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Re: orion Hirschfeld implications
Responding to Marcus Wood's invitation for comments on his
thoughtful remarks. Some of those remarks appear unobjectionable to me, but
others quite less certain.
Apparently we agree that we will need clarification on the
dating(s) (one newspaper mentioned AD 70-100; one referred to pottery from
"one" dwelling--a small sample, it seems; another has the time of Jesus).
I wrote that first century pottery is not rare, meaning, too elliptically,
that such is not necessarily a link to Essenes. If this site was only
inhabited within first century CE, that seems short for what Pliny's text
has as an Essene community which has lasted a long time [saeculorum
milia...gens aeterna]. And it doesn't match the date of Pliny's source, who
died in 12 BCE. And the destruction of the site and the pottery factory
downhill--infra? :-)--are so far unexplained, the names Ein Gedi as spring,
town, fort, and toparchy not having been adequately addressed. And Dio (in
Synesius) wrote that the Essene settlement was an entire blessed [or
prosperous or happy] city--polin holin eudaimona--seemingly too big for the
new site. And does the new site have miqvaot? North-south aligned burials?
Pottery which is characteristic? Any text? Any central meeting place for
meals, for study, for group assemblies? Did Essenes make perfume, or
The issue on infra is not which of several (not two) senses is most
numerous in all literature, or in all literature up till the source, but
should be narrowed to geographic literature and Pliny and Agrippa and to
this one context. Pliny was largely a compiler. It was not his usual
practice to systematically "update" his sources, but to gather and report
them. So the question is the geographic knowledge of his source, M.
Agrippa, second most powerful man in the Roman empire, a widely-travelled
geographer and mapmaker, a military man interested in forts, visitor to
Herod's forts, and interested in the destruction of Ein Gedi in c.40 BCE
which still obtained in 15 BCE.
>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??
>> > 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.