Did the Essenes Write the Dead Sea Scrolls?
Don’t Rely on Josephus
The vast majority of Dead Sea Scroll scholars are committed to the so-called Essene hypothesis—the belief that the scrolls (or at least those scrolls regarded as “sectarian”) were written by the Essenes, an exotic Jewish movement described at some length by the ancient Jewish historian Josephus.
The Essene hypothesis is based primarily on the writings of Josephus. It is the supposed similarities between Josephus’s description of the Essenes and what we find in the scrolls that leads to the supposedly ineluctable conclusion.1
The argument was powerfully put by one of the most influential scroll scholars, Yigael Yadin, more than 50 years ago: