Pliny wrote that the Essenes lived west of Lake Asphaltites, and that infra hos was En Gedi. Some scholars associate Pliny's reference with Qumran, others with a location above En Gedi. Given that Pliny writes about Judaea by following the course of the land's remarkable water, it would be most natural to read infra hos as "downstream from them." The Dead Sea itself has a current, and there was a belief that the lake had a subterranean exit in the south. From a survey of scholarship produced prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it appears that Pliny's reference was usually believed to indicate a wide region of the Judaean wilderness, understood to stretch from En Gedi northwards and/or inland. When En Gedi was identified in the mid-19th century, the suggestion that Essenes occupied caves just north of and above the ancient settlement was made, but this was not seen as exclusive. If we again read Pliny appropriately, as referring to a region which the gens of the Essenes held, we can move away from either-or dichotomies of possible Essene sites.
In his recent study on John the Baptist Joel Marcus suggests that John founded a sect that was in competition with the early Jesus movement. Marcus also suggests that John himself was a former member of the 'Qumran community'. His baptism is considered as a kind of sacrament in which the Holy Spirit was imparted. How secure are these proposals? In this discussion, we conclude that in the oldest literary witnesses – Q, Mark and Matthew – the relationship between John and Jesus is seen in terms of mutual agreement (despite Jesus’s obvious superiority) and there are no recognizable traces of serious competition with John’s disciples, even less a ‘Baptist sect’. The evidence used by Marcus to suggest that John was once a member of the ‘Qumran community’ connects John with broader patterns of thought in Second Temple Judaism, not simply sectarians at one location. That John imparted the Holy Spirit in a sacramental rite can only be supported by radically altering biblical readings. However, Marcus has suggested that in light of all this that John thought of himself not only as Elijah but as a kind of Messiah, with the role of his successor, the Coming One, being to destroy the chaff. In doing this, Marcus redesigns John as a kind of alternative Christ of Faith. However, the underlying ‘competition model’ needs to be rejected and replaced with one that sees Jesus as claiming to be a successor to John, his highly esteemed teacher.