Hi everyone! I lurked for months but is time to stop lurking:
The subject of the relationship between the Essenes and the Early Christians is fascinating.
While most experts do not believe Jesus was a Essene, many do believe that John the Baptist and some of the Apostles, like John has ties to the sect.
Points in common between the Essenes and the Early Christians:
2. Communal meal with bread and wine.
3. Reconciliation before the meal.
4. Priests that act like go in between with the Messiah. What the Cohen (priest) blesses in earth, the soon to be coming to Israel Messiah will bless in Heaven.
5. Celibate, monastic members along with members that live regular lives.
6. A solar calendar that give Sunday a lot importance.
7. The monks wear a woolen tunic with a leather belt in the middle, like John the Baptist and many monastics of today.
8. A expanded Bible canon that gave a lot of importance to the deuterocanonicals books, especially Wisdom and Ben Sirach. In fact the first Dead Sea Scroll to be found was Ben Sirach, in Hebrew no less.
9. A dislike for some of the Pharisees teaching on the Law and the canon of Sacred Books.
10. A challenge to the Zadokites (Saduccees) on the legitimacy of the Sacrifices of the Temple.
11. The Episcopal system of Goverment of Bishop (the used the Aramaic word for inspector), priest (Cohen) and equivalent of a Deacon.
Of course they were differences, Jesus was correcting some of the teachings of the Manual of Discipline in the Sermon of the Mountain. And there were some veiled comments on them by Jesus on the bread of the Pharisees and the bread of the Herodians (they main monastery was in Judea, in Herod territory).
But in my opinion the Dead Sea Scrolls reafirm the case of the Catholic Church and the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches on the Christian beliefs vs the Protestant position.
Many of the beliefs and practices of Apostolic Christianity that the Protestants say has a pagan origin has now proven to be Jewish in origin and well know to Jesus. The fact that Jesus critizised the Essenes much less that the Pharisees and the Saduccees means that He aproved most of their beliefs, who latter were adopted by the Early Church and confirmed by Paul, a former Pharisee.
About the Pope's opinion:
Hershel Shanks's compilation book:Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Reader From the Biblical Archaeology Review
by Hershel Shanks
(Editor). Link to book: Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls
Has a chapter developed to the the issue to early Christianity and the Essenes and who explain well the Calendar issue discrepancy between the synoptic Gospels and John's. They support the idea that John was using the Essenes calendar.
In my opinion the Dead Sea Scrolls support the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox positions vs the Protestant position all the time. The Reformers committed the mistake of thinking modern Rabbinical Judaism was like the Judaism of Jesus's times, and it was not. Judaism in Jesus times was more diverse, and the Early Christians looked more at the Essenes, and of course Jesus and the apostles teachings, than to the Pharisees.