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orion Dust on the shelf



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> 
> The Jerusalem Temple Library decided to house and preserve a body of
> literature produced by, what was to them, a heretical sect (who
> condemned the Temple authorities and supported a conflicting calendar =
> more than 50% of the scrolls by count are characteristically of this
> group), along with some other scrolls. Yet they systematically and
> totally excluded any books of their own!
> 
> Not a very convincing picture.

"Agreed.  But that's where interpretation of the "sectarian" scrolls 
and their purported relationship (or purported lack thereof, if I may 
seek to be non-committal) comes in.  Part of the ongoing process of 
interpretation is to determine just how "Essene," if at all, the 
material in the scrolls is.  If we begin by assuming that they are 
Essene in the Josephus/Philo/Pliny sense, then the above scenario is 
indeed unconvincing.  But problems with the Essene hypothesis were 
part of the reason Golb suggested this alternative.  Schiffman has 
also proposed other identifications, so it seems to me that when we 
begin by assuming Essene origins we're assuming what we are setting 
out to prove, i.e. circular reasoning.  While it is true that the 
Essene hypothesis is firmly entrenched in the literature, that's a 
far cry from its being firmly established fact." - Dave Washburn

****

The Catholic University dissertation of Todd Beall, directed by Joseph
Fitzmyer, dealt with the comparison of Josephus^ description of the
Essenes with that of the society which can be derived from the scrolls.
(Josephus^ Description of lthe Essenes Illustrated by the Dead Sea
Scrolls, 1988 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) Of 63 statements
made by Josephus concerning the Essenes he determined that 26 are
certain parallels, 21 probable parallels, 10 with no particular
parallel,  4 apparent descrepancies which also reflect apparent
inconsistencies within the scrolls or within Josephus and 2 unsolved
apparent descrepencies (re. the order of the initiation ceremony and the
ownership of slaves).

Firstly, I would implore you to find another historian who gets this
many elements correct concerning any people he might describe.

Secondly, given the fact that the contemporary writers are describing
the state of affairs at the end of a nearly 300 history of this people,
and the scolls reflect only the first half of that period, one would
actually expect that the evolution of group and its resulting changes
would result in a description of the essenes with many more differences.
And Josephus did emphasize the diversity and divisions among his Essene
contemporaries (in contrast to his description of the Pharisees whom he
presents without any hint of diversity)

As it all adds up, there is no other better candidate. Discussions will
become much more fruitful when students of the scrolls return to the
task of building a model of Essene/Qumran society based upon the three
major sources. 1) The archaeology. 2) the historians 3) the content of
the scrolls themselves. With a more than educated guess, I would say
that once the remaining scrolls and the archaelogical data are published
the connection will only become clearer.

The first step is to move beyond the confusion created by certain
misguided modern popular authors who can't find their way (and don't
really want to go through the bother of doing their homework properly or
thoroughly).  Eventually their suggestions will fall by the wayside and
their books will  loose their popular appeal (and end up collecting dust
on the shelf with other works of science fiction).

By the way Prof. Schiffman currently ackowledges the possiblility that
group may be understood to be Essene as long as they are seen as a
branch deriving from the Zadokite priesthood. (I have no problem with
that!).

Stephen Pfann