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Seth Goranson wrote:
Dear David Kaufman,
With all due respect, perhaps we can move beyond your post of 5 Oct in which
you appear to inform me what I may and may not assert.
I believe that I simply said that you should not assert theories as
facts. If I do this, I would accept the same criticism. You may assert
anything as a theory, just as anyone else, including myself, may. The reason
that I have a problem with asserting theories as facts is that many of my
friends and classmates often enjoy telling me "Facts" about the Monestary at
Qumran and the Celebate Essene Monks who lived there. When we deal with
highly theoretical work, it is important to state that our theories are
theories and that they are only possibilities. Not necessarily THE TRUTH.
Perhaps it would be
useful for me to note some reasons I find the etymology of Essenes from "the
ones of Isaiah" and/or "the Isaiahites" not persuasive, as well as a few
notes on 'asah as the source I find persuasive. Though Isaiah is prominent
among Qumran mss, it is, after all, a major prophetic book and prominent
among Jews generally (and among Christians).
Even if one accepts that the variant text in 1QIsa a at 19:18 was intentional
(which I am prepared to do) there is little reason to think that either
Essenes or outsiders (which are you claiming?) considered Essenes Isaiahites.
I believe that it is possible that the followers of the Oniad High Priesthood
looked to Isaiah for their guidance after being exiled from Jerusalem (See
Josephus Ant. XIII 62ff and War VII 432). Those who called themselves this
were not the Priesthood, but their followers. The priesthood continued
calling themselves by priestly terms, Sons of Zadok and Sons of Aaron. Those
who were not priests could not claim these terms.
If one were to make up such a name, wouldn't "sons of Isaiah", like "sons of
the prophets" be more plausible?
Maybe, but we don't have that. I am not trying to assert fact. I know that
there is not enough information to prove anything related to my argument or
anyone else's for that matter. I am simply asserting a new possibility that
if it seems out of place does not seem so by context. Furthermore, Essenoi is
not the only form used to refer to this group. Essaioi is also used. I do not
think it a great leap to move from Hessaioi, the "Isaiahites" in Greek, to
Essaioi. Note that Josephus seems to refer to Judah as one of the Hessaioi in
War I 78. There may not be enough evidence to ever prove my case. I do not
think that it is concretely defensible. Moving from a supposed Hessaiwn to
Essen is a bit of a jump. But think of it in the context in which it was
Is Essen Hebrew or Greek? Those who lived in that day may not have known
unless they were in the Group. My assumption is that the language of the term
may have changed and possibly several times. Isaiah, a Hebrew name, became a
Greek name, Hesaias. Then it became a Greek noun referring to a type of
person and then was put into the plural, Hessaioi. Some may have put it in
the genative plural, Hessaiwn. Another person may have thought Hessaiwn to be
Essaiwn. If one simply slurs the end of Essaiwn, one gets something that
sounds an awful lot like Essene. It would not be strange to have then had
someone take this bastardized version and assume it to be singular. Taking
the singular and making it plural, we have Essenoi.
Obviously, this is all theoretical. However, all other theories are also
theoretical. I can not say that I have a new DSS text that says, "Essenoi
comes from...." No member of the group has whispered in my ear or delivered a
paper on the subject. However, knowing the vital importance of prophetic
material and Isaiah in particular, I believe that this origin for the term is
at least as likely as one arising from Healer and, in my view, more likely
that one arising from Hatchet.
Just a few thoughts,
-David Jay Kaufman