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orion Re: Washburn on: WHO SAYS "ESSENES"?

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Quite right, Dave. I think Steve Pfann is being overly optimistic on the
identification of the burial sites in question as stemming from one and the
same community, to say nothing of the identification of the people behind
(and in) the cemeteries as Essenes. One thing deeply-sited shaft graves
with wooden coffins tells us is that a) the people doing the digging had
all the time in the world to do the job and b) that they had access not
just to resources of time, but also to those of *wood*. (identified,
incidentally, in connexion with Qumran coffins, as cypress wood) The latter
point isn't significant in connexion with the Jerusalem cemetery; it
certainly is as far as the Qumran site is concerned, as there were scarcely
rich supplies of cypress and other woods on the site: it was imported,
meaning by donkeyback or flatboat on the Dead Sea: again a considerable
expenditure of resources, which I hardly think immediately qualifies the
site as the property of a sect supposedly quivering in the darkness against
the next incursion from the authorities in Jerusalem.
A similar conclusion is suggested by the Qumran site itself, in conjunction
with which the main question is not: why Qumran?, but: why not Ein Feshka?
The latter was at sea level, hence easily accessible by boat (if, for
example, someone wanted to offload timber, foodstuffs, or other products);
moreover, it possessed a freshwater spring. Qumran is situated high up,
meaning that work had to be done just to keep it supplied with foodstuffs
and the like, and, furthermore, it is wholly without reserves of water, for
which reason the extensive system of aquaducts and cisterns had to be
constructed, at great expense of labour and materials, simply to render the
site habitable. 
These considerations indicate that, appearances to the contrary,Qumran was
hardly the hole-in-corner establishment the "Essene" hypothesis would lead
us to expect. Furthermore, the use of resources is so great that it is hard
to imagine someone setting up his "Hellenistic villa" at such cost, just
for a nice view of a very barren lake. So I regard both the "Essene"
hypothesis and the "Hellenistic villa" (as well as the *villa rustica*)
hypothesis as *not* impossible, but unlikely.
The great number of scribal hands alluded to by Steven Pfann has been
previously made much of by Norman Golb. The diversity of the redactional
techniques demonstrable in the non-Biblical texts has recently led Emanuel
Tov to conclude that "Many of the documents found in the Judaean Desert had
been copied elsewhere in Israel, so that the documents and scribal
practices reflected in them are representative not only of the persons who
lived and wrote in the Judaean Desert but, to an even greater extent, of
the scribes of Palestine as a whole" (in: eds. JL. Sharpe III and J. Van
Kampen, *The Bible as Book--The Manuscript Tradition*, London/Newcastle,
1998, p. 10). I have myself repeatedly pointed to similar considerations as
far as the *language* of the DSS is concerned, and absolutely *none* of
this points to a unified tradition, such as one might expect of a
consolidated movement, whether it be termed "Essene" or in fact anything
else. It should also be clear that the range of *theological* views
expressed in the texts themselves runs the gamut from "Biblical" to
"deutero-canonical" and even "extra-cononical" (for example, the
commentaries consciously comment on an existing written tradition, and so
emphasise that they are external to it), and hence is also quite heterodox
in nature. This yet again strains credulity, as far as the thesis is
concerned which represents the DSS as products of a well-defined
theological and sectarian movement.

Sorry to go on at such length,

Fred Cryer