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Re: Herod-era and DSS
Greg Doudna writes:
> But here is a question for you, Russell. Your "sectarians"
> of the first BCE--who are they? According to Josephus,
> the "sadducees" carried influence during the first part
> of the 1st BCE, then lost power. Perhaps Qumran literature
> emerges from this context? And forget Essenes--who may
> be the first-century CE successors of this formerly-powerful
> party or philosophic school or association, by another name.
> Isn't it strange that the rabbis knew first- and second-
> century CE heterodox types as "sadducees" and seem never
> to have heard of Essenes? What is going on here?
> Best wishes and looking foward to your War Scroll article--
> Greg Doudna
I consider 4QMMT to demonstrate a relationship between the
sectarians and the Sadducees. But the content of the scrolls
most closely resembles the description of the Essenes in Josephus
in my opinion. So I posit that (a) the sectarians originated in
Maccabean times; (b) in the early Hasmonean times there was an
amicable split between the largely priestly Sadducees and the
sectarians; (c) that the Essenes of Josephus were the spiritual
heirs of the sectarians who preserved their literature. The rabbis
may have preserved memories of both the Essenes and Sadducees
under the name Sadducees, the former being considered a subset or
historical split-off of the latter.
However, this is for the most part plausible scenario.
An unsolved problem for me is Josephus' sources on the Essenes.
Without knowing his sources, it's difficult to be certain what the
testimony of Josephus signifies.
There seems to be two distinct sources. (1) The flattering anecdotes
in Josephus regarding famous Essene figures of the past appears in
my opinion to derive from Nicolas of Damascus. What his sources
were I cannot divine -- unless this is oral history picked up at Herod's
court. (Nicolas was a close associate of Herod the Great, and it
appears that Herod also favored the Essenes -- or some faction thereof.)
(2) The extended account of the Essenes, seemingly from some earlier
My questions with regard to the latter are who authored it and when, and
why the division of Judaism into three sects is specifically projected back
to the time of Hyrkanus (as I recall). Any theories out there?
Greg, this has relevance to your other recent post:
> Josephus's Essene source has an unusual passage
> which could read like an apology against
> criticisms of too liberal willingness to inflict capital
> punishment in their courts.
> "But in the judgements they exercise they are
> most accurate and just, nor do they pass
> sentence by the votes of a court that is fewer
> than a hundred. And as to what is once
> determined by that number, it is unalterable.
> What they most of all honor, after God himself,
> is the name of their legislator, whom if any
> one blaspheme he is punished capitally."
> (_Wars_ II, 8, 9)
> Question: if first-century CE high priests had
> grave difficulties offing political opponents
> without getting Roman permission, what on earth
> is this reference to Essene courts of one hundred
> carrying out formal executions all about?
> Is this a hint of Essenes having held state
> power at one time? A hint or an echo out of their
> real, as distinguished from literarily constructed,
> past, as it were? Anyone have a better
The issue I would raise is whether the passage from Josephus
is relevant to the first century CE as you presume. If Josephus
is reproducing an older source, then the polemics might be against
quick executions of a previous era (e.g. Herod's execution of his
enemies; Simeon b. Shetach's mass execution of the witches, etc.).
-- Russell Gmirkin