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Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins
New Light on Ancient Texts and Communities

(Baylor University Press, 2018)


The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves near Qumran in 1947 sparked near endless speculation about the possible connections between the Essenes-purportedly the inhabitants of the settlement-and the birth, nature, and growth of early Christianity. Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins sheds new light on this old question by reexamining the complex relationships among Qumran, the historical Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins within first-century Palestinian Judaism. 


Author Simon J. Joseph's careful examination of a number of distinctive passages in the Jesus tradition in light of Qumran-Essene texts focuses on major points of contact between the Qumran-Essene community and early Christianity in four areas of belief and practice: covenant identity, messianism, eschatology, and halakhah (legal interpretation), placing the weight of his argument for continuity and discontinuity on the halakhic topics of divorce, Sabbath, sacrifice, celibacy, and violence. 


Joseph focuses on the historical, cultural, chronological, and theological correspondences as convergence. This not only illuminates the historical Jesus' teachings as distinctive, developing and extending earlier Jewish ethical and halakhic thought, it also clarifies the emergence of early Christianity in relationship to Palestinian Essenism. By bringing this holistic analysis of the evidence to bear, Joseph adds a powerful and insightful voice to the decades-long debate surrounding the Essenes and Christianity

"The Essenes - variously defined - have been invoked to understand Jesus and the rise of Christianity for centuries. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, an invaluable resource for study became available, but claims in regard to Jesus' relationship to the community at Qumran have continued to burgeon uncritically. Simon Joseph's skillful treatment puts the systematic comparison of Jesus and the Scrolls on a sound and productive footing. The result is a sensible evaluation of Jesus in relation to those behind the production of the Dead Sea Scrolls, comparatively assessing teaching in regard to divorce, celibacy, violence, Sabbath, and sacrifice."

Bruce Chilton

Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion, Bard College

"Simon Joseph's knowledge of the extensive scholarly literature about the Qumran library is impressive even for a specialist in the field. I heartily recommend Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins to anyone who seeks to master this highly important area of New Testament study."

James A. Sanders

Professor Emeritus, Claremont School of Theology

and Claremont Graduate University

"From the outset the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948 has led to a variety of hypotheses about the possible relationship of the Essenes, a Jewish sect that populated Qumran, the site where the scrolls were found, to Jesus and early Christianity. In this marvelous work Simon Joseph . . . offers a detailed, well-researched, and eminently balanced assessment of this intriguing potential relationship."

Donald Senior

The Bible Today

"Joseph ... displays an impressive knowledge of the secondary literature ... [and] argues here with impressive detail for halakhic intersections whereby the DSS may throw light on the historical Jesus ... Simon Joseph's book is a good place to get up to date on the debates alluded to in the title. It is well written and solidly researched and deserves to have a voice in the continuing discussion."

Michael O. Wise

The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"This important volume is Joseph's fourth major study in his extensive research on the relationship of early Judaism and nascent Christianity ... Joseph's work is extremely well researched and comprehensively referenced ... His strategy of comparing Jesus's halakah with that of the Essenes is highly successful, with his tightly argued analysis not only elucidating the relevant texts but also clarifying much about the Jesus of history, the Essenes, and early Christianity."

Mary J. Marshall

Review of Biblical Literature

"The author is a lucid and expert guide through debated issues, having written extensively already in the area ... the book as a whole is judicious, clearly argued and well documented."

David Wenham

Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"Since his first publications, Joseph has consistently advanced New Testament studies by merging the field's cutting-edge scholarship (especially pertaining to Q and the historical Jesus) with the latest advances in the study of late second temple Judaism in a methodologically responsible framework. The present monograph, the author's fourth one overall, marks the culmination of all that work .. and it does so with academic rigor, nuance, and confidence befitting one of the field's leading scholars ... The monograph is expertly written, persuasively argued, and logically organized ... Joseph's best work yet, an important contribution to the field, and required reading for anyone studying the New Testament in its Jewish environment."

Olegs Andrejevs

Religious Studies Review

"Informed, intelligible, and compelling ... a worthy contribution to discussions about the origins of Christianity. It displays a remarkable breadth of scholarship and a mind that has deeply reflected on a great number of issues. Furthermore, this book's copious footnotes make it an excellent guide for further research."

Michael Flowers

Revue de Qumran

"This book gives a good idea of the contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the study of the Jesus of history and the Gospels."

Émile Puech

Revue Biblique


"Makes a strong case that Jesus . . . had a 'relationship' with Essene ideology and halakhah. The book as a whole provides many insightful analyses of Jesus's engagement with different groups as well as appropriate analyses of Qumran texts . . . the study makes for a stimulating dialogue partner for historical Jesus scholars."

Cecilia Wassén

Dead Sea Discoveries

Jesus and the Temple
The Crucifixion in its Jewish Context

(SNTS MS 165; Cambridge University Press, 2016)


Jesus and the Temple is a critical investigation into the cultural, political, economic, and religious conflicts that led to Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution. Most Jesus specialists agree that the Temple incident led to Jesus’ execution, but what few seem to agree on is why Jesus was in conflict with the Temple. There is a growing tendency in contemporary scholarship to assume that Jesus and the earliest Christians had an almost uniformly positive view of the Temple’s sacrificial system. This approach may correct supersessionist views of sacrifice, but it also tends to downplay the ambiguous, inconsistent, and contradictory views on sacrifice in the New Testament. Jesus and the Temple re-examines the complex views of the Temple in the New Testament and contemporary Jesus Research. 

"Joseph presents a radical Jesus, who had a more wide-ranging programme of reforming Jewish religion than simply that of calling people back to wholehearted obedience. The ideas presented in this study are likely to generate significant disucssion. Joseph presents a new way of understanding Jesus within Judaism, but which also means the divergence from normative Judaism found in early Christianity in fact is closely aligned with Jesus' own critique of the parent religion."

Paul Foster

The Expository Times

"There is much to be commended in this book. Jesus and the Temple is a very readable and well-researched investigation into the circumstances of Jesus's death. The argument is easy to follow, and Joseph's analysis of both the primary and secondary literature is salutary. Even better, Joseph produces a consistent argument . . . an engaging read and one full of tantalizing possibilities. Joseph's arguments deserve to be taken seriously by anyone interested in the study of the historical Jesus and the question of why he died."

Timothy Wardle

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Joseph demonstrates a remarkable knowledge of the scholarly material, and the erudition on display means that his study will undoubtedly serve as a core resource for all subsequent work on sacrificial imagery in the NT."

Grant Macaskill

Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"Joseph argues an intriguing and innovative thesis . . . Joseph's thesis is cogently argued throughout . . . Joseph has performed a helpful service to scholarship in making this innovative and thoughtful proposal. Many will benefit from critically engaging with this volume."

David W. Chapman

Journal of Theological Studies

"Joseph's contribution on sacrifice and the different Jewish/Jewish-Christian positions in the first century is illuminating ... This provoking and thorough study contributes greatly to studies on the historical Jesus."

Ruben van Wingerden

JNTT Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion

"An insightful and original study about the historical context of Jesus' death . . . comprehensive and convincing . . . an excellent scholarly work on the historical Jesus and an insightful resource for both undergraduate and graduate courses on the topic."

Yongbom Lee

Horizons: The Journal of the College Theology Society 

The Nonviolent Messiah: 
Jesus, Q, and the Enochic Tradition

(Fortress Press, 2014) 


In this startling new understanding of the Son of Man, Joseph takes up questions of Jesus of Nazareth's relationship to the violence of revolutionary militancy and apocalyptic fantasy alike. When scholars have set Jesus against various conceptions of the "messiah" and other redemptive figures in Early Jewish expectation, those questions have been bound up with the problem of violence, whether the political violence of a militant messiah or the divine violence carried out by a heavenly or angelic figure. Missing from those discussions, Simon J. Joseph contends, are the unique conceptions of an Adamic redeemer figure in the Enochic material - conceptions that informed the Q tradition and, he argues, Jesus' own self-understanding. 




“Simon’s book argues—powerfully and persuasively—that first common-era century Judaism evoked both a violent and a non-violent Messianic option. Furthermore,  that Jesus deliberately and self-consciously chose that latter alternative even unto martyrdom. After this book’s challenge, the debate is no longer the Jesus of History or the Christ of Faith. It is now whether, be it as Jesus in academy or Christ in church, that figure is one of violent or non-violent resistance to inequality, injustice, and oppression.”

John Dominic Crossan

Emeritus Professor, DePaul University



"The Nonviolent Messiah offers a new understanding of the term "messiah," a remarkable feat in itself. The book should be required reading for all serious students of the historical Jesus."

James A. Sanders 

Claremont School of Theology

Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center



"an all too rare attempt to integrate scholarship on Second Temple Judaism with the study of the historical Jesus."

John J. Collins 

Yale Divinity School



"Simon Joseph offers us the finest book to date on the topic of Jesus and nonviolence. Joseph's findings will incite controversy, but this book is a discerning and compelling look at Jesus' earliest socio-political message." 

Anthony Le Donne

Author of The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David and The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals



"Simon Joseph provides a helpful entry into understanding the peaceable way of Jesus . . . This massively researched and clearly written study makes Jesus's message of peace available in fresh and helpful ways." 

Ted Grimsrud

Eastern Mennonite University 



"In his bold new book, Simon Joseph confirms what many have suspected for some time: Jesus was completely, consistently, and incontrovertibly nonviolent. Joseph serves as a reliable guide through a plethora of ancient sources and the tangle of modern scholarship to get us as close as possible to the earliest Jesus traditions. His book is meticulously researched and graciously argued. From this point forward, nobody can suggest Jesus was violent without first contending with the very formidable evidence Joseph has mounted to the contrary. A much needed book!"

Eric A. Seibert 

Messiah College 


"an ambitious contribution to historical Jesus studies, particularly Jesus' non-violence, with which future scholarship must reckon . . . The breadth of material that Joseph addresses in his study of Jesus as a non-violent messiah is to be commended . . . He has rightly noted the importance of Urzeit und Endzeit in messianic expectations and challenges current scholarship to consider that the historical Jesus is non-violent, not 'apocalyptic', and yet is still part of early Jewish messianic traditions."

Benjamin E. Reynolds

Journal of Theological Studies



"This wide-ranging investigation will reward Jesus, Q and Second Temple scholars alike . . . Joseph's highlighting of the contribution of the humanity-unifying eschatology of the Animal Apocalypse and other Adam Christologies was very valuable. That these seemed to provide a distinctive ingredient to an early Christian synthesis visible in Paul and Q was particularly illuminating."

John R.L. Moxon

Journal for the Study of the New Testament



"This is a mature and well-researched work that would be useful for doctoral seminars or higher-level courses on the Synoptic Gospels . . . Without apparent bias, J. argues for a nuanced reflection on these topics . . . Altogether an intriguing book."

Stephen Finlan

Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"Joseph's project is without question highly motivated and well-researched . . . Joseph's overall thesis does provide an intriguing and at times compelling argument that ventures upon fairly new territory in the study of the historical Jesus. At a minimum, Joseph's insistence that the nonviolence of Jesus has not received a fair shake in academic dialogue certainly hits the mark and deserves further attention . . . a well-thought and perspicacious work that pushes the boundaries on the topic of Jesus' messianic identity."

Blake Jurgens

Review of Biblical Literature

"a provocative and important contribution to scholarship on the historical Jesus and Christian origins."

Karina Martin Hogan

Religious Studies Review

Jesus, Q, and the Dead Sea Scrolls

(Mohr Siebeck, 2012)


Jesus, Q, and the Dead Sea Scrolls establishes a new working model for understanding the Jewish ethnicity, community, provenance, and composition of Q – the earliest and most reliable source for the Palestinian Jewish Jesus movement. A critical comparison of Q and the Dead Sea Scrolls, this study challenges the assumption that Q represents a non-messianic and non-apocalyptic Galilean branch of the early Jesus movement and provides a new way of understanding the intimate relationship between Early Judaism and Christianity.



“A new stage in the academic study of first century Judaism and Christianity.”

James M. Robinson

Claremont Graduate University

Institute of Antiquity and Christianity



“Prof. Simon Joseph’s trenchant probe into the origins and development of Q has convincingly shown that Q derived from a Judaean Jesus movement . . . (and) that the supposed Q document of the early Jesus movement was influenced by “Essene” teaching and thought.”

James A. Sanders

Claremont School of Theology

Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center



"An informed, well-argued, methodologically sophisticated, and up-to-date contribution to the study of earliest Jewish Christianity . . . a thoroughly enjoyable work which rightly questions some common assumptions about Q and Galilee and opens up some new lines of research, among them the nature of Q's christology.." 

Dale C. Allison Jr. 

Princeton Theological Seminary



"Simon Joseph's learned study brings a much needed correction to 'mainstream' Q scholarship . . . an important and welcome contribution to Jesus research." 

Craig A. Evans,

Acadia Divinity College



"Thoughtful, daring, and incisive . . . a creative and significant service to the discipline."

Bruce D. Chilton
Bard College



“an interesting study . . . Joseph certainly makes a good case for a Judean provenance.”

Christopher M. Tuckett

University of Oxford



“In seven densely packed chapters reflecting mountains of research in multiple areas of biblical scholarship, J. advocates a new perspective and new models of inquiry in which Q, the historical Jesus, and important strains of the early Jesus tradition are understood in terms of specifically Judean forms of Judaism influenced by Essene ideas, practices, and exegetical strategies . . . an impressive piece of scholarship with which all Q scholars and students of Christian beginnings should become familiar. The extensive bibliography alone is worth the price of admission.”

Barry Crawford, Washburn University

Catholic Biblical Quarterly



“This volume constitutes an important contribution to Q scholarship, confirming that Q’s origins lie at a time and a place in which the Jesus movement, or a branch of it at any rate, has not fully differentiated itself from the Palestinian Jewish milieu. Joseph’s work will move research in this direction forward in a number of important respects.” 

Alan Kirk, James Madison University 

Journal of Theological Studies 



“Joseph's claims are disciplined and carefully nuanced . . . the volume deserves a careful reading from scholars in the field, and it should take its place as one of the leading theories for the origins of Q."

Thomas E. Phillips, Claremont School of Theology

Religious Studies Review



“This work is thoroughly researched and copiously annotated . . . a very welcome contribution to scholarship on John the Baptist, the Jesus movement, Q and Essenism."

Nicholas H. Taylor

Journal for the Study of the New Testament

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