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Re: orion Hirschfeld implications
> 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.
Yes. Unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise, "below"
appears to be the most likely translation.
> 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.
All such evidence is subject to "the luck of the draw," for lack of a
better term. How much or how little we have is purely a matter of
chance, so I agree that the necessity is not to bemoan or decry the
rarity of such evidence, but to work to make sense of what we have.
> 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.
Ah, there's the rub! The basic questions, and they surface again and
again, are: why is it likely? What sort of connection? We now know
that De Vaux's writing tables were nothing of the sort, and with a
good set of buildings handy, why put them in caves? What other views
might account for the presence of the scrolls? Are we discounting
these other views simply because the Qumran site is convenient?
> 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!
Hardly. The similarities are at least balanced out by the
> 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.
Does everyone see the implicit assumption in this statement?
> 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.
Josephus did number them at about 4,000, but he also said that they
live in every city. He said nothing about groups wandering off
to the desert or separating from society. This contradiction between
Josephus and Pliny only makes the question of Essene identification
at Qumran that much more dubious. Pliny and Josephus both said they
shun women, yet we know there were women at Qumran. Speculation
about sub-groups that allowed marriage is pointless; as you said
above, we need to work with what we have. Connections between the
Qumran site and the scrolls, as well as between the scroll people and
the Essenes, are tentative at best, guesswork at worst.
> 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.
Why? Pliny, as I understand it, never said how big the settlement
was or how many men lived there.
> 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.
I would add to this that, even supposing there were other Essene
settlements, would he have known about them, or is this one the only
one his sources mentioned? Given the most common translation of
Pliny's words, this site is a much better candidate than Qumran, and
given the description of this site that fits an ascetic separatist
group much better than Qumran, it would seem on the surface that this
site is more likely the one he was talking about. Nevertheless, as
many are pointing out and I agree completely, the material is
preliminary and much more investigation needs to be done. The Essene
fans got all excited about a sherd from Qumran that supposedly read
YXD. It doesn't. That's the nature of preliminary evidence. This
site needs to be examined just as deeply as any other. I suspect,
however, that the reason so many are jumping on it as evidence
against the Essene hypothesis is: we know from experience that the
Essene-ites will do everything they can to discount it just as
strongly, no matter what it takes. A theory this firmly entrenched
is hard to dislodge, even with mountains of evidence.
"Now I have $2736.15. Every time I count my $500,
I get a different amount."