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Re: orion differing perspectives on Essenes (long)
In a message dated 97-09-12 14:50:25 EDT, you write:
<< When Yadin got the Temple Scroll near the end
of the Six Day War, with instructions to build a temple, on land just then
back in Israel's control, did he want to build a temple? Surely not. Not
only did Yadin think the Essenes were rather odd Jews, but he himself
wasn't particularly religious. Does politics enter into the differences in
accounting for the early discoveries between Sukenik and his son and Trever
and Brownlee, the latter two both politically pro-Arab? Of course.
Some have tried to write on this subject. E.g., N. Silberman
recorded some reminiscences of interest, but failed as plausible history.
One of the most direct attempts is by L. Schiffman. Larry is not shy. He's
a great guy, good sense of humor, and he kindly sent me a copy years ago.
"Confessionalism and the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls" _Jewish Studies_ 31
(1991) 3-14. But, despite several worthy and learned observations, this
is a problematic and biased account. He properly raises the issue of
"pluralism" within Judaism and Christianity. But there are unsupported
assertions (e.g., that debate on closeness of Qumran and the early Church
"had to do with internal issues of modern Christianity") and omissions
(e.g., K. Stendahl; insufficient notice of Joseph Baumgarten, etc.) It
properly raises issues of some Christians wishing either to distance from
or connect with Essene Jews, and adds post-Holocaust developments, but
doesn't plausibly join them together. Motives of Christians studying
Rabbinic literature (pre-1948) were more complex than suggested: e.g.,
little Second Temple literature was available. The article sometimes
emphasizes the diversity within Judaism and Christianity, while at other
times (without justifying the switches) positing a Jewish and Christian
dualism. [E.g., Yadin, Carmignac, and Brownlee--Jew, Catholic, and
Protestant agreed on Alexander Jannaeus as Wicked Priest; not all issues as
sorted out by prior commitment. And the idea that the "Essene hypothesis"
was promulgated by conspiracy of like-minded insiders is simply absurd.]
Schiffman argues that the order of scroll discoveries influenced
the characterization, which lately emphasizes halakha. (Though, may I say
again, "halakah," strictly speaking, does not appear in the scrolls.)
Schiffman sees this as revealing their true Jewish character. Yet were the
first scrolls--Isaiah, pesher Hab., Gen. Apoc., hodayot, milhamah, serek
hayahad--not Jewish? Of course the legal texts are of essential importance.
But shall we assume with the author that his rather halakhocentric view of
Judaism is the only or true Judaism, ancient or modern?
I'm not picking on Larry Schiffman, just responding to an ambitious
and learned and flawed article. Also, I do not wish that we constantly
focus on a hermeneutics of suspicion. Much of Qumran scholarship
concentrates on the relevant data.
But, I do suggest, that when a scholar, for whatever reason,
invites us to ignore evidence (e.g., of Pliny read correctly, or of
inkwells, etc.) or asks us erase Essenes from history or to imagine Qumran
mss or archaeology to show what they do not (e.g., Judaism as a whole, or >>
It may be interesting that on the day in 1948 May 14-15 when the State of
Israel was declared, the reading from the portion of the Torah was a metes
and bounds description of the Temple, i. e. so many cubits this way etc. I
know, I was the one who read it on my Bar Mitzvah, the 5th of Ivar in a
little Synagogs in New York City.
It seems obvious that is some kind of message. I ask the scholars to look it
up and verify that what I say is true and correct.
NYU Law JD