What happened to the Essenes after the first Jewish revolt? The answer to this seemingly simple question has proven elusive. Prior to the war, the Essenes stood alongside the Pharisees and Sadducees as one of the most prominent social factions in Judaea. Josephus and Philo allege that they numbered in the thousands and that they could be found in cities and towns throughout the country.
a I would like to express my gratitude to John Collins, Steven Fraade, and Dale Martin for their helpful advice in editing an earlier version of this paper that was considerably more unwieldy than the present one. Variations of this paper were read at the Social History of Formative Christianity and Judaism session of the annual meeting of the SBL, Philadelphia, Penn., 21 November 2005, and at a graduate student conference at Brown University, 9 April 2006. I benefited greatly from the conversations that followed each of those presentations. I humbly offer this paper in tribute to Professor Louis H. Feldman in honor of his 50th year of teaching, without whose influence and continued support it would not have been written.