Photo: bequest of Daniel Wadsworth, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT

ON THE COVER: The Gospels and the first-century Jewish historian Josephus tell us much about John the Baptist’s ministry in the wilderness of Judea, portrayed here in “St. John in the Wilderness” by Thomas Cole. But where did John come from and how did he arrive at his idea of baptism? Because his ministry exhibits many similarities to the beliefs and practices of the Essenes—the Jewish sect generally believed to have resided at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found—the question is asked by Otto Betz, “Was John the Baptist an Essene?” (For a full view and more information about Cole’s painting, see the sidebar entitled “BR’s Cover.”)