Kenneth Hanson teaches university classes and lectures widely on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Kabbalah. He draws on 20 years of reflection and 15 years of study and teaching about the Essenes in this illuminating book about the relevance of their beliefs and practices to the contemporary world. Hanson uses excerpts from the first century historian Josephus and his own translations of passages from the Dead Sea Scrolls to shed light on the inhabitants of the desert site known as Qumran.
The Essenes set up their utopian community apart from Jerusalem. These celibates believed in ritual purity, study of the Torah, a rigorous adherence to the Sabbath, and the rhythm of a disciplined life. Hanson believes that we can be edified by the emphasis of the "Sons of Light" upon simplicity, community, learning, perseverance, and vision.
In one of the most interesting chapters, the author focuses on their understanding of the importance of right speech: "If we heed the Secret Scrolls, we know that our lips are the instruments of eternal spirit, and we must tune them with utmost care in order to play the divine melody." In the Essene community, the philosophy was "you are what you speak." Watching over our words is a spiritual practice that we would do well to heed in our era of rampant gossip, insult, and diatribe.