Daily Archives: August 17, 2008

Was John the Baptist a member of the Dead Sea Sect?

Identifying the Dead Sea Sect. We are speaking of the Jewish group responsible for preparing and hiding the scrolls that were discovered in and around Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea beginning in 1947. The sect living here was likely the Essenes. I am aware of the numerous controversies about Qumran, but have not been impressed by the alternative views.

Was John the Baptist an Essene? It has been popular among some scholars to claim that John was an Essene. A suggestion is made that John’s parents died while he was yet a child. The Essenes were known to have cared for orphan children. So, they cared for John. Some comparisons may be drawn concerning John and the Essenes.

  1. John was in the deserts (Luke 1:80). The Essenes were in the desert.
  2. Both John and the Essenes used Isaiah 40:3 to describe themselves as the voice in the wilderness.
  3. The baptism (or washing) practiced by John and the Essenes required a change of heart.

There are significant differences between John and the Essenes.

  1. The Essenes hid themselves away from society in the wilderness. John was a very public figure.
  2. John had a much more strict diet (Luke 7:33) than did the Essenes.
  3. John preached Jesus as the Messiah. The Essenes did not recognize Jesus as Messiah, but they thought that the Teacher of Righteousness would arise from within their group.
  4. There was a strong organization among the Essenes that is missing among John’s disciples.

In the early days of my study about the Dead Sea Scrolls I found the book by F. F. Bruce, Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls. I am pleased to inform you that you may download this book free of charge here.

Here is a photo of Cave 4 at Qumran. Many of the important scrolls were located here.

Cave 4 at Qumran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cave 4 at Qumran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.