John The Baptist, Qumran And The Voice In The Wilderness

The voice in the wilderness is one of the favorite badges of identity for both New Testament Gospels in its featuring of John the Baptist, and the sectarian writings of Qumran community.

1-3 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’

Once the previous verse in the Gospel of Mark declared the main theme, the author quickly introduces the character that has come to be known as John the Baptist. As a side note, a fast pace is one of the characteristic features of this gospel. Before he does introduces John the Baptist, Mark’s deeply Israelite mind could not conceive of skipping a very important point – stating the foundational reference to the words of God spoken through the prophets of old.

The quotation in verse 2 does not only come from Isaiah, but also from Mal.3:1 and probably from Ex.23:20. Older manuscripts of this Gospel, according to the traditional Israelite pattern, refer only to the greater prophets, in this case Isaiah. Medieval manuscripts of this Gospel show Christian scribal copyists discomfort with this and they exchange the reference to Isaiah with the clarifying reference to “the prophets”.

In the Masoretic version of Isaiah 40:3 we read:

ק֣וֹל קוֹרֵ֔א בַּמִּדְבָּ֕ר פַּנּ֖וּ דֶּ֣רֶךְ יְהוָ֑ה יַשְּׁרוּ֙ בָּעֲרָבָ֔ה מְסִלָּ֖ה לֵאלֹהֵֽינוּ׃”

In first part of this Hebrew version, this quotation can be translated as “A voice calling in the wilderness” or as “voice of the one calling in the wilderness.”

The Judeo-Greek Septuagint opts for one of these options, imagining someone in the wilderness who is calling out:

Φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν Κυρίου, εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν.

Which translated means: “A voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God”.

Make sure to read my article “Was the New Testament written in Hebrew?” (click the link) where I argue that pre-Septuagint texts found in Qumran show that the Septuagint was legitimately used by the authors of New Testament as the core Biblical text.

This nuance becomes very important when we turn our attention to the possible connection between the early Jewish Jesus movement and the Essenes, who apparently had a branch in Qumran. The Qumran community and its larger Essene movement had a large number of similarities with the early Jewish Jesus movement. They also had an equal number of differences. In fact, it is the cumulative amount of similarities and differences that justify us in thinking that the early Jesus movement (including John the Baptist’s ministry) had some roots/or at least experiences in the Qumran community. In time, however, the Jesus community developed a polemical relationship with the Qumran community.

One notable similarity and difference between the Qumran materials and the Gospels is this: Qumran presents its community stationed in the wilderness (about 20 km from Jerusalem) as the voice calling out in the wilderness, while the Gospels speak of the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3 only in terms of the ministry of John the Baptist.

We read in 1QS 8.12b-16b: “…they (community members) shall separate from the habitations ungodly men and shall go into the wilderness to prepare the way of Him; as it is written, Prepare in the wilderness the way of… make straight in the desert a path for our God. This is the study of the Law which He commanded by the hand of Moses… and as the Prophets have revealed by His Holy Spirit.”

In fact the term Holy Spirit rarely(if at all) appears in the Hebrew Bible and in wide variety of Jewish literature with two notable exceptions – the New Testament Gospels and sectarian documents of the Qumran.

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Could it be that John the Baptist once belonged to the Qumran community? Yes. His emphasis on the water purification ceremony, his priestly origins, his ascetic life-style, his near identical missional justification (the voice in the wilderness), his curious diet (which we will discuss next), his apocalyptic message as well as his general location would certainly lead us in this direction.

Was John the Baptist/Baptizer a Qumranite by affiliation? Most certainly not. Qumran had a very stringent leadership structure. John, as best we can tell, worked alone. It is, therefore, much safer to conclude that John may have had an earlier connection with Qumran (as one Qumran reference very tentatively suggests) and then over time, parted company with them, developing his own ministry in a very different direction. We must not forget that our knowledge of Ancient Jewish movements is still fragmentary and it is entirely possible that John was affiliated in some way with another, unknown to us, movement of Jews calling other Jews to repentance. His affiliation is not the point. The fact that his was ‘the voice of the one calling in the wilderness” certainly is.


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  1. gustavo vargas angel

    you said the rightest word and gave the proper interpretation to that writing, because as I can understand, the Almighty God of Heavens is for all those who believe on Him and His Son, He(Adonay),belongs to the whole mankind, of which He is Creator and King. Best for you.

  2. Brad Thompson

    For me, Marks ref. to Isaiah 40:3 point me back to Isaiah 40:1-2…”Comfort and keep comforting my people,…Tell Yerushalayim to take heart,…she had completed her time of service,…her guilt has been paid off…;” Words of hope for both Hebrew and Goyim. The Glory of the Lord has been revealed; both in Yeshua the Messiah and Isreal.

  3. gustavo vargas angel

    Eric& Alfredo:
    Thanks you two, and I woud like to get a Bible like yours ,because my own, as said, is possibly mistranslated in some places, which leads to misunderstanding, like now.
    Best for you¡

  4. gustavo vargas angel

    As I said to Eric, please take a look in 1 Samuel 17:12, there say “Jese ephrata….”and before, is described by Samuel as one of them. I can not say more than I read( I also believed that Jesus was Jew by tribe/birth), but Saul, David, Jonatan, was there from . In any case, the real matter is : Jesus came, teached people & promised retur

    1. alfredo

      Por favor, Gustavo. Efrata no es lo mismo que Efraím. Tu estás confundiendo dos lugares distintos por el simple hecho que sus nombres son parecidos. Eso es lo que Eric y yo te estamos indicando, pero parece ser que no comprendes nuestros comentarios.

    2. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza


      Aditionaly, remember the promise in Gn 49:10. It was necessary that the Kings were Jews. It was not possible to have soil/ground/possesion in other tribe. If King David was not a jew, then God didn’t fill his word.
      I understand which you are trying to put here, “an Ephraimite living in Yehudah”, but never was said such a thing!!

  5. gustavo vargas angel

    Cathy Arvin:
    I am absolutely OK with you, HE wil not call to a press conference, nor will print a warning in papers, HE just will come. That is all we must hope and believe, additions are just burned straw. Adonay with you, for ever and ever. PD.: See signs in sky, as Jesus said, watch around and you will see the signals are almost given whole.

  6. Cathy Arvin

    our redemption draws near. Hallelujah!!! Also, keep in mind it is going to happen a lot more naturally then anyone expects. Just as when Yeshua came the first time, they knew Messiah was to come at that time, but expected something different than what happened. Just pray and be faithful endure to the end, it will not happen as any of us think.

  7. gustavo vargas angel

    I am hanging high from the electric lamp with your words”Jesus came in the 4th thousand year day”, could you please give me an explanation about? I will be for ever and ever your debtor. Best regards for you.

    1. Cathy Arvin

      The world was made in 7 days. A day to the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand year as one day. The Sages of old believe that the Messiah would come in the 4th day, The four thousand years, he came at the end of it but he came on the 4th day. Something to do with that day being when G-d created the sun & moon why they believe…

      1. alfredo

        Hi Cathy. Please tell us the source you are using where you find that the sages of old believe that the Messiah would come in the 4th day. Where can we find that Jewish teaching?

        1. Cathy Arvin

          I had heard it from several of my Hebrew teachers that I have listened to. The said who the sages where at the time, but I didn’t write it down. I will try and investigate the issue and see if I can find out from them, so you can look up what was said. Only problem might be they read it from the Hebrew. Will see what I can find out. Shalom

          1. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza


            The quotation is Sanhedrin 96a and ‘Avodah Zarah 9a
            Visite plz

          2. alfredo

            Thanks Eric!

          3. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza


            😉 (y) !


    2. Cathy Arvin

      that. So he came at the end of the 4th day. He will come again as we all know and look forward to. We are either at the end of the 6th day or the beginning of the 7th day… G-d’s thousand year days. I believe we have begun day 7 personally. Remember, the day begins at night time. The bridegroom comes at midnight, he is late, the virgins.

  8. gustavo vargas angel

    With the idea to give a back up to my former words, please take a look in 1 Samuel 17:12, here you may read about, if this written is not okey with your, please say me your Bible edition(year and printing house, my own is RV 1960-1990) . Best regards for you,

    1. alfredo

      Gustavo: Escribes tú que su tribu era “efrata”, pero esa no es una tribu. La Reina Valera es explícita en decir “Belén de Judá”, donde Judá SÍ es una tribu. Yeshúa es de la tribu de Judá. Ver la genealogía que presenta Mateo 1, en específico Mateo 1:2-6

    2. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza


      I use the hebrew text from:
      and there is writen:

      יב וְדָוִד בֶּן-אִישׁ אֶפְרָתִי הַזֶּה מִבֵּית לֶחֶם יְהוּדָה וּשְׁמוֹ יִשַׁי

      And David (was) a son of this man ‘Efrati, from Beyt lechem, Yehudáh, and his name is Yishay.

      Don’t confuse ‘Ephrati with ‘ephrayim, even when in Judges 12:5 says ‘ephrati referring to ‘Ephrayim. Notice the context. The correct form is ‘Ephraymi or Ben ‘ephrayim.
      The Gospel is clear when put the “our master came from the tribe of Yehudah” (Heb. 7:14).

  9. gustavo vargas angel

    Si mal no recuerdo, Jesus, como descendiente del rey David, era de la tribu de Efrain(David lo era), que nacio ademas, en Bethlehem efrata , por consiguiente y no obstante haber nacido en la provincia de Judea, su origen tribal era efrata y no judio por origen.

    1. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza


      David Ben Yisháy era de Béyt-léjem de ‘Efrátah, una de las más pequeñas provincias de Yehudáh. NO confundir ‘Efratah con ‘Efráyim. Hasta hoy Béyt-léjem sigue quedando al suroesta de Yerushaláyim, por lo que su relación geográfica con ‘Efráyim, es absolutamente nula.

  10. Kostya

    Thanks Alfredo. It interests me that the prophecy re John in Luke 1:17 (I know we are studying Mark not Luke) can be understood without reference to the Messiah. Or can it? John’s gospel tells us that when John met Jesus he knew who He was, and God warned him, but did he understand his call prior to that meeting as one in relation to the Messiah?

    1. alfredo

      Jewish tradition regards Elijah as the herald of Messiah: God took him up in a whirlwind rather than allowing him a normal death so that he could reappear at a later time to announce the coming of Messiah. Jewish people thought (and thinks as of today) that Elijah would appear just prior to the Messianic Era to announce Messiah’s arrival.

    2. alfredo

      In Malachi 4:5-6 the word “turn” is a translation of the Hebrew word shuv, repent as in Teshuvah, meaning that Elijah (John the Baptist having Elijah’s spirit and power, at John 1:17) would call fathers and sons to repent together.

      1. alfredo

        Sorry, I meant Luke 1:17 (instead of John)

    3. alfredo

      “but did he understand his call prior to that meeting as one in relation to the Messiah?” According to Rabbi Meir in Sotah 30b-31a, “Even the unborn babies uttered a song at the Red Sea”, taking into account Psalms 68:26 where ‘Israel’s fountain’ indicates those who were still in the womb.

    4. alfredo

      So, even before birth, John the Baptist performed his role as forerunner and witness to Messiah. This story of John leaping in the womb brings to mind the natal wrestling of Jacob and Esau “the older shall serve the younger” Genesis 25:23

  11. Kat

    Reading Mark 1-3 allowed me to read into the text that God needs our help (not likely). Reading Mark, Mal, and Ex all together I came to a more logical conclusion that repentance lets God prepare/guard our hearts to accept Christ. Am I correct to understand that Medieval manuscripts would have included all 3 references?

  12. Chris Van Horn

    We know from outside sources that the Essenes lived all over the place not just in Qumran. We also see that just because John did not live there that it is not impossible for him to be a member. Pliney the Elder in his works talks about them. So I agree there is a chance he was but he probably wasn’t. You cannot discount other sources so easily.

  13. Kostya

    We learn much more from Luke’s gospel about John. Especially the prophecy to his father about him. Christians immediately link him to Jesus as the forerunner and immediately preceding herald of the Messiah. My question is ‘How did John understand his mission in relation to to Jesus specifically? Did he just come upon Jesus later unexpectedly?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg


      1. Cathy Arvin

        I don’t believe so, from verses such as Mat 3:11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
        He Knew he was the forerunner and would not only meet the Messiah, but do his duty as required for him.

      2. Cathy Arvin

        Dr. Eli, can you go over what the requirements of the High Priest are to the Appointed King of Yisrael is? I know I am jumping ahead but also explain to all how the High Priest (Caiaphas) disqualified himself from being High Priest the year Yeshua was crucified. It would help people to see all that happened to Yeshua in G-d’s perfect planning.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Cathy, actually I am not 100% sure what you asking. Actually in John (at least) Caiaphas prophesies about Jesus’ atoning death (without realizing he is doing that). So, at least in John his office is affirmed (even though he himself opposed the Son of God)! (mystery how this can be so). Dr. Eli

          1. Cathy Arvin

            After he makes that profession in John in Mark 14:63 disqualifies himself as High Priest, Lev 21:10 ‘The priest who is the highest among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil has been poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes; see also Lev 10:6 But as Aaron see next one…..

          2. Cathy Arvin

            See Number 12 for Aaron & Miriam’s sin speaking against Moses. Because Aaron had the anointing oil & was holding that position, he did not receive the punishment that Miriam did. Because G-d was protecting & upholding the position of High Priest before the people. Showing the respect of the office, regardless of the person presently holding it.

          3. Cathy Arvin

            That is G-d’s timing of things. That is why Caiaphas’s sacrifice of the Passover Lamb was not accepted, and Yeshua’s sacrifice was. Heb 5:10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
            The order change for the sacrifice was accepted because Caiaphas was disqualified. G-d’s wrath goes out to the people to who?

          4. Cathy Arvin

            Lev 10:6 ……..He will not become wrathful against all the congregation. Do to the change of offices. A High Priest may never rend his clothes, ever once the anointing oil is on him. Remember Yeshua’s clothes where not torn but left in one piece. Mark 15:24. Ps 22:18. Does that help explain? I hope I made sense. Shalom

        2. alfredo

          Hi Cathy. Maybe this can help out: Caiaphas, after prophesizing about Jesus’ atoning death (John 11:51), rent his clothes (Matthew 26:65) at Jesus’s “trial”, breaking the law (Leviticus 21:10). Shalom!

          1. Cathy Arvin

            Yes and disqualifying him as a legitimate High Priest, according to the LAW. Not a lot of space to write it all down. Sorry, it is harder doing it piece meal.

        3. alfredo

          Hi Cathy. Yeshua is not an Aaronic priest. His priesthood is above, in the order of Melchizedek. That means that Leviticus 10:6 and 21:10 do not apply to Him. Yeshua is from the tribe of Judah, not from the tribe of Levi. On the other hand, Yeshua’s sacrifice, even though it happened on Passover, is not equivalent to the Lamb at Passover sacrifice.

          1. Cathy Arvin

            I know he is not. The point is Caiaphas disqualified himself at the trial, to perform the sacrifice. Yeshua was King, prophet and High Priest to a Higher order. Do to the patriarchs change of heart, though he is the Fourth Son, (Yeshua came in the 4th Thousand Year day) he was raised to first position. The tribe is the leading tribe & the King.

          2. Cathy Arvin

            Remember what Yeshua is called “1Co 5:7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.” His blood covers us and keeps the angel of death from entering in. It is a picture of that…. The whole sadder has Him all over it. He says to keep Passover…….

          3. Cathy Arvin

            in Remembrance of Him. He covers all the feasts, but Passover, He is our Passover, you can see that as clear as day. Paul talks of it all over 1 Cor. The Sacrifice at the temple that year was not accepted the High Priest was disqualified. The Sacrifice from the King of Righteousness was accepted….remember what John called Him. The LAMB OF G-D!

          4. Cathy Arvin

            Judah leads in all things. It is the tribe of the King. It is the tribe that leads into the land. It is the tribe that leads in battle. It is the tribe that not only has the leader of all the tribes, is in position of First Son. We learn from them, we keep them in a position of Honor. Because the Father put them in that Position.

        4. alfredo

          The Passover sacrifice was done at the Temple, by the High Priest, using a knife to kill without pain. Yeshua’s sacrifice was done outside the Temple, by the Romans, using a barbaric method to inflict pain. Sure, Yeshua is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) but that references Isaiah 53:7. His sacrifice is about being The Tzadik on behalf all creation.

          1. Cathy Arvin

            Yes the Passover Lamb was done at the temple. But the SIN sacrifice was done (outside the camp) away from the temple in a clean place. The SIN sacrifice was normally completely burned up. He was not only the SIN sacrifice but also the acceptable Lamb, meeting the requirements for the Passover lamb. Read what is required for the SIN sacrifice.

        5. alfredo

          By the way, what does Melchizedek means? This name is composed of two words: Melech (King) and Tzedek (Righteousness and Justice) , that is King of Righteousness.

        6. Chris Van Horn

          Actually he did not disqualify himself and Jesus did not take his priesthood from the common line at the time. The Temple was still there, so all the High Priest would have had to do was sacrifice and take his ritualistic bath to forgive his sins. Jesus is not taking his priesthood from Levi. He takes his priesthood from a different order.

          1. alfredo

            I agree with you Chris about Yeshua not taking Levi’s priesthood. Sure, Caiphas broke the law when he tore his garments but as you say, the Temple stood there for 40 more years. On the other hand, it is known that the red strip put on one of the scapegoats (Leviticus 16:5-10) did not turn white for those 40 years…

          2. Cathy Arvin

            Chris go read lLev. he did disqualify himself. Second, I never said he took the Lev. priesthood, he couldn’t he was of the tribe of Judah. He is the Melchizedek. I said that the sacrifice the High Priest Offered was not accepted. But the sacrifice that Yeshua gave was. It was more then just a mikvah needed for him to be in right standing to ..

          3. Cathy Arvin

            also, they used to put a ribbon on the door for the Yom Kippur sacrifice in the fall each year. It is said when it was accepted, the scarlet ribbon turned white, after Yeshua’s death, it never turned white again, ever. You need to know your Torah to know what is going on in the Apostolic Scriptures. If you don’t know the rules, you can’t know Truth

          4. Chris Van Horn

            Alfrado we do not know the exact date to make such assumptions. history says the temple was destroyed in 70 but some say 69 and we do not know weather our Lord was 33 or 33 and 1/2 by records kept. What Im getting at is you do not know if it really was 40 years or 39 years up to 41 years. But that is a very interesting theory I will look into that.

    2. alfredo

      John 1:29-34

  14. gustavo vargas angel

    thanks, finally it seems the beginning of the new study, so, lets go to learn some more about our Elohai.
    Best for you

  15. Angeline Musarurwa

    Dr Eli, thank you. I have always doubted the NT was originally written in Greek. Your paper has cleared some of my doubts. My view is, to make easy reference for their readers, NT writers used the Septuagint, however; the important thing to note is the majority of these writers were Hebrew, thought in Hebrew and were writing a Hebrew story, so the Greek is a translation as well as an interpretation, which is what you are teaching us right now. Secondly, Jews were scattered all over the region and were speaking different languages, with Greek mainly as the medium language, therefore, it was logical to use a language that would reach out to all peoples. Thank you for all you are doing. Please keep on the Lord’s work.

  16. bwengye charles

    yes the new testament was written in Hebrew .

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Charles, please, click on the article link and read the article first (about the Hebrew new testament). thanks.