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Josephus and Pliny as sources

    There seems, at least in the material I've read, to be a clear "need" to
square anything that Pliny or Josephus say about the Essenes and other possible
groups near the Dead Sea with the picture the DSS give of the community at 
Qumran.  This surprises me.  First, it's my impression that Josephus
is generally not regarded as very reliable historically on many points.  Why should
he be so regarded here?  Second, if we take what some interpreters of ancient
historiography tell us seriously, the last thing we need to do with an historical
work is take it as being intended to teach facts.  Entertain?  Yes.  Maybe
really be a novel?  Yes.  Detailed facts and concern for what "actually 
happned"?  Not according to many NT scholars who read Acts.  So why doesn't that
same judgment fall on Pliny?  I don't see why these two authors with their little
statments are taken as such a serious challenge to any theory about the 
Qumran community.

Ken Litwak
Berserkely, CA