DeSalvo starts on page 96 in his book (of 2008/12) called "DEAD SEA SCROLLS - Their History and Myths Revealed" to tell us that the religious sect called "Essenes" disappeared after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. But archeologists have now unearthed a vast complex at the site in Qumran near where the scrolls were found.
Two Temple periods appear in the history of Israel/Judah - Solomon's Temple period which ended in 586 B.C. when Babylon destroyed the Temple and deported Judah. Then second period began when the Jews returned to their land from Babylon after 70 years (well some of them returned). This period lasted till 70 A.D. when Rome destroyed the Temple then in Jerusalem.
We have seen that the scrolls were written between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D. We know from Jewish history that it was not the Sadducees or Pharisees that wrote the scrolls and put them in caves.
But we learn history writers - Josephus (A.D. 37-100); Philo (20 B.C. to A.D. 50); Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79), there was also the sect of the Essenes.
Josephus writes that the Essenes taught the principle that everything in this world was ordained by fate. Knowing what Josephus wrote about what the Pharisees and Sadducees taught on the same issue, it only leaves us with the scrolls teaching what the Essenes taught on the world and what happens.
The Roman geographer, Pliny the Elder said this about the Essenes: "On the west side of the Dead Sea...is the solitary tribe of the Essenes, which is remarkable beyond all the other tribes in the whole world, as it has no women and has renounced all sexual desire, has no money, and has only palm trees for company. Day by day the throng of refugees is recruited to an equal number by numerous accessions of persons tired of life and driven thither by the waves of fortune to adopt their manners......"
It does appear when all is taken into account - the location and manner of the Essenes, their beliefs and practices, that the sect who lived in this area of the Dead Sea at Khirbet Qumran, were the Essenes, and that it is more than likely they were the sect that wrote the scrolls of the Dead Sea and hid them in the caves when the Roman army came to destroy Jerusalem.
The Qumran site or village, was located on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. They figure it was built between 130 B.C. and 100 B.C. An earthquake in 31 B.C. destroyed much of the site. It was rebuilt by 4 B.C. and eventually destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 68.
Some tables have been found on which many of the scrolls could have been written. Discovered was also an underground water system, which may have been used for drinking purposes and possible baptism rituals.
What is puzzling is that you would think there would have only been a few writing "scholars" as only some had the "scribe" ability. There are about 12 books written by the same hand, but the rest were written by different hands. One answer some give is that many scrolls came from different sources and were added to the library of books they had written themselves.
The first man to connect the Essenes with Qumran and the scrolls was a Catholic priest in the early 1950s, named Roland de Vaux, who was one of the first to excavate and explore Qumran, from 1953-1956.
Though this idea of the Essenes and Qumran and the scrolls has its doubters, MOST scholars believe the overall evidence is that the site of Khirbet Qumran was occupied by the Essenes during this period of 200 B.C. to 68 A.D. and they are the sect responsible for the scrolls.
Pottery found at Qumran has been dated to the first century A.D. Over a thousand utensils were uncovered which include cups, bowls, and plates. A room was found with benches and inkwells.
It is true that no scrolls have been found in Qumran. Thousands of tombs have been found but only some have been excavated. As coins, pottery, glass, and other items were found at Qumran, many feel the community did not live in total isolation, but to some degree traded with others.
At first all scholars believed the Essenes were all male celibates, but many now believe that there were also married members, who may have lived in nearby towns and not on the site of Qumran. Hence there may have been two groups of Essenes, one celibate and the other group married.
According to the scrolls there was a hierarchal structure - the master, then priest, elders, and then the rest of the congregation. There was a chief financial officer, who managed the money and property of the community. There was a council, made up of 12 members and 3 priests. What they did is not known for certain, maybe a type of court to decide various matters, and since they had many religious and secular rules, it may be this court heard violations and gave out punishments.
To become a member of this community there was a two or three year "initiation" period - a try-out so to speak, which a person could leave before giving a formal official commitment.
As said, most scholars go with the Essenes as the sect at Qumran and responsible for the scrolls, which they would have placed in the caves for preservation, when the Roman army destroyed their community village in 68 A.D.
NEXT WE SHALL LOOK AT THEIR BASIC LIVING AND RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.