John the Baptizer and Qumran
John the Baptizer, who was possibly a cousin of Jesus (
Some have argued that John the Baptizer belonged to the Qumran community, based on the observations that he followed an ascetic program similar to theirs in the same time period and geographical area near the Dead Sea. We are told in
Early in the life of the Qumran community, many of its members had been priests associated with the Jerusalem temple, and John the Baptizer’s father was a temple priest (
However, there are also important differences that make it difficult to assume that John the Baptizer was a full member of the Qumran community. John’s message called Israel to repent and had a missionary quality to it, whereas the Qumran community was mostly focused inward on those predestined to be “Sons of Light.” The Qumran group separated themselves from others to form a community they felt was the genuine Israel; they developed unique terms to describe their beliefs, terms the New Testament writers never attribute to John. The Qumran community’s ritual bath was different from John’s river-based “baptizing.” Lastly, the Qumran community seems to have been associated with another group found throughout Palestine, namely the Essenes, but John the Baptizer and his first disciples apparently focused their work almost always on the southern end of the Jordan River.
For these reasons, a more nuanced scholarly view is to conclude that John the Baptizer might have once lived at Qumran but that he left the community for a variety of possible reasons, not least of which was to lead his own disciples and prepare “the way of the Lord.”