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Re: Qumran Monastary

In response to Jim West's question about the use of the term monastery,
a few comments.

1.  Terms like "monk," "monastery," "bishop," etc., carry with them the
baggage of a well-developed religious tradition.  To use those terms,
even after caveats like, "but not in the sense of medieval Christianity
or anything . . ." is problematic, because you really don't escape the
historical connotations of those terms.  Whether you intend it or not, a
discussion of a Qumran monastery suggests a great deal more order,
hierarchy, and Christianishness (which is not to say Christianity per
se) than I am comfortable assuming.

2.  Given the diversity of our textual evidence for ascetic groups and
given the fact that we're talking about a long period of time (better
part of three centuries), I'm not really comfortable talking about the
Qumran phenomenon in any totalistic way.  The Community Rule and the
Damascus Document (just for example)  don't just disagree with each 
other -- they interrelate in a way that is both complicated and
significant.  Our other textual evidence (as well as outside sources,
esp. Josephus) further highlight the complicated nature of this
picture.  It may be possible to speak in terms of one ascetic Qumran
group (which I still wouldn't describe as a monastery   ;)   ), but only
if we remember that this group (or groups, to satisfy my post-modern
conscience) would have changed over time, in response to external and
internal developments of various types.

3.  Lastly, I have to say that there *is* in fact a gender issue here. 
But far from suggesting that there is 

> a modern
> feminist perspective being superimposed on the data? (I am just asking, so
> please don't be upset! :)  )

I would say that the opposite is at work:  to make the "traditional"
assumption that women are absent from this scene or did not have *some*
of the same religious/social/political concerns as men in the period (as
well as many that they did not share with men) simply erases women from
the picture.  I don't think it's a feminist imposition to suggest that
any theory of Qumran must take into account the complicated evidence
before us:  graves; references to women in places like the Damascus
Document; descriptions, whatever we do with them, of "marrying Essenes."  
I'd rather not smooth over (sorry) the evidence that we have, and I
think that concern for necessary complications is not limited to
feminist scholarship.

Sorry to go on at such length.  I look forward to hearing other
opinions on any of these points.

All best,

Max Grossman
University of Pennsylvania