The Essenes were a religious group among the Jews, who had their own interpretation of Scripture and wanted to maintain the purity of Judaism. They were a very closed community and some were isolated in the desert. The Bible does not speak about the Essenes.
The Essenes appeared around the 2nd century BC and still existed in Jesus’ time. They were against mixing Judaism with Greek values and wanted to move away from the pagan influence of other peoples. Some Essenes lived in the cities, among other Jews, but others were more radical and formed communities in the desert, with little contact with other people.
According to historians of that time, the laws of the Essenes were very strict and valued community, sharing, purity and dedication to God . They had various dietary restrictions and tried to limit their contact with other people, so as not to be contaminated with other philosophies. Some scholars believe that the Essenes wrote the Dead Sea manuscripts.
Although they were known in Jesus’ time, the Bible makes no reference to the Essenes. They were not involved in public life and probably stayed away from Jesus and his followers.
See also: who were the zealots in the Bible?
Were Jesus or John the Baptist Essenes?
No, the Bible does not say that Jesus or John the Baptist was an Essene. Like some Essenes, John the Baptist lived in the desert and preached repentance and the cleansing of sins ( Matthew 3: 1-2 ). But several other Jewish groups also talked about purity and repentance. In addition, João Batista was a public figure and did not isolate himself from people of other peoples.
Some teachings of Jesus were similar to the teachings of the Essenes. He taught total dedication to God, purity of heart and love of neighbor. But Jesus did not impose dietary restrictions ( Mark 7:19 ) and taught that, instead of being isolated, his disciples should love everyone, preaching the gospel everywhere.
There is no indication in the Bible or in any other historical document that Jesus or John the Baptist were Essenes at some stage in their lives.
See the story of John the Baptist here.
Jesus and John the Baptist probably knew about the Essenes and had some things in common with them. But they also had teachings clearly contrary to the Essenes and never identified themselves as Essenes. Jesus came to show a new path, which the Essenes did not know.