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Problems with the Essene hypothesis (fwd)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 1997 00:44:50 +0100
From: Ian Hutchesson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Stephen Goranson wrote:
>2) Philo (quod Omnis 75) and Josephus (Ant. 18.20) reported that
>there were more than 4000 Essenes (at a given time; they used a
>source, perhaps from first century BCE).
Perhaps, perhaps not. Josephus also tells us the Essenes were a city living
group. Now just how many of these city living Essenes do you imagine lived
at Qumran around 63 bce? You remember: when the Maccabean desert posts were
being manned by Aristobulus's supporters some of whom were Sadducees (as the
dss claim to be).
>3) G. Doudna (12 Dec) invited: "Try to understand the point. The
>point is the miniscule [sic] number of confirmed overlaps of
>scribes producing multiple texts, which is not what one would
>expect from scribes in one location producing texts for internal
> My response: I disagree.
OK, let's concede 10 times the number of overlaps, just to help you along.
Would that make 100 texts? How many texts are there left then? another five
hundred? Stephen, you cannot sustain your position. There are still too many
different hands to justify your position.
>A) What you "expect" (or claim in retrospect) differs from what I
I'm sure Greg would happily agree.
>B) "Confirmed" overlaps do not equal actual overlaps. Some
>fragments are such poor samples that overlaps cannot be recognized.
>(Aside: why such confidence in this aspect of paleography hand in
>hand with such skepticism on dating estimates by paleography?)
Hopefully by conceding a few more as done above you can stop this as still
being seen to be inconsequential.
>C) Some mss were brought to Qumran and others were sent away.
Let's make the hypothesis a little more complex, shall we?
>Both actions reduce the number of overlaps. So there was *not* only
>"one location" involved. Furthermore, "producing texts for internal
>consumption" is your (straw man) description, not mine. I see no reason
>to limit the possibilities to Qumran scribes working only for Qumran
The hypothesis so far now has Qumran scribes writing texts for exportation
to their brethren who were incapable of writing for themselves. Normally
culture tends to be located in cities and it spreads from there. Stephen,
you seem to think it might go the other way in the case of Qumran. Why?
>D) Many texts were lost (destroyed by various means).
Now we're getting indications of a lot more than seven hundred texts at
Qumran though I don't know what sort of evidence there is for such a
position. Stephen, I wouldn't mind some, at least. Occam is waiting to have
a field day.
>(Plus others may yet be found.)
I agree with this idea that there are probably other texts still to be
found. Just as there were texts found in antiquity in and near Jericho,
there are probably other texts still buried in perhaps various other places
-- as I believe just prior to Pompey's siege of the temple.
>Given the many Essenes extant over much time,
Essenes are one thing, Qumran inhabitants are another. You haven't made a
serious connection between them. Pliny isn't very helpful. And neither
Josephus nor Philo deal with this.
>the locations involved,
What, an old Maccabean installation? Oh, I see, you mean the "above En Gedi"
bit from Pliny. As I've said numerous times before about this overused
quote, Qumran is quite close to Jericho but relatively far from En Gedi.
"above En Gedi" indicates vicinity to there. If in fact Pliny did mean
Qumran, why didn't he say "below Jericho" (which would make more sense)?
>the difficulty of confirming scribal hand counts, and the
though being extremely generous to your argument, this doesn't hold water.
>probable loss of hundreds if not thousands of relevant texts, it
>appears that one would do well not to overplay the significance of
>numbers of scribal hands.
Well, it's been so underplayed until now. It needs more serious press: this
silly Essene business has been going on for far too long. The scribal hands
is one extreme hurdle that the Essene hypothesis doesn't get over.
>4) My estimate of over 99% for the probability of at least one
>first century CE Qumran ms takes into account that the mss so far
>tested (again probably) represent a reasonable cross section of
>over 800 mss.
>Even limiting to the 19 so far tested, 4QpPs a, by
>itself, gives a 2-sigma reading (95%) for 5-111 AD.
Only fourteen from Qumran to my knowledge, the rest from other sites mainly
for reference purposes.
>If one accepts 68 CE or so as the latest deposit time,
Why accept the 68 dating arbitrarily?
>the first-century likelihood increases.
The beauty of the testing is that although a certain error margin should be
noted, 13 out of the fourteen Qumran texts were in fact early, making a 63
bce dating for the deposit of the dss at Qumran quite possible. (And I don't
think you want to advocate different depositation dates for different texts
-- the vast majority before 63 bce and one in the following century?) C-14
dating is not quite a total science yet, so a small number of errors must be
expected -- for example if the preparation of the documents hadn't been
finished at the time of the last attempt at dating.
>If one adds the 1Q cloth C-14 test, the number
>increases. Of possible related interest: At SBL '96, J. Magness, if I
>recall correctly, dated Kh. Qumran "scroll jars" to period II, which
>began, in her view, sometime after 9/8 BCE. (Also, Ian H. misreported
>the C-14 evidence,
I don't believe so.
>as well as the coin evidence, etc.)
>The texts are
>incompatible with Sadducee views on resurrection, predestination, and
You've got a crystal ball that tells you what the Sadducees believed I
gather. You've got no texts that are contemporary that you know of that were
written by the Sadducees. You've got reports from well over a century after
the decimation of the Sadducees that were written clearly by people who had
little knowledge of the Sadducees. So you can't really talk from your
position as to what the Sadducees did or did not believe.
However, the dss themselves talk extremely favourably of the sons of Zadok,
who were the principal group in the dss. Have you got any reason to believe
that such a record is wrong? If not, these people, who are calling
themselves Sadducees, seem to be extremely temple oriented, keeping records
of the various priestly families' turns for temple service, writing psalms,
hymns and songs for temple service. The majority of the texts themselves
show nothing to indicate that they were not in some prior mainstream
temple-based religion. The others can reasonably be explained by adverse
conditions such as the Seleucid intervention in 175 bce and the ensuing war
that lasted on and off for forty years, separating the writers from the
temple and thus making emergency measures to survive in the wildernesses.
>External and internal evidence identifies the Qumran collection
The external evidence for an Essene document collection is basically
appalling. It hinges on three writers whose records don't agree, whose
records conflict with the internal content of the dss (if they were in fact
written by Essenes), and who were not contemporaries with the documents. The
internal evidence is against a local writing. A few inkwells don't make a
library. The large number of texts is not supported by the number of people
supportable by the site, ie there were too few readers to deal with over 700
texts. The location of the texts themselves argue against regular usage by
anyone at Qumran.
The earthquake in 37 bce was a red herring: there was no reason to go off
because the earthquake put down a wall or two (if that). In most places,
they rebuild. There is no archaeological evidence to my knowledge that
indicates that Qumran was inhabited between 63 bce and 37 bce, so there is
nothing to suggest that the site was occupied until into the first decades
of this era.
The coins start to pick up seriously in the thirties. If I remember
correctly 147 Alexander Jannaeus coins spread about the site, then down to a
trickle -- one here, five there, a whole ten under Herod -- the small
numbers of coins suggest that there was no occupation during those times and
that they were survivors from an earlier period though still in circulation.
The archaeological remains in the inhabited caves 7 to 10 show that they
were of a different situation from the document caves. While there were a
few documents in these caves (one can permit the inhabitants to have a few)
they don't represent anything necessarily to do with the other caves. They,
therefore, should not be used for dating those other caves.
And for the life of me I cannot imagine why our sectarians would have a
scroll made out of copper, made to last, made to record for posterity real,
important information regarding the whereabouts of the temple treasures,
including books, if they were in fact sectarians and separated from the
temple due to religious differences. The existence of the Copper Scroll is
another strong refutation of the Essene hypothesis. While it would be an
absurd document for an out of touch bunch who were busily supplying the rest
of Judaea with sectarian scrolls, it would make plain good sense if it came
from the Jerusalem temple.
If the documents do actually date from before 63 bce, then the Essene
hypothesis is a dead letter. You can argue till the cows come home on
whether the inhabitants of Qumran were or were not Essenes, and, though you
don't have enough information to come to a conclusion, it would be
The internal historical information stops with Pompey's precursor into
Palestine, AEmilius Scaurus, ie 64 bce. There is no internal evidence that
could be specifically indicative of the Essenes.