We will consider the opinions of various scholars -- both ancient and modern -- on Essene origins. Most important, we will consider the opinion of the Essenes themselves in regard to their origin. We will begin with two ancient scholars, both of whom were contemporaries of the first century Essenes: Josephus Flavius and Philo of Alexandria. Josephus, born at Jerusalem in 37 A.D., was the greatest historian of the Jews in that period. Philo was the greatest Jewish philosopher of that period. Both men had personal knowledge of the ancient Essenes; thus, what they tell us has a high degree of credibility. In regard to the origin of the Essenes, neither Josephus nor Philo can give a specific date, but both make clear that the Essenian roots are incredibly ancient. Josephus declares that the Essenes have existed "from time immemorial" and "countless generations". Philo agrees, calling the Essenes "the most ancient of all the initiates" with a "teaching perpetuated through an immense space of ages". Josephus and Philo -- as well as several other ancient writers including Pliny the Elder -- are in consensus on two points in regard to the origin of the Essenes:
Their origin is lost in pre-history with certain ancient legends linking them with Enoch;
There was a major remanifestation of the Essenes by Moses at Mount Sinai.
Let us first consider the original founding of the Essenes by Enoch, then the later remanifestation by Moses. Enoch lived many centuries before Moses. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Genesis (the first book of the bible), Enoch is described as "the seventh from Adam" -- which means he was born seven generations after Adam. Since seven, in Essene numerology, is the number of perfection, it is no mere coincidence that Enoch represents the seventh generation of humanity: he represents perfected humanity. He lived on earth 365 years (the number of days in the solar year) and was so in harmony with the laws of God that he was taken from Earth to an Angelic realm without having to die first! There, Enoch was given the angelic name "Metatron", and given the duty of guiding other human beings into their angelic destiny. His main work on Earth was the founding of the Essene Church. The Essene Church is considered (by the Essenes) to be a doorway into the angelic realm, as many of the Dead Sea Scrolls make abundantly clear (see The Dead Sea Scriptures, translated by Theodore Gaster, for numerous references to the Essene belief that their order served as a doorway into the angelic realm). While much of the Enochian legend cited above is found only in Essene Kaballah texts, it stems directly from the Bible: Genesis chapter five verse twenty-four: "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him."
The fact that Enoch was considered the "founder" or "initiator" of the Essenes can even be seen in his name; the word "Enoch" means in Hebrew: "founder", "initiator", "centralizer". A modern scholar, Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, in his excellent book From Enoch to the Dead Sea Scrolls, writes:
"The origin of the [Essene] brotherhood is said to be unknown.... Some believe it comes from Enoch, and claim him to be their founder."
After the original founding of the Essenes by Enoch, many centuries passed in which the Essenes existed as a Mystery School, out of the eyes of the public. Finally, it was time for a major remanifestation of the Essenes, for their numbers had dwindled to the point of near extinction. Moses was the man chosen by God to guide the remanifestation of the Essenes. Both the ancient scholar Philo, and a modern scholar, Rabbi Harvey Falk (in his Another Look at the Jewishness of Jesus), informs us that Moses trained thousands of disciples as Essenes. The Essenes themselves describe that event in one of their most important texts: