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BOUNCE orion@panda.mscc.huji.ac.il: Non-member submission from [Albert Baumgarten <baumgaa@mail.biu.ac.il>]

>From msorion  Fri Jan 30 06:53:47 1998
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Date: Fri, 30 Jan 1998 06:52:26 +0200 (WET)
From: Albert Baumgarten <baumgaa@mail.biu.ac.il>
To: orion@mscc.huji.ac.il
Subject: Re: orion the first toll?
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The discussion of the new excavation finds is most interesting. I would
offer two comments.
First, while I have argued against the Qumran=Essenes conclusion, I think
it is premature to pronounce that view dead on the basis of what is known
of the Ein Gedi finds. I haven't read anything about mikvaot at the site,
nor is the nature of the public buildings found there clear to me. Some
archeological evidence that fits with Essene lifestyle as known from
Philo-Josephus-Pliny would seem critical. 
Second, and more interesting, is the conclusion we scholars should draw
about our attitude towards our work. Let's say confirmation is found for
Hirschfeld's tentative conclusions and we come to agree that this
community is what Pliny had in mind when he wrote what he did. Let's say
that this conclusion also will strengthen the hand of those of us who have
argued against Qumran=Essenes. 
Up to now, those of us in this camp have dealt with Pliny by arguing that
his knowledge of Palestine was limited and full of errors, and that he was
not the ultimate authority on the nature of Jewish sectarian movements (at
least those were the arguments I used). In that way we tried to answer the
appeal made to Pliny by the Qumran=Essenes asserters. Now, however, if the
conditions above are met, the roles may switch. The Qumran=Essenes deniers
will cite Pliny's accurate testimony in their favor, and the
Qumran=Essenes asserters will figure out some way to accomodate their
conclusion to Pliny's data. 
Avital doesn't want us to flog dead horses over and over again on this
group, as I am about to do, so I will try to be brief. The flip-flop
concerning Pliny which may take place on the basis of new evidence should
be a reminder to us all of just how tenuous our conclusions are, just how
subject to revision on any bright and clear day. It should encourage a
minimum of due modesty in asserting what we think is correct, a
willingness to entertain other possibilities, and a civil tone in
discussions with each other.

Al Baumgarten
Bar Ilan