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 a Utopian society, where believers held all things in common and none had need (Acts 4:32-35).

But what was their basis for 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, private property rights are upheld (Ex. 20:17). The Hebrew prophets did not teach that all the faithful must abandon everything they ever owned. Jesus did challenge one young man to sell all of his possessions (Matthew 19), but that was to expose and challenge that man’s love of worldly possessions. There’s no indication Jesus meant this teaching to be normative for all of his followers.”

Our best available reconstruction links this group of Christ-followers with Essene communities that (according to Josephus Flavius) had already practiced just this kind of lifestyle for centuries. 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 the Acts community was made up of an Essene majority that allied itself with Jesus, then their continuation of this centuries-long communal practice would make sense.

Let’s take this intriguing proposition a step further. On one occasion, Jesus made a curious promise to his disciples. He said: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you ANOTHER Comforter” (John 14:16). This implies, of course, that he himself was the PRIOR Comforter. I am not denying that the Spirit of Holiness/Holy Spirit is the Comforter of whom Christ spoke, but why did he phrase it this way? Why say ANOTHER Comforter?

Based on hymns found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, Israel Knohl, a professor at the Hebrew University – and a guest lecturer with us here at Israel Bible Center – argued that one generation before Jesus, a messianic leader arose and became known as the Teacher of Righteousness. It is possible to identify this person with Menachem the Essene who held an advisory position in the court of King Herod.

Menachem led a very dangerous life, secretly preparing for what eventually proved to be an unsuccessful revolt. His followers believed that he was the Messiah, but he was disgraced and killed by Roman soldiers during the revolt in 4 B.C.E. (Later, his surviving followers believed him to be the fulfillment of the suffering servant texts in Isaiah).

The Hebrew word that lies behind the above-mentioned “Comforter” is, in fact, Menachem (מנחם) – the same as the name of the Essene leader mentioned by Josephus Flavius. (The Greek παράκλητος (Paraclete) is the Hebrew Menachem translated into Greek). 

It is possible that Jesus, by referring to the coming Holy Spirit as “another Comforter,” was identifying himself as the true/ultimate Menachem (מנחם); and that he was calling the Essene community to put its trust in Him instead. Unlike Menachem the Essene, the Ultimate Comforter (Jesus) led a successful rebellion against all the enemies of Israel and by his resurrection overcame even sin and death.

The Bible can provide us with truth, but it can also be difficult to decipher! Whether you're looking for some biblical direction, stumped on scriptural questions, or just want to confirm that you're already on the right track, join the growing community of faculty and students at Israel Bible Center! Click here to begin your journey of discovery. OFFER EXPIRES TODAY!

134 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting, I thought the esenes were a sect, who were wanting a Messiah who would destroy the Romans just as the Maccabees did. Thus their Messiah was not the “one” they wanted. Thus when Rabbi Acheva sent his messiah they all followed. Also I aways thought that the Spirit of Holiness was the Comforter. As Moses cried, that the people would know G-D in their hearts.

    • Clerification (perhaps it was not clear in the article Spirit of Holiness/Holy Spirit is the Comforter, but notice he is ANOTHER Comforter.

  2. Ex. :20:17 “Do not desire and take etc.” has nothing to say about “God-given right to private property.” Where is that?

    • Thanks for bringing it up (you are one of the three people that comment about the same concern). I inserted a clarifying sentence into the article to avoid this misunderstanding. Thanks.

  3. Jesus was the comforter, in the flesh. After His ascension, Christ is the Comforter in all believers who have received Him through the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. In acts 19:2 when paul asked some disciples, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Though believers, they had not so much as heard of the Holy Spirit and after Paul laid his hands on them they received the Holy Spirit. My point being, that without the Comforter, Christ, (being the ‘Another’ Comforter, was sent only after Jesus ascended) to lead and guide us to all Truth.

  4. The Talmud writes about a certain “Menahem” who was a Pharisee colleague of Hillel who “left”. The Talmud itself is not clear about what it means that he “left”. Did he “leave” the Sages for the service of the king, who at the time was Herod, or did he “leave” Pharisaic Judaism for a heretical sect. What do you think about this?

  5. Dear Professor Eli. Do you think there was some kind of relationship between the “Essenes” and John the Baptist or Jesus of Nazareth? Why, apparently, the “Essenes” are not mentioned explicitly in the writings of the New Testament?

    • They are mentioned in NT (actually all over the place). I made the same mistake ones thinking that they MUST be mentioned by the name that Josephus Flavius calles them (the essenes), but instead we should see what he says and then look for behavior that fits the description. Relationship between Essene and John the Baptist… I think that it is possible to think that John may have been once part of the Essene movement and even Qumran community, but then separated from them. There is many many signs for that, one of which both Qumranites and John thought that

  6. Dear Professor: I only have to say who Jesus commanded to the tycoon: “give all you have to the poors, and then come and follow me”, or I am wrong? More over I agree with the words” another comforter” (the Holy Spirit), because Jesus in person was the first one. Best regards.

  7. I appreciated you recent post on Jesus and the Essene community. When I read the quote you cited from Josephus I was struck by an interesting difference between the early Christian community and the Essenes. Holding property in common and divesting yourself of all private property was compulsory for the Essenes, but voluntary for the early Christian community. The similarities are striking, but that’s an important and fundamental difference. Just a thought.

  8. Thank you for all of your research! The problem I have had with the word trinity has been ORDER, not Power. “We” receive the Holy Spirit AFTER we believe. Why the end instead of the beginning. What I see that is different about the Holy Spirit in your article is that Jesus is Identifying Himself and His actions (Victorious Warrior). This is a revelation. And now I see that a revelation is more than a Jesus pic, I recognize the Victorious Warrior in my life.

    • Hi Kate. There is no evidence to support an argument that post-Pentecost believers have the Spirit come after they believe. The biblical evidence in both First and Second Testaments has the Ruah/Pneuma comes upon us as happened to Saul and Pentecost etc. The most emphatic statement is the Pneuma came upon and REMAINED, thus the seal of the Holy Spirit. Conversion gives God the right to “presence” Himself in our presence, His Pneuma brooding upon our spirit gives us His peace, transforming us into His image.

  9. All believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything had. (Acts 4:32). Then we go to the next chapter of acts (5:1-11), this tells us of Ananias and his wife Sapphira how they lied to the apostle Peter and held back money from the sale of a piece of property. They were struck down dead. Please correct me if I’m wrong! “But doesn’t this sound very much like Essene influence in the early church?” If this is correct, then Jesus phrase “another comforter” is pertinent.

  10. Very interesting! I had never considered that He did say “another” comforter. I had considered this as Him sending Another referring to our precious Holy Spirit. I appreciate your what I am finding to be a very orthodox position but yet considering studying the background of the Scripture for more meaning. The Scripture context of this verse, to me, is a very, very strong teaching of the unity of the Trinity. Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Him. Jesus and the Spirit are One, yet distinct persons. Soon, you will see Me again. They are One.

    • I do not disagree, but I think we should not look for the way to systematize the Bible, but leave as is instead. It is perfectly capable of defending itself :-).

  11. Where in the bible does it state directly “trinity” please give me a place where it says that But i read in genesis about ELOHIM IS THAT TRINITY OR WHAT ?

      • … if the Apostles were presented with the Christian doctrine of Trinity in its traditional form they would be deeply puzzled… I totally agree with this statement. I disagree, however, with your surmise that “But then after being pressed for an answer they would have with some hesitation agreed that the basic ideas presented to them were correct”. I feel a projection back onto the disciples’ beliefs about Word and Spirit which is very post first-church. The only way God ever communicates or interacts with humanity in both First and Second Testaments is only ever by Word and/or Spirit.

  12. Actually Dr. Eli your clarification of the term Menachem and the Other Comforter is being done from a Jewish perspective because Jews will have a different approach to scripture as compared to gentiles. Hence, this clarification will be well appreciated and understood by jewish readers. For gentile believers the understanding of the word Comforter is very simple – Jesus Christ the First Comforter, the Holy Spirit (being the Spirit of Christ Himself) the Second, sent during the feast of Pentecost. I see no controversy here just additional historical information.

    • Hi Shally. The Holy Spirit and the spirit of Christ are actually two separate things. One, the Holy Spirit (one of the only two ways God interacts with humankind, the other being the Word) and the other is the attitude/way/practice of Christ (as in “he played tennis with great spirit”). They are not interchangeable but displaying the spirit of Christ, or Christ-likeness is a major aspect of the Holy Spirits work.

  13. Thank-you, Dr. Eli, for clarifying what is written in Acts in regards to ownership of private property. The historical background information regarding the Essenes is appreciated, as commune-type lifestyle wasn’t what I understood from reading the TaNaKh.

  14. I found your article thought provoking. I do believe that Jesus had contact with the Essene community. Scott Hahn puts together some interesting ideas in The Fourth Cup as to the Last Supper potentially following the Essene tradition as one way to explain some of the elements of the Last Supper that differ from the prescribed Passover meal. John the Baptist may have been associated with the Essenes so it’s not unreasonable to assume that some of Jesus’ disciples also came from the Essenes who were expecting to see the Messiah in their time.

  15. In doing Greek word studies at Bible College we learned that there are two (Greek) words translated as “another”; allos, and heteros. Here in this passage, Jesus uses the word “allos” i.e. “another of the same kind”. Compare this with other passages which use the word “heteros” i.e. “another of a different kind”. I’m of the understanding anyway that Jesus would have mostly spoken in Aramaic but I do wonder, is there anything in Hebrew that compares with this difference?

  16. On the origin of the word “esenio” several hypotheses have been woven: it may come from the Greek word “ὅσιος” (ossios: ‘santo’, ossa: ‘saints’), or be a reference to the Greek hasidei (‘pious’), in Aramaic hesé. Arab writings refer to them as magaritas (‘of the caves’). It has been proposed that the name comes from the Hebrew asaim (עשים), this is “hacedores”, since they said “If the Torah says it, we do it”, from the verb hacer = laasot (לעשות), and plural in masculine = im (ים), Greek was «εσσηνοι» (essenoi), «εσσαιοι» (essaioi) or «οσσαιοι» (ossaioi). It is also claimed

  17. For a long time they were known only by the references of ancient authors, such as Pliny the Elder, 1 Flavius Josephus, 2 Philo, Dion Chrysostom, Hippolytus of Ostia and Epiphanius of Constance, although for some scholars, the Essenes were a group of ascetics who lived isolated in separate communities. Probably most of the several thousand members of the creed lived in towns and cities2 and an important Essene community lived in Jerusalem, 3 on whose walls was the “door of the Essenes”, 4 which has already been found by the archaeologists.3

  18. Tito Flavio Josefo, also known by his Hebrew name José ben Matityahu or Josefo ben Matityahu (n.37-38 – Rome, 101), was a Jewish Pharisee historian, descendant of a family of priests. Man of action, statesman and diplomat, was one of the leaders of the rebellion of the Jews against the Romans. Captured and transferred to Rome, he became a favorite of the Imperial Flavia family. In Rome he wrote, in Greek, his best-known works: The War of the Jews, Jewish Antiquities and Against Apion. He was considered a traitor to the Jewish cause and hated by the Jews.1 His work

  19. Translations are corruptible. For those who have “it all figured out.” Not even Jesus/Y’shua was that bold. He opted for stories that demanded thought, raise questions, and often went counter to conventional wisdom. Absolute certainty keeps us separated from God by claiming we are certain about what God wants of us.

  20. Rabbi Aciba is responsible for the rewrite of the Messoretic text. When the religious academy at Jamnia was founded, all of your rabbis are Pharisees. This causes me to suspect that the Synagogue of Satan referred to in Revelation is rabbinical Judaism. Essene could come from the Latin From Vulgar Latin *essere, from Latin esse, present active infinitive of sum. esse. To be. YHWH is “I am”. So perhaps a deviation on His name.

  21. Many people’s quote the words of Yeshua regarding giving up them possessions to the poor ones but the bottom line is, no one is doing that. But when somebody try to show them that’s not the case in the Jewish thinking, o boy, they shaking them head’s saying if Yeshua said that you must doing it but on the other hand they not doing it. So people, please, don’t be hipocrites and at least pay attention to what those words means in Jewish way to think. One more thing, you can follow Him even if you are rich.

  22. I have a lot to rethink! Replacement theology made me need another God, not another Comforter. A believer is described as someone who Will work. I think the promise of entering his rest (Hebrew 4:4) and the promise of another Comforter are connected. Why? Jesus is doing all the work in John 14:14-17. This is a revelation, not my work. Thank goodness He keeps His promises!

  23. Dr. Eli, I won’t try here to go back and quote from the condescending voices and your gracious responses. Siding with you, I’ll prefer to stay with this article’s topic. Although this perplexes me deeply; Jesus said, He who sends is greater than he who is sent. God sent Jesus and God sent the Holy Spirit to rest upon Jesus at baptism, and to the apostles at Pentecost. God gave Jesus all things without measure. God gave Jesus life unto His self. Jesus said “God is spirit”. The uncreated God is greater than all of creation.

  24. Yes, dear one, you are making a great topic all the time. I am more often prefer to hold back the information which suppose to be known. In other hand, it is the right thing to do since words are the first identification of a person true nature or who he is whether the information be known as false or true at the end. It is not, If someone keep silence while there is a right message to be learned, The Lord always encourage to foretell so that people would asses and believe would take root at the same.

  25. Thanks, Dr Eli, the commentators seem given the opportunity to digress instead of keeping with the subject matter. Even so I prefer your final comment of the chronology, makes more sense but causes more confusion to my mind

  26. Our pastor in South Africa taught us about the “Allos Paracletos” Holding up a hymnal. and then another hymnal. Another, the same. It has been clear to me ever since that the Holy Spirit is Jesus Who lives inside me. I speak to Him often and sometimes I hear His voice, telling me where to live and what to do. Gabrielle

  27. A reflection on the majority of these comments: We who know, worship and pray as one have discovered an elemental truth: Sh’ma Yisrael! The last word is “echad”. We have learned that the will of the Most High is singular. So, if we are all praying, discerning the Will, and fellowshipping together, we will all converge on the SAME answer to these questions. The Holy Spirit, Ruach HaKodesh, is sent by HaShem, and He dwells with us today. We sense the Holy Presence, and our experience cannot be taken from us. We agree with you 100% Dr Eli!

  28. I didn’t know I was a believer (replacement theology). I read into the text “ I worked ” instead of “will also do the works that I do” (14:12). How could I have asked (unschooled), agape loved, kept the commandments good enough (14:15)? Answer, He was in me! Are the “works” in this context the revelation of Another Counselor (we desire what He desires)? Is the outcome rest (worthy is He)? Another Counselor, another day? “if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day”

  29. Shalom Dr Eli. Amazing how some people don’t READ your words. Word-hoppers. Love Gabrielle Jansen’s metaphor. We worship a triune God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit all ASPECTS of One Eternal Being. When Jesus referred to ANOTHER Comforter, He MIGHT have been referring to the essenic Menachem; my interpretation has always been, as in your words, the PRIOR and ULTIMATE Comforter. Need it be more complicated?

  30. Esseans in Hebrew Yeshuaim? Some may say followers of Yeshua. The writing analysis of the community that we call Esseans of their last 30 to 50 years is different in style from previous groups residing there. It indeed could be the community of the saints who are also called in Acts the Nazareans. (Followers of Yeshua from Nazareth).

    • In Hebrew איסיים, although this is modern Hebrew we do not know the original Hebrew way to call this group. I do not think that you are correct about the such a 1-1 identity. I think there is a similarity, but also sharp and polemical differences. We invite you and others reading to take a course on Jewish movements in the first century (see NT course catalog).

      • Dr, Eli thanks for your reply. Always insightful. What I stated is my personal thought based on a reading of some interesting and at times conflicting views of different academics. I think that initial followers of Yeshua are among the Nazarenes (as they are called in Acts) Nazarenes appear to be a type of Essene with different names used at different periods of time, for the same messianic Jewish group. It is interesting that Esseans are omitted from NT books. We read about Sadusee, Pharisee and where is the third group? Its there only called Nazarenes?

  31. An interesting comment but I am wondering if the Hebrew word for another has similar distinctions as the two Greek words for another, other, with their importance. When Jesus referred to another comforter I believe the word used was allos, meaning another of like kind, the same source etc as himself in distinction to the word heteros , another of a different kind, which may have been used if He was referring to the earlier so called comforter Menachem, as he was not of the same class as Jesus or the Holy Spirit. comp Gal 1:6,7 and 2:Cor 11:4

  32. Dear Dr. Eli, if the Comforter is Jesus, how about those who are believing that the Holy Spirit is God, He is not Jesus? They are speaking in unknown tongue and also believe a person who doesn’t speak in other tongue is not a true born again or just a religious. Is it right according to the Bible?

  33. The Utopian society sounds like a group of good people, but a type of righteousness that does not hold onto the commandments is emptiness (vanity). To live is to hold onto His commandments (resurrection). If this is the Spirit (resurrected Christ), but do we call Justice? הַעֲבֵר עֵינַי מֵרְאוֹת שָׁוְא בִּדְרָכֶךָ חַיֵּנִי׃ (haaver eynay merot shav bidracheicha chaeyni)

  34. Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I am comfortable with; 2 Corinthians: Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

  35. I once had a professor in a religion class who tried to explain the Godhead as follows: God the Father is the hand holding & guiding a poker of iron, Jesus is the instrument of God i.e. the poker and the Holy Spirit is the heat at the other end of the poker. Not truly the way it is but an easy way for the ignorant like me to see the relationship of the Godhead.

  36. No doubt Jesus in human form was the first comforter. See His calming the seas and foretelling His death and resurrection. He also said He would tell God the Father to send another Comforter, who would reveal Truth. This happened post His resurrection by the Grace of Knowing provided by being filled with the Holy Spirit. No longer were the disciples having faith in money and worldly goods; but they were given faith in God who will provide what each of them needed. Finally Jesus was not an Essene because of His failure to keep their cleanliness laws.

    • Well… what you are describing is true. With one possible exception if the proposed reconstruction is right he was not first Menacham (comforter), but the ultimate one.

  37. Until recently I read into the commandments WORKs (something I do without God). I no longer think the commandments were intended to be read independent of God. So.. the concern in the text seems to be about mixing with the world (14:22). I see the words “one fund for ALL”. The assets were mixed, but they Essenes weren’t? The ONE seems different than ““Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”. Did the Essene’s consider themselves the All (one)? What did the word “world” mean in first century?

  38. Shalom Dr Eli, The Holy Spirit is Ruach HaKodesh….Breath Holy…Ruach Elohim is Gods Breath….Without Breth we die…God has given each of us His Ruach to give us life Chaim…..He communicates with us as a messenger, comfort friend tutor what ever is appropriate at the time….through His Ruach He Gave to us with His Ruach …..There is only ONE Echad God Elohim…Yeshua ..The Christian Church has made the Holy spirit into an entity….calling it the Trinity….this word isn’t written in Gods Word…I wonder if you agree with me here…Blessings and love in haShem..Yeshua Ha Mashiach….

    • Rita, you said many things here :-), I am not sure what you are asking me to agree with exactly :-)?

  39. Well, another means another… If Jesus were referring to himself, he would not used “another”… another means other person of HIS same nature, another Divine being with the same purpose: follow the process Jesus left when He went back to heaven…

  40. Shalom, Dr. Eli. If I’m understanding correctly, you are highlighting Yeshua’s word choice selection and the possible reason for why He may have decided to refer to Himself as a “Menachem” out of all of the other descriptions He could’ve used; and the possible reason for His decision to use “Menacham” had to do with His desire to resonate with the Essenes who were present in His audience. Possibly He would have wanted to encourage the Essenses who may have been discouraged by the failed attempts of their previous “Menacham”. The failed attempts of human exertion do seem to precede…

  41. …the success that occurs upon Spiritual intervention (Luke 5:4-7). Yeshua is the true Menacham (John 15:1) who promised to send another Menacham (the Spirit of Holiness).

  42. Shalom. I agree with Fran. I enrolled in these studies to learn from the Jews not to try to teach them. I shall look for this book “The Essene Gospel of Peace” it sounds interesting. I am a simple person. I do not embrace the doctrine of the Trinity. I beleive there is a Father(God) and a Son Messiah Yeshua and a Holy Spirit. The Son asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit and He did. Yeshua prayed often to His Father and He is our median to the Father. He speaks on our behalf.

  43. It looks to me like those with substance in Jerusalem sponsored the Apostles in presenting an extended seminar/laboratory on how to live in Christ. Even though the Essenes (and the medieval monastics) maintained “all things common” over long periods, in Jerusalem it appears to me that it was maintained by a sacrifice, a draw-down, of accumulated wealth: “Those that had … sold and brought to the Apostles’ feet …”.

    Twenty years later Paul was taking up a grand collection to help out the poor in Jerusalem.

  44. Jesus is our comforter in heaven (I john 2:1 – read comforter where the KJV says advocate). The Holy Spirit is our comforter on Earth (John 14:16, 26, 15:26 and 16:7) and note also Acts 9:31 where it talks about the comfort of the HS. ‘Another’ simply signifies that the HS is the same sort of comforter as Jesus (as allos is used and not heteros). And unfortunately if you do not embrace the Biblical viewpoint concerning Jesus being the Word made flesh (John 1:14) or God in the flesh then you do not have the gospel.

  45. This student 👨‍🎓 confuse them self , my advice pray for Holy Spirit and this is person open your eyes 👀 And understanding .
    It’s a person a trinity , Father first & son second person , Holy Spirit thirds.
    1 John 5:7
    Good luck guys for study 📖 👏🙌👍💪
    Study 📖 a lot of patience , patience by study .

  46. Whenever I read your article here (IBC) and other contributors Psalm 119:18 is what I’m experiencing of course by the aid of the Spirit. Thank you Dr. Eli.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your name here
Words left: 50
Please enter your comment!