etymology of "Essenes"

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sat Oct 6 14:37:15 UTC 2012

That some of the Qumran scrolls are Essene may be shown by the origin of the name Essene. There is no consensus about Essene etymology. More than 60 different proposals have been published, ranging from guesses in Akkadian to Persian Avestan. One self-identification found in the scrolls was proposed in 1532 and in each following century before the Qumran discoveries. The medieval book Yosippon had replaced Essenes with Hasidim (which can’t be the source), following rabbinic disinclination to use the name Essenes (not allowing that Essenes were the observers of Torah), and the modern Hebrew Issim is merely a modern retroversion from the Greek.
In 1532 Ph. Melanchthon wrote “Essei / das ist / Operarii / vom wort Assa / das ist wircken.”
1550 “…to declare the straitnesse and severitie of lyfe with the dede, and would be called
Essey, that is workers or doers, for Assa, whence the name commeth, sygnifieth to worke…”
1557 David Chytraeus [Kochhafe], Onomasticon. ESSENI seu Essei, id est, operarii.
1559 M. Flacius Illyricus et al. Ecclesiastica Hist., Magdeburg Centuries. Basel.
[1573-75 Azariah dei Rossi. Me'or Enayim. Mantua. Aramaic proposal]
[1583 J. Scaliger, De Emendatione Temporum. on hallucination proposals]
[1605 Scaliger, Elenchus Trihaeresii. different view]
1619 Sixtinus Amama ed. De Sectis Iudaicis…, Arnheim.
1674 J. Lightfoot, Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae, on Lk. xv, 7.
1680 Johann H. Willemer. Dissertatio…Essenis….
1703 J. Triglandius ed., Trium Scriptorum…Judaeorum Sectis…Delft. 107: Essenes as factores legis, doers of the law.
1743-4 J.C. Happach. De Essaeorum Nomine. Coburg.
1745 Johann Ulrich Tresenreuter
1839 Isaak Jost, Die Essaer…, Israelitische Annalen 19, 145-7.
1858 S. Cohn; David Oppenheim, MGWJ 7, 270-1; 272-3.
1862 L. Landsberg, Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthum 26/33, 459.
1864 C. D. Ginsburg, The Essenes
1875 J. Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians…appx.
1881 A. B. Gottlober, …B$M KT H(SS(N(R )W (SS((R HaBoker Or [Warsaw] 170-1.
1881 Rev. Et. J. 3, 295.
1894 Kruger, Theologische Quartalschrift 76 [&1887, 69]
1938 H.M.J. Loewe in Encyclopedia Britannica (14th ed.) 718. (includes ‘asah as a possible etymology, soon before the Qumran discoveries).
Then in Qumran pesharim appeared the self-designation, ‘osey hatorah.

Stephen Goranson
further detail in:

The American Dialect Society -

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