Q. I was reading the questions and answers for 10/3/11 and saw the word Essenes. I have never heard of this word before. Would you please enlighten me as to who they were and how John the Baptist happened to be associated with them?
A. In the time of Jesus, the Essenes had become the third largest component of Jewish religion behind the Pharisees and the Sadducees. A large Essene community lived near the Dead Sea in Qumron, where the Dead Sea scrolls were later found. The Essenes lived communal lives (most did not believe in marriage) and can be compared to the monastic orders in New Testament times. Much of their life was devoted to studying and copying the Scriptures. John lived a similar lifestyle and probably became acquainted with them during the time when he lived in the nearby desert.