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orion Judah "the Essene"?

  Having read Stephen Goranson's excellent article, "Posidonius, Strabo and
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa as Sources on Essenes" in JJS 1994, 295-298, I am
struck by how all our major sources on the Essenes derive from the time of
Herod the Great.  Stephen makes a good case that Pliny's account derives from
M. Agrippa, and Philo's from Strabo and Posidonius.  He shows Josephus
derives his account of the three sects' positions on Fate from Strabo, but
fails to note evidence Josephus obtained this Strabo material secondhand from
Nicolas of Damascus [ND], Herod's friend and tutor, who was also responsible
for the much longer account on the Essenes as well as the flattering
anecdotes about the uncanny prophets Judah, Menahem, and Simon "the
Essene(s)."  All these primary literary sources are from Herod's time;
likewise the Essene Gate and Essene Quarter in Jerusalem.  The NT omits
mention of Essenes, and Josephus only mentions one later Essene, a general
John in the Jewish War.  The overall impression is that the flourishing of
the Essenes was entirely a product of Herod's patronage, and that the Essenes
survived thereafter mainly as an idealized literary entity.
   The earliest certain Essene is Menahem the Essene, who prophesied Herod
would become king.  Rabbinic tradition portrays Menahem as a schismatic in
the time of Hillel (under Herod the Great).  This suggests the Essenes were a
creation of Herod's patronage, a new sect or party like the Boethusians.  The
earlier ND anecode about Judah "the Essene" obviously comes from the same
oral Essene source as the Menahem story itself.  Since Judah is remembered
specifically as a teacher of the prophetic arts under Aristobulus, a
generation before Menahem, one concludes that Judah was Menahem's teacher and
that the Judah anecdote was told for this reason (not because Judah was
independently known as a famous Essene).  Hence Judah "the Essene" was
anachronistically given that title due to his relationship to Menahem;
whether by later Essenes or by ND (perhaps a misunderstanding?) doesn't
matter.  The closer one looks, the less evidence there is for the Essenes as
anything but a short-lived Herodian phenomenon.  I see no reason to trace the
Essenes any further back than Menahem, much less assign them a central role
vis a vis the scrolls.  Traditions of earlier "Essenes" are IMO mistakes at
best, or at worst a deliberate Herodian-era fiction intended to give a
respectable pedigree to Herod's pet sect.
-- Russell Gmirkin