenes. (See his edition of Michaelis’ translation of the New Testament.)
Thus far historical writers. We will now lay before the reader some historical facts, fraught with unanswerable logical potency, and pointing to the same conclusion. It is a fact, and one of deep logical import, and tending to correlate the conclusion of some of the writers cited above, who tell us the Christian Gospels were first composed by the Essenes; that the language in which those Gospels were originally written was Greek, the language in which the Alexandrian Essenes always wrote, while the evangelical writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, being illiterate fishermen, could have had no knowledge of any but the Jewish, their own mother-tongue, — at least it is susceptible of satisfactory proof that they never wrote in any other language. Hence the conclusion is irresistible that they were not the original authors of the Gospels.
The works of several authors are now lying at our elbow, who express the conviction unequivocally that the Gospels were copied, if not translated, from older writings. Mr. Le Clere, one of the ablest writers of his time, maintained this position, and did it ably. Another writer, a Mr. Hatfield, was awarded a prize in 1793, by the theological faculty of Gottingen, for an essay, in which the position was ably argued that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not the authors of the books which bear their names, but were mere copyists. Dr. Lessing and others concur with him in this conclusion. A circumstance confirming this verdict is found in the fact that the word church occurs in our Gospels, which were written before such an institution was established by those who were then called Christians.
“Go tell it to the church” (Matt. xviii. 17) was uttered before any steps had been taken by the then representatives of the Christian faith to organize such a body — an evidence this, that he alluded to the church of the Essenes, as there were no other churches in existence at the time; which leaves the inference patent and irresistible that he and his disciples were Essenes, perhaps then under the changed name of Christians. Centuries prior to that era the Essenes had not only churches, but their whole ecclesiastical nomenclature of bishops, deacons, elders, priests, disciples, scriptures, gospels, epistles, psalms, hymns, mystery, allegory, &c. If Christianity was reestablished in the days of Christ and his apostles, they had nothing to originate, either with respect to doctrines, precepts, church polity, or ecclesiastical terms — all being established for them centuries before that era. With these facts in view, it seems impossible that the two religious orders — Essenes and Christians — could have been in existence at the same time as separate institutions. The former must have ended when the latter commenced.
Josephus says, “the Essenes were scattered far and wide, and were in every city,” being quite numerous in Judea in his time. But he makes no reference to any sect or religious order by the title of Christian — strong inferential evidence, upon sound priori reasoning, that Christianity as yet was sailing under another name. Josephus must have known and named the fact, had there been a Christian sect or disciple there bearing that name. Impossible otherwise. We are then (upon the logical force of these and many other facts) driven to the conclusion that Christianity began when Essenism ended, and the change was only in name. I challenge the whole Christian world to find the historical proof that Christianity commenced one hour before the termination of Essenism, or of Essenism over-lapping the Christian religion so far as to survive one day beyond or after its birth. I will confront them with the logic of dates, and defy them to find any proof except their own unauthorized, unauthenticated, and fictitious chronology, that a Christian was ever known in any country by that name prior to the time of Tacitus, 104 A.D., who is the first of the three hundred writers of that era that makes any mention of Christianity, Christ, or a Christian. This was long after Josephus’ time, which accounts most satisfactory for his omitting any allusion to Christ or Christianity. That religion had not yet dropped the name of Essenism and adopted that of Christianity.
Now, hard indeed must distorted reason fight the ramparts of logic and history to resist the conviction, in view of the foregoing facts, that Christianity is simply an outcropping of Essenism, either direct or through Buddhism. And even if it were possible to prove that the two religions never became welded together, yet it is not possible to disprove the striking identity of their doctrines, and the spirit of their precepts, and the practical lives of their disciples. And this identity, coupled with the fact that Essenism is the older system, is of itself most superlatively fatal to all pretension or claim to originality for the doctrines of the Christian faith.
It is a matter of no importance whether Christianity was originally known by another name, so long as it can be shown that its doctrines had all been preached and proclaimed to the world centuries prior to the date assigned for its origin. And this is proved by the long list of parallellisms presented in the incipient pages of this chapter. And this proof explodes the pretensions of Christianity to an “original divine revelation,” and brings it down to a level with pagan orientalism. And the fact that it sprang up in a country where its doctrine had long been taught by pagans and orientalists, must produce the conviction, deep and indelible, in all unbiased minds, that orientalism was the mother and heathenism the father of the Christian religion, even in the absence of any other proof. In fact, no other proof can be needed.
And what are the arguments, it may be well here to inquire, with which orthodox Christians attempt to meet, combat, and vanquish the overwhelming mass of historical facts and historical testimonies we have presented in preceding pages, tending to prove and demonstrate the oriental origin of their religion and its identity with Essenism? Their whole argument is comprised in the naked postulate of the Rev. Mr. Paideaux, D.D., that “the Essenes did not believe in the resurrection of the physical body (but believed in a spiritual resurrection), and omit from their creed the Trinity and Incarnation doctrine, and therefore they could not have been the originators of the Christian religion;” but this argument is as easily demolished as a cobweb, as the following facts will prove: —
- We have but a fragment of the Essenian religion, — but one end of their creed, — mere scraps furnished us by Philo, Josephus, and Pliny. We have none of their sacred books apart from the Christian New Testament.
- They had secret books, as we have shown, in which doctrines were taught which they regarded as too sacred to be thrown before the Public, as “pearls before swine.” And no doctrines were regarded as more sacred or secret in that age than the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation. Christ’s injunction, “See thou tell no man,” was probably their motto, which prevented the publicity of a portion of their doctrines. And as their sacred books, containing their doctrines, perished with the extinction of the sect (except those now found in the Christian New Testament), a full knowledge of their doctrines, therefore, never reached the public mind. All religious sects had secret doctrines, designated as “Mysteries of Godliness,” including the principal Jewish sects and the earliest Christian churches. It is, therefore, highly probable that if we were in possession of all their sacred books, we would be in possession of the proof that they believed and taught in their monasteries the doctrines above named. But we are not left to mere inference that the Essenes’ creed did include the doctrines of the Trinity and the Divine Incarnation. We find skeletons of these doctrines scattered along the line of their history. Philo himself, an Essene teacher, most distinctly teaches the doctrine of “the Incarnation of the Divine Word or Logos.” And “Son of God,” “Mediator,” “Intercessor,” and “Messiah,” were familiar words with him. The idea often reappears in his writings, that the “Word could become flesh;” that the Son of God could appear as a personality, and return to the bosom of the Father. Moreover, one writer informs us that the Essenes celebrated the birth and death of a Divine Savior as a “Mystery of Godliness.” And they claimed in their earlier history to be “forerunners of the Messiah” — a claim which would soon bring a Messiah before the world, that is, lead them to deify and worship some great man as “The Messiah.”
As for the doctrine of the Trinity, we have the authority of Eusebius that they taught this doctrine too. So that it is not true that they did not recognize these two prime articles of the Christian faith, the Incarnation and Trinity doctrines. Some modern Christians assert that the Essenes not only omitted to teach these doctrines, but that, on the other hand, they taught other doctrines not taught in the Christian New Testament. This is not improbable. For the Christian religion has been characterized by frequent changes in its doctrines in every stage of its practical history, as was also the Jewish religion which preceded it, and from which it emanated. Judaism is a perpetual series of changes. It changed even the name of its God from Elohim to Jehovah. Its leader and founder Abram was changed to Abraham, and his grandson and successor from Jacob to Israel. And we have the works of many Christian writers in our possession who prove by their own bible that the Jews made many changes in their religious polity and religions doctrines. This is more especially observable when they came in contact with nations teaching a different religion. Their whole history shows they were prone to imitate, and borrow, and always did borrow on such occasions, and engraft the new doctrines thus obtained into their own creed, and thus effected important changes in their religion. We have the authority of Dr. Campbell for saying the Jews never believed and taught the doctrine of future punishment (and other doctrines that might be named) till after they were brought in contact with Persians in Babylon who had long taught these doctrines. (See Dissertation VI.) And Dr. Enfield declares their theological opinions underwent thorough changes during this period of seventy years’ captivity. Even their national title was changed at one period from Israelites to Jews. With all these changes of names, titles, and doctrines in view, it is not incredible that one of the Jewish sects should change its name from Essenes to Christians, and with this change modify some of the doctrines. And more especially as their title, according to Dr. Ginsburg, had been changed before from Chassidim to Essenes. And Philo at one period calls them Therapeuts, while Eusebins says the Therapents were Christians. Put this and that together, and the question is forever settled.
Now, with all this overwhelming mass of historical evidence before us, “piled mountain high,” tending to prove the truth of the proposition that Christianity is the offspring and outgrowth of ancient Judean Essenism, we feel certain that no sophistry, from interested charlatans or stereotyped creed worshipers, can stave off or obliterate the conviction in unprejudiced minds, that the proposition is most amply proven.
We will now collate Christianity with another ancient religions system, which we are certain it will not be disputed, after the comparison is critically examined, contains the sum total of the doctrines and teachings of Christianity in all their details.