CLAIM: Luke records that John the Baptist “lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel” (Lk. 1:80). Since he was somewhat of a recluse, some scholars argue that John the Baptist was an Essene, living out on the periphery of society. Is this the case?
RESPONSE: This is doubtful for a number of reasons. First, the Essenes are never explicitly mentioned in the NT. Therefore, John the Baptist was never directly called an Essene. Second, the Essenes were a highly legalistic group, and John the Baptist was directly against this sort of teaching (Mt. 3:7-8). Third, John the Baptist believed that Jesus was the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). However, the Essenes believed that the Messiah would be purified by sin through suffering. Moreover, the Essenes believed the Messiah would arise from their community –not Bethlehem. Fourth, John the Baptist was a public figure –even being mentioned by Josephus, while the Essenes were a highly privatecommunity.
 Gundry writes, “To maintain ritual purity, they even refrained from bowel movements on the Sabbath.” Gundry, Robert Horton. A Survey of the New Testament. 4th Edition ed. [Grand Rapids]: Zondervan Pub. House, 2003. 66.
 Habermas, Gary R. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin, MO: College Pub., 1996. 78-79.
 Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 18:116-119.