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orion On S. Talmon in M. Hengel Festschrift
Shemaryahu Talmon's article, "The Essential 'Community of the Renewed
Covenant': How Should Qumran Studies Proceed?" in the Martin Hengel
Festschrift (Geschichte--Tradition--Reflexion; Tubingen: Mohr, 1996; I:
323-520) makes many interesting observations, as one might expect from one
of the most learned and experienced of Qumran scholars, whose important
publications on the calendar themselves span nearly half a century. It
makes proposals based, inter alia, on sociology, about which it is not easy
to comment briefly. But, on pp. 337-8, Prof. Talmon, a former supporter of
the Essene identification and now an opponent, provides arguments under
the rubric, "further weighty arguments militate against the identification
of the Covenanters with the Essenes," argments lettered A to E, with six
items under E.
I invite orion readers to read his whole text. I cannot quote it
whole here. But I do suggest that these two pages contain not one
"weighty" argument which does "militate against" such an identification.
A. "Geographical proximity, analogous or even identical rites and customs,
and a similar community structure" do not prove the identification because
these were two "'secret' and self-centered communities."
B. Josephus pictures a "troika" of groups, which we should take with a
grain of salt. A and B seem to suggest there may have been more than three
large (and appropriate, long term, candidate?) groups.
C. "The identification of the Covenanters...and of the Essenes as a
Sadducee spliter group...effectively undermines Josephus' 'troika' image.
We are suddenly left with only two parties...." But the "Sadducee splinter
group" proposal has been subject to quite critical evaluation; and the
"troika" idea was rejected above; and the two-group idea has been
recognized as a retrojection of a worldview of some (not all) Rabbinic
D. "I [ST] consider it significant that all comparisons are
one-directional..." i.e., Qumran evidence is used to illuminate (Greek and
Latin) accounts of Essenes, not vice-versa. But I [SG] do not find this
"one-directional" observation valid.
E. The "ancient authors" [here meaning Josephus et al., not the Q. mss]
"seem carefully to avoid" mentioning to six items which ST lists below.
They include the teacher of righteousness [ST prefers the translation
"Legitimate Teacher"] and the 364-day calendar. But Josephus et al. (for
whatever reason) do not describe these two items at all, with any group, so
it does not militate against the identification. I differ on the other four
items as well, which I omit here, to be brief.
Prof. Talmon has served scholarship and teaching in many, admirable
ways (and in many places, including Brandeis and Duke, as well as Hebrew
Univ.). But, in the case of these two pages, I suggest the author of "A
Further Link between the Judean Covenanters and the Essenes," i.e., Prof.
Talmon, in HTR 56 (1963) 313-19, had the better argument.
Stephen Goranson email@example.com