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Re: Josephus and Pliny as sources

Ken Litwak:
>     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.

For one thing, they're pretty much all we have about certain sects 
during the period.  But beyond that, any time something heretofore 
unknown is discovered like this, there's the temptation--rather, the 
drive, or perhaps internal need--to relate it to something already 
known.  The unknown tends to unsettle the scientist, IMO, and so the 
desire to tie that unknown in with some known can lead one to do 
some things that one might not otherwise (consciously) do.

"Hey, Zeb!  You guess how many possums I've got in this
bag and I'll give you both of 'em!"