midterm - Sean Evans June 9 2007 Religion 204 Midterm 1...

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Sean Evans June 9, 2007 Religion 204 – Midterm 1) With its rich history in the Middle East, Judaism has been a prominent religion for many centuries. Many practitioners of this faith follow the ways of this religion in slightly different manners. In fact, numerous sects popped up during the Second Temple period in Israel. Among these were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. The Pharisees were a group of lower-class laity who were concerned with getting political power while not sacrificing the support of the general public. The Sadducees were an aristocratic group of priests who were despised by the common people. The Essenes were a third sect in ancient Jewish culture. This group is often viewed as both the strictest and the most influential unit in Jewish history. Living in small monastic communities, the Essenes were common in every town in present-day Israel. Although, the Essenes may have kept to themselves, they are true followers of Judaism and a people that gave the hope for a more faithful chosen people to those who watched their works. As stated above, the Essenes were total followers of the ancient law. This group of men took the Mosaic Covenant very seriously. In fact those involved within the sect had to make many oaths involving this covenant. In particular one had to swear that, “he will venerate the divine; he will harm no one; he will forever love the truth and prosecute liars; that he will guard his hand from theft and keep his soul pure of any unholy gain” (War 2.139-141). These rules are nearly word-for-word with what Moses had written as the 10 Commandments. Namely, “I am the Lord your God…you shall have no gods before me. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:2, 13-16). The similarity
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between the oath of the Essenes and the Commandments shows that Essenes believed strongly in them. Also, in accordance with the Mosaic Covenant, these men took the Sabbath very seriously. According to Josephus’ Jewish War , “they are the most preeminent among all the Jews. For not only do they prepare food on the previous day, so as not to start a fire upon that day, but they do not even risk moving a vessel or retiring to defecate” (War 2.147). Because of their strict belief in Mosaic Law, the Essenes pay a special reverence to the lawgiver, Moses. According to Josephus, they consider a blasphemy against Moses as an extreme act; and the punishment is death (War 2.145). The Essenes viewed a word against Moses as an extreme offense; to them it was nearly as severe as blaspheming God. The Essenes took the covenant God made with Moses as a strict contract. In addition to the Mosaic Covenant, these men also followed the purity code
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midterm - Sean Evans June 9 2007 Religion 204 Midterm 1...

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