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orion Essenes & palms

Ian does make some reasonable arguments concerning the variety of subjects
discussed in the scrolls that seem to be inconsistent with the general
portrait of the Essenes, i.e. gonorreha, marriage, old women, virgins and
girls.  Part of my reaction to that circumstance is that the general portrait
of Essenes seems biased and that many authors have tended to push their views
of Essenes toward a type of middle age monastic community that is not
necessarily justified by what Josephus says.  For example, he says that the
Essenes would take the children of others - not the young boys of others.  I
would admit that it seems unlikely to me that Essenes would be training young
female children in their ways.   Josephus also says, for example (early in
his discussion of Essenes) that "[t]hey do not absolutely deny the fitness of
marriage, and the succession of mankind thereby continued . . . ."  This
means to me what it says, i.e., that for all Essenes marriage was not
absolutely denied, it just was not too high on their agenda.  But the popular
notion seems nt seems to be that most Essenes didn't have sexual relations
with women and, to me, that argument seems inconsistent with what Josephus
actually says.  Moreover,  everyone has a mother so why wouldn't the subject
of "old women" be a topic of some interest to a grown man who was an Essene?
Not that all mothers are old women.

I don't find it very persuasive as Ian argues that Josephus' account of
Essenes who "differ on the point of marriage" is found only in the AJ account
and toward the end of that account.  First, as I read it the "difference"
between the two types of Essenes (according to Josephus) is not that one type
of Essene marries and the other type doesn't marry.  The difference seems to
be that one type does not absolutely deny marriage but holds it in lower
esteem than the other type of Essene which seems to accept marriage in a
manner similar to other Jews during that period.  In other words, it seems to
me that both types could marry based on what Josephus says.  Second, some of
the most interesting information related by Josephus appears in odd places
during the discussion of some other subject.  For example, all the discussion
about the palm trees of Jericho seems to appear out of nowhere, but that
cicumstance doesn't mean its accuracy should be discounted.

On the issue of geography, Ian posits that "Qumran was accessed from the
north, from Jerusalem and Jericho. . . . For a geographer it's strange to
think of Qumran to the west of the Dead Sea."   First, Jerusalem is not north
of Qumran.  It is almost directly west of Qumran and even, I think, very
slightly south in latitude.  But the more interesting issue to me is how far
north did the Dead Sea extend in about the relevant time?  I seem to remember
that the Dead Sea was up to 70 meters deeper in about 100 B.C.E. than it is
at present.  I probably shouldn't make that statement without checking, but I
loaned that part of my file to someone else.  It appears that the "plain" at
the north end of the Dead Sea rises a a very gradual rate compared to the
topography on east and west sides of the Dead Sea.  I suppose a good map with
elevations would answer this question, but it seems likely to me that the
north end of the Dead Sea was much farther north in Pliny's time than it is
now.  Consequently, if that is true, Qumran would much more clearly be
identified as on the west side of the Dead Sea.

Mark Dunn