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orion new Qumran Essene ostracon
The discovery at Qumran of a first century CE Essene deed of gift is indeed
important. It has been published promptly and well (F.M. Cross and E.
Eshel, IEJ 47  17-28). Though I agree with the great majority of this
article, a few comments on Ostracon no. 1 may be worthwhile. (Ostracon no.
2 is interesting, but brief and less significant.)
This discovery makes publication of the de Vaux Qumran ostraca more
urgent. The PAM photos (42.684ff) are not all clear; the new photographic
methods are worth a try. Similarly, regarding the 4Q mss letters,
contracts, accounts, lists (?) (4Q342ff): their readings (which appear to
be difficult) can be compared, and the issue of their questioned provenance
This deed of gift was directed to the yahad. These four letters
(LYHD) are also found in 4QS copies. Anything-but-Essene arguments are
becoming increasingly irrelevant. Paleographically, Cross and Eshel may be
called on to provide further examples of the N-shaped het. But, if there is
a better reading, I am not aware of it.
Was this ostracon necessarily dumped in 68 CE? Could that have been
earlier, or, if Y. Meshorer (recent abstract) or G.W. Buchanan (RQ, years
ago) are right, could it have been later? I ask because the 68 CE assertion
may be seen as helping the interpretation of a year 2 of the revolt date.
Was Qumran in the Jericho toparchy?
My one principle difference with this fine article is acknowledged
in note 8. I suggest this refers to the end of a two-year initiation
period. It may be a draft, as they suggested. The fact that the dating
formula is unusual (which they acknowledge) may make my view more
plausible. They provide four earlier examples with months but no days
before the year, but none without both. Since we agree it was an Essene
deed of gift, could it not have been the draft of an anticipated gift on a
day not yet arrived? In any case, this ostracon invites restudy of the
relationship of S and the Josephus account of Essenes.
Stephen Goranson firstname.lastname@example.org