The Essenes mentioned in this apocryphon are that Jewish sect in the time of Jesus who were a kind of separatist group concerned to retain its own ritual purity in view of the coming apocalypse, which they expected any day now. Today they are most famous for having produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. But when this Gospel account was forged, the Scrolls had not yet been discovered.
The Essenes were seen at the time as a kind of secretive magical group on the fringes of real Judaism.
The Crucifixion of Jesus, by an Eye-Witness
An equally interesting modern apocryphon, The Crucifixion of Jesus, by an Eye-Witness, deals not with the beginning of Jesus’ adult life, before his ministry, but with its ending and aftermath.  The account comes in the form of a letter written, in Latin, seven years after Jesus’ crucifixion, from a leader of the mysterious Jewish sect of the Essenes in Jerusalem to another Essene leader who lived in Alexandria, Egypt.
All elements of the supernatural are completely stripped away from the account’s description of Jesus’ life and death. Jesus is shown to have led a completely human life and to have died a completely human death. But not on the cross. Jesus survived his own crucifixion and lived for another six months.
The account was first published in German, in Leipzig, in 1849. English editions, all claiming to be authentic, were published in 1907, 1919, and 1975. There were also translations into French and several into Swedish.
Latin Letter Discovered: Jesus’ Crucifixion
The Latin letter was allegedly discovered on a parchment scroll in an old Greek monastery in Alexandria by a missionary who thought that its message was dangerous, and so tried to destroy it. It was saved, however, by a learned Frenchman, who translated the account into German. The narrative was then brought to Germany by the Free Masons, understood to be modern-day ancestors of the Essenes.
According to the account, Jesus himself was an Essene. When he was crucified, according to this “eyewitness,” he did not expire. He was taken from the cross and restored to life by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, fellow Essenes, who knew the secret arts of healing preserved by the sect. When the women visiting the tomb thought they saw angels, these were Essene monks wearing their white robes. The women misunderstood that Jesus had been raised, when in fact he had never died. He did die, however, six months later, from the wounds he had sustained.
The Crucifixion by an Eyewitness – An Essene?
It has not been difficult for scholars to expose this Gospel as another fraud. The “eyewitness,” allegedly an Essene, has no understanding of what the Essenes were really like. Today we know a good deal about this Jewish group, thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were unavailable to the forger since they were discovered nearly a century after he produced his account.
Nothing in the story corresponds to the historical realities of the group. For one thing, there is no way an Essene in Jerusalem would write his account in Latin, of all things.
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