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Essenes, again. Was: 1000 scribes... (long)

Dear Moshe,

Responding to your last posting...

Ian (indicated by ">>"):
>>You cannot assume that the last residents were aware of its [cave 4's]
Moshe (indicated by ">>>" and ">"):
>Have you seen a layout of the area, and the proximity of the caves (especially
>#4) to the Qumram area? The appearance of the area after 1500+ years bears
>little if no resemblance to what it looked like when it was in use. I seem to
>recall reading that there was a path to the caves that was found. Which would
>add to the connection. 

There is no possibility that anything could have covered cave 4 up -- if you
look at its location that would require the whole area to be covered. The
only likely event would be that due to its exposure to erosion it would
become more evident. Cave 4's position is not a guarantee that the last
inhabitants of Qumran knew of it: it is off the end of a spur that made it
much further than the straight line distance indicates and the original
entrance was off the side. The entrance from above I gather was cut by the
archaeologists for easier access and still it's not easy. There is little
likelihood that a path was discovered to this cave as the only access is via
an extremely open neck of land.

>In any case, if, as you seem to claim, the people
>living there did not know of the caves,

Reread: "the last residents" -- this does not imply all residents.

>then how could someone else have known
>of them who was not in the area? The only argument (which seems quite weak) is
>that they caves were known, but that someone else used them, and not the
>people of Qumran. That would require a good deal of evidence.

The evidence is reasonably clear that the texts did not relate to the last
inhabitants. The last historical references were to about 62 bce (Aemilius
kills, etc) -- all other historical references were prior to that time.
There is no reason to assume that the same people who lived in Qumran prior
to Herod returned there. (It seems beyond belief that a community that lived
at Qumran removed all the documents from the site to bring them back on
another occasion, besides the probable reason for abandonment [military
attack] would have excluded such an eventuality.) There is nothing to
connect the texts with a first century group living in Qumran,
circumstantial evidence like physical proximity notwithstanding.
(Archaeologists walked over the tomb of Tutankhamen for a hundred years
without finding it. It was only a concerted effort to find that particular
tomb that went on for several years until it was found.)

>>>2. The content in many
>>>cases agrees with what we have with regards to the Essenes.
>>The texts were probably written well over a hundred years before Josephus's
>>rendition of his Essenes. There are differences between what he writes and
>>what is found in the dss. There are differences among the dss so one cannot
>>assume a coherent body of texts.
>Ian, do you think that the 'Essenes' always had one type of belief/halacha and
>that they did not change over time? That there are differences does not mean
>they do not reflect a single group. The question is what the differences are
>and how significant. Maybe you can mention what you consider to be a
>'difference' so significant that it would demolish the association with either
>Qumran or the 'Essenes'?

The differences are enough to question the connection between the Essenes
and the authors of the so-called sectarian works found among the dss. You
have no evidence to show that the Essenes can be in fact dated back as far
as the last known reference in the dss (62 bce). The talk of Essenes has
always been a flight of fancy and it is time that it is dropped so that
people can get on with serious analysis and not just stop gap defense of
untenable hypotheses.

>>>Even Schiffman who
>>>(I think correctly) has posited a Sadducee connection, will admit that these
>>>people correspond (or are similar to) what we call Essenes.
>>How on earth can Schiffman say anything about Sadducean theology? What are
>>his ancient *contemporary* sources? Or is he interpolating backwards?
>We ALL interpolate backwards.

The dss are at the time we are trying to get at. They are contemporary
evidence. Use them -- before you interpolate, not after.

>>>The only texts for
>>>which there is some small relevance to discuss origins would be those
that are
>>>particularly 'sectarian', and even those could have been written in other
>>>places since the Essenes appear to have had various communities.
>>What criteria do you use for "sectarian" when analysing the dss? Can you say
>>from the ancient sources which were and were not?
>My criteriah is quite simple. 'Sectarian' means a text that is used exclusivly
>for a particular sect. For example: 4QMMT is clearly a sectarian text as we
>see from it a particular 'sects' POV on various halachic matters.

There is no good reason to assume that MMT was in fact "sectarian". Read
Greg Doudna's recent post on his rereading of MMT and tell us if you find it

>...Some of the Midrashic type texts like 4Q180-181 I consider in the
>middle (between non-sect and sect). They probably come from the sect, but
they may
>reflect universal beliefs.

This is only true if you want to sustain a sectarian interpretation.

>>> Is there
>>>anyone who assumes that the book of Deuteronomy, Isaiah or Ben Sirach were
>>>only used by a small group of people? So the place of origin of these
works is
>>>irrelevant (though it certainly is worth a number of papers in scholarly
>>Unfortunately, Moshe, this does seem *to me* to be too arbitrary -- too many
>>conclusions with too little evidence. When one doesn't know when the texts
>>were written exactly (though before 60 bce seems a good indicator, thus
>>ruling out a direct connection with the last inhabitants of Qumran), and
>>when one doesn't know what the religio-political climate was in the century
>>before 60 bce, other than the few glimpses given in Josephus and the
>>Maccabees books, one has no way of supporting the weight that has thus far
>>been put on the Essene hypothesis.
>Would you provide for me a single reason as to why I should consider the
>possibility that during the period of time the Qumran community existed that
>the books of Deuteronomy and Isaiah were sectarian? That appears to be what
>you are arguing. 

No, I am arguing that there is no way to say that the non-biblical works are
sectarian. The historical information we have is scant and cannot sustain
the Essene hypothesis, nor can it indicate the differences between any sects
of the period of the dss if in fact there were sects (as against political
parties). We have no indication as to when the Essenes emerged. So everyone
on the Essene kick has simply been shooting from the hip.


Ian Hutchesson