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Re: orion Hirschfeld implications
I have been sitting in a corner listening to the relevant arguments for
and against the new evidence raised by Hirschfield. There are few
members of Orion who could seriously doubt the importance (one way or
another)of the evidence. In his latest opus, Vermes suggests the
following reasons for assuming the Essene identification:
1. The reference in Pliny to a single Essene settlement in the
wilderness between Jericho and Ein Gedi, and the lack of any other
relevant archaeological site than Qumran.
2. The similarities (even allowing for some difficulties in the sources)
between the group described in the DSS and the groups described in the
ancient sources as Essenes.
3. The chronological dating (i.e. 150BCE - 70CE) for both groups.
As one member has recently pointed out, with the recent revelations the
first reason is blown out of the water. There are now at least two sites
within the broader region where Ein Gedi can legitimately be described
as 'infra': Qumran, as ever, fits the understanding when the term is
translated 'downstream', 'to the south of'; The new site (henceforth
Site B), when 'infra' is translated 'below' in the literal sense that
the site is 200 yards above Ein Gedi. Both translations of 'infra' seem
equally acceptable, given the documentation of several sources that use
'infra' in the former sense. It should however be accepted that this is
a rarer understanding.
The third reason cited above is similarly brought into question. Site B
also seems to fit the broad chronological date, given the unearthing of
several sherds of pottery that can be dated to the first century. The
rarity or otherwise of such evidence is irrelevant.
Although a tentative issue, it is likely that a connection can be made
between the scrolls discovered in the Qumran caves and the
archaeological site at Qumran itself. In other words, although it is
possible to discount two of the three reasons for the Essene
identification, the third and major reason (the similarity between the
group described in the scrolls and the group described in Josephus etc.)
stands as firm as it has always done! It is still possible, of course,
for Site B to be the site mentioned by Pliny as the site of the Essenes,
however this supposes the location of two groups with similar views,
twelve miles from each other, and yet who have no connection.
Josephus, in the Antiquities, numbers the Essenes c. 4000. It is clearly
impossible for such a number (even allowing for exaggeration) to inhabit
the site at Qumran (c.250 people), much less Site B (20-25 people). Thus
should one accept Qumran as an Essene location, even the principle site,
one must make allowances for other possibe locations. IMHO, Site B
should be considered among the latter. It is entirely likely, moreover,
that should this be the case, many more sites may in the near future be
uncovered. Far from destroying the Essene hypothesis, the revelation of
Site B is an argument in its favour.
Whether or not the site mentioned by Pliny refers to Qumran or Site B is
unclear, and will probably never be fully known. Given its greater size,
one would assume Qumran was indeed the site in question. On the other
hand, given its close proximity to other human habitation, Site B is
equally acceptable. Finally, given the fact that Pliny never visited
Judaea, it is unclear how precise his geography can have been, even
assuming he was right at all.
Department of Theology
University of Durham
> > It is quite apparent from posts like the above (and the 'first toll'
> > posting) that there are many scholars who are not willing to subject
> > Hirschfeld's theory to the same standards/burdens of evidence that they
> > would vehemently require for Qumran/Essene/DSS connections. Does this
> > discovery of a settlement of approx 25 people and a perfume bottle really
> > refute the Qumran/Essene theory??? Isn't premature speculation one of the
> > charges leveled against proponents of Essene composition of the DSS?? Even
> > if this small settlement were proven to be Essene, would this be 'the'
> > Essene settlement referred to by Pliny???? I think that (IMHO) much, much
> > more data must surface before this becomes seriously debatable.
> I strongly agree. Hirschfeld's discovery is intriguing and
> provocative. If these "huts" were Essene, future excavation might tell
> us more about these fascinating people and ADD TO the corpus of data
> from Qumran. There is absolutely nothing in these preliminary reports
> to spell the "death toll" of the Qumran hypothesis. I doubt very much
> if the Isaiah scroll could even be rolled out in one of those
> no less written there. If the sectarians supported themselves by
> agrarian means, cultivating balsam, etc, it would seem logical that
> the "field hands" would be in the area described. It could have
> been part of the same community or a different community altogether.
> All we can do is wait patiently for further results of the excavations.
> I would even let old Pliny sit on his heels and wait for
> Dr. Hirschfeld.