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Re: orion Hirschfeld implications

dwashbur@nyx.net wrote:

> > 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?

I did suggest that the issue was tentative, however I would agree that
one of the principle reasons to suggest a connection is precisely its
convenience. I used to hold a similar view to that stated above, but a
recent visit to the site managed to persuade me. The distance between
the site and e.g cave 4 is often stated, but it was not until I could
see the distance for myself that I was swayed. To answer one of the
points raised, I was under the impression that it was generally (?!)
accepted that cave 4 was devised to hold shelves which have since
collapsed - hence the fragmentary nature of the texts therein.

There are other views, indeed, but the convenience argument is powerful
nonetheless. That's not to say that there aren't problems . . . ;)

> > 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
> differences.

Precisely! All I imply is that, as affects the Essene hypothesis, the
new excavation is of no help in sorting out the difficulties etc.

> > 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.

Granted, but would such a small site have figured highly in Jewish
affairs as to be noted in a text by a figure such as Pliny? I'm not
defending the Qumran site hypothesis. Indeed far from it! All I'm
suggesting is that neither site answers all the problems - each has
positive and negative aspects.

> > 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. 

On a point of information, how many people would have lived at the town
of Ein Gedi in the period in question? Would a site only 200 yards away
have qualified as ascetic given such close proximity?

The concensus seems to be that there is neither enough evidence to
reject the Qumran-Essene identification nor to bolster the new Essene
site identification. One thing is certainly clear - there's still a long
way to go!


 Marcus Wood
 Department of Theology    E-Mail:    M.E.M.Wood@durham.ac.uk
 University of Durham      Tel (UK):  0191 374 3254