The Qumran Community
---Celibates or Families?
“They shun pleasures as a vice and regard temperance and the control of the passions as a special virtue” (Josephus, Jewish War II, viii, 2)
The prevailing view among modern scholars is that the community at Qumran consisted mainly of men, from priestly circles, who lived as strict ascetics, abstaining from all carnal pleasure and physical luxury and devoting themselves entirely to the worship of God. The fact that many of the scrolls deal with such matters as marriage, sexual relations, and family law can be explained by a single passage in Josephus, which relates that besides those Essenes who scorned wedlock, there were those who did in fact take wives (Jewish War VIII, ii, 6).
As for the skeletal remains of women and children found in the cemetery, it has been suggested that these belonged to Bedouin buried there in modern times. Regarding the hairnets and jewelry that were uncovered, the issue has yet to be resolved: Scholars have variously attributed them to the wives of the sectarians; wives of the Bar Kokhba rebels; or even to Christian or Muslim women buried there in later periods. Whatever the case may be, the controversy over the nature of the Judean Desert sect is far from settled.