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Re: orion Re: Washburn on: WHO SAYS "ESSENES"?
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As Mr. Gorenson has questioned whether Emanuel Tov's fascinating article on
"Scribal Practices and Physical Aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls" [eds. J.L.
Sharpe III and J in the text given me by Prof. Tov, K according to Gorenson
Van Kampen, *The Bible and the Book --The Manuscript Tradition* (London/New
Castle 1998), pp. 9-33] really questions the Essene hypothesis, the reader
is of course enjoined to read the article itself and draw the appropriate
1) that prof. Tov nowhere in the text even employs the term "Essenes" (he
prefers the more neutral an increasingly popular "Qumran community")
2)that he observes that "If it can be proven that locus 30 at Qumran served
as a room in which documents were written...the assumption of a Qumran
scribal school would receive further support, but the reliability of the
evidence pointing to the existence of such a scriptorium is questionable."
3) Tov goes on to add "it appears that the scribes of the texts found in
the Judaean Desert remain as anonymous today in identity and origin as they
were two generations ago" (p. 11), which hardly sounds as if he feels we
are closing in on Gorenson's "Essenes"; and he concludes
4) "A generation ago, the corpus of the Qumran documents as well as their
scribes were automatically identified with the Qumran community; today,
this claim is not made, although undoubtedly some of the texts were copied
by that community" (p. 11).
This is merely to illustrate to the newcomers to the list and to the
interested amateurs for whose participation we ought to be duly grateful
that the field actually has moved beyond the "Essene" argument advanced by
Mr. Gorenson so repeatedly-- at least, if the director of the Dead Sea
Scrolls Foundation can be taken to represent the field. That position was
current "a generation ago".
Once again I should like to emphasise that I am not and have *never* been
an opponent of the "Essene" hypothesis. It remains a *plausible*
hypothesis, but one which lacks evidence. In recent times, particularly
under Goettingen University's Hartmut Stegemann, it has expanded so that
"Essenism" has become a huge movement, virtually coterminous with Judaism
itself. This position "solves" the problem by making early Judaism and
Essenism pretty much synonymous and encounters the obvious difficulty that
neither the Mishna nor the New Testament support such an understanding of
the period (i.e., as characterised by a huge "Essene" movement). Neither
provides rich evidence of a huge and well-definded "Essenism". I have often
wondered, with respect to Josephus' tripartite division of Jewish belief in
his times, whether the passage doesn't remind us of Herodotus' famous scene
in which the three Persian lords debate the virtues of the various forms of
government, only to conclude at last that only *oligarchy* will do. I know
of no classicists who regard the latter scene as representing any
historical quantity. Why do OT scholars seem so intent on doing the same
with Josephus' Judaisms?