This is a total shot in the dark, but it seems coincidental to me that we have a group of heretics closely related to the Tzedukim, called Baitusim who are never mentioned in the historical works of that time period like Josephus.

We also have another mysterious group, the Essenes, again closely related to Sadducees, mentioned by, but never positively identified by historians. Yet, there seems to be no mention of them in Chazzal.

So, has it ever been suggested, and/or is there any proof, that these people are one and the same?

There is of course another option. If there is proof against this idea, you can answer the question that way.

  • who are the essenes in Hebrew
    – sam
    Jun 16, 2015 at 3:40
  • Chazal don't really define the difference between Tzedukim and Baysusim so it's hard to tell.
    – HaLeiVi
    Jun 16, 2015 at 4:12
  • 2
    @sam That's part of the question. Josephus mentions Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes. Chazal mention Perushim, Tzadokim and Baitusim. Do those categories match up, or not?
    – Double AA
    Jun 16, 2015 at 13:33
  • @sam I forgot exactly which one (Vermes' edition, maybe?), but one of my books on the DSS said that their name for themselves was "HaYachad" based on its usage in some of their documents. One of them, the "Community Rule" (as named by some scholars), is called "Serech ha-Yachad" in Hebrew.
    – Gary
    Jun 20, 2015 at 2:23

2 Answers 2


Yes, it has been suggested that the Essenes and the Baitusim (Boethusians) are one and the same sect. Evidence has been advanced, much of it on the assumption (a very big assumption) that the Essenes are the same as the Qumran sect. Here is a paper by Zachi Dvira on the Baitusim, and on pp. 42-43, he provides a good summary of the attempts to identify them with the Essenes. I further summarize as follows:

The first such attempt was by R. Azariah de Rossi and was based essentially on (1) the fact that the Talmud never claims that Baitusim denied the concept of an afterlife like the Saducees (which would have exluded them from being Josephus' Essenes), and (2) the similarity between the names "ביתוסים" and "איסיים" to the extent that that former could have derived from "בית איסיאי" or something similar.

Skip ahead a few centuries and we find several scholars following R. Azariah's lead (see Dvira's paper for references). Some base their identification of Baitusim with Essenes on R. Azarah's reason #2, providing a more detailed analysis of the connection between "ביתוסים" and "בית איסי" (does איסי = יוסי?) Others find similarities between what we know about the beliefs of the Baitusim and what we find about the beliefs of the Qumran sect (given that Qumran = Essene) or similarities between their interpretations of certain halachot.

Professor Adiel Schremer published a paper (available here) arguing against this linguistic association between "ביתוסים" and "איסיים", pointing out several difficulties of the above-suggested derivation; additionally, we only know the Greek name "Essene", but not what the Hebrew form of the name was.

Professor Moshe David Herr also argued against this identification, identifying differences in the known practices and beliefs of the Baitusim and the Essenes and Qumran sect, even though others had pointed out some similarities. Dvira in his paper also provides some fundamental differences between these groups and concludes that no further attention should be given to this suggestion that Baitusim were Essenes.

  • Very nice. Ty! And just a day after I found the Sdei Chemed referring to him as HaRav Azariah. Good timing:)
    – user6591
    Jun 16, 2015 at 19:30

Professor Lawrence Schiffman argues in this presentation to University of California (starting from 50:40 and more at the hour mark, as well as later in more detail) that some argue that the Essenes were not the Qumran sect, which would make them the early forerunners of the tzedukim (of which the Qumran sect was). However, Professor Schiffman rejects this notion as Pliny the Elder incorrectly identified the essence to have lived "above Ein Geddi". Thus, the true identification of the Essenes remains a mystery.

  • Not sure if this qualifies as an answer or not, but thanks for the info:)
    – user6591
    Jun 16, 2015 at 20:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .