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Re: orion news article; Pliny again

> Some statements about Pliny, Essenes, and Ein Gedi on orion lately are
> premature and some are incorrect. Though, in my opinion, Yizhar Hirschfeld
> has not yet made a strong case for his interpretation of his
> newly-excavated site (nor for his reading of Qumran), it is only fair to
> recall that one newspaper report is not sufficient for full evaluation. We
> read that Essenes lived in various places, and if it turns out that 25 or
> so lived at his site, very well.

Agreed.  It's early; however, it is also instructive to note that the 
types of structures Hirschfeld says he has found fit the ascetic and 
separatistic descriptions of the Essenes much better than the 
structures at Qumran.

> 	But it is instructive to read some posts which apply a lighter
> requirement of evidence for Essenes at Ein Gedi than at Qumran/Ein Feshkah.
> Several recent comments about Pliny are misleading; others are false.
> Presumably, some Essenes survived the period of the first revolt; it is
> possible some went to Ein Gedi afterward, post-70 (though east of the
> Jordan may be a more probable direction to look). But this small settlement
> does not accord with Pliny's description, for several reasons. Pliny (and
> Dio and Solinus) describe a larger and longer-lasting settlement. Pliny's
> description concerns conditions a century earlier. (Some recent assertions
> on orion concerning history of scholarship on Pliny are innacurate.) If
> Pliny were a visitor in 75, it makes no sense that he would note that Ein
> Gedi was destroyed--except for this settlement?--while, at the same time,
> neglect to mention that Masada had fallen, even though that notable seige
> by the Roman army ended just before, in 73 or 74! The same applies to the
> claim that he "updated" the text.

I didn't see anything in Hirschfeld's descriptions that have to do 
with how long the settlement was inhabited, and of course his datings 
are preliminary at best.  

> 	Pliny was not in Judaea in A.D. 75, as Yizhar is described as
> averring. This has been demonstrated in detail by several scholars. For

Mr. G has asserted this several times, and the fact is that it is 
irrelevant.  Somebody in the article misspoke on this point; fine.  
But whether or not Pliny was ever there has nothing to do with 
whether the settlement is Essene or not, and I can't help but wonder 
why Mr. G insists on belaboring the same irrelevant point again and 
again and again.

[snip - same old same old]
> 	"Infra" in Pliny (and in relation to Marcus Agrippa) has been
> discussed on orion before, and by Ch. Burchard and others, including its
> senses and contexts. There are 17 appearances of "infra" in books 3 to 6 of
> Natural History--the geographic section. A list of these is available in
> Revue Biblique 69 (1962) 369-80, esp 371-2. The review of scholarship on
> this by Klaus Sallmann, leading scholar on the geography (and biography) of
> Pliny, has been documented on orion. In this context, Pliny's source, with
> high probability, refered to Jericho, the Essene settlement, Ein Gedi, and
> Masada in one directional sequence. 

Since my past post I have discussed the meaning of "infra" with 
several people who know Latin a lot better than I do, and each of 
them says they have never heard of a "south of" meaning for this 
word.  It seems to me that attributing this meaning to Pliny amounts 
to bending the linguistic evidence to fit the theory, and I repeat: 
if this settlement does indeed turn out to be Essene, it's 

> The Essene settlement in his text is
> Qumran/Ein Feshkha, as confirmed by the communal archaeology and the
> beliefs, practices, and social structures in the associated sectarian
> texts. 

Again we see Mr. G making the same assertions over and over, with no 
more evidence than the last 100 times we heard them.

> The Qumran ostracon deed of conveyance in the second year of
> initiation further confirms the presence of Essenes at Qumran, linking with
> Serek ha-yahad and Josephus War 2.  

Here we go again.  The Qumran ostracon shows no genuine signs of 
being a deed of conveyance of any kind.  The readings by Cross and 
Eshel have been shown again and again to be incorrect (or at least 
highly suspect) in several key places upon which the conveyance 
hypothesis depends.  This has been discussed again and again on this 
list and elsewhere, but Mr. G wants Essenes at Qumran at any cost, so 
he isn't listening.  That's his prerogative.

> 	There have been different layers of misunderstanding of Pliny's
> text: supposing he visited Judaea; asserting he carefully "updated" his
> text to post-revolt conditions; misreading the geography; and misreading
> the chronology.

There has also been the apparently un-Latin translation of "infra" as 
"south of" because Qumran was the only known site that might have 
been a candidate for his Essene settlement.  Again I point out that 
it is possible that is no longer the case.  Even if this site turns 
out not to be Essene, the key word there is "only KNOWN site."

> 	Of course there are unknowns concerning Pliny and Essenes, but to
> assert that Ein Gedi was inhabited by Essenes, and that Qumran/Ein Feshkha
> was not, is contrary to the available evidence, only some of which is
> retyped above.

Who said that Ein Gedi was inhabited by Essenes?  Nobody that I know 
of, least of all Hirschfeld.  Once again, we see Mr. G playing fast 
and loose with what people actually said.  This will be my last 
response to him on this topic, so fire away.
Dave Washburn
If you don't know where you're going, don't lead.