Just felt the urge to talk about the supposed ‘Essene connection’ Jesus and/or John the Baptist had with them.
The ‘Essenes’ (Essaioi, Essenoi, Esseni) is really an interesting group among Second Temple period Jews: we know about them mainly through the Jewish historian Josephus, the Alexandrian Jew Philo and an earlier, briefer mention by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder. (In addition, you have a brief mention from the late 1st-early 2nd century by Dio Chrysostom and a much later account from the 2nd-3rd century by St. Hippolytus of Rome.)
These three writers really sort of exoticise them by focusing on their ‘unique’ practices and beliefs such as their asceticism, their communal lifestyle, or their toilet habits. In fact, by focusing on the ‘different’, Josephus and Pliny in particular inadvertently make them sound rather not very Jewish (something not helped by Josephus’ explaining Jewish concepts in Greco-Roman terms for his Greco-Roman audience).
Since for about nineteen centuries, these five writers are all that we had concerning the Essenes, and because these sources give the Essenes this air of exoticism and mystique - an air of being ‘different’ - it was common to interpret them as being a sort of *un-*Jewish sect in the middle of the Jewish heartland. They became an easy target for historical Jesus scholars to explain the factors that helped shape Jesus’ life and teaching.
It’s no secret that during the 18th-19th century, historical Jesus scholarship was dominated by Europeans who were either Protestant or reared in a Protestant background, such as German Lutherans. The German scholars in particular seem to have inherited the religious and political negative attitudes towards Jews, Judaism, and the Old Testament present within Lutheranism and in German society in general. (One of the factors which contributed to the Holocaust, actually.) For example, the traditional Lutheran reading of St. Paul, where Judaism is often stereotyped as an empty, legalistic, works-based religion rendered obsolete by the saving, morally superior, faith- (sola fide ;)) and grace-based Christianity: in other words, ‘Law’ versus ‘Gospel’.
Influenced by this tenet, scholars in those days tended to portray the Jews of Jesus’ time and afterwards as rigidly formal (cf. the common stereotype of “the Pharisees”), preaching an angry, just God obsessed with rules, fire-and-brimstone apocalypticism and ‘uncivilized’ mysticism. Jesus, by contrast, they presented as as the founder or the instigator of a superior, more ‘rational’ - y’know, without all that supernatural claptrap - philosophy of love and tolerance and all that. (Those scholars who denigrated traditional Christianity would in turn claim that Christianity is a bastardization of Jesus’ philosophy: modern Christianity, they claim, had later become ‘tainted’ by that backward Jewish superstition. Which explains all those rules and ritual.)
Because of this negative attitude towards Jews and Judaism, these scholars could not fathom Jesus being a Jew and growing up in a Jewish environment. A few people went as far to say that Jesus may not have ethnically been a Jew at all. (Y’know, the ‘Aryan Christ’ theory.) Many, however, were content to suggest simply that Jesus may have been Jewish by birth, but He had managed to ‘de-Judaize’ Himself - say, by being exposed to different, non-Jewish (and hence more superior) systems such as Greek philosophy or even Buddhism or Hinduism.
Ever heard of those claims of Jesus going to India or Tibet? Those claims all have their origin in this presupposition: that Jesus’ teachings were shaped and influenced by anything other than Judaism. Jesus was portrayed as an enlightened liberator from the oppressive Jewish law, seeking either to reform Judaism by making it less ‘irrational’ or to outright destroy it. (Now some scholars did recognize Jesus’ Jewish context, but their bias against Judaism made it so that they had dismissed Jesus as irrelevant to modern minds. Because He’s Jewish.)
And this is where the supposedly ‘un-Jewish’ Essenes come in.