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Minor Sects

In addition to the main sects which existed during the period of the Second Temple and after, such as the *Pharisees , the *Sadducees , the *Essenes , the *Therapeutae and the *Dead Sea sects , the sources mention a number of others. As will be noted, some scholars identify some of these sects with those belonging to the above-mentioned categories.


The Bana'im were an Essene-like Jewish sect in Palestine in the second century. The name occurs only in Mikva'ot 9:6 where a passage referring to the question of dipping clothing for levitical purification records: "Garments belonging to the Bana'im may not have a mudstain even upon one side, because these people are very particular concerning the cleanliness of their clothing, and any such spot would prevent the purifying water from actually penetrating the garment as it is usually worn; but with a bor [an unlearned and uncultured man], it matters not if his clothing contain a red spot at the time of dipping, for such a one is not particular about cleanliness."

Considerable debate centers around the meaning of Bana'im and the activities of the sect in Palestine. Two separate theories have developed on the origin of the name. One group of scholars identifies it with banah ("to build") and explains them as "scholars who occupy themselves with the study of the world's construction." Frankel (see bibl.) understands the word banai to mean "building master" or "builder" and accordingly concludes that the Bana'im were an Essene order employed with the ax and shovel (cf. Jos., Wars, 2:178).

Other scholars, among them Sachs and Derenbourg, consider Bana'im to be derived from the Greek βάλάνέῖόν ("bath"), and suggests that it means "those who bathe." In this case, the meaning would make the sect similar to the Tovelei Shaḥarit or Hemerobaptists. A third suggests that they might be the followers of Bannus, who was apparently an Essene hermit, with an emphasis on the ritualistic pledge. It is more probable that the word means simply "bathers" and refers more to the clothing and its cleanliness at the bath than to a specific sect. If the word bor in the passages quoted from Mikva'ot is interpreted as "a well" rather than "an uncultured person" then the purity of the garment would be dependent on whether the mud was from a large or small pit, and again it is a question of the garment rather than the type of person.


The Hypsistarians were a semi-Jewish sect who worshiped God under the name θεός Υψιστος Παντοκράτωρ ("The most High and Almighty One"). Its members lived on the Bosphorus in the first century C.E. and were found from time to time in Asia Minor until the fourth century. They were Jewish to the extent that they observed the Sabbath and some of the dietary laws, but they deviated from Judaism in that they entertained a certain pagan awe for fire and light, the earth and sun, although no indication is given that they practiced any idolatrous worship or prayer rites. They are probably related to, and may be identical with, either the Mossalians ("Meẓallin"), or the Euchomenoi, or the Euphemitai who are distinguished as "God-worshipers who also worshiped the Almighty God at the blaze of many lights." The Hypistarians may also be related to the Yirei Shamayim ("venerators" or "worshipers of heaven"), mentioned in Codex Theodosianus, xvi, 5:43 and 8:19. The general view is that they were undoubtedly a remnant of Jewish proselytes who retained a few pagan notions but were regarded as hostile to Christian doctrine.


The Hemerobaptists (Heb. Tovelei Shaḥarit; "Morning Bathers") were part of the baptist group for which the baptismal rite of initiation is the single most important feature. Significant of the Hemerobaptists is that this baptismal rite was repeated each day, rather than once and for all. The Hemerobaptists were probably a division of the Essenes who placed particular emphasis on bathing as a ritualistic cleansing before the hour of prayer each morning in order to be able to pronounce the Name of God with a clean body (Tosef., Yad., end). Samson of Sens translates a section of this Tosefta which refers to this cleansing: "The morning bathers said to the Pharisees: 'We charge you with doing wrong in pronouncing the Name without having taken a ritual bath.' Whereupon the Pharisees said: 'We charge you with wrongdoing in pronouncing the Name with a body impure within.'" The sect is also mentioned in the Talmud (Ber. 22a). Hemerobaptist baptism differed from proselyte or synagogal ablutions in that this baptism was both symbol and sacrament.

John the *Baptist was probably a Hemerobaptist, as is suggested in Clementine Homilies (2:23). His followers were eventually absorbed into the Christian Church, although a part may have gone to the sect of Mandeans in lower Mesopotamia. A remnant of this group was still active in the third century C.E. Several early Christian authors make mention of the Hemerobaptists. Hegesippus (See Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iv, 22) refers to them as one of the Jewish sects or divisions opposed to Christians; Justin calls them "Baptizers." According to the Christian editor of the Didascalia ("Apostolic Constitutions," vi, 6), the Hemerobaptists do not make use of their beds, tables, and dishes until they have cleansed them. This is a misunderstanding of the true purpose of this sect, i.e., bodily cleansing. Another author, Epiphanius, asserts that the Hemerobaptists deny future salvation to persons who do not undergo daily baptism.


Maghāriya was a sect that appeared during the first century B.C.E. according to *Kirkisānī . The name is Arabic, meaning "men [people] of the caves" and refers to their practice of keeping their books and sacred writings in caves in the surrounding hills of Palestine. Doctrinal differences with the rest of the Jewish community pivoted around the Maghāriya's transcendental view that God is too sublime to mingle with matter. They therefore rejected the idea that the world was directly created by God, but rather held that an intermediary power, an angel, was responsible for that act and now represents God in the created world. The sect wrote its own peculiar commentaries on the Bible and attributed the Law, all communications, and all anthropomorphic references, not to God, but to this angel. Two writings of importance, the Alexandrian and a later work, Sefer Yadu'a, were kept; the rest were of little apparent significance.

Some scholars have identified the Maghāriya with the Essenes or the Therapeutae. Harkavy gives as his reasons for such identification:

(1) the name of the sect, which according to him, does not refer to its books but to its followers, who lived in caves or in the desert, this being known to have been the Essene mode of life;

(2) the coincidence in the date of its foundation with that of the Essenes;

(3) Maghāriya theory of the angel which is in keeping with the tenets of the Essenes;

(4) Kirkisānī's omission of the Essenes from his list of the Jewish sects, which would be unaccountable had he not considered the Maghāriya to be identical with the Essenes. Harkavy identifies the Alexandrian author with Philo, who underwent the training period for the Essenes, and suggests that the angel in Maghāriya doctrine might be identical with Philo's Logos. Harkavy's hypothesis has found wide acceptance. S. Baron states that they are clearly related to the Qumran community and thus distinguishes between the Qumran community and the Essenes. Baron also disagrees with Harkavy's identification of the "Alexandrian" with Philo since he considers it highly unlikely that Arabic or Hebrew translations of Philo's works were known in Kirkisānī's time. (For the modern period see *Subbotniki; *Somrei Sabat .)


BANA'IM: Z. Frankel, in: Zeitschrift fuer die religioesen Interessen, 3 (1846), 455; M. Sachs, Beitraege zur Sprachund Alterthumsforschung, 2 (1854), 199; Derenbourg, Hist; J. Hamburger, Real-Enzyklopaedie fuer Bibel und Talmud, 2 (1873), 84; J. Levy, Woerterbuch ueber die Talmudim und Midraschim, 1 (19242), 241. HYPSISTARIANS: J. Bernays, Gesammelte Schriften, 1 (1885); F. Cumont, Hypsistos (1897); Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (19094), 18. HEMEROBAPTISTS: S. Krauss, in: JQR, 5 (1892–93), 127; Graetz, Gesch, 3 (19055), 92; W. Brandt, Die juedischen Baptismen (1910); M. Simon, Jewish Sects at the Time of Jesus (1967). MAGHĀRIYA: Graetz, Gesch, 6 (1870), 192; A.E. Harkavy, Le-Korot ha-Kittot be-Yisrael (1895); Jellinek, in: OLZ, 12 (1909), 410; Baron, Social2, 5 (1957), 196; M. Simon, Jewish Sects at the Time of Jesus (1967).

[Menahem Mansoor]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.