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I have read some but not all of the archives, so if this is old news, my
apologies. Apparently Greg Doudna proposed that since Pliny wrote after
Qumran was destroyed, Essenes (esseni) cannot be associated with Qumran. I
do not think this is one of his better proposals.
Mommsen long ago misread an inscription, taking it to suggest that
Pliny had served with the Roman army not only in Europe but also in Egypt
and Palestine. But scholarship on Pliny has shown that there is no reason
to suppose that Pliny was ever in Judaea. For bibliography, see G. Serbat,
"Pline l'ancien. Etat present des studes sur sa vie, son oeuvre et son
influence," ANRW II 32.4 (1986) 2069-2200, esp. 2074-75.
Pliny used a source. Menahem Stern persuasively argued that that
source reflected administrative divisions of Judaea at the time of Herod,
and that Pliny only partly updated his source (eg, to note the war). See
his Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, vol. 1.
The source Pliny used here, I think, was Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.
For some of the arguments for that proposal, see JJS 45 (1994) 295-98.
Jim VanderKam also notes this proposal in, I think, the BR article on
Sadducees and Essenes.
If these observations are correct, there is no problem in asserting
that Pliny describes Essenes at Qumran, second-hand, as they were seen or
heard of in about 15 BCE.
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