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Re: orion Re: Pfann on "Phenominally unpreductive"; ethics and discourse

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Steven-- you are on record as a strongly committed advocate of one of the
many varieties of "Essene" thesis that have been advocated ever since
Dupont Sommer and Sukenik first tendered suggestions in that direction. 
I would agree with you that discussion of the thesis seldom seems
productive of anything but heat, but my sense of the state of the
discussion today is that many scholars are no longer convinced that the
scattered remarks in a variety of ancient sources about the Essenes justify
extensive conclusions as to the state of the archaeological evidence.
Likewise, to them, adding selected information from the DSS to build up
one´s picture of the "Essenes" is to prejudge the evidentiary value and
character of the DSS. (In this connexion, one might recall the remark of
the late Moses Finley, perhaps the most original and interesting of modern
classical scholars, to the effect that "to ask whether the archaeological
finds confirm or contradict the written evidence is to assign automatic
priority to the written evidence". Finley's point is that categories of
evidence have to be evaluated in isolation from each other, rather than
simply tossed into the same stewpot.) There is a great danger of creating
homunculi in the alchemist's retort, but, in doing so, not necessarily
providing a clear path to understanding either the DSS or the other sorts
of evidence. This sort of shortcut was common enough in the Old Testament
research of the 1950s and 60s, but I think --and certainly hope-- that we
have learned to be more circumspect since.
I personally prefer to vote "undecided" on the Essene issue and to subject
the texts and the archaeological evidence to different sorts of analysis.
Mr. Washburn does, too. But I hardly think that qualifies him --or
myself--as "confused", and I have trouble seeing that he has been rude to
you, merely because he cannot accept and prefers to question conclusions
you regard as obvious.

with best regards,

Fred Cryer