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Re: Josephus & DSS

Dear Jim,

When I wrote the following, it was only partially rhetoric:
>>I find the advice given here almost scandalous(!?),
>really, Ian, I find it difficult to believe that you find anything
>scandalous! :)
It's difficult for me to take the fact that you've trashed one of our few
contemporary and expert witnesses because you don't like his style or
audience. Would you do the same with Tacitus or Suetonius? Ok, you have to
cut them with a knife, all of them, but we are not using them as historians,
merely witnesses. Your job is to deal with your witnesses, not reject them
out of hand.

>>So why give his seal of approval to
>>the Essenes if he didn't know anything about them and was so unreliable?
>Because they were the only group which did not participate in the War
>against Rome in 68!

You've seen by the reactions on the list that this has not been established,
therefore not valid against my client.

>>The more pertinent thing to do is to drop this *stupid assumption* that the
>>documents at Qumran belonged to the Essenes until there is more evidence one
>>way or another. Naturally, if you believe the earth is flat, you have to get
>>to an edge to prove it.
>My point.
Strangely we do get to the same point, but the method is totally different:
yours by making more assumptions, mine by making fewer. At least, I took you
for tacitly giving some support to the Essene -- Qumranite -- (Scrolls-)
convenanter theory, to which you add the attack on Josephus, one of our few

>>As it is, Josephus is one of the few who talk about the Essenes. He was a
>>contemporary. He showed positive interest in them. He even states his
>>baggage at the start of his work. He must be one of the sources in this
>>matter, though to treat him at his word of course would be a mistake. But
>>this does not mean forget about his works. I'd rather go for Josephus on the
>>Essenes than flaky modern wish-fulfilment.
>Why?  Why is he so credible to you?
Why trash him? We know when he was writing, basically why he was writing,
who he was writing for -- more than we know for any OT work. This gives some
hints for a key to reading him.

>I think they [dss] hold within themselves a great deal of undiscovered context.
I believe you here, but 1) the risks are great in creating our context
rather than eking out theirs, and 2) a document cannot be a key to its own
reading: you need more. With Josephus we have a clear historical context in
which we know the major players; we have evidence of similar racial defences
with Manetho and Berossus; we can confront some of his information with what
we know of the period and he comes out not too badly with his facts. 

We are still without a key for the dss. We have a few tantalizing hints like
the Paeon for King Yonatan, but if he is Alexander Jannaeus, the paeon has
to be reconciled with the "furious young lion" of the Nahum pesher. But this
resolved still won't supply a key: it would just be a minor puzzle unlocked.

Until people can find some road in, they will probably have to do the
slogging work of simply confronting the texts for what can be got out of
them in isolation. The more that is brought to them of the speculative genre
seen up to date (Essenes, monasteries, etc), the harder it will make for
their valur to be unlocked.

As always, yours,

Ian Hutchesson