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orion Deconstructing Pliny on Essenes
According to Marcus Wood (excerpt):
> 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.
... [material deleted]
> Comments, queries?!
> Marcus Wood
I'll let Menahem Stern (Greek & Latin Authors on Jews & Judaism 1.479f)
say what I keep wanting to say regarding such statements as above:
"Presumbaly, Pliny knows only of the Essenes living in the vicinity of the
Dead Sea, although he does not mention a specific town where the Essenes
lived, as Dio Chrysostom does [Stern, 539 "...a very blessed city..."].
... In fact, the only information that may be derived from Pliny, and for
that matter, from Dio Chrysostom, is that there was at one time a
considerable concentration of Essenes somewhere in the neighbourhood of
the Dead Sea." I agree, for whatever that is worth.
Further (Stern 480): "Did Pliny or his source think of the Essenes as a
special <lat>gens</>, separate from the Jewish nation though
geographically included in Judaea ...?" Compare also Dio Chrys. on this
On the "noxious exhalations" translation by Rackham (LCL, used by Stern),
see Sigrid Peterson's earlier posting. Possibly this is what Pliny meant
by his rather cryptic Latin, since earlier in this section he does indeed
speak distastefully of the waters of the Dead Sea (compared, e.g. with the
waters of the Jordan). But the Latin can certainly be construed in other
ways, suggesting that the Essenes were avoiding other "noxious" things in
"Infra hos" has been battered enough. It is wonderfully ambiguous, as
Stern also points out. Scholarship thrives on ambiguities!
Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania