Qumran Caves & the Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls, uncovered at Qumran, shed light on the diversifying sectarianism of Judaism at the time when Christianity was in the process of spinning off as a Judean sect. St. John the Baptist spent a lot of time in the Judean desert and may have visited Qumran and been influenced by some of the teachings of its inhabitants, which may have been Essenes. In particular, the Qumran sect's emphasis on ritual purity may be the source of the concept of baptism.
Some of Jesus' pronouncements are similar to sentiments that appear in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Paul's writings also parallel passages of the scrolls. The ascetic residents of Qumran were probably celibate, similar to the Catholic priesthood.
A visit to Qumran begins with a film, which tells the story of the discovery in 1946 of the Dead Sea Scrolls by a Bedouin shepherd – as well as the daily life of the sect that inhabited the area 2,000 years ago. After the film, tour the archaeological remains of the community. See the collective dining room, houses and multiple ritual baths. A room called the scriptorium may have been the place where Qumran's scribes copied and composed the scrolls.
Above the settlement are the openings to the various caves where the scrolls were hidden. Due to the dryness of the desert and the darkness of the caves, many of the scrolls were preserved almost intact. A large number of fragments were discovered as well and have been pieced together by scholars over the years.