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RE: Scrolls Deposit Date

I've tried sending this to Orion using address orion@pluto.mscc.huji.ac.il
twice in the last 2 weeks, apparently with no success.  (Or have I just not
received back this posting or its responses?)  If it in fact hasn't gone out,
could you forward this to the list?


Russ Gmirkin


Ian, before responding to your specific points, let me make some general

We both agree the scrolls went into the caves ca. 63 BCE.  You speculate that
the scrolls were deposited for safekeeping in caves in Qumran and elsewhere
in 64?  63? BCE by Jerusalem Sadducean priests intimidated by the actions of
Aemilius Scaurus and fearful of Pompey's imminent intervention in Jewish

By my reconstruction the scrolls arrived at Qumran in ca. 76 BCE with the
Sadducees who took over command of that fortress, and were deposited in caves
in 63 BCE when these same commanders were forced to evacuate Qumran, as
demanded by Pompey and ordered by Aristobulus.  By the way, in my
reconstruction Mishmarot C was a late arrival at Qumran around 63 BCE.
 Setting aside its incidental historical references, its main purpose was to
function as a schedule so the Sadducees stationed at Qumran (or elsewhere in
Judea) would know when to report for service in their priestly course in the

Our major point of disagreement is when and why the scrolls arrived at
Qumran.  You say they were hidden to safeguard them against the military
threat posed by Pompey.  Why?  Do conquering generals normally destroy
religious literature?  Were the Romans in general, or Pompey in specific, in
the habit of doing this?  (Answer to both -- no.)  So why would Pompey's
arrival in Damascus (or later? -- you're not very specific) prompt the hiding
of the scrolls?  Your suggestion that a military conflict prompted hiding
religious texts seems to somewhat lack a logical as well as historical basis.

By contrast, the eviction of the Sadducees partisans from Jerusalem in 76 BCE
posed a definite threat to their literature.  Leading Sadducees were being
executed, Sadducean halakhot implemented under John Hyrkanus I were being
overturned by the Pharisees now running affairs in Jerusalem.  There seems
little question that the Pharisees would have destroyed any Sadducean texts
that might fall into their hands.  So, Ian, what did the Sadducean leadership
do with their religious library in 76 BCE?  Abandon it?  Perhaps leave the
scrolls behind in the safekeeping of the Pharisees?  I propose that the
Sadducees took their scrolls with them to the fortresses they were stationed
in.  This historical context does suggest a threat to religious texts.  Who
after all destroys religious literature except those with an opposing
religious viewpoint?  The scrolls were brought to Qumran (and elsewhere) for
safekeeping as well as for "local use" as you say.  The religious (as well as
political!) conflict in 76 BCE is historical, and provides better motivation
for the arrival of scrolls at Jerusalem.

Russ Gm.

Now for a detailed response to the points you raised.  

Russell Gmirken wrote:
>Your dating the Salome ref [in MishC] to year 2 is based on the
>translation.  There is no real textual basis for this dating, as the Salome
>reference and the year 2 priestly courses are on two different fragments.
> The more recent Wise-Abegg-Cook translation properly considers the Salome
>reference undated.  Hence many of your arguments are unnecessary.  

Given the nature of the Mishmarot it would seem quite difficult, if the
fragment concerned actually belongs to MishC as both Eisenman/Wise and
Wise/Abegg/Cook (the only ones to have made any comment) assert, to conclude
other than that the Shelamzion references were either to the first or second
years of the particular course.

Ian, that's the point.  Consider if the Salome reference belongs to year 1,
and refers to the last year of her reign.  Then the six years of Mishmarot C
would be:

yr 1  67 BCE  Salome
yr 2  66
yr 3  65
yr 4  64
yr 5  63
yr 6  62          Aemilius kills

In that case, the Aemilius Scaurus reference could indeed belong to 62 BCE.
 Your argument that the Aemilius Scaurus references must belong to 64 BCE to
accomodate the Salome reference therefore collapses.  The Scaurus reference
could conceivably be any time from 65 BCE (when he first arrived in Judea) to
62 BCE.  I would say that the major argument that it dates to 63 BCE or
earlier is the lack of mention of Pompey, but given the fragmentary nature of
the text, even this is uncertain.

Of course, you may be operating under the hypothesis that Salome died in 69
BCE, as this is the year Hyrkanus is said to have ascended the throne (Ant.
14.4).  But actually, since Hyrkanus reigned three months after Salome's
death (Ant. 15.180), and Aristobulus three years six months after that before
deposed by Pompey in 63 BCE (Ant. 15.97; 20.244), then working back it
follows that Salome died in 67 BCE. Consequently, it appears Hyrkanus was
ruler for the last two years of Salome's life.

Yes, I had actually read the quote as well, and never claimed anything
directly from the Josephus reference. I wanted to show AEmilius Scaurus's
presence in the area in 64 bce, which you also accept. Josephus actually
tells us very little of the events in the three years of Aristobulus's reign
other than the initial agreement between him and Hyrcanus as well as the
siege of Jerusalem by Hyrcanus & Aretus. However, from everybody's reaction
to the presence of AEm. Scaurus, he scared the strength out of all parties
preventing them from continuing their previous bellicose activities, Aretus
shooting back to Petra and the two rivals trying to pay the Roman off. 

"He scared the strength out of all parties preventing them from continuing
their previous bellicose activities"?  This is historically inaccurate.
 Scaurus intimidated Aretus into retreating to Petra, true, but Aristobulus
and his troops were so encouraged at this development that he sent an army
after Aretus and inflicted many casualties.  So Scaurus' activities in Judea
rather encouraged Aristobulus and his partisans rather than creating a
climate of fear as you suggest.  The support Scaurus gave Aristobulus also
gave the latter a false confidence in dealing with Pompey, as described in
Josephus (Ant. 14.44-47).  This is rather the opposite political climate from
your scenario.

>I find it really hard to believe several aspects of this scenario.  First,
>a physical level, the Jerusalem temple hierarchy wouldn't know about caves
>Qumran.  The people at Qumran knew about the caves at Qumran.

Who were these people at Qumran? We both accept that they were Aristobulus's
supporters, of whom there would have been people with temple connections.
However, you must understand that Qumran was not the only place where
scrolls ended up. Note that Eusebius tells us that scrolls were found in a
cave at Jericho, and a 10th century letter known among the Nestorians tells
of another discovery of documents in caves near Jericho. Qumran was not the
only destination for these documents. There were caves up and down the
place. And a number of caves were sut for the purpose as well. So, I
wouldn't play on the uniqueness of the Qumran situation.

First, are you aware that many scholars consider the "caves near Jericho" to
probably or possibly refer to the scrolls caves near Qumran?  The two
locations are not that far distant.  But in any case, Ian, you totally miss
my point here.  How would temple officials in Jerusalem know about either the
Qumran caves _or_ Jericho caves, etc.  It's not as though there aren't caves,
tombs, underground chambers, and private houses in Jerusalem that wouldn't be
suitable for hiding scrolls.  Notice the number of hiding places in Jerusalem
the Copper Scroll mentions.

Get this straight, Russell... This is pretty tiring, Russell... Yeah, sure,

(A little more Netiquette, if you please.)

The temple elite at the time was not a sect in
any sense of the word. They might have been a minority, but they were the
mainstream. The Sadducees and their supporters were that temple elite. 

My dictionary defines a sect as "A body of persons distinguished by
peculiarities of faith and practice from other bodies adhering to the same
general system; specifically, the adherents of a particular creed or
confession; a denomination..."  A sect need not be either minority or
non-mainstream.  Josephus discusses "three schools of thought" among the
Jews, namely Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes.  All three are termed sects
in normal scholarly discourse.  Clearly the Sadducees, whose distinctive
halachot brought them into conflict with the Pharisees in particular during
the period we are discussing, as well as later times, were a sect.

>The main thing is, the fortress never returned to Sadducee
>control, due to Pompey's victory.

There weren't enough of them left to have any control. All historical
sources go silent on the activities of the Sadducees.

Ian, perhaps you should read a few more historical sources before making such
a blanket statement.

>There were no temple priests anywhere?

Well, the temple was in Jerusalem and that's where one would expect temple
priests to be. Pompey killed everyone in the temple.

Why is that where one would expect temple priests to be?  You seem to imagine
the priesthood as a fulltime job.  Priests only served at Jerusalem a couple
weeks out of the year during their appointed course.  There were 24 courses,
which means on average one would expect less than 5% of the priests to be
present in the temple at any given time.  If you want to learn about priestly
courses, you might try reading Mishmarot C, for instance.

>Third, the idea that Jerusalem priests sent scrolls to fortresses to
preserve them
>from Pompey just seems ad hoc.  Where is the evidence?

Obviously, as this is still a hypothesis, the evidence is not there; if it
were, it wouldn't be a hypothesis.

Well, at least we agree on this.

But as a final comment, I still commend you for suggesting a deposit date of
the scrolls ca. 63 BCE.  It was a step in the right direction, a logical step
in light of Doudna's observation that historical references in the scrolls
end about this time.

Russell Gmirkin