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orion Various

In response to recent comments, let me try to clarify: 
(1) Categorizations of ancient groups are ours, not necessarily
(2) Various distinctions have been proposed by modern scholars
to take account of the fact that ancient Jewish groups erected
walls of differing heights and thickness between themselves and
their surrounding society. Ed Sanders has written of parties vs.
sects, while F. Watson has distinguished between reformist
movement and sect. B. Wilson has suggested the terms reformist
vs. introversionist sect.
These three terminological systems are describing more or less
the same phenomenon. What then is at stake in making a choice?
First of all, each of us must adopt some consistent terminology
in order to write coherently, but that is an entirely arbitrary
matter. More important from my perspective is the need to pick
terms that allow for effective comparison and contrast between
As I think I can show that the different Jewish groups were all
parallel (hence competing) answers to the same set of problems,
I prefer a terminology which emphasizes what they have in common
(all were sects), but also allows for acknowledgement of the
difference (reformist vs. introversionist). Hence, for my work,
I have gone with Wilson.
(3) On the rhetorical side: it is worth noticing that when the
discussion turns nasty it is regularly accompanied by claims that
this or that is "certainly," "clearly" or "obviously" the case.
All these are markers, I would argue, that we are dealing with
a combination of insufficient evidence and strongly held opinion.
I forego further psychologizing on this point. 
(4) To Stephen Goranson: Yes, I recognize the extensive overlap
between many Qumran practices and those of the Essenes as
described in classical sources. What, however, do you make of the
differences? What level of significance do you assign to them?
I think this is where we disagree. See, for example, the reviews
of Beall, _Josephus' Description of the Essenes Illustrated by
the Dead Sea Scrolls_ (Cambridge, 1988) by (a) F. Garcia
Martinez, _Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian,
Hellenistic and Roman Period_ 20 (1989), 84-88 and (b) P.R.
Davies, _Journal of Theological Studies_ 41 (1990), 164-169.
Al Baumgarten