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orion which war? what destruction?
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T. Reinach in 1895 (Texts d'auteurs grecs et romains relatifs au
Judaisme, p.273, n.2), and others, have concluded that Pliny N.H. V.73
includes a copyest error in the sentence: infra hos Engada oppidum fuit,
secundum ab Hierosolymis fertilitate palmetorumque nemoribus, nunc
alterum bustum. This may be translated: Downstream [south] of the
Essene settlement was the town of Ein Gedi, which was second only to
Jerusalem [but read: Jericho] in fertility and palm-groves, but is today
If that textual correction is accepted, then we can move on to ask:
Where is destruction located? Only Ein Gedi is said to be destroyed or a
tomb. Neither Jericho--nor Jerusalem, if that reading is prefered--is
explicitly said to be destroyed. So Pliny may *not* have updated his
source at all to note the war of 66 to 73 0r 74 CE--contrary to what
many of us have thought. In fact, Pliny did not mention that the famous
Masada had been destroyed. The text does not necessarily refer to any
destruction by Romans. If Pliny's source is pre-70, as is quite likely,
then what destruction at Ein Gedi might be meant? Perhaps the Parthian
invasion and Jewish civil war of circa 40 BCE, which brought Herod to
power. Archaeology attests to a destruction at Ein Gedi at that time. M.
V. Agrippa, governor of Syria and visitor to Herod circa 15 BCE, could,
quite plausibly, know of the then-current state of Ein Gedi, as well as
of the Essenes at Qumran and Ein Feshkha.
Josephus War 2. 119-61 on Essenes is probably from a pre-70 CE source.
Peaceful Essenes, it is said, endured torture in a stoic manner.
Josephus Ant. 15.371-9 tells of Herod freeing Essenes from obligation to
a loyalty oath and of the prophecy of Menahem. Perhaps Herod built the
gate of the Essenes. For some time (not necessarily for all of his life)
Herod apparently favored and honored Essenes.
Philo (Apology 8.11.18) wrote that "great kings are seized with
admiration before such men [Essenes}" and give them "favors and honors."
A plausible candidate for such a "great king" was Herod the Great.