The Book of Acts describes the first-century Jewish Christ-followers in a way unexpected to most modern believers. They are described in terms reminiscent of Utopian society, where believers held all things in common and none had need (Acts 2:42-45). This was the ultimate expression of the Jewish concept of Ahavat Yisrael – the Love of Israel held among the Jewish followers of Jesus in the first century.

But how did this practice begin? In other words, based on what did they conduct this communal lifestyle in Christ Jesus? The Torah, with all its care for the poor and needy (Lev.23:22), does not ever talk about shared property. In fact it emphasizes God-given right to private property (Ex. 20:17)! Neither prophets nor Yeshua himself taught that all the faithful must abandon everything they ever owned. Yet these believers unapologetically lived the way they did.

Our best available reconstruction links this group of Christ-followers with Essene communities that – according to Josephus Flavius – practiced just this kind of lifestyle. In describing them, the Jewish historian writes: “…one cannot find a person among them who has more in terms of possessions… those coming into the community must yield up their funds to the order …assets of each one have been mixed in together, as if they were brothers, to create one fund for all.” (Wars, II, 8, 3).

If this was a community rooted in the Essene movement that now allied itself with the Messiah Jesus, then their continuation of this centuries-long communal practice would make perfect sense.

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73 COMMENTS

  1. A very likely but not a very popular reason would be their belief in the coming Messiah when “all things will be made new”. They were very aware of, and it was growing in importance to them as they realized that this would be the “at that time’ of prophesy. The old things would pass away, there would be a “new covenant” and the “old things will not be remembered”. God bless your studies.

  2. The “all things common” must be tied to the aftermath of Pentecost. Thousands were converted who had come from 16 different nations for this special occasion. It is only natural that some stayed in Jerusalem for a time to be taught and grounded in their new faith. in time they would have maxed out their credit cards and spent all their money, with no funds to buy food or pay the rent at their inns, so the Christian converts that lived in Jerusalem took matters in hand and did what they could to provide the needs for their brethren in Christ.

    • Jews were not Christian converts .This is false theology .The Jews were then as many are today Messianic Believers in Y’Shua .Constantine started the Christian movement in 313 CE /AD .All the Jews gathered together together in Yerushalayim for the Day of Shavu’ot /Pentecost came from different regions when the Ruach HaKodesh /Holy Spirit was poured out on them .Kefa /Peter and Sha’ul /Paul began reaching out to the gentiles in Acts 10 and on .When Constantine rose to power he persecuted the Jews .

      • Based on all my research…I totally agree with you! I don’t accept this name Christianity nor Christians. I am a daughter of the Most High God; a disciple of Yeshua not another manmade religion of Christianity. I know many will shirk at this but do your research with Holy Ruach and ask to be shown the truth!

        • AMEN SISTER! I have a difficult time saying that I am “Christian” as I do not follow any doctrine of today’s church’s. I cannot identify with what is AND isn’t being taught. Until I discovered the Messianic ideas, I thought I was alone in my study. I was leaning on Ruach Hako’desh for understanding and learning. Hashem is my God and Yeshua is my Moshiach. Many would say that the sharing within the community that way is nothing but Socialism. Yes, it kind of is. But not in the way the world sees Socialism. It is God’s way.

          • The “christian” church today has nothing to do with being a Christian, or Christ like or follower of Christ. The “christian” church today – really is about power and control. So being a christian – a follower of Jesus, using his life as the key to the unlocking of scripture is why I can call myself a christian. I do understand the negative associated with this term and respect all that disagree, or agree.

      • So Jo Ann what you are disputing here is the name “Christians”?maybe “Believers” should have been used instead as that would describe all believers never mind the nationality. Believers even today still hang on to the nationality aspects of their lives.

        Yet Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
        Nationality is connected to the flesh, so I guess we should hang on to it for it matters to the world who we are 😋

        • What Sha’ul /Paul is saying is this :” You Messianic Jews should not separate yourselves from us Gentiles Christians by having Messianic synagogues ! Don’t you know that in Messiah there is neither Jew nor Greek ? So be like us ,give up your Jewish distinctives ,stop observing Torah and the Jewish Feasts ,put all that behind you ;and worship with us Gentile oriented congregations ,living our Gentile lifestyle .Such a conclusion defies both logic and the practice of the early believers .

        • Really, it’s just a matter of semantics… whether Christian, Messianic Jew (for converted Jews) or follower of Yeshua!

      • Please read Acts 11:26 where it is written: “And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

        So there is no reason to be ashamed of the name “Christian”, although it is common in modern times both from heathens as well as from messianic jews to demean that name, in view of alleged wrong doings of the churchorganisation, in later centuries

      • Hi Jo Ann They were called Christians long before Constantine. Even today there are many who do not follow Jesus yet claim to be Christians Too many do not listen that Our Father decides who at this time. The they are given to Jesus They are still spiritually blind.

      • JoAnn, dear, you need to do some Honest study about Constantine. He no more “started the Christian movement” than YOU started the United States! All the Edict of Milan (313) did was to make it legal to BE a Christian. Constantine was not baptized until his deathbed (337).

    • I agree. The practice of communal living came from the necessity of visitors in Jerusalem not from the Torah tradition or from the Essenes, although their practice may have suggested the solution to the problem of want for some and surplus for others.

    • They were all Jews who came from the surrounding nations up to Yerushalayim when the Ruach HaKodesh was poured out on them .Constantine began Christianity in 313 AD/CE and this is when he began to pass edicts /laws to forbid Jews to worship on Shabbat and this is when Jews were being burned alive and persecuted .Kefa /Peter and Sha’ul /Paul began reaching out to the Gentiles /Goyim in Acts 10 .The Messianic Congregations grew exponentially .Both Jews and Gentiles were being filled with the Ruach HaKodesh /Holy Spirit .

      • Jo Ann — You are right that the formal structure of what became the Christian Church was founded by Constantine. But surely you would agree that in the Apostles’ ministries the issue of “Jewishness” — i.e. the keeping of dietary and other cultural traditions — was declaimed as necessary.

  3. The way this makes sense to me is because of the hard times and dangers every believer faced on a daily basis. We are One Body in YESHUA. Each Body part functions according to its purpose, therefore each member of that body has to be functional to its calling! All assets given up at that time was to advance the KINGDOM of GOD. Followers of that day had their eyes on the ultimate Prize and they took ministry Work very serious bc they were a selfless people not one for personal gain. I believe it was very necessary especially because they had to depend on one another with of course YESHUA as their Center point!

  4. Jesus teachings and life style also must have profound influence on them. For instance, birds have nests and foxes have holes but the son of man has no where to put his head, or , put your earthly resources where moths cannot reach etc. seem to discourage property acquisition. Likewise are His teachings in giving to your neighbours whatsoever they ask of thee. A giver always make friends, infact trustworthy friends, which makes communal living easy.

    • This seems to me one of the very things that could have influenced the communal living of the 1st century Christians in Jerusalem: the teachings of The Lord Jesus portrayed in His lifestyle. This defined His attitude to wealth, money, pomp and glory. His followers in Jerusalem tried to live simply like He did; and to put into practice John 13: 34-25 “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” In real life, sharing is a powerful statement of love and care for those with whom we share.

      • Socialism as we now have has one big glaring flaw. The leader is always a man/government/religion which is doomed to failure. The leader in this case is Jesus. With Jesus as the leader a socialistic idea could work as we follow his command of loving one another.

  5. One teaching is that after they had been warned that armies would surround Jerusalem, and Jesus told them to flee the City and leave. So what good it property when you are fleeing military conquest? They knew they would be leaving soon. Either the kingdom coming or the military conquest.

    • Thomas, Jesus gave those prophetic words roughly forty years before they occurred. It wasn’t Jewish persecution or the threat of Roman destruction that encouraged communal giving. The early church in Jerusalem was inspired by God’s love, filled with his Holy Spirit, and proved to be evidence of the risen Christ that ruled their hearts and lives. Over time, the harsh reality of persecution drove the communal Christians to share the Word outside of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the world. Jesus is truly consistent: seek first the kingdom and all will be added unto you.

  6. Jesus told the rich man: sell all you have and come and follow Me. Jesus said, My sheep know My voice and they follow Me. The Lord emphasized, Seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you. To follow Jesus as Lord, He said, If a man will come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. Holy Spirit is our Comforter and Guide into all truth. If we live after the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus we will be set free.

    • It is the LOVE of money, that is the root of all evil..not money. This young ruler had all his stock of life in his riches, so Yeshua was testing him to see how much his confidence was in money. He did not ask anyone else to do that.

    • I think that Eric came closest to the reason. Jesus’ closest disciples left their homes, jobs, and everything else to follow Him. They brought little with them and all, therefore, were forced to share what they had with the community.

  7. If it was a community I true believers it would work for a while. However communism preaches this communal sharing but eventually everything ends up in the hands of the ruling minority and everyone else ends up with nothing and hungry. I wonder how long that communal sharing lasted. Nice pretty concept of communal sharing but it doesn’t work taking account human sinful nature. If I’m not mistaken I read somewhere in Acts or one f the epistles about some contention between different Christian groups where some were getting left out or put at the end of food distribution.

  8. It seems to me this decision was based upon the emergency situation that occurred as a result of huge number of new and needy converts all of whom were away from home with no way to provide for themselves and also motivated by the yearning to remain connected to their new “family”. Eager to return home. But eager to learn more of the savior. This was an exceptional time and challenge and not the norm unless a similar emergency should arise. Not impossible given end times challenges and persecution Fools have falsely viewed this as an endorsement of socialism.

  9. Quote: Dr. Eli
    “Neither prophets nor Yeshua himself taught that all the faithful must abandon everything they ever owned. Yet these believers unapologetically lived the way they did.”
    I respectfully disagree w/that Yashua never taught this based on these scriptures: Luke 18:22, Mathew 19:21, Mathew 6:18-21, Mathew 19:27-29.

    • Debbie, greetings. First of all disagreeing is good, respectfully is even better :-). But what I can see here is that you listed here references that do not in anyway argue against my point because remember my point is not that Jesus never taught that property can be given away (I read the same Bible like you so obviously I know what you know too) :-), but rather that Jesus (nor anyone before or after him in the Bible) never taught that giving away of all property is a standard for ALL the faithful. I trust this helps you. I think you should considering taking a course on Jewish Gospels where you will be able to clearly see that Essene ideas were very much present in the New Testament.

  10. Followers of Jesus Christ were not widely accepted even in their own families. So these early believers banned together out of necessity. I don’t believe that God ever wanted his people to live out of the world as an isolated group. We are to be in the world but not of the world. We are to be lights amidst darkness.

  11. These are all great comments. When I think of this I wonder if they were simply living out Shema. Loving the LORD with all their Heart, Soul and me’od which is commonly translated as might or strength but it literally means very or muchness. In the Stone Edition of the Chumash I own, me’od is translated as resources which makes complete sense to me. Could they have been loving Jesus with literally ALL of their muchness… resources… everything they owned?

  12. all things in common – the re-birthing of the modern nation of Israel follows a similar principle in the Kibbutz and the Moshav. Especially important in the early days, but still evident today.

    PS – love the Israel Bible Center – but have limited time to dedicate to another great project – but I see that Israel is becoming a “light unto the Nations” in so many ways…. You work is another ray of light….

  13. Jesus never is quoted criticizing the Essene. He did not follow all their teachings. The Last Supper was on the Essene day for Passover when their lambs were sacrificed. Suggestion is made that his brother James may have been Essene and influenced some to follow. Acts records a number of priests following Jesus. The core of the Essene were priests. James, Jesus were not of priestly family but Essene had non priest associates. I expect James got his designation as James the Just as a prominent Essene which allowed the 12 to accept him as the first “bishop”.

    • very possible, although we must always remember that when we hold a hammer in our hand after a while everything may begin to look like a nail :-). Just sayin…

    • Nineteen times (19 times) in the New Testament, Jesus said he was a Nazarene or Jesus of Nazareth. The Essene community was to the east of Nazareth. In Bible times, Nazareth was a community of 5,000 or more which was more populated than the Essenes. Nazarenes believed in marriage while Essenes did not, and the Nazarenes believed the spirit returned to God after death. The Essenes believed like the Pharasees that the body and spirit remained in the grave until the resurrection.

  14. I find Jefferson Tant’s explanation realistic. This was a temporary expedient for those still in JERUSALEM following Pentecost. Nowhere else in the New Testament do we read of Christians having ‘everything in common’. Paul says a lot about the collection taken up in Corinth for the saints in Jerusalem at the time of the great famine of AD43-AD48 (See II Corinthians Ch 8: – 9: ) and which Josephus tells us about, indicating that the Christians there were in possession of their own assets and could decide what each individually wished to give.

  15. I agree with Eric:. It was persecution that ended the communal living, not the cause of it. It is a life choice based on total faith, brotherly love and trusting submission. It was an “our-minded” not “my-minded” Christ-centered life. I lived such a life for many years until the spirit of greed, wanting more than the others, took hold of some causing others to fall, which led to persecution and the end of having all things common. I think it a grave error to equate communal living with communism.

  16. This same theme is picked up in 4:32ff and continues in chapter 5 with Ananias and Sapphira. Peter’s response to their dishonesty would seem instructive to our discussion: “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your won control?” The idea of Essene influence is very interesting. Whatever was happening here, Peter’s comments would seem to indicate that there was still private property ownership.

  17. When we look at the frequent collections Paul did for the Saints at Jerusalem, it seems to be clear that there was a poverty issue there. This is in sharp contrast to Acts 2 where everyone had plenty. It seems to me that they may have been overenthusiastic at selling their property or even livelihoods, possibly caused by their expectation of Christ to return very soon so that poverty could creep in later and caused them to overspend. However, they were still allowed to have own property/money and keep it for themselves. (Acts 5:4)

  18. It was probably for a church building fund, as they were unwelcome in the synagogue and Martha was getting tired of them messing up her place! 🙂

  19. In my opinion, the communal coming together was due to Jesus prediction that the end was neigh.
    Thus they gathered together and shared goods etc awaiting the end, as nothing was important besides the new life/era promised.
    Because nothing came of his prediction, a lot of explanations are made why it did not happen.

  20. It is vitally important to recognize the difference between the Biblical model of voluntary sharing found in the Acts 2 community and the mandated communism found in communist countries. Owning one’s own lands and entrepreneurial enterprises are both Biblical models.

    Three thousand Jews and God-fearing Gentiles responded to Peter’s preaching in Acts 3 and stayed to learn more about Yeshua. Many of these entrepreneurs rose to meet the need.

    Question: If these believers were all Essenes, why weren’t they clearly named? Every other group in the Bible was. Perhaps Essenes may have been part of the whole, but not all?

  21. In my opinion i see this discussion as the apex of our faith,we believers of the kingdom of God…Nothing could be greater than this. Oh love. Having all in common was their way of living, for a sincere demonstration of their profession and confession of the kingdom of God in which they were already in…the kingdom that Yeshua came to restore. See Beatitudes. Yes,perfect love…love your neighbor as yourself…esteem the other more highly than yourself. These are the rules of the kingdom. I guess this doctrine existed as long as the nicolaitism spirit was not within their boundaries. Hallelujah. I

  22. I like it just the way the Lord taught it that the extra one has & the lack of another. God bless us to bless people so it goes both ways that no one is in wanting. God’s advice is never rigid. It works whether communal or private depending on the time & circumstances. We can be sensible as God is. Praise to the Lord!

  23. Dr. Eli, the more I read your books an see your logical arguments about the Essenes the more I lead toward the Essenes having a greater influence on the early church than we want to admit! There are just too many similar attributes.

  24. Is it not so that all blessings come to us from the father and we All are stewads of what we are given? So would not the best act we could perform be to wisely and lovingly invest our riches in the meeting of others genuine need?? Blessings on you.

  25. There is one verse that Yeshua said “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) that may have helped bring this about. What better way to forsake all than to share all? Much love and blessings!

  26. This could have been another, and very important, expression of “countercultural” living. Wealth was THE differentiator in the Roman/Greek world. There’s a lot of evidence that equality and the nobility of poverty were the most noteworthy–and to political authorities–threatening part of this movement.

  27. I like to think of this page in apocalyptic and prophetic terms. Some early Christians clearly lived and worshipped communally as a prophetic declaration about the imminence of the kingdom of God. Two thousand years later, we still witness similar communities, and the imminence remains … come lord Jesus!

  28. Why did they do it? A love of the brethren if you read Acts. But the warning is not to emulate it as the Jerusalem Church became the poorest of churches and needed constant help financially and food wise from Asian Gentile churches via people like Paul.

  29. Historically, a very interesting idea. There are hints in the NT and in tradition, and other sources, of an Essene association to Jesus’ ministry. E.g., if the traditional site of the Last Supper is correct, it seems to have been in the Essene Quarter of Jerusalem.

  30. Compiling a national treasury is not a new idea. Peter also persuaded the apostles to pick Matthias to replace Judas. Yeshua had another one in mind and chose Shaul of Tarsus. Even with the Holy Spirit we have our own thoughts. Yeshua called money ‘unrighteous mammon.’ But i hear very many Christians rush in there and say, ‘Well money is neither good nor bad.’ As a medium of exchange set by men (I use the term genericaly here ladies) who if mostly human (of Flesh) have at least a wee bit of larceny in their hearts the evaluations are suspect. In heaven without money we may have clean transparent deals within deals. Who knows. Politically now people seem to confuse ‘socialistic “‘:to provide a common service for the benefit of a population: with communistic: the confiscation of all properties. Though Joseph set Egypt up to eventually own everything. Some say it weakened the country for three hundred years.

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